Do I love the body I have? GIRLTALK with Haleigh of Michigan

A word on loving yourself no matter your shape, size, or color:

Beauty is everywhere, but it is not always easy to see the beauty within ourselves. Most of my life I spent questioning my value because of my weight; I was heavier than average and felt inadequate in a society that promotes a "skinny girl" culture. In my early teen's people would tell me I was "big-boned," quality I viewed as demeaning. I would constantly compare myself to other girls my age who were more athletic or thin, and the vicious cycle of self-hate, and low self-esteem emerged.

Happiness means loving yourself, and being less concerned with the approval of others.

At the time I was incapable of seeing my beauty and was consumed in comparing myself to the models, and celebrities that were always shoved down my throat through various media, and advertising. In hindsight I wish I could have loved myself through it all; it would have saved me much trouble. All too soon I went from being "big-boned" to undeniably morbidly obese.

I hit my peak at a whopping 285 lbs, which put my BMI over 40 points at my 5'10" stature. Not only did I not appreciate what I saw in the mirror, but I was also feeling the effects medically with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, polycystic ovarian syndrome, heart palpitations, and chronic back pain. My doctors were warning me of the dangerous path I was embarking on, and in one moment of clarity, I decided I need to make some serious lifestyle changes.

In September of 2015, I underwent a procedure known as a vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) after having a doctor monitor my diet and exercise changes over a period of 6 months. VSG is a type of bariatric or weight loss surgery that removes approximately 80% of the patients' stomach so they can feel fuller faster. By my surgery date, I had already lost over 40 lbs and felt a tremendous positive impact on my health, and self-confidence. I was overcoming an obstacle that had ruled over my life for over a decade! Since changing my lifestyle to incorporate more exercise, and high protein foods - all while cutting out carbs, and sugar - I have lost over 130 lbs.

I honestly feel like an entirely different person. I have overcome all of my health ailments, no longer get winded while climbing a flight of stairs, and better appreciate myself as my confidence has sky-rocketed. The best discovery through my journey was the realization that I was never ugly, it was the society that was. I was beautiful every step of the way.

Through this transformation, I learned to appreciate my unique qualities and proved to myself that I am a strong, capable woman who can accomplish anything when she sets her mind to it. There is so much more to people than outside perceptions of beauty, and I was only harming myself by constantly critiquing, and comparing my self-image to my perception of others. Perhaps Owen Campbell Jr. summarizes my story best with this quote: