How I Learned To Love The Body I Hated

I noticed my weight for the first time when I was 13 years old. I was school shopping with my mom, begging her to buy a bright yellow polo t-shirt from Hollister (I bet you haven’t heard that name in a while). After a few minutes of begging, she broke down; or maybe it was the fumes from the oversaturated perfume smell that finally made her say, “just pick one so I can leave this place.” The first thing I did when I got home was try on the shirt, snapping the tags off with my teeth, as I slipped my head through the narrow hole. I remember looking down, confused, wondering if I had picked the wrong size by mistake. The top was snug, hugging all the wrong places. I pulled and tugged at the shirt, eventually freeing my small torso from its stiff fabric, looked at the size, and cried. 

I didn’t eat dinner that night. 

I began to gain weight that same year, each pound draining my confidence, eating away at my self-esteem. By the time I graduated high school, my self-image was dangerously low. I was suffering silently from what I now know to be a binge eating disorder, and I was drowning my body in baggy, loose fitting clothes, trying to hide every inch of skin. I wanted to disappear; to shrink myself into a different person. I continued to gain weight rapidly, binging until I felt sick, vowing to start my diet tomorrow, and falling into a hole of self-loathing and sabotage. 

As the years passed, and the weight piled on, I was always conscious of my size, feeling vulnerable and disgusting, wondering what it would be like to be skinny. Thin meant healthy. Thin meant happy. Thin was all I could think about. Constantly being aware of how much space you take up takes a toll. I was consumed by thoughts of inadequacy, comparing myself to every person I saw. If they were thin, I would envy them. If they were fat, I would compare our size, convincing myself that I couldn’weigh as much as them

My weight and self-worth became intricately interwoven, each pound devouring any positive self-image I had left. I was depressed, and although there were many reasons for my mental decline, having a negative body image was a constant reminder of my unworthiness. The physical and emotional weight dragged me down, making it hard to breathe, and there were times when I almost gave up. 

God, am I glad I didn’t.

Fast forward to summer of last year, something changed. One night, as I sat binging an entire bag of Hot Cheetos (with lime, of course), I came across an Instagram account, called Confidently Jules. This account featured a woman named Julie, who had dedicated her entire feed to body positivity through a raw, personal, first-hand account of her journey to self-love and acceptance. I remember scrolling for what felt like hours, reading every post, awestruck by this happy, healthy, plus size woman. How could a fat woman be so confident and open about her fatness? Intrigued, I looked through her followers, and what I found was an amazing group of people, dedicated to normalizing plus size bodies and self-love. I obsessively followed accounts, turning on notifications so I could see every new post that came in. Sometimes it's okay to let other people help you love yourself, and this body positive community did just that. Each picture I saw changed how I looked at myself; and slowly but surely, I felt a shift. 

If people of all sizes could love their body, raw and unfiltered, why couldn’t I? The idea that my fat body deserved happiness any less than another suddenly became ridiculous. I realized that the space I inhabited deserved to be recognized; my fatness deserved a place in the world. For the first time in years, I started to find things about my body that I loved. I could try on clothes without having a panic attack. I could wear shorts in 100-degree weather instead of melting in black jeans. I could stand naked in the mirror and stare, awestruck at the beautiful, soft skin I had been conditioned to hate for so long. Accepting my body in whatever state it was in was no small task; but each shirt that hugged my rolls, each day I refused to cover up, each time I used the word “fat” as a simple descriptor, instead of letting it slip off my tongue with disdain, I found solace. 

This brings me to the present day. I still think about my body daily; but instead of hateful thoughts, instead of hiding, I accept myself as I am. Each body, whether small, large, round, thin, disabled, tall, colored, deserves to take up space; and I am no exception. I am nowhere near perfect at loving myself; I still have days where I poke and prod at my body, wishing it were tucked or slimmed. Most days, however, I smile, knowing that this body, this strong, healthy, able body, is beautiful and mine. 

Photo Credit: 1