We Go Way Back
When I was in the seventh grade I used to drink nothing but LA Weight loss diet shakes for lunch. When I was a freshman in high school I went on an intensive diet that consisted of nothing but milk, vegetables, and some choice meditation. Slim fast, green coffee bean pills, skinny teas, you name it and I promise you I’ve tried it. I’ve been persistently obsessed with my weight since I was about 10 years old. I should have been worried about which shade of glitter I would paint my nails, or deciding between root beer or vanilla flavored lip gloss; instead I was constantly caught up in my internal struggle to be skinny.
One of the biggest issues with the images of skinny that plaster beauty campaigns and grace magazine covers, is the people it affects. While these ads may be geared towards grown women, they are coveted by young girls. 11 year olds wanting to learn all the secrets held between the pages of Cosmo and the alike. I was one of those girls, I knew from a young age that I wanted to work in magazines, and I spent my life pouring over the pages of every magazine under the sun. What I didn’t realize was how destructive my obsession with glossy editorials was. Paired with the fact that I was the only Black girl in a school full of tiny white girls, it was a recipe for disaster, and disaster struck hard. I would dip in and out of diets, loosing weight to a certain level of satisfaction only to revert back to my old ways, gaining the weight two fold. I was so genuinely insecure, I had all these notions in my head about cute outfits I could wear if only I was skinny. I told myself boys would be attracted to me once I was skinny, that life in general would get better just as soon as I got skinny. My looks would develop once the pounds went away and for the time being it was just me and my books.
By the time I reached sophomore year of high school I couldn’t take it anymore, and so began my 6 month battle with bulimia. It was a dark and depressive time in my life. I told myself that I would only do it once a day and just avoid all other fatty foods. I skipped breakfast and lunch and purged after dinner. Convinced that bulimia was a skinny girl’s disease I assumed no one wold ever suspect what I was up to, but a sickness that strong will affect you in noticeable ways. I didn’t really lose any weight in the process, maybe 5 pounds in all of those months. After admitting to my family and friends my situation I was enveloped in a loving support system and found myself on the healing side of the disease, but not yet on the healing side of body image. My body image battle raged on through high school and college, taking on different forms of self hate.
When the fatosphere bubble popped online, I was all over it, determined to embrace the idea of being plus sized. Yet stil, something was wrong. I wanted to be a certain kind of plus sized, the girls with wide hips and flat tummies, whose bodies seemed like instruments of magic, plus sized yet free of muffin tops, love handles, and back fat. That was my plus size goal. I still couldn’t accept my own plus size. Even when I had lost a good deal of weight in pursuit of my goal, I was never quite “there”. I couldn’t just waltz into any store, pick up a size 12 and walk out. It was something I was completely unwilling to accept, I was convinced that until I was a size 10/12 I was still fat and that translated to ugly.
The Slow Turn Around
In my post, Diary of a Fat Fat Shamer, I explain my battle with learning to accept my body exactly as it is. The struggle to help transform the word fat into a description, not a definition, and particularly not an insult. I would read body positive blogs, follow the pages on instagram, chant mantras, and post self love quotes on the daily. Then it finally happened.
This June, I went on a family vacation to Cancun. While looking for swimsuits online I came across Gabi Fresh’s Nala Two piece suit. “If only it were a one piece,” I thought to myself. Then I took a step back and said, “so what?” I held my breath and clicked purchase, in what I thought was one of my bravest acts in life. The brave part though, was going through with wearing it. I agonized over whether to wear it once it arrived in the mail, so I quickly packed it into my suitcase and ignored it. Two days before my trip, I dug it out of my bag and tried it on. I was in love. I was in love with what I saw in the mirror in front of me. I felt beautiful and sexy in a way I have never felt in my entire 21 years. I was exposed. I was so exposed that no amount of twisting or posing would hide my fat, and I couldn’t have been happier. I swear I almost broke down in tears in front of my mirror, because my entire life I had never been so understanding, accepting, and proud of my own body. I’m not at my heaviest weight but I am certainly not at my smallest either. I skipped around in Mexico, in my little two piece like I was the hottest thing on the beach. I laid out in the sand while cabana boys served me mai tais and admired my curves, and not once did I stop them. I was too busy loving my curves myself. When I posted pictures of myself on social media, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all the amazing words of praise and encouragement flooding my inbox. But what has been greater than my little two piece revelation, was the aftermath.
Living with It
Although I left the sun and sand behind, the pride in my body came home with me. I find myself staring at my reflection in the mirror happy with what I see in virtually anything I wear. I’ve essentially abandoned my shape wear, waist cinchers, and binders, and embraced the way my tank top carefully hugs the curves of my tummy and dips with the movement of my hips. I’m excited to go out and I’ve even abandoned most of my makeup, living off of BB cream, lipstick, and mascara. I find myself enjoying life more, talking to more men, smiling more often, and living in the moment. All because I finally managed to accept all of me. There are women who have told me that they didn’t stop fat-shaming themselves until they were in their 30s. Most of the body positive bloggers and advocates out there, tend to be older women who have really lived through some things that helped them recognize how much better life was once they began to accept themselves. I’m so extremely happy to be able to say that at 21 I have finally made a huge step in finding myself, and I am sharing this story in hopes that other women my age, older, and even younger will find their moment. Sharing my story is not about me, revealing this intimate part of my life does nothing for myself, but I do want it to do something for someone, for everyone else. I want body positivity to be something that women and girls have as a tool in every day life as early on as possible, because I can honestly say that it has made my life better. Imagine a world full of happy, comfortable, and vibrant women; there would be absolutely nothing to stand in our way.