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I was a chubby baby.

I was unusually heavy as a newborn, and that carried over into my toddler years- my cheeks were so fat that they obstructed my eyesight, to the point where my already tiny eyes looked like little slits. I lost most of the baby weight entering elementary school, and was pretty skinny in middle school and in the beginning of high school. After hitting puberty, my weight flip-flopped for years. I have always been pretty active, and make a point to exercise at least 5 times a week, but it all boiled down to one thing- I had never been truly comfortable in my own body.

There’s a lot of issues surrounding women’s bodies nowadays. Are we too fat? Too short? Too skinny? Is it weird if we’re stronger than some men? Do men like that? Questions like these have haunted my teenage and adult years for quite some time, and it wasn’t until recently that I finally broke through these negative posts. I used to be so insecure about my arms that I refused to wear a tank top for years. I remember I used to wear long sleeve sweaters in the middle of the summer, and no matter how hot it got, I wouldn’t dare take it off.

Last year, I had the amazing experience of working with a volunteer organization that allowed me to travel and work around the world. I was lucky enough to be assigned to a small beach town in Australia called Port Douglas. Everyday, the other workers and I would go on a new outdoor adventure- whether it was snorkeling, rock-climbing, or hiking- it was one of the best and most fun times of my life.

We had stumbled across a scenic waterfall one morning – it was mostly empty save for a few kids, but we climbed to the top, and one by one, all of us stripped down to our bathings suits and jumped off the cliff into the cool, blue water.

I remembered feeling so self-conscious and scared – I didn’t want the others to see my bare stomach, or jiggly thighs. I stood at the top of the waterfall for some time, until my friend put his hand on my shoulder and smiled.

“What are you waiting for? The water is great!” He said, gleefully.

That’s when it clicked – there was so much to see, so many people to meet, and so many things to do; I didn’t have the time to worry about how fat I thought it was. I shouldn’t be preoccupied with women that I want to look like – I should be looking towards women that inspire me and those who feel confident and secure in themselves, no matter what their appearance is. If I kept letting tummy rolls and batwing arms get in the way of living a big, juicy, creative life, it was going to break my heart.

So, Raptors, I encourage you to jump. You are so much more than whatever you think you’re supposed to look like.

Annika La Vina

My name is Annika La Vina (pronounced like Monica without the M). I am 20 years old, and I am currently a new student at MC. I love all kinds of sports and am super into fitness - catch me running on the side of Rockville Pike on a sunny day! In addition, I love reading and writing and have been an avid writer since elementary school. I dabble in all kinds of major writing forms - fictional, academic and now, blogging!
After high school, I traveled and worked around the world for two years. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time, but most of all, it was rewarding. Not only did I experience new cultures and meet tons of people, I also realized several things about myself - the most important being that I needed to go back to school.
It’s frightening - super frightening actually - to embark on a new stage in life. However, you’re not alone. Join me in my newest, weirdest, scariest, most exciting adventure yet - college!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Annika, your topic of body image is an important one. I love the saying “Youth is wasted on the young.” When I look back at old photos, I am not nearly as heavy or unattractive as I felt I was at that time. Sometimes I think our gender is just programmed to be hard on ourselves as far as physical attractiveness goes. And women are often the culprit, not the men. Women are quite competitive in our culture to use looks for personal gain. Men also can have body image and eating disorders, something not addressed much. As you get older and grow more confident (and find someone who cares for you just the way you are), these insecurities will fade. Wow – what stood out to me was having such an opportunity at a young age to travel and see the world AND the nerve to jump off a cliff. I never would have the guts to do that! And by the way, I never noticed any of the things you mentioned; we are our toughest critic!!

  2. Wow! What a great blog Annika, this is indeed a very complex topic. I am glad you feel different now because you have so much to enjoy in life, every second of it. Thank you for sharing your anecdote and showing us a lesson!

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