The number one question that I get asked as a body image expert and 250-pound woman who loves her body is: How did you do it?
Often there’s some presumption that a magic potion or being born on a secret unicorn-infested (infested?) island is part of the story. But really, my secret to loving my body just the way it is? Well, I’ll give it to you in a second. Promise!
The first time I met a curvy woman who loved her body I was probably in second grade.
Mrs. Moore wore business skirts and silk blouses, and the lace of her slip was barely visible through the small slit at the back. She corrected children’s spelling with this kind of sadistic delight. She didn’t walk. Girlfriend sauntered.
And at age seven, she changed the way I saw my future unfolding.
Almost twenty years later, Mrs. Moore’s saunter lessons long forgotten, I was invited to attend a fat conference in Oakland, California.
I walked in and saw a voluptuous woman in a polka-dot vintage one-piece bathing suit. She had big sunglasses on, and there was a cute boy holding a parasol for her so she wouldn’t get sunburned.
Amazing fashion (and parasol pool boy) aside, it was her complete lack of self-consciousness – her effortlessly blasé, yes-I’m-the-hottest-thing-since-cinnamon-toast attitude – that really struck me.
She had blown my mind just by doing her thing: sitting around knowing she was beautiful. She became the indelible image of what body love looked like to me. I wanted to know her secret.
Why Body Love Is the Most Important Part of a Balanced Existence
Every day, women (maybe you?) wake up, and the first thing that they think of is the way that their bodies don’t measure up to a largely media-generated image of feminine beauty.
We are taught to think in terms of a future self: “Twenty pounds from now, I will wear that short skirt. Thirty pounds from now, I will be able to enjoy looking at myself in the mirror. Forty pounds from now, I will love this body.”
We lose precious moments and stretches of life to these lies.
(Yes, I said it: lies.)
When we live in the future, we lose the now.
Three of my most deeply held beliefs are that:
- Every body is a good body
- Health is holistic, and mental health is a huge part of holistic health
- Self-hate is an ideology that can be eradicated through a practice of self-love
Everyone is entitled to a relationship with their body that is based in care and respect. So, it’s time to stop thinking of your body as a hostile encasing in which you are imprisoned.
You’re not a prisoner. You’re a guest at a 5-star hotel, girl!
Soak Up the Wisdom: 8 Women Talk about the Keys to Their Body Love
I asked eight of the most fabulous curvy women that I know one question: What is the big secret of your relationship to your body?
And here’s what they said:
1. Sonya, The Body Is Not An Apology
“My big secret in my relationship with my body is reminding myself that my body is not the enemy.
“Even when I’m sick, feeling yucky is actually a manifestation of my body working miraculously hard to get back to wellness. That fever? Yup, just my body running illness out of town!
“My body is on my side! It wants me to feel strong, healthy, and happy.
“When I allow myself to check in to this truth, it creates space for me to have a real compassion for my body.
“Even when I’m not feeling fantastic, I can come back to knowing that my body is working with me, not against me. It’s my best ally in living my fullest in celebration of radical self love!”
2. Margitte, Riots Not Diets
“I wear clothes that fit well, regardless of the size listed on the tag, in styles and colors that make me feel good.
“I throw out all of the rules about what I’m ‘supposed’ to wear, and style my body in clothing that speaks to me. It’s definitely tough to find plus-size clothes that work, but it’s not impossible – and I never love my body more than when I’m rocking my favorite outfits.
“(Or when I’m totally naked – that’s awesome, too!)”
3. Jenn, Fat, Smart, and Pretty
“My fatness doesn’t exist in a vacuum. People care about my fat body because we have created these invisible structures like capitalism, misogyny, and colonialism that teach us what bodies are good and what bodies are bad. The problem is, they’re wrong.
“Hundreds of years of human history has gotten it wrong. The reason why people have issues with my body is not because my body is bad. As Glenn Marla says, there is no wrong way to have a body.
“So instead of getting upset at my body for not fitting into the thin ideal, I let myself get really angry at ubiquitous and yet faceless rich, white men who have created these social structures.
“That anger often ignites my determination to wear a tank top and proudly display my fat arms and hairy armpits. That’s right rich, white men: look at my body and be afraid.”
4. Kyla, Kyla the Great
“Get naked with yourself. Start at the top and work your way down, feeling your entire body as you go. Take the time to stop and examine parts you feel unfamiliar with.
“Learn your body. Stretch marks, bumps, hair, uneven coloration, wrinkles. Spread your ass in the mirror. Sniff your own armpits. Grab your belly. Taste yourself.
“You don’t become friends with someone just by looking at them. You make an effort to get to know them, and over time, they become a source of familiarity and comfort. Your body has the potential to be your BFF.”
5. Chrystal, Curvy Girl Inc.
“One day when I was about 24, I decided life is too short to put everything on hold until I am the media’s definition of the perfect weight. (I had lost my best friend since the third grade. That woke me up.)
“Our bodies, even our fat bodies, are capable of so much pleasure. Your partner is there and naked with you right now. Not fifteen pounds from now.
“My guess is that they love your body exactly the way it is. Otherwise why would they be there naked with you?
“Try rolling around in a yummy bed or take a nice warm, sudsy bath with another curvy woman (or man) and close your eyes and just let your hands feel their super soft skin, rolls and flabby parts and see how great their body feels to the touch.
“You will have a new appreciation for how beautiful your body is.”
6. Lexi, Lexi Adsit
“I’m a big fan of rituals, and one of the most important rituals of my life is to moisturize in the morning.
“Not only because my beautiful brown skin looks better with lotion, but because I get to feel every inch of my body. Slowly. Sweetly. Tenderly. Lovingly.
“It’s a process of appreciating every inch, every cell, every flaw, and every inch of perfection.
“This process also reminds me that I am transgressing so much in gender, sexuality, and reclaiming femme for myself as a brown trans woman.”
7. Airial, The Sex Positive Parent
“My big secret is that I love having a big body. I know we’re supposed to hate it. Every woman is supposed to wish she was smaller and dainty and to take up the least amount of space possible, but I don’t.
“I love that I’m bigger than my lovers. I love knowing that my thighs are bigger than theirs. It’s a secret because it makes me sound competitive or bossy. But my thighs are bossy – they tell you exactly what they want you to do and you better not talk back to them.
“My shoulders are bossy, too. I can pick up what I want, when I want. I can ignore you or embrace you with these big-ass shoulders.
“It’s more than just not being ashamed of being big. I love it.”
8. Kitty, Purr Versatility
“The biggest secret to my love affair with my body came when I developed a fierce sense of my own style.
“It wasn’t always easy to dress fabulously for my shape. I had very little guidance, few fashion icons, and next-to-no shops to browse in or experiment with. I had to develop a very thick skin as ‘fat girl’ clothing stores let me down with their limited selection.
“Eventually, I figured out a way to break out of the mold, wear clothes that express my personality well, and looks flattering on my figure.
”And it’s certainly cyclical: When I feel like I’ve pulled together an amazing look, I feel amazing in my body, which makes it easier to pull off wilder styles!”
Your Body Love Homework
Before I give you your homework, I promised you I’d give you my secret. It’s actually super simple.
The secret to my relationship with my body is that I get up every morning and say yes.
Yes to this belly, yes to these boobs, yes to these chubby cheeks and this chubby life.
Yes to cupcakes, to short dresses that let me feel the breeze against my thighs, to this double chin that jiggles when I giggle.
Yes to dates with hotties who know this body is perfect, yes to fat girl photo shoots, yes to cleavage and pencil skirts, and yes to the secret radicalism of my existence.
Yes, body, I will love you because that’s exactly what you deserve and because it’s so unbelievably fun.
Okay, are you ready for that homework?
Write down five things your body has done for you lately. Right now. It can be anything from “looked cute in that sweater” to “digested this morning’s cereal without a blip.”
Then look at that list and realize that it could be 100 times longer.
That list can be the first step in the radical re-envisioning of your relationship to your body.
Body love is the best gift you can give yourself. So, girl, get to wrapping.
Virgie Tovar, MA is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism and the editor of the book, Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion. Virgie is one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers in the areas of fat discrimination and body image. She lives in San Francisco. Find her online at www.virgietovar.com.