from pageant to pudgy: my untransformation & body image struggles

do you ever look back on a photograph of yourself, and instead of remembering the moment or that time of your life, you simply stare at how different you look now than you did then?

maybe you’ve changed your hair, or have better style. for many of us, our eyebrows were terrible until the last few years (thank you, anastasia beverly hills). or maybe you see what i see the most – a completely different body.

instead of looking back at the memories and missing old friends, or laughing about fun trips, i stare at how slim my arms were, or how toned my thighs used to be. i see the definition in my stomach and the clothes i was once comfortable in. and instead of reliving fun memories, i find myself angry at the body i now know, and frustrated for losing the one i once had.

as most people, in high school i had the metabolism of a cheetah. i could eat whatever i wanted while avoiding the gym at all cost and maintaining a thin frame. sure, i was never model-tiny by any means, and i could’ve been more toned had my diet and workout been under control, but i was a teenager and that hadn’t been a priority. i came home from school, made chocolate milk, whipped up an entire box of macaroni for myself, and took a nap.

when i started competing in pageants at 17, not much changed. i had been required to join the tennis team for school, so there had been some physical exertion i was previously great at avoiding, but my diet remained stable. i ate what i wanted when i wanted it and never thought twice. the night before my first pageant, when i knew i would have to walk in front of a thousand people in a swimsuit the very next day, i stress-ate an entire tub of chocolate chip cookie dough. i’m talking the big, round tub that makes eighty million cookies, consumed by a then small-framed 17 year old girl shoveling her feelings into her face. the next day, i put on my two piece, walked the stage in tight gowns, and won my first pageant.

pageant body18 years old competing at miss washington 2012

looking back on that moment just reminds me how i have always been dependent on food. food has been my rock for my entire life. it is a constant in my ever-changing life and has helped me to balance navigating my teens and now 20s. so now that my metabolism doesn’t want to participate anymore at 25 years old, i am stuck in the body of a woman i do not know. i went from ‘hollow-legged hannah’ for almost 21 years, eating anything in sight like there was no tomorrow, to counting every carb, sugar, fat, protein into my body because i have gained over 40 pounds out of the blue. it sometimes feels like i am living someone else’s life.

i went from an always confident pageant queen, waltzing down runways and posting photos of myself all of the time, to someone who hides in her clothes and scrutinizes every item in her closet and every photo before its allowed to be seen by others. even with this blog, it has been so difficult to keep momentum when everything i put on was bought for a body severals tens of pounds lighter than the one i have now. everything is tight, highlights the unwanted, and just brings me back to that feeling of disappointment in the one thing that is mine and only mine. i’ve gone up at least 3 sizes, 4 in some brands. and yes, size doesn’t matter and weight is just a number – but it’s more than that. i’m not obese, and i know weight gain is a natural part of aging. it’s less the weight itself and more the fact that i barely recognize myself anymore.

now hannah25, working out in nyc for fashion week

sure, i’ve worked out and eaten clean and lost the weight in the past. i’ve never gotten back to my pageant weight, but i’ve been closer over the last handful of years. but it never lasts. i workout, restrict myself, cry over food and stare at the scale for hours so i can wear that one swimsuit on my senior year spring break to cabo, just to gain all of it back and then some. it’s never been sustainable. no one else in my life diets or worries about their weight or actively works out, and it is almost impossible to keep that momentum going when your surroundings are fighting you on it constantly.

but that’s what this blog was meant to be – a community where you and i can relate, be honest and learn from each other. i can wallow in this self-pity again, blame my metabolism or the programs i’ve tried and given up on, or the people who are in my life who don’t have to worry the way i do. or, i can build a new community to support each other, and try again. every time i fail a diet, or fail a workout program, i call it just that – “failure”. but it’s not – it’s progress. and not finishing a program or perfectly following a diet doesn’t mean that i can’t make progress again in the future. i still have the time, energy, resources, and functioning body that allows me to make a change if i so choose.

for the month of may, i have decided i’m going to do 30 minutes of cardio every single day. i can be running, walking, jogging, on an incline or not. just simply moving my body for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. my goal is that this is a small enough change that it is impossible to not do. making big, life-altering changes won’t help me in the long run, and i’d rather be healthy and happy forever than for one vacation.

you can follow my instagram stories for my daily posts of my cardio. hold me accountable, people! this blog, instagram, fitness – it all needs to be a community. and if you want to join me, let me know in the comments! or DM me! i would love to do this journey with you. maybe together we can learn to love our bodies the way they are, for all the amazing things they can do, and stop concerning ourselves with the way they used to be.

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