I sat crying at the top of the stairs, my mother’s arm around my shoulder. I was 14; I was fat; and kids were mean.

My mom ached along with me. “Honey, do you want to go to a spa camp?” she offered. “What’s that?” I wondered. “It’s a place where kids go to learn how to eat healthy, exercise and lose weight.” I thought about it for a moment, then answered firmly, “Yes.”

Entering the cycle

And so, that summer I began the weight loss and gain cycle that would continue for the next 17 years. I attended and worked at fat camps for five summers, the last time at age 22 after I graduated from college, though the pattern continued long after that.

 “I realized that I held a fundamental belief that I was only worthy of love when I looked a certain way.”

Each time, I’d spend six to nine weeks exercising for most of each day and eating only the small portions that were given to me, and I’d lose weight. I’d come home to accolades and applause, to new clothes and compliments. And, slowly but surely, as happens for 95 percent of people who lose weight through dieting, the number on the scale crept back up. As it did, my self-esteem dipped lower and lower each time in response.

Breaking the cycle

And then, one day, when I was 31, I realized that I held a fundamental belief that I was only worthy of love when I looked a certain way. I decided I needed to stop dieting, and, in a series of serendipitous events, I discovered a non-profit that changed my life.

Nearly three years later, I now work for them, teaching youth and adults who struggle like I did about Health at Every Size, intuitive self-care, self-love and diverse, authentic beauty. As one of our group members recently said, “I haven’t purged since the first group I attended — a huge success. But this experience has done so much more than that. I've truly started loving myself.”

To anyone of any age who is still struggling: The mean kids (and adults) are wrong, not your body. Spend your time developing your interests and talents, not erasing your flesh. You always have been — and always will be — worthy.