Lesley Miller has wrestled with body image issues all her life. Her struggles, which she says evolved into self-harming and eating disorders, kept her from enjoying many simple things in life, including buying a bikini. Until now.
Miller, a rising senior at Rice University in Houston, recently revealed in a poignant Facebook post that after being "continually ashamed and silent," she finally purchased a multi-colored two piece.
"When I was twenty, I lost half my body weight in nine months, my worth for the day solely determined by the number on the scale being lower than the day before," she wrote, referencing her battle with eating disorders. "And then I got tired of waiting. So now I'm twenty one and I bought my first bikini. EVER."
Miller, 21, ended the post, writing, "I want to learn to love all of myself, not just the parts I've been told are ‘acceptable.’ Because the secret is, I was always enough. And you are too."
The post has gone viral with more than 500 “likes” and dozens of comments.
Miller, who had lap-band surgery at age 11 to manage her weight, said she shared her story after undergoing treatment for her issues.
"As I’ve done that I realized there are so many people going through the same thing as well," she told ABC News. "Not everyone does get help and I realized that when I share my story with other people they can say, 'Me, too. I’ve been through that,' and it’s really nice."
The college student said it wasn't easy to post a picture of herself in a bikini.
"It exposes everything I'm self-conscious about, but I realized that if people feel the need to tear me apart, it's likely they have their own stuff going on," she said.
Instead, she chooses to focus on what she has learned, which is to love herself.
"We’re always getting the message that we need to look a certain way or act a certain way and that kind of implies that you’re not OK the way that you are," Miller said. "We’re inherently valuable the way that we are now."
She continued, "It might’ve taken me this long to acknowledge that I am enough, but that doesn’t mean that when I weighed 300 pounds that I wasn’t acceptable then too."
Miller, who is now writing a memoir about her experience, said she's studying clinical psychology at Rice University so that she can "help other people who are struggling."
Indeed, she has a message for those battling eating disorders.
"I have good body-image days and bad ones, and I still have times when I find myself breaking down in a dressing room or obsessing over the nutrition content in a cookie," Miller said. "I am continually working toward being at peace with my body and loving myself unconditionally. But I want people in the depths of body image or eating struggles to know that it gets better."