(LEFT TO RIGHT: Autumn, Mallory, Chelsey, Amanda, Julianna, Me)
About a month ago I was asked by one of my dear friends, Amanda Cowan, owner and operator of AFaye PR and chief babe at GRLPWRPGH, a female networking and collaborative group that meets monthly, to participate in a photoshoot. Now I do photoshoots all the time, so I was super eager to say yes. Plus she was working with the amazing, Elizabeth Craig of Elizabeth Craig Photography, so I was even more excited to participate. Amanda then told me that the shoot is centered around Body Positivity – the one thing I’ve ALWAYS struggled with.
There was 6 of us ladies participating in the shoot and we were each told to pick an area of our bodies that we most struggle with accepting. We then would emphasize that area in a few photographs to help raise awareness and acceptance of what we did not like about our bodies in the past, but now accept.
I love that I got a chance to be apart of this amazing GRLPWRPGH campaign but I’m not going to lie, I was a nervous for these photos. I’m not a fan of my legs especially in heels. I have a long hated past with them that I’m about to explain in a moment. Their thick, discolored in spots and have a good amount of cellulite. You know, the kind of cellulite that prevents you from ever wearing colored pants or any type of shorts. So you can imagine it was a little scary when asked to model in bathing suit bottoms and heels.
However I did it and I am so glad that I did. Not only did I meet 5 other amazing, strong and beautiful women but I was also able to witness their stories as well. This made me realize that we all have something we don’t like about our bodies, but that doesn’t mean we can’t except them. After all, our bodies are something that we will have forever. It’s what makes us, US!
Now don’t be fooled, it took me awhile to realize this. And by awhile I mean my entire 24 years of life basically.
Here’s my story…
“You’re the prettiest fat girl in the school.”
My Sophomore year of high school that comment ended up on my Ask.fm account. If you don’t remember Ask.fm, it’s basically a social media platform that you can ask whomever’s profile that you are on any anonymous question that you want. Sounds fun right? ehhhh not so much. Let’s just say I deleted that account real quick lol.
In middle school and high school I belonged to what most would stereotype as the “popular crowd.” You’d think being in the “popular crowd” (btw I’m using quotations because cliques and stereotypes are stupid) would omit you from any bullying, right? Wrong.
In fifth grade I was in a classroom with my best friend at the time and the cutest boy in our grade, whom of which my best friend had a huge crush on. Well actually, I think we all had a huge crush on him, but that is beside the point. The three of us would always hangout in class or play together during recess. I remember being so happy that my best friend and I were close with the cutest boy in our grade. So close that he even came up with a personalized nickname for me. “Cat with a K.” The boy made it up but my best friend followed. It didn’t take long before that was what I answered to. “Cat with a K.” At that time, I never really understood why that was my nickname. They told me it was because they liked the name Cat and it’s “with a K” because my name starts with a K. So, I went with it.
That girl and I remained best friends through high school and the boy remained in our friend group as well. I’m not too sure how we got on the topic exactly but in high school my best friend finally told me the truth behind the nickname, “Cat with a K.” Long story short they called me that because cat rhymes with fat and whenever I wasn’t around they referred to me as “Fat with a K.”
Now this wasn’t something I got mad about once she told me what the nickname really meant. I know that we were young and that she had a crush on this boy, so she followed whatever he did. I get that. And I’ve also never really been one to get dramatic about things, so I didn’t really make a big deal about it.
However, it is one of those things that unfortunately will now stick with me forever.
Now let me inform you that I was never “fat,” I would more so say that I was curvy growing up (I’ll attach some visuals below). I’ve always had bigger thighs, which lead to the repeated nickname “thunder thighs.” Unfortunately back then curves weren’t cool or glamorized and the topic of body positivity wasn’t discussed as much as it is now or at all for that matter. Which I believe made things much, much harder for us girls who didn’t fit society’s “body norm.”
Body positivity wasn’t talked about much in my house either. I grew up with two older sisters, one of which was overweight, the other underweight and I was right in the middle. I had just a little extra chub. I love my mom unconditionally and I do not blame her for this because I believe that times have changed so much with how we (should) raise our daughters, but she did not make things easy for me or my overweight sister growing up. I remember sometimes comments would be made to us such as, “you’re going for a second plate?” or “Maybe you shouldn’t eat that.” These comments were more insulting than helpful for us and it was really discouraging to hear that from the people you should feel most comfortable around.
So growing up, I watched my oldest sister struggle with her weight and my other sister love hers. It was an interesting experience to say the least. Due to seeing all of the negativity towards my oldest sister’s weight, It was engraved in my head that I needed to be more like my underweight sister – which is when the constant dieting and body shaming started.
I have been overly obsessed with my weight and appearance ever since I can remember. I have memories of doing workout videos in my living room with my mom and attending Weight Watcher’s meetings every Monday after school. I remember going to therapy because I was so depressed because of how my body looked. I even tried being anorexic, then bulimic but nothing ever stuck thank God.
There was never a moment where I wasn’t worrying or stressed out about what I was eating or how I looked. I remember thinking how perfect my life would be if I was skinny. If I lost just 20lbs all the boys would love me and I would be the best looking girl in school. Losing weight was never about health for me, it was ALWAYS about looks. If I looked good, everything else in the world was good.
I also wasn’t ever living in the moment. I actually remember thinking, “I HAVE to loose weight by time I get my license because I want to look perfect driving around.” Which is extremely ridiculous. I found myself only looking forward to life events because I had the thought in my head that I would be skinny for it and that would make everything better. It was as if I didn’t feel that my current self was worthy of enjoying those moments because I wasn’t my definition of perfect, and I didn’t want to experience those moments at all unless I was.
So I continued to battle with myself about my body, I got older, went to college, joined a sorority, chugged a lot of wine and gained like 30 lbs. (The far left photo above was me at my heaviest, 169 lbs. I now weight 147lbs.) I was in a relationship at the time so some of that was relationship weight as well. That boy ended up cheating on me and I took my anger out in the gym. This is when I started getting into fitness and actually started caring about eating good for health purposes and not just looks.
However, through out the rest of college I still compared myself to other girls, I still struggled a lot with my looks and I still was dieting constantly. The only thing that changed was that I now had friends who were also trying to be healthy – so at least I wasn’t alone.
A year out of college now and I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more free of my obsession with my weight. My mind is still a work in progress, but it’s improving. I think maturity has helped me with this along with being out of an environment where it is so easy to compare yourself to others. I’ve grown to accepted myself as I am as well as the fact that my weight is just an obstacle that I’m going to have to over come worrying about it in order to truly be happy with my life.
I do still workout and eat healthy, which I do encourage for everyone no matter what your size. However, my outlook on health and fitness has changed so much. I’ve stopped looking at it as a chore and something I HAVE to do in order to be happy or perfect and started looking at it as something in my daily routine that makes me stronger and healthier for my future family! — is that cheesy?
I do however believe that part of the problem is past our control. Us ladies need to be taught at a young age to love ourselves, no matter what. We need to learn this now and lead by example so that we can teach our future daughters that they are perfect just the way that they are. That they are enough. And most importantly that who we are is not determined by our appearance, specifically our bodies. Who you are is determined by how we think, how we treat others and how we make others feel.
It’s 2018 ladies and it’s time that we make peace with our bodies! So go look in the mirror, say some kind words to yourself and thank me later.
You’re worth it.
Photographer: Elizabeth Craig Photography
Makeup and hair: AtHome Beauty
Campaign: GRLPWRPGH Body Positivity