When I rebranded as Take On E, I had a distinct goal in mind: In addition to blogging about food, travel, and other fun stuff, I’d write about “taking on” my fears and insecurities, too. I’m not just talking regular fears, like a fear of spiders or heights — I mean that deep-seated crap that’s woven into your core: The stuff that takes hard work and perseverance and faith and love and laughter and tears to get through. The kind of stuff that either makes you fall down when you try it or want to throw up when you think about it, or some devilish combination of the two.
Stuff like: wearing a bikini.
It seems really simple, and kind of silly, until you think about what wearing a bikini would mean. For me, it would mean accepting my body — loving it, in fact. It would mean subjecting myself to possible scrutiny and judgment. And it would mean freeing myself from the trap of thinking that my life could only begin when I looked more like an After picture than a Before one.
I knew that I needed to reprogram my incredibly skewed perception of what qualified as “beautiful” — a perception that had been pounded into my brain by pop culture, magazines, and social media. I followed plus-size models and body-positive advocates on social media.
I listened to positive mindset podcasts. I watched TV shows and movies with curvier characters. By intentionally putting more realistic images of women in front of my eyes, I figured I could scroll my way to a reprogrammed mindset. And it worked.
I started to embrace my curves, flaunting and flattering them in ways I never had before. I started wearing dresses and skirts. I joined StitchFix and told my stylist to send me items that would flatter my curves instead of hide them. I even walked around my house naked. I did anything and everything I could to become comfortable in my own skin.
And then I watched a 12-second video of Ashley Graham positively owning a catwalk, and I bought three bikinis. I’d done the work — now, it was time to rip off the Band-Aid and strut my stuff.
I don’t know when exactly the switch flipped — when I went from negative to positive self-talk. I still have off days, but for the most part, I just don’t say mean things to myself anymore. In fact, I’ve compiled all the evidence, gone over the numbers, and I can say with 99% confidence that I am indeed a Brick House.
It took over a year of concerted, conscious effort to get to this point. The problem is, I can’t talk to people at parties anymore. You know why? Because women have this silly idea that in order to bond, they need to talk about the things they hate about themselves. It’s like the world’s worst ice-breaker: Everyone goes around and says one thing she doesn’t like about her body:
“My thighs are getting soooooo big.”
“Oh my God, I’ve gained like a million pounds this winter.”
“Ugh. I’m such a pig. I shouldn’t have had that second slice of cake. I’ll have to put in double time at the gym tomorrow!”
And what do I do now? I just stand there in silence, while inside my head, I’m shouting, “No! You’re beautiful! You’re amazing! You’re fabulous!” When it’s my turn, I have to make a choice: Do I participate in this destructive little game, and open up that dark door that leads into a downward spiral of self-loathing, or do I tell the truth and say that I’m pretty dang fantastic?
I’ve taken both approaches. When I tell the truth, I’m greeted with quiet confusion and/or judgment. I’ve been told (not directly, but through the grapevine) that I’m full of myself. I’ve caught a few women glaring at me from behind the chips and guacamole. It’s as if they can’t reconcile a 200-lb woman who is happy — nay, ecstatic — with herself.
I can see how confidence can be misinterpreted as arrogance. Because here’s a little secret the $64 billion weight loss industry doesn’t want you to know: When you learn to love your body, wobbly bits and all, you learn to love the rest of your life, too. I started to love my body, and in no time, my job improved, my home life improved, and my general outlook on life improved. It just … came together. I wasn’t waiting for the After picture anymore. There is no After — only Now.
The day I first wore that bikini, I was at the height of my cyclical puffiness (thanks, Universe). And I did get some looks, most notably from a young girl in the changing room next to the pool. She was maybe 17, and her expression seemed to be a combination of awe and disgust. For a moment, I wondered if maybe she was right: Was I crazy to think that a woman my size could — should — wear a bikini? But then I went out to the pool, took a seat, and watched all day as she, despite the 100-degree heat and her thin frame, stayed in her pool chair, clothed in a black t-shirt and black cutoff jeans, while her friends got in the pool. She has her own worth to worry about. I hope she’s able to discover it soon.
When I wore that bikini, it made a statement: I’m not going to wait for my life to be “perfect” in order to live it. I’m going to do what I want to do, when I want to do it.
I ran into my old college roommate a few months ago. She mentioned that I looked great (by the way, I’ve gained about 30 pounds since graduating college). I did that self-deprecating thing I still do sometimes and said sarcastically, “Oh, yeah, in my yoga pants and tank top.” She mentioned that yes, I was wearing yoga pants, yoga pants that hugged every inch of my curves. She’d seen my bikini pic on social media, too.
Her tone was divided—partially impressed, partially … jealous? Judgmental? I chose to focus on the part of her that was impressed, and encouraged her to get out there and love her body, too. She shrugged it off. It was a strange juxtaposition of our former relationship, where she was the confident one and I was the one choosing to hide my body. She’s still beautiful. And she has two beautiful children that her beautiful body produced. That should be celebrated and embraced, as far as I’m concerned. I hope she can celebrate it soon.
As for me, I don’t think about dieting or losing weight anymore. I eat what I want to eat — and you know what? I actually make pretty good food choices, even without a diet program telling me what to do.
The only reason I exercise now is to make my body feel good — and you know what? I move more now, and my back is in better shape than it’s been in a very long time (a big piece of that has to do with this place, but still).
Maybe this is what I need to start telling people when I go to parties. If it helps even one woman to love herself even a fraction of a bit more than she did before, then I don’t mind people thinking I’m full of myself.
Because who wouldn’t want to be full of a Self like this?