Originally published February 13, 2017 on the Huffington Post.

I have this picture of myself in a pink dress from my sister’s college graduation. It was my #bodygoals go-to photo for years.

Weight Loss for Women

SOURCE: PERSONAL PHOTO

In this photo, I’m at the lowest weight I have ever achieved in my adult life, post-college. Especially in the months leading up to my wedding, I would look back at this picture of myself and practically salivate.

“To be her again,” I would look at this photo and think.

Have you ever had this experience? You look back at an old photo of yourself and think, “I was so skinny then!” But when you think about it, you don’t remember ever feeling very skinny at the time.

It’s normal. We live in a diet-obsessed culture where we’re all taught to be constantly striving for a thinner, more “perfect” body. This mania has a way of robbing us of our joy, and our ability to be present in our lives.

The girl in the pink dress is thinking, “God I hope I’m sucking in my stomach enough,” and plotting optimal arm placement to avoid the “lunch lady” effect. She’s not really thinking about her baby sister and the joy that she and her family are experiencing that day.

How sad, right? But odds are, you’ve been there too. This tendency to check out of big moments because of my obsession with my body came to a head around the time of my wedding.

A few nights before my wedding, I had an epiphany. I was lying in the bathtub, crying, wishing I had been able to make myself lose more weight before the big day and get closer to the version of myself in that picture, in the pink dress.

But, then my fiancé came into the room and took my hand. He told me he thought I was the most beautiful woman in the world, and that he was excited to marry me.

“At what point are you going to get over feeling like you aren’t enough and start enjoying your life?” screamed a voice in my head. That was the moment that changed everything for me.

Today, just under 3 years later, I love my body harder than ever before. I am living my dream of becoming a plus size model. I haven’t been on a diet in years, the scale is collecting dust on a shelf somewhere, and my life has never been better.

Life happens. The weight comes on, comes off, and comes on again. That’s natural for every woman to experience. When we gain weight it can feel like the worst thing in the world, and we reach for the nearest weight loss “solution” being thrust at us by television, social media, or network marketing.

But the worst thing you could sign yourself up for is a lifetime of missing out on what’s happening around you by wishing you were someone else, or in a different body, for those experiences.

Before you spend another dime, or drop of your precious energy, on a diet product or program, think: are you trying to turn the clock back to a “better” version of yourself? Before you had the baby, or got divorced, or married, or promoted, or moved to Michigan?

Because odds are the woman that you were then didn’t love her body either. The way out of feeling badly about your body isn’t weight loss or changing your body in any way. It’s choosing to love the body that you have right now, so that you can get on with becoming the woman you want to be in this lifetime.

Want to love your body harder than ever before? Sign up for a weekly dose of Body Love with Melinda Parrish, and check out Body Love TV every Friday at Noon ET on Facebook Live.

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