Last week, I entered my doctor’s office for my annual check up. In previous years, I loathed this day more than any other. Not because I was scared, anxious, or squeamish, but rather, I hated getting on that scale and watching the numbers increase as my years increased. Like almost every woman I know, I have body image issues. Major ones. I would skip meals, eat the bare minimum, and watch my weight like tornado chasers watch the weather reports. I was never overweight. Never. I weighed 97 pounds when I met my now husband. I barely broke 120 pounds when I got married. I do not own a scale in my house because I know myself too well. I know my obsessive nature will take over rational thinking and parallel me into a dark space of compulsive dieting and binging. I’ve been down this road before, too many times.

This year, however, I walked into the doctor’s office with a different anxiety. Last year, I was hospitalized and basically told if I don’t take better care of myself, I would have a heart attack. Better care of myself meant dealing with the hurt, grief, and pain I’d been shoving down for too long. In true poetic irony, I was hospitalized on the one-year anniversary of my brother’s death to suicide. My body had enough. The body, I’ve learned, always, always wins. That experience shook me to my core, turned everything upside down, and made me reevaluate every aspect of my life. So, this year, I did not really care what the scale said. It was a small blip on the radar of my concerns. Rather, I focused on my health.

And, here is where irony steps in. I stepped on the scale and it was the highest it has ever been, ever, in my life. The numbers read 154. For the first time in my life, I did not care. I let it go. I sighed, took a deep breath, and knew that those numbers meant very little because I was happy. I was happy with my body. With the help I sought to deal with very hard things, the way I’ve leaned into the pain and sorrow of losing my brother, and the progress of my health, my whole health, I was able to see that those numbers meant very little. What mattered was that for the first time in my life, I did not care. I loved myself, all of myself, the entire 154 pounds of myself. To imagine myself in this place years ago, seems like a dream. It has taken–and still takes–a tremendous amount of work to love myself. But, it was only through completely losing myself that I realized the numbers on a scale have nothing to do with my self worth. I am healthy. I am here.

We are in the season of resolutions and at a party recently, I had an intense conversation with a woman I respect and love deeply. We both have young children and are very conscious of the way we speak about our weight in front of them. But, the thing that struck me was the fact that we don’t reserve such tenderness and caution with ourselves. We beat ourselves up for eating a chocolate chip cookie, not looking like models, or not being a certain weight. We are our worst enemies. Yes, we know now that media shoves these altered images of perfection down our throats. We know that. But why, then, do we still give them the power to infiltrate our lives and hearts? It has to stop with us. We have to toss aside the self-hate and seek out self-love. We have to take the same caution with ourselves as we do our children. We have to know that our 37-year old bodies will never, ever be our 22 year old bodies. I have miles of stretch marks on me, life lives in the pockets of cellulite on my behind, joy hides in back fat because I eat cookies with my children. Every time you say something bad about your body, say something good. The good will, eventually, outweigh the bad. I promise.

Again, this is not easy. It is a daily struggle for me. It takes practice and dedication and there are certain times I slip right back into the self-hate. Take care of you. If that means walking your dog, meditating, going to the gym, then do it. Love you. I’m telling you, it is transformative. Never did I imagine being my heaviest would mean being healthy and happy. But, here I am. Let 2017 be the year you fall in love with your body. Let it be the year you no longer listen to society’s message of false perfection. Let it be the year you quiet the murmurs of self-hate. Let yourself fall in love with you, all of you.

Meg Grant

Meagan Grant is a writer, teacher, mother to three and drinker of champagne. She first fell in love with words at the age of four armed with a flashlight, a blanket, and Beverly Cleary's Ramona and Her Father. Meagan's work has been published in The Ma Books, Chrysalis Journal, Real Simple, and Clean. Her vices in life are thrift store shopping, dark chocolate, books, and champagne.