Content Note: This article references a parent’s use of Weight Watchers for their child.
I didn’t always hate and hide my body.
I was athletic as a child. I swam competitively and played outside until the last drop of daylight. I trusted my body and knew it well.
That changed when puberty hit in the fourth grade. I started to look more like a woman than a little kid, and a handful of boys in my class made sure it wasn’t going unnoticed. I felt isolated and alone.
It seemed like my body had betrayed me. The more it changed, the less connected I felt. I stopped playing outside with the other neighborhood kids. I started to hate wearing a swimsuit. My mom enrolled us both in Weight Watchers, and my education in body shame truly began.
From that point on, I lived in my head and ignored my ever-expanding body. The only time I acknowledged it was to express my repulsion. I was raised by a mother who hated her body and talked about how awful it was often in my presence. I looked exactly like her, so naturally I learned to hate my body too.
As I entered my thirties, I wanted to change. I didn’t want to teach this hate and body shame to my children, if I ever had any.
More Radical Reads: When Meaning Well Does Harm: 4 Ways We Keep Socially Shaming Fat Kids and How to Stop
I found a therapist who specialized in eating disorders and body image issues. With her support and guidance, my perspective started to change. She urged me to shake up my beliefs about what a good body should look like, helping me find the Adipositivity Project and other communities through social media that showed me a different way.
After two years in therapy and a great deal of inner work, I participated in a webinar with The Body Is Not An Apology founder Sonya Renee Taylor. I learned about her RUHCUS experience and decided that I wanted to experience this as well. I hoped to gain confidence while healing the shame I felt. I longed to find a safe home in my body again.
One of the key elements of my RUHCUS centered around being comfortable naked. I wasn’t comfortable in the world, clothed or otherwise. I wanted to learn how to be vulnerable in a healthy way and be naked in life – literally and figuratively.
I read books on plus-size sex and the body positivity movement, I attended a burlesque class, and I decided to do a cast of my naked self. I asked a handful of friends to help me with the casting. Even though I trusted these people more than anyone else in the world, I was nearly paralyzed at the thought of them seeing me and touching me naked. I had nightmares about it in the weeks leading up to the event. I was panicked, but I’d made this thirty-day commitment to myself and was determined to see it through.
As I showered and shaved on the day of the casting, I recalled a memory from high school. I was visiting a friend’s house after going shopping, and we were going to change into some of our new clothes. My two friends started disrobing openly as I proceeded to try to change under the bed. They were petite and thin. I did everything in my power to shield them from my body. Now I would be asking some of these same friends to slather my naked body in Vaseline and cast every inch of me. There would be nowhere to hide.
I made my final preparations. A friend gave me a shot of whiskey and a card with a beautiful butterfly to show her support. I was still terrified. I was preparing to be rejected.
Instead I was greeted with applause and tears as I dropped my robe and lay down on the shower curtain in my dining room. I was met with unconditional love and grace. I conquered a huge fear and we all survived. My friendships were strengthened and I was grateful for my community of support.
More Radical Reads: How 30 Days Nearly Naked Changed My Life
After the casting, I went to a concert and danced the night away.
I came home triumphant, but I was taken aback to see my shape still curing on the floor. I still felt proud of what I had accomplished, yet I was unprepared for the reality of my size. I was tempted to throw it away. I judged it harshly and I didn’t want it to be me. All that old shame came barreling back to the surface.
I left the cast in the dining room for days, literally having to step over myself to get out the door. I wished I could hide again. However, something started to shift. I would stand over the cast and notice different elements: the symmetry of my shape, my broad shoulders, my waist, my ample bosom, belly and butt…the part of my body I had hated the most. Seeing myself in this way started to change me. These were all the parts of myself that I was no longer going to hate or ignore.
It took creating a model of my body to actually see it for what it is. To actually see it at all. Without judgment. To see it as one good body.
I did what I set out to do. I gained a new way of being and overcame a hurdle that has led to greater confidence. I am comfortable being naked now. I don’t hide myself. I dance and have sex and do yoga and all the things I was convinced my body could not do. I am grateful for this body and all of its scars and all the ways it continues to support me, despite years of abuse.
It is my home, and it deserves love.[Feature Image: Photo of a fat couple resting in bed together. The focus is on the woman on the left, who has light skin, short dark hair, facial piercings, black glasses, and is wearing a pink hoodie. She is looking towards her partner while holding a mug. The woman on the right has brown skin, short curly reddish-brown hair, and is wearing a dark patterned tank top. She too is holding a mug while looking up at the woman on the left with a smile on her face. Sunlit filters into the room and across both women through a large window. Source: AllGo – An App For Plus Size People on Unsplash]