Body Talk: Gabby Lester-Coll, Brand Director
Welcome to Body Talk, an S-Life series where we will be fearlessly opening this portal of communication about self-love, self-deprecation, and touching on anything and everything in-between.
The aim here is not image-making, or perfection-seeking. Rather, it is image-wrecking, perfection-shattering, and infinite-purpose discovering in order to peel back the layers of the images we have each built of ourselves and who we are suppose to be, in faithful anticipation that we may unearth the absolute Love and Beauty that we have always been, and always will be. We each have unique bodies, and unique stories to tell. Here, we will be telling ours, in faith that you will be encouraged to tell yours. So without further hesitation, may we introduce to you, The #SakaraBodyTalk of:
Gabby Lester-Coll, Brand Director at Sakara Life
Growing up, I was a chubby little girl. Everyone in my family was. It was a rite of passage for the Lester-Colls.
The summer after my 7th grade my mom, brother, and I all decided to go on a diet together because we had had enough. We were each holding onto some extra pounds, and we were determined to make this the summer we took control and we were determined to do it together. We worked out several times a week, cut down very seriously on our fast food habits (no more Subway Wednesdays and McDonalds Saturdays), and replaced one meal a day with a scary, preservative-filled, SlimFast meal replacement power bar.
That summer also just so happened to be the summer my growth spurt arrived (thanks universe), so the combined efforts of my family’s Get Slim Summer and puberty resulted in…some serious results.
When I put on my carefully selected first day of school outfit and walked onto campus that September, I was met with praise on how amazing I looked – something I hadn’t yet had the ability to internalize or digest because I found it difficult to look in the mirror and see an accurate depiction of who was staring back at me. The praise came from my friends, my teachers, my coaches, my family, and anyone else who had witnessed the transformation, and it all made complete sense: the skinnier I got, the more people would notice me. The skinnier I got, the more people would love me.
I spent the next eight years starving myself, avoiding food and situations that would require me to eat, counting every single calorie that entered my body, and every single calorie I burned on the treadmill. I lied to everyone in my life every single day about what I had eaten, pretending I had dinner plans with friends when I’d really drive around for a couple hours or sit in a park, counting and recounting everything I had eaten that day. I hid a scale underneath my bed and took it out every morning to weigh myself (immediately after going to the bathroom, no clothes on), and how I felt about myself as a girl, student, friend, lover, and human being in this world was entirely dependent on that number that blinked back at me. I’d feel nauseous standing there on the scale every morning waiting with nervous anticipation for my worth to dance across the screen. On some days, that number validated and excited me, feeding my hunger to do it more and do it better the next day. On other days, it crushed me.
I brought that scale with me on every sleepover and every vacation.
Writing about my anorexia is still extremely hard for me because it not only consumed my day to day life, but also who I was as a person for a third of my existence on this planet. As much as I convinced myself that my worth as a girl, student, friend, etc. were determined by my weight, I wasn’t any of those things during that period of my life - I was a physical body completely void of a spirit, and those feelings, those habits, those obsessions, and that terror I felt during that time are still very raw. As I typed those words above, I’m immediately back there, standing on that scale with my bony body shivering in the early morning temperatures. As I typed those words above, my heartbeat actually started to quicken, the nausea started to surface, and I could feel the anticipation jumping around inside of me as I wait. I can access, all too easily, that space inside of me that is small, scared, hopeless, angry, and convinced that if I keep disappearing, maybe those feelings will disappear too.
The journey with my body went up, down, left, right, backwards, and forwards for the next several years. I gained weight, lost weight, became addicted to exercise, tried every diet under the sun, and felt every feeling under the moon about myself, but – somehow – I continued to put one foot in front of the other on this journey of figuring out how to live in a body that I can’t control.
I’ve learned what things – food, exercises, sleep patterns, activities, etc. – help me feel best in my body. But I’ve also learned what life experiences – vacations, wine dates, celebrations, nights out, etc. – help me feel best in my soul and that sometimes the best results come when you let the soul trump the body every now and then.
It’s hard for me to write that I feel good in my body today, even though I actually, truly do. It’s hard for me to write because I still have days where I stand sideways in the mirror and say hateful things to innocent parts of my physicality that are just there doing their jobs in order to help keep this body healthy, so that I can continue to live my life on a daily basis. But, fortunately, one of the biggest things I’velearned over the past fews years is that as much as I can love my body, feel proud of my body, and be empowered, inspired, and fueled by my body - I am not my body. And knowing that I am not my body makes it easier to love her. She’s not me – she’s her own unique, ever-changing being who gives me a solid shelter and vehicle to experience the world in, and when I stop and think about how strong, beautiful, and kick ass she is – it’s hard not to love her.
And while I am definitely NOT that small scared girl who filled her life with control because she was scared she wouldn’t be able to fill it with love, I know that that girl will always live inside of me. I know that some of her old thought patterns will creep to the surface from time to time – the ones that've left really deep grooves in my soul - but I also know that I’ve learned to love those scars and love that girl with as much of me as I can muster because if I can’t love them, it’s not fair of me to expect anyone else to love them. And, if there is truly ONE big, soul-shaking, life-changing lesson that I've learned through all these ups and downs with my body, it's that love - in all its forms - is the best thing in the whole wide world.