• Lu Akin

How Body Dysmorphia Sabotages Your Wellness Journey

Like most people, I struggled with poor self-image. I constantly berated myself if I was "too muscular, too fluffy, or too ________."


Body Dysmorphia (BDD) is: "a mental disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that some aspect of one's own body part or appearance is severely flawed and therefore warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix one's dysmorphic part on one's figure."


I wouldn't go as far as to say that I had/have BDD but I rarely remembered a time when I was just happy with myself.


It started in high school, I became a cheerleader and at that time cheering was my world. But I was uncomfortable. I was chosen as a base (the girls that lift the flyers up) and was praised for how strong I was. Amongst my team, being strong was a positive, but amongst my other classmates I was seen as manly.




So there was cognitive dissonance (my new favorite phrase which means: the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change). I loved to cheer but I HATED showing my arms. I tried more than ever to hide my arms so that I wouldn't be seen as masculine in the one sport where I was supposed to be very feminine.


Because I was insecure, I would always advocate for wearing our turtlenecks to games (no matter how hot) and once the game was over I put my jacket on IMMEDIATELY. I was SO embarrassed that I would research (aka Google) ways to get rid of arm muscles. Maybe I could stretch more. Maybe I needed a lighter flyer. I just needed something to make me feel more comfortable.



I struggled through 4 years of high school cheer until finally it was time to go to college. I was sad to be done with the sport but happy that I could now manage my insecurity in private.


Through my time in college I was living la vida loca. Still overcompensating to appear more feminine, but not as much as I was in high school. If I went to the gym I was avoiding anything that involved my arms. My regimen was legs and core, nothing more. With the way University of Maryland's campus is set up, I didn't gain the "freshman 15." I felt invincible. I was in a space where I could eat whatever I wanted, buy whatever I wanted, and do whatever I wanted. For someone who had little to no freedom, I now had an abundance of it. And for some reason, I was most excited with the fact that I could buy Skittles whenever I wanted (true life).


Soon enough, I started to see cellulite (you would think it was cancer the way I cried) in my legs. I LOST it. I started working out more consistently, boycotted Skittles, and focused all of my attention to my legs. Based on my research (again, Google) I knew that if I wanted to reduce the appearance of cellulite, I needed to reduce my body fat percentage and increase my muscle mass. Essentially, I now needed the muscle I was trying to get rid of in high school.


Working out for me always had an end goal.


Having goals isn't bad, but what happens when your goal is to lose 2 lbs, but you step on the scale and you see that you've gained 2 lbs? If you're like me, you get discouraged and you stop trying all together. Hence the sabotage. You start this cycle of not hitting your goal and then becoming discouraged.


I've found myself most successful when I'm NOT checking the scale. My goal in my wellness journey is to consistently work out 3-5 times a week. Eat a diet of nutrient dense foods. And to enjoy my life.


Embarking on this journey is loving yourself at every stage of life. Truth is, I will ALWAYS look muscular, that's just how my body looks. I'm not "petite" and I'm okay with that. And cellulite isn't all that bad.


When I love myself, I do better for myself. I try to make goals for myself that aren't centered around numbers. And I let the love I have for myself lead me. I want to be able to be active with my children in the future, which means I want to maintain the muscle I have now until that time comes.


Wellness is a journey but more than anything it's a lifestyle. Don't allow your poor self-image to continue to hold you back from living life fully.


So even if my cheeks are fluffier, I'm eating well and working out because that's what's best for my body. And if I hit some goals along the way-- that's great.



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