Where does your body positive journey begin? If you stop and think about it, it doesn’t start with the upward climb to thinking more positively. No, it starts in the ugly, dark painful moments. Moments that to anyone else are completely unmemorable and insignificant, but to you, they were key moments in your life. Sadly, one of life’s cruelties is often remembering more of what hurt us or made us sad than moments that made us laugh or be happy. Not sure why that is, but when I think of my body positive journey, the beginning looks like an overweight little girl who only ever had thoughts that her body was wrong.
Growing up, I was always fat. I remember seeing nutritionists at a young age and continuously being told I needed to lose weight. My weight became the focus of my identity. So I knew I was fat. But, there were moments where being fat was all that seemed to matter about me. I can’t remember how old I was, but I was pretty young, going to a small department store for back-to-school shopping. My sister had no problem getting clothes and finding things, but nothing in the girls or juniors section fit me. We left the store without me getting a single thing. I felt devastated. I remember laying down in the back seat of the car the whole drive home just crying hysterically. It was this intense feeling of loneliness and that something was completely wrong with me. I was broken and didn’t belong. It’s like feeling a whole new level of rejection. I look back on that moment now and just think how sad it was for a young girl to have an experience shopping like that.
It didn’t get much better as I got older, I was taunted in school being called “wide load” and “four eyes”. As if weight wasn’t enough, I also wore glasses and had early onset acne starting in 3rd grade. Thankfully, I found some great friends who saw me for me and not just my weight. One of my closest friends growing up was a boy. We never had any sort of crushes on each other; we were just best friends. At the beginning of summer around 5th grade, I remember feeling for the first time extremely self-conscious about wearing shorts. We were heading out to the amusement park, so I needed to wear them. I went out to the car and made some sort of negative comment about myself and the shorts, and I remember him saying something simple like, “You look fine.” I’ll never forget that small but meaningful moment of feeling like I was ok. The way I looked was ok. His compliment, if you can even call it that, was something most would forget or maybe not even take notice of, but for me in that moment, it meant everything.
To most of these people, if I were to recall these moments to them, they would have no idea. Most may not even remember me at all. In high school, I was helping with a summer camp, and I remember one of the little girls coming up to hug me and say, “Girl, you need to lose some weight.” She said it so sweet and matter-of-factly, but it still stung. I was like, well, if I can’t even fool a kid, who am I fooling? High school was rough. My junior year was the worst. I was at my heaviest, and the tormenting was at its peak. Single-handedly one guy decided to make it his mission to bully me every day. He sat next to me in Spanish class, and he would constantly make fun of me. I’d get called “fat ass” just walking down the hall. I was big yet wanted to feel invisible. Even friends would make comments that they didn’t even realize were hurtful, like referring to Lane Bryant as “your store.” In high school, only really having one or two stores to find clothes in my size was horrible. At the time, Lane Bryant was for old ladies and had hardly any stylish clothes. Definitely not ones for high schoolers.
Between junior and senior year, I lost about 60-70 lbs. I was eating less than 20 carbs a day. Did it work? Yeah. Was it sustainable and healthy? No. If anything though, it did boost my confidence. I came back to school much more social. Looking back, I hate I wasted the first 3 years being too shy and hating my body that I didn’t just have fun. It wasn’t the way I looked that was holding me back. It was me. Even going through college and into adulthood, there were still moments that hurt. Moments like talking about not working out and friends saying, “Yeah it shows.” I’m using the term “friends” lightly here. Going into stores and not being asked if I need help. Even once, a retailer told me I wouldn’t fit into their clothes. I gladly went into the dressing room, tried everything on, which fit, and came out to make sure to flaunt it in her face. I then walked out without a single purchase. That was the older and bolder me!
I’m not sharing all of this to make you feel bad for me, or even really to relate to you. I share this to dwell on the roots of body positivity. I wish so badly I could go back and tell my younger self to love your body. Love who you are. That it does get better. I wish I could back and show her an example of a confident woman who loves the skin she’s in. And don’t get me wrong, I still have a long way to go with my journey with body positivity. I still have my days and moments. I also share this to help others realize that words and actions, no matter how small or trivial may be creating an unforgettable moment in someone else’s life. Those flippant comments about someone’s dress or bad haircut may be something they remember for the rest of their lives because it cut so deep. We are such fragile human beings, and we should handle each other with the upmost care and support.
Like I said, I still have a long way to go with being body positive. I’m having to unlearn how my brain was trained to view my body and about beauty standards. It’s tough. It’s even tougher when people close to you may not support your journey or even continue to say negative things. I want to empower you to stand up for yourself, speak out against negative body talk, and remember the little girl you used to be who needed you so badly. Be the example to yourself and to others that loving your body is ok.