14, 16, 18. To most people, these are just random numbers. But for me, it stands for my life struggle with weight and my clothes. I can fit into any of these clothing sizes depending on the store, or even the week. As a plus-size woman under the standards of beauty today, I am learning to love my body for what it is, but it never came naturally to me.
I have struggled with my weight all my life. From middle school to now, I have looked at myself in the mirror and never been content. Standing at 5 foot 8, I considered my height to contribute to my “heavy” figure with my big bones needing to support my frame. Among my friends, I was always the biggest girl in class. Gym class had me running the infamous Pacer Test every year, measuring my weight on a scale with the teacher announcing the number to my class and comparing my results to everyone else. Not exactly the best way to encourage body positivity at a young age.
I always blamed myself for each new stretch mark and regretted every bite of dessert I ate. Constantly being surrounded by thin and skinny girls never made it better. I would go to friends’ houses and they would offer me things to wear, but I knew deep down my XL body wouldn’t fit into the size medium or large swimsuit.
My parents always encouraged me to do something about it, whether eating healthier or working out, but nothing worked. I’ve tried weight loss pills that made me faint, diet shakes that kept me full for only two hours, and working out every day. Nothing worked, and after years of living with my body the way it is, I broke down this past summer in quarantine.
After gaining what seemed like the “COVID-19,” I was at a point this summer where I didn’t want to eat anything. Fearful that any food entering my body would drop to my waist and stomach, I spent an entire day crying and just wishing I had a normal figure. But then and there, I realized two important things that changed my whole perspective.
I am not unhealthy.
I don’t binge eat potato chips, cake, or fast food every day. I don’t drink soda all the time. I have a balanced diet, and there is nothing that I should change regarding what I eat. Although in the past I have been lacking in the exercise frontier, I am an active person. I walk every day and workout three times a week (ok, I try to). There is nothing about my lifestyle that screams unhealthiness, so why do I complain about my arms and stomach?
My body is mine, no one else’s.
I eat for myself. I work out for me. I don’t do these things for anyone else’s benefit or gain. My body doesn’t fit the “normal” standard of beauty, and that’s okay. It’s okay to not fit in the tiniest of clothes and wear a size zero. Whatever the silver screen defines as beauty is not my standard, and I celebrate the fact that I am different from every cover of Vogue and Cosmo. My body, full of cellulite, stretch marks and rolls, is absolutely beautiful.
Now, as I scroll through Instagram and TikTok, I don’t imagine what it would be like to have a flatter stomach or smaller thighs. I think about how I am done with comparison, and how I love my body for the way it is.
On the path of self-love and body positivity, I’ve recognized that my body is powerful by following body-positive women like Ashley Graham, Lizzo, Hayet Rida, and Raeann Langas remind me that there are so many shapes and sizes that are beautiful beyond comparison. Every day, I hype myself up to empowering music, dang around my room, take beautiful selfies, and check myself out in the mirror.
That doesn’t mean the days of regretting eating an entire sharable bag of M&Ms are over. Some days are worse than others, and that is okay. The journey to self-love is not continuous, and that’s okay.
My fellow plus-size queens and mid-sized babes: you are beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. You are powerful and magical in every interpretation of the word. Never forget that.