"I wasn't aware of that coping mechanism at the time...I was 200 pounds and unhealthy, not just because I was overweight, but because I wasn't well."

By Faith Brar
November 29, 2018
Photo: Instagram 

Katie Willcox, the founder of the Healthy Is the New Skinny movement, will be the first to tell you that the journey to a healthy body and mind isn't easy. The body-positive activist, entrepreneur, and mother has been candid about her roller-coaster relationship with her body and what it took for her to develop healthy, sustainable habits that led her to appreciate the skin she's in.

In a recent Instagram post, Willcox opened up about how she finally found balance in her life-something that required her to start small. In the post, she shared side-by-side photos of herself-one from her freshman year of college and one of her today:

"I have been a wide range of sizes," she wrote alongside the photos. "This was me when I had gained the freshman 25 after I stopped playing sports and went to art school in NYC. I was struggling to find where I fit in a new city, new school, and new life, all on my own."

She shared how food became a source of comfort for her in moments of stress and anxiety. "The crazy part was, I wasn't aware of that coping mechanism at the time," she wrote. "I was 200 pounds and unhealthy, not just because I was overweight, but because I wasn't well."

Fast forward to today and she's done a complete 180. "Now, I am a healthy weight which is great but I am also in tune with myself," she wrote. "I am aware of my feelings and I now allow myself to feel them. I have gained the tools needed to care for myself as a whole, not just as a body."

The key to her success? "Balance," she says.

"If you are where I started my journey, it is okay," she wrote. "You are right where you need to be...you have to learn through experience and the first step is acceptance."

As she's mentioned before, Willcox says altering your appearance (through weight loss or other means) isn't going to fix whatever's going on with you on the inside. "You can hate yourself skinny but you can't hate yourself healthy or happy," she wrote. "Only love can do that." (Related: Katie Willcox Wants Women to Stop Thinking They Need to Lose Weight to Be Loveable)

For those looking for ways to start, Willcox suggests "opening yourself up to learning more about who you are right now."

Break it down, she urges. "What is working for you and what isn't?" she wrote. "What habits have you formed that are stopping you from becoming the person you want to be? If you can start here, you can begin to create your own roadmap for success."

To Willcox's point, building a healthy and sustainable lifestyle from the ground up isn't something that happens overnight. It's a long journey where each step forward deserves to be celebrated. "Smaller goals help you feel accomplished on a regular basis, which keeps you motivated to continue to follow through with your plan," Rachel Goldman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine, previously told Shape. Simply starting by identifying your bad habits could be a stepping stone to developing good ones-which is, at the end of the day, the number-one goal.

As Willcox puts it: "You have no timeline...this is a lifelong process and today is a great time to start."