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My Body Image Story - When I was a girl... (part 1)

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I’ve shared bits and pieces of my body journey, but I don’t think I’ve shared the whole story. Sometimes it’s hard to look back and see the person I used to be. Sometimes it’s hard to face the young girl I was, and to be honest, a little embarrassing to think of who I was in my past. I’m so far from where I used to be that looking back almost feels like watching a stranger’s memories.

But, I know that looking back and those moments are what led me to where I am today. The woman I am now is someone I wish I could go back in time and share with my younger self. I look at the young girls around me today and think how lucky they are for fashion, body positivity and fat role models to be as prevalent as they are (although we have so far to go!). I wish so badly I would have had someone like Tess Holliday, Meg Boggs, or Lizzo showing me then what fat, powerful women can be when we embrace who we are.

I decided to share my story in a three-part series starting with the beginning. So here’s my story. The ugly, the hard-to-look-at moments, and the pain.

I think maybe people assume I got fat in my adulthood. Not true. I’ve always been fat. I was a fat kid. I got bullied in school all the way through high school for my weight. I was taken to nutritionists as a child to “solve” my weight problem. My weight was always a topic of conversation at family gatherings - whether I was losing it or gaining it. It often felt like my body was under a microscope from everyone, including myself.

Looking back, I think the most painful parts of the story are thinking about myself as a little girl. I remember laying in the backseat of the car sobbing the whole way home from the department store because none of the kids’ clothes fit. We were back-to-school shopping, and I just wanted to wear what my friends were wearing. I think back to covering up at swim parties and being scared of beach trips. Connecting with those feelings of fear and shame at such an early age is something no little girl should ever go through, and I wish I could go hug her tight and say, “you, sweet girl, are beautiful and loved.”

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One of the people I loved the most in my life was my Mawmaw. We’d stay at her house every summer while my parents worked, and she spoiled us. It was there that I ate ice cream sandwiches, pizza, sweet tea, and all the treats. I never remember there ever being a moment with her where I felt shame for eating. It was like she knew cooking for us was a way to love us. I lost her when I was 12 years old.

As an adult, I struggled with feelings of resentment toward her. I wanted to blame her for making me fat. How could she allow me to eat like that as a fat kid? And in the pain of missing her every day, I got angry with myself for even thinking those things. All she did was love me unconditionally. She let me be free to enjoy food and be a kid. I don’t ever remember her making a comment about my weight or how I ate. So instead of trying to blame her, in part, for me being fat as a child, I now look back and think what a gift she gave me. She was almost the only one who never criticized or limited me. She gave me freedom.

Every Christmas, I miss her so much. The holiday has never really felt as special since her passing. Until really thinking about my story and my journey with my body, I had no idea how much she was a part of it all. My memories and fondness of my time with her have lots of food involved, and instead of wanting to blame her for allowing me to eat, I now know that was the best thing she could have showed me at an early age. Food freedom is powerful. It would take me so many more years to actually learn this and practice it though.

As hard as the bullying was, it was really all I knew. It sort of became this normal part of my life, and as a kid, you start believing you deserve it. The shame you feel floods every part of your life. It was something I didn’t even realize I carried with me so deeply into my adult years, and although I know it now, it played a huge part in never realizing my worth. That had a huge impact on my self-esteem and relationships. I’m still unpacking that shame today and working through it. The middle part of my body journey was rock bottom. I’ll cover that in part two.