I’m from the South. I grew up on fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. If I ate a vegetable it was either dipped in ranch, sautéed in butter, or deep fried in grease. For our family healthy eating was having a glass of water with a meal. Except you didn’t actually have to drink the water, it just needed to be present, to show effort was made.
My dad used to say that we were just big people. My mom used to say that some folks were just made to be bigger and that there was nothing we could do about it. Those words comforted me throughout my adolescence. I wasn’t fat, I was big boned and there was no diet in the world that will cure that.
I entered my 18th birthday weighing in at 245lbs and crying all night because I couldn’t find a dress that would fit me. I was the last girl in my group of friends to turn 18 years old. All of my friends went clubbing every other Saturday and I was finally going to be able to join. I searched all over the mall for the perfect clubbing outfit, but there just wasn’t anything that I liked in my size.
I learned to accept my weight. I was a big girl and always would be and there was no point in crying about it. I tried diets and various exercise programs in the past and they all failed. After years of yo-yo dieting and crying on the bathroom scale, I decided to just accept myself. I decided that if I wanted to be happy and live a full life then I needed to just own my flaws. I was fat and that was okay.
At 24 years old I had my first kiss, which turned into my first boyfriend. I never thought a man would ever like me, let alone want to date me. We dated for 2 years before he introduced me to any of his friends. I wasn’t naive, I knew he was embarrassed of me. I wasn’t just a little over weight, I was morbidly obese. I knew that not everyone would accept me the same way he did. But I had a boyfriend who liked me and was kind to me and that was enough for me.
On my 27th birthday, I thought he might propose. He planned a romantic date and spoke a lot about taking me out West to meet his family. I wanted to look amazing so I went to my favorite store to buy a new dress. I stopped at a coffee shop on the way home and as soon as I walked in I burst into tears. My boyfriend was in line holding hands with another woman.
I sat in my car bawling my eyes out. Not because I caught my boyfriend cheating on me but because I had expected for a while that he was. He actually wasn’t that great at hiding it, but I didn’t want to be alone. He liked me. And how many other men out there would like a woman like me? I wanted kids and I wanted a husband and I felt like he was my only shot at that dream.
It was that day on my 27th birthday that I decided that I no longer wanted to spend my birthdays crying. I am a huge fan of body positivity. Slogans like, ‘Big is beautiful’, ‘Real women have curves’, and ‘There’s just more of me to love’, got me through 27 years of my life. But the truth is, I wasn’t happy. Although I accepted my body I didn’t love it. Being overweight effected not only my health but my self-esteem and my quality of life. I decided right then that I was going to lose the weight.
I feel like there’s this misconception that choosing to love yourself means choosing to accept yourself as you are. And that’s just not true. Choosing to love yourself means doing whatever is necessary to be happy and fulfilled. And most of the time that requires change.