I've never looked like the women in magazines, with their long, thin legs, bony hips and narrow shoulders. Ever since I hit puberty, my thighs were thick and my bottom extra round. The only thing lacking on my full figure was my self-esteem. For as long as I can remember, I've considered myself a fat girl.
That single belief — that my body was bigger than it should be — has had numerous repercussions in my life. None of which occurred to me until recently when I read an article about "having a bikini-ready body for summer."
Guess what I've never done? That's right. I've never once, in my entire life, worn a bikini. That realization led me down a road of self-discovery. What else haven't I done in my life because I think I'm fat? What about my mom friends who think they're fat? Have they worn bikinis? Have they avoided other experiences just because of their bodies?
It turns out there are a whole lot of us self-proclaimed fat girls who aren't enjoying all that life has to offer. Have you decided not to try anything on the list below? If so, it's time we start breaking our own rules and experiencing every day to the fullest. Pun intended.
So many friends have shared with me that travel, especially flying, is something they hate, not because they won't fit in a standard seat, but because they believe the passengers sitting next to them will be bothered by having a "big person" invading their space. The reality is that big or small, we will always find ways to annoy other people. We can't live our lives worrying about everyone else's comfort and ignore our own needs, goals and desires.
2. Get on an amusement park ride. There is a combined fear of not fitting in the seat and/or being embarrassed around other riders that lead many plus-size people to skip the thrill of a rollercoaster or water slide. Screw that! If you are within the requirements for height and weight, go for it!
3. Dance at a club. It seems like plus-size people feel that any action that draws attention to their body is deemed negative. Why? Dancing is a fantastic way to get in shape, and most importantly, it's fun! There will always be mean people, but I've learned that no matter where we are, the biggest critic is usually ourselves.
4. Have sex completely naked. I am guilty of this one. Somehow I, as well as many other fuller-figured folks believe that the sight of our naked bodies is grotesque and should be hidden at all costs. Guess what? If someone wants to have sex with us, they can already tell, right through our clothes, the size of our body. Covering ourselves up is just a way to limit the amount of intimacy we experience, which means we won't enjoy ourselves as much as we could if we just let go.
5.Eat in public.
For so many years I believed I should only eat food in private. I told myself that every bite I might take in public would be validation to the skinny crowd that I was a big fatty who couldn't wait to eat. How sad is that? Every human needs to eat food to stay alive. We need to give ourselves permission to eat when we are hungry where we choose, and to stop believing that everyone is judging us. They're much more concerned with their plate of food than they are with us, and if they aren't ... well, that says more about them than it does about you, anyhow.
Photograph by Bryanne Salazar
6. Take boudoir photos. Having a lingerie-clad photo session is such a wonderful way to feel great about ourselves. They are sort of like the R-rated version of glamour shots from the '80s. I have many military spouse friends who love taking these sexed-up pictures (which can actually be quite tasteful, with very little to no nudity) to send to their husbands on deployment. However, friends that consider themselves "fat" often avoid this experience. One friend told me, "No one wants to see that. It's a turn-off." I'd argue that our spouses and significant others DO want to see us in pictures and that by having such photos taken, we can also learn to see ourselves as beautiful, too.
7. Pursue an acting or modeling career. I have a friend who is an amazing actress. She's funny, does spot-on impersonations and has an energy that just draws people to her. It was a shock to me to learn that for a long time, this friend avoided pursuing her acting career because she felt she was "too fat." Tides are turning on television and movies, and more and more plus-size people are landing roles in Hollywood. Imagine if America Ferrera or Lupe Ontiveros decided not to act because they didn't have model-thin figures? The entertainment world just wouldn't be the same without leading ladies who have real curves.
8. Go to the gym. Oddly enough, this is a pretty normal fear. Like dancing at a club, somehow going to the gym makes us feel like there is a giant spotlight on us. We imagine other gym patrons recoiling with disgust as we bounce and sweat our way through a workout routine. You know what I've learned? Everyone at the gym is far more focused on their own bodies to notice (or care) about ours. Once you get over the initial shyness, you'll see that you can and should enjoy exercise like everyone else.
9.Wear stripes, fitted clothes, tank tops, short shorts or mini dresses.
This list goes on and on. So many women have confided in me that clothing is a huge issue because of how they view their bodies. Like me and my bikini phobia, women with round figures tend to avoid the clothes they actually like in favor of clothing that is deemed "acceptable" for their body type. While we don't have to flaunt our body to the world if we don't want to, I think we should allow ourselves the freedom to wear clothes we feel good in and kick the old attitudes about proper plus-size attire to the curb.
It's time we get out of our heads and let ourselves live without self-imposed restrictions. Besides, the worst thing we can do to ourselves is to have a life filled with regrets. We can (and should) live fully without fear, even if we are full-figured.