I was eight years old when I first knew I hated my body.

I was eight years old when my teacher decided that for math, we were all going to weigh ourselves in front of the class.

I was eight years old when I hated what I saw in the mirror.

I'm now 23, it's been 15 years since that incident, and I still don't like what I see.

In that third grade math class I learned I was ten pounds heavier than most of my female classmates, and from there it was a downwards spiral.

Since then my body has become the topic of far too many conversations.

Whether it was 'concerned' family members, friends merely 'commenting' on my appearance, coaches 'guiding' me to what I should aim for, or even employers simply stating their 'humble opinions'.

Sometimes it was almost as if I was just a poster on a wall; People standing in front of me discussing what I did look like, what I should look like, and what was wrong with me.

For far too long I believed every word they said. I look back at pictures of a younger me, with my arms wrapped around myself because I was uncomfortable, because I was told my arms were too big, my shoulders had too much muscle, my thighs were too fat, and my stomach wasn't flat enough.

I remember one in particular where I'm sitting in a tank top and I'm holding my arms trying so hard to smile. And I look at that picture now, and all I see is a toned, athletic, beautiful young girl. But I know that in that moment I was thinking about how much I hated every inch of my skin.

I was active, I was athletic, I was strong, but I was not happy.

I was a member of the junior Canadian national kick boxing team, I was on my high school volleyball, basketball and rugby teams, and while I was never "skinny" I was athletic, I had no cellulite on my body and I was strong.

Yet even so, these are some of the things people had to say about me:

"Kick boxing and rugby? That's wonderful, in a couple of months you'll finally be a beautiful 'Slenderella'."

"You'll be so pretty once you're skinny."

"Do you really think you can afford to eat that."

"You can definitely lose another 20-25 pounds."

"Oh look you finally have a waist again."

"Did you gain back all that weight you lost, it's a real shame."

"How's her weight doing? I think she needs to lose more."

"Yeah you can lose weight, your thighs are really big and your stomach is fat."

These are just a few, and they may seem small, but I heard things like these over and over again.

At one point it felt like I heard them everyday. Not to mention all the negative self talk I did all on my own.

While dealing with so many external battles, this internal battle with loving myself, has been something I've struggled with for years.

That being said, I'm not in a place where I can say that I've won. I can't say I love myself and mean it. I can't say I'm completely happy, and I can't say that that chapter is closed.

I think about how much I hate parts of my body everyday.

But what I'm doing now is also telling myself which parts I love everyday. And that's something I have never done before.

My body is not a work of art on display for your thoughts and comments; My body is a machine and it does amazing things each and everyday.

This will be something that I have to work at for a very long time, and it will be something I write about for a very long time.

For now I'm going to do my best and focus on the incredible things my body can do, not the way it looks.

-Natalia Camarena

Published by Natalia Camarena