It all started in the ninth grade when my arms began to grow at an alarming rate, closely followed by an equally obnoxious growth in my legs.
I spent countless nights losing sleep as the stretching pains shot through my muscles to the bone- leaving post-puberty me with awkwardly long arms and legs and a pretty short torso. Not to mention, I towered over most of my Asian acquaintances and I felt like I stuck out even more than my limbs did.
But the most embarrassing part of all of the growth was that the back of my calves, the insides of my thighs, the skin lining my hipbones, and all over my butt were covered with long, parallel white stripes that contrasted my naturally darker skin tone. I was mortified to the point of refusing to wear shorts for a whole summer. I was afraid of anyone seeing them because I was so ashamed.
The next summer, I decided to stop being ashamed of something that I had absolutely no control over. So I wore shorts- and, anytime anyone would point out the stretch marks and ask their silly little questions, I would make up some sort of excuse like, “I used to be fat” and shrug it off like no big deal.
But it was a big deal because I was never fat.
And when I started lifting in November 2015, they just got even worse. I’d stare at myself in the mirror and try to wistfully wish the scars away with my eyes as confusion boiled deep within me and my eyes would well up and wonder why something so amazing like my body growing and becoming stronger would leave me with such gruesome scars. As eating right and lifting heavier took its toll, I now have more stretch marks than ever.
But I’ve also grown my mind.
There’s so much more to beauty than stretchies and it’s something that I had to teach myself. I had to literally rewire my brain into associating them with positivity instead of the horror I always immediately felt.
If I could do it, anyone can.
It is so possible. Anyone can turn an unhealthy relationship with their body into a positive one. It is possible, it does take time, but it will pay off.
Just look at this picture right here: The left image was taken on May 20, 2016 when I was at 19% body fat and 124 pounds heavy. Even though I’ve grown from 5’7″ to 5’7.5″ (haha) in a little over a year, the right picture was taken on July 14, 2017 where I’m at 123.6 pounds and 14.8% body fat. That’s a net loss of five pounds of fat while gaining five pounds of muscle at the same time. And I thought that all of this time, I was staying the exact same because my weight never changed.
Do you see those gains? I hope I’m not just imagining them. I’ve literally worked so hard day in and day out at the gym, lifting more than I ever thought imaginable and doing the best I thought possible to eat better. And now, I have stretch marks all over. I have stretch marks by my armpits, I have them above my knees where my quads have grown. They’re ever so prominent on the back of my calves, and they’re especially noticeable on my butt- long, numerous lines running over the skin that hugs my newly formed muscles. They’re there, but I’m fond of them. I love them for being them because stretch marks are a sign of growth. My muscles grew so fast that my skin couldn’t stay on top of the game and I’ve made so many gains in such a short amount of time that this happened, and I love it. I love them because they’re a part of me and they made me who I am.
Here’s what I’ve learned through all of this:
Your attitude about your body needs consistent checking to make sure it stays fresh.
Your body feels its best and does its best when you stay fit.
So now, when I pull my favorite pair of high-waisted festival jean shorts on in the morning and tuck a fitted tank into the hem, I smile a little bit at the stretchies that make their presence known. I smile because something that I once hated so much is now literally proof of all the work I’ve done on my mind and on my body.
And you can, too. Just stick to the mantra: it is possible.