If I took to Facebook to define my relationship with my body, I would choose “it’s complicated”.

I don’t believe that anyone wakes up in the morning professing their love for their physical imperfections. “Oh, how I love you stretch marks!”  “My tiny calves are my favorite part of my body.”

Learning to love my body was a hard lesson for me.

To be honest, it’s an ongoing journey in which some days are more successful than others.  But compared to the 20-something version of myself—practically a cross between Billy Blanks and Richard Simmons-I’d say I’ve come a long way.

THEN

I’m a former fat kid—the kind who hasn’t been overweight in almost two decades but still feels like a balloon when I have one cookie too many.

As a child, my weight yo-yoed from year to year.  Looking through my elementary school photos, you’d be forgiven for thinking I had a skinnier stand-in for my second and fourth grade picture days.  By middle school, I settled into my chubbiness.

While all the other boys were starting to transform into NCAA prospects, I remained unchanged.

The summer after ninth grade, I went to a transportation summer camp (don’t ask me why) at Florida A&M University.

Thanks to daily runs and volleyball matches, I lost 30 pounds in under two months.  I started my sophomore year as a beanpole, joined the cross-country team and stayed skinny.  So skinny that I didn’t gain back a pound of what I’d lost despite a voracious appetite.

My parents were so concerned about my new, low weight they had me tested for anemia.  Spoiler alert—I wasn’t anemic.  I was just newly thin and active.  My ability to maintain it was likely the result of a massive growth spurt which pushed my height over 6 feet before I was 14.

I spent my 20s obsessing about keeping my weight low.  That’s the thing about us former fat kids.  We might look perfectly healthy to you but we’re still our younger, fatter selves within.

I worked out 6 days a week and spent money I didn’t have to work out at David Barton Gym alongside Anderson Cooper, Marc Jacobs and Amanda Lepore.  I didn’t know specifics about fitness or health.  I just wanted to look hot in this awful sleeveless hoodie I used to wear out to the bars.

NOW

If there was any one factor that contributed to my healthier understanding of fitness and nutrition, and the role each played in my life, it would be marriage.

As a single 20-something living in New York City, I felt compelled to present a specific image to other men in the hopes of being picked.  I needed to be lean, have taut pecs and show off chiseled abs.  If I wanted to rise to the top of the Grindr dating pool, I needed to be hot.

Now that I have a ring on my finger, I haven’t given up on myself by any means.  But my husband doesn’t have unrealistic expectations for himself or me.  And knowing that, I’m happy with how I look.

I’ve found a happy medium.  I still work out 4-5 times a week but it serves a different purpose.  I spend 8+ hours a day in front a computer screen.  My late morning workout is a way to break up my day and get me moving.

I no longer restrict my diet or tack on an extra workout in the hopes of looking like Cristiano Ronaldo.  I feel good in my skin, and I have someone in my life who loves me as I am.

Am I “perfect”?  No.  Do I still have days where I feel like a trash bag is the only thing I’ll feel comfortable wearing?  Absolutely.

But by finally (well, mostly) letting go of my inner fat kid and accepting a more realistic definition of what it means to be fit, I was able to change my outlook.  I could look in the mirror, smile and tell myself I looked good.  And I meant it.

Don’t look for me to do any nude shoots with Marco Ovando any time soon.  But I love where I am right now, and that’s good enough for me.