How Instagram Took Me On a Journey To Love My Body

The first time I ever remember someone telling me I was fat, I was probably 9 or 10 years old and we were at a birthday party at the local high school’s pool. It was a popular girl’s birthday party and I remember feeling really cool that I got invited, but that often happened because my best friend was gorgeous and every boy liked her and every girl wanted to be her. I was her sidekick. I was shy, and apparently “fat”.

I had gone to the locker room to change out of my swimsuit and into my clothes and as I was coming out I overheard the birthday girl telling everyone that I was fat. I don’t remember any other detail than that, but that was the first time I thought, “oh you’re not like these girls.”

Looking back on this it’s easy to know why this girl said what she said. At age 10, I had gotten my period. My body had started to change much sooner than these girls’s bodies had. They were all straight as arrows because they weren’t going through puberty, but I was. I had boobs, tiny but there. I had the starting of a curvy body and she had none of that. I’m not saying she was jealous. I’m saying she probably was just pointing out the obvious – my body was changing and theirs wasn’t but as a 10-year old kid all you hear is, “I am ugly.”

This moment and many others shaped how I looked at myself for years. All I wanted to do was be small like the other girls so that boys would like me and I could wear the clothes they did. I’m sure this is what led my mom to take me to dieticians and let go on Weight Watchers in high school when, to be honest, I wasn’t eating badly AT ALL. I was a super healthy kid (minus the stray pop tart + Cherry Coke breakfast I made a ritual my freshman year). My dad required us to play sports year-round so I was constantly working out and my mom made us lunch and dinner most nights so it wasn’t like I was living at McDonald’s.

The summer before college, I was determined to be “skinny” for my new life. I did Weight Watchers and drank a V8 juice for breakfast, ate a bagel for lunch, and then salads for dinner. Not healthy at allllll, but I lost weight and went to college probably the skinniest I had been in my teen years. I promptly gained it all back my freshman year and deemed myself fat and ugly again.

From then on I think I just resigned myself to the fact that this was who I was, but not in a good body-positive way. More of a welp, this is what you get so eat whatever you want and who cares kind of way. It didn’t help that I was depressed because my mom had recently passed away so add in those factors and my body took a real back seat.

When I moved back to Chicago, my dad could tell that the one thing that kept me from being truly happy was what I thought was the elephant in the room: my weight. He offered to get me a trainer and I worked with Ron consistently for months and I did lose weight but I also felt stronger and I loved it. I was back to not exactly eating healthy though. Not on Weight Watchers, but def limiting myself to very little calories and then binging on late-night food. I never really thought of myself having an eating disorder, but looking back on it I definitely did and still do struggle with my relationship with food. Since I consistently work out or have bouts of time where I work out a lot, I have always been able to keep myself more or less within a certain weight or dress/pant size.

My 20s were a time of insane self-consciousness mainly because I was the biggest I had ever been in my life even with the training and weight loss. I was constantly thinking I wasn’t good enough because I was bigger than my friends. Going to stores and realizing I didn’t fit in anything there. Online dating and no one attempting to talk to you. It can be so demoralizing and can put you in such a bad headspace. Not really seeing anyone in the media and  I would have to take breaks from dating constantly because it would get to be too much – being seen as a fetish, guys meeting you and instantly feeling you could see their disgust on their faces, or not even getting messages at all.

Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t this like cloud of darkness over me. I’ve always been a pretty confident person outwardly. Most of my struggle is internal and people have always remarked about how confident I was. That underlying tone being like, “Oh, you’re so confident…since you’re a big girl.” Despite that, I knew I was smart. I knew I was funny. I knew people tended to like me. I knew I had things to bring to the table other than my weight. I knew I was pretty, but I also knew I wasn’t “hot”. Or at least what the media deemed “hot”.

I joined Instagram like most people did back in 2010 to take artsy pictures of things around me and, of course, my food. As it evolved into something bigger and people began using it as a way to monetize, I thought hey I could do that and started to take more pictures of my food and of things to do around Chicago. I started sharing stories and my outfits and people reacted to them so alarmingly positive that I started sharing more of my face on my profile.

I didn’t even know about the body positivity movement and barely followed any plus size bloggers until later. I don’t know how I started following Mindy of @mindycityy but I did and I went to an event at Eloquii and I just felt seen. All these confident plus size women in one room chatting and being confident and being STYLISH. I wanted more of it.

I started doing style shots and sharing more of my looks and got such positive reinforcement that I kept doing more and more and more. And finally I shared a post of me in my underwear and work out outfits showing my stomach and my FUPA – things I had been so ashamed of before, but I wasn’t anymore. This was me. I wasn’t going to hide it anymore. And you know what? Those pictures of me showing my stomach and the parts of me I hate are still some of my most liked photos to date. Because I was vulnerable! Because I talked about something that all of us struggle with daily! I wasn’t doing it for attention, but to make myself more confident and to create a community who saw inspiration in that.

Have I figured out the perfect balance of binging on burgers and working out nailed down yet? No. Do I love my body every day of the week? No. Do I want to lose weight sometimes? Of course! But, I see all these body positive bloggers and Instagrammers out there owning who they are and I feel hopeful that someday I’ll stop caring completely about that stuff. However, the fact that I feel like it doesn’t affect my end happiness anymore is such a weight lifted off my shoulders. Do I think I deserve love despite my weight? Yes, of course. And I’m not sure I would have said that even just a few years ago.

I can’t pinpoint the exact point where I went from someone who was confident on the outside and maybe 45% confident on the inside to who I am now – more like 80% confident on the inside, but it feels great. And I have the community on Instagram to thank for that.