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  • Abigail Woodruff

Your Body Deserves Respect

(No Matter What Size It Is)

TW: fat-phobia, body-shaming, eating disorders, body-hate

I have been on a health journey for almost a year and a half now. It started in Edinburgh, April 2019 when my wonderful husband took a picture of me at the National Museum of Scotland and I looked back at the picture in the hotel that night and thought, 'Wow, I am hideous.' This physically pains me to write. I was going to add it to my gallery (please swipe through them all if you haven't!) above, but as I was compiling it, I realised something... at the time that each and every single one of those pictures were taken, I did NOT love my body. I look back at most of them now and think... 'Wow, you looked really good', but at the time I certainly didn't think that.

'' 96% of women would not describe themselves as beautiful.'' -Women's Health Magazine

I have been waiting and waiting to reach a 'certain place' with my health journey before I shared it on social media. Anticipating a big breakthrough in which my body looked like it was plucked out of a 'before and after' section of a magazine and when I had completely come to terms with who I was. Things were looking good at first. I had a 4-month streak where I was consistently dropping lbs every single week and the compliments on my body changes were rolling in.

I couldn't walk into work without someone on my commute or in the office saying 'Wow, you look amazing. Good for you.' This praise kept me afloat as I ran into my first plateau. I went a couple of weeks without losing weight and got a bit frustrated, and then those weeks turned into a month, which turned into a couple of months until BAM, here we are... it's been almost 9 months since I have lost any weight. I eat very well balanced, making sure that my food intake consists mostly of veggies and lean proteins, I work out at the very least 5 days a week, and I am still stuck at the same weight.

And so has begun the journey into radical self-love and acceptance. It involves a lot of introspective work, a lot of mindset changes, and a lot of research which I would love to share with you today. I just want to put it out there that I am relatively new to all of this and I am certainly not a doctor, but this is a personal journey that I truly believe every single person (especially women) should be taking.

Things I have been told:

  1. Do you really need to be eating that second portion?

  2. Change your outfit, nobody needs to be seeing your fat hanging out.

  3. (By a doctor), I am not surprised that you are struggling considering how fat you are. I really can't do anything to help you until you actually start taking care of yourself.

  4. I can't believe that you are so attractive now that you've lost that weight.

  5. You are really pretty for a big girl.

  6. You are never going to find a man unless you put out or lose weight.

  7. Wow! You look incredible! Good for you for losing all that excess fat.

  8. A fatso like you should be honoured to be hit on by me.

  9. (Yelled from a passing car) Go home, cow.

  10. Doesn't it bother you having all those double chins?

Things I have heard /read being said about someone of a similar size to/smaller than me:

  1. If I looked like that, I would just kill myself.

  2. Is it really surprising that she isn't married yet? Who would want that fat b***h.

  3. Wow, she is lardy and needs to desperately go on a diet.

  4. Why are we allowing women like her to promote obesity? Disgusting!

  5. I would never let her watch my children. I don't want them to learn that it's okay to be as fat as she is.

  6. I truly don't understand how anyone so fat can possibly be happy.

  7. If I ever have to wear a size 14, just shoot me.

  8. She HAS to be lying about working out, she's massive.

  9. I thought she was smart, but anyone that's gotten to that size cannot be considered intelligent.

  10. I don't want you feeding my child snacks, we don't need her looking like you.

Do you recognise any of those phrases or thoughts? Have you ever heard them directed at yourself? Have you ever thought that about someone in your head?

First of all, if someone has ever said anything like the above to you I want to apologise on behalf of them. You could never do anything in which you would deserve to be made to feel inferior due to the amount of space that you take up in a room. You are truly beautiful just the way you are at the very moment you are reading this and I am not writing that 'all willy nilly'. I want to you take a minute and think about all of the incredibly strong, wonderful, and yes BEAUTIFUL women in your life. Would you ever sit them down and tell them the terrible things that you tell yourself every morning when you look in the mirror? You are beautiful, you are beautiful, you are beautiful. If you are reading that and thinking 'Stop lying to me' then go get yourself a sticky note, write it down, stick in on your mirror and tell yourself the same thing over and over every morning until you start to believe it. You owe it to yourself to do the work to believe it.

** Have you ever looked back on a picture of yourself from high school and thought, 'Wow, I looked so good! Why did I ever think that I was fat??'. They answer is simple - the problem was not your body, but your mind. You will never think you are 'good enough' until you do the work mentally.**

The biggest struggle that I have had with this journey is finding my place nestled amongst the 'health and wellness' and the 'body positive' communities. I don't want to fall back into my old routines that were harming my body. In fact, my body will start to voice its concerns if I ever go more than 2 days eating unhealthy or not giving my body some sort of physical exercise. But, I know myself, and if I just sit in the 'fitness' community, I am going to burn out. I feel myself get jealous when I watch people post pictures and statistics about how much weight they have lost on a program when I haven't achieved results anywhere close to them. I feel myself kicking myself if I am being extra careful with nutrition and have a slip up. However, the body positivity community can have harmful side effects as well. I have seen people get torn apart online if they consider themselves 'body positive' and decide to make some changes for their health. So where do I fit in? I want to stay healthy and do what is best for my body, but I also want to stop the constant barrage of negative thoughts about myself.

** Weight is just a number y'all. Truly. Just. A. Flippity. Do. Da. Number. You are SOOOO much more than just a number. You might be strong, smart, inquisitive, resilient, nerdy, thoughtful, introspective, kind, considerate, sporty, grateful, slow, etc. but I will tell you that no matter what, you are WORTHY. This advice isn't for every one, but if you find yourself getting on the scale often and basing how you feel on that flickering number, GET RID OF THE SCALE. I am not kidding. A scale is truly just a tool and if it has more control over you than say, a hammer, get that the heck out of your life. Your clothes will get a bit tight if you start to fall off track of your goals, you will start to see differences in how you look in pictures without a number telling you that, don't let a number, a NUMBER, control how you feel about yourself.**

Well, I have decided, that it is MY journey so I can pick and choose what I want from both communities. Just like in religion, politics, etc., it is a rare day when you find that your beliefs fit perfectly within a sect of either. So... my current choice is to keep working out and keep eating healthy. Even if the results are no longer showing in the form of a smaller pant size, I feel more energised and productive when I am fuelling my body with good nutrients. I also think that exercise and nutrition are a good way to get stronger and show your body that you care for it. For me, it's no longer necessarily about weight loss, but just about taking care of myself. At the exact same time, I am doing the mental work to love myself during every part of this journey. People don't talk about this aspect of growing, but I think that it is the most important and also the hardest. Your body is going to change for the rest of your life. You might get pregnant, you might stress-eat your way through a pandemic, you might break a leg or develop a food intolerance. Life is going to keep coming at you, so the time to learn how to love yourself is NOW.

**Chances are, if you tell yourself that you can start living life when you reach a certain weight, or that you will 'love yourself' when you reach a certain weight, you will hate yourself more if you can't reach your goals and you will not truly feel content when you reach that magic number. You will probably add another goal, maybe this one unattainable, and before you know it, you'll have spent your whole life wishing you looked different.**

I would like to talk to you a bit more in-depth about nutrition. Statistically, 3 in 4 women that go on a 'diet' (higher statistics for crash diets), will actually gain back more weight than they lose after getting off the diet. Diet culture can be so toxic. Please, please, if you are looking at changing up your nutrition, do the research into making sure you are making decisions that will lead to sustainable, well-rounded, nutrition. When I am strictly following my nutrition program, I am never hungry, I am getting fruits, vegetables, carbs, proteins, healthy fats, oils, nuts and seeds, etc EVERY SINGLE DAY. How wonderful to be enjoying every single category of food every day (friendly reminder, your body needs carbs, proteins, etc.), but also how wonderful that I can keep on top of this nutrition for the rest of my life. This isn't a 'I will do this diet until I lose 'x' lbs', but this is something I can follow always. I often times am not following the guidelines strictly and can eyeball portions and just keep in mind that I should be practicing balance with all things without having to measure food out. And here is the real kicker, the most important thing to me, DO NOT FORGET THAT YOU ARE ALLOWED TO EAT WHAT YOU WANT, WHEN YOU WANT. If you are out with a friend and you really want a pizza- get the freaking pizza and do not beat yourself up for getting a delicious treat you were craving. If you are out with family and you really want to stay focused on your nutrition and get a yummy filling salad or a delicious chicken breast, do it and don't let anyone make you 'feel bad' for getting the healthy option. I would really love to look more into intuitive eating in the future, because I think your body truly tells you what it is craving!

These are the containers that I use. Depending on your weight and your goals (gain, maintain, or lose), you get told how many of each containers you should be aiming for a day and then you can fill them with what you want! For example, the red container is protein, but I can decide if I want cottage cheese, yogurt, chicken, fish, etc, and how I want it served. It is A LOT of food at first and I found myself thinking often that I really had not been giving my body all of the nutrients that it needed to make changes. A lot of times you are under-feeding your body and it kicks into overdrive, thinking you are entering 'starvation mode' and will start to store more fat. Finally, one of my biggest pet peeves is when people tell me over and over... 'weight loss is easy, you simply have to burn more calories than you are taking in'. Uh... tell that to my body that hasn't lost weight for over half a year. Tell that to the women who have PCOS and whose bodies hold onto fat like there is no tomorrow. Tell that to the people who are frantically running on treadmills trying to get rid of all the calories they just consumed. My biggest advice is to do your research and figure out what works best for you, what obstacles you are facing, what method is the easiest to maintain, if weight loss or overall body health is more important to you... the list goes on and on. Everybody and every body is different.

** Do you ever find yourself looking at other people you see while running errands or find yourself looking at your body in the mirror and thinking terrible things about what they/you look like? Do you then feel guilty about it? Surprise! You are not a bad person, it's something we all deal with. That initial voice in your head is what society is telling you to think. It is what the media is telling you to think about certain bodies. DO THE WORK! When you think those things, take the time to correct that initial voice in your head. Don't just ignore it! The more you tell that voice to back off, the most likely it will do. Fight society & the media, y'all. All bodies are beautiful.**

So are you ready? Are you ready to start loving who you are? Are you ready to start seeing yourself the way that those who love you irrevocably see you? Here are some of my tips:

  1. Start a journal where you just talk positively about yourself. It doesn't have to be long, in fact, it would just be one 'I AM...' statement every single day. That will take you at the most one minute. One minute to start changing your mindset. I know that it feels dorky, I know that on hard days you might think for 5 minutes before you can think of anything positive about yourself, but you will. Here is your one for today 'I am worthy'. Did you write it down? Go on, i'll wait. Now write that down every day until you believe it and then you can work towards something else.

  2. Stand up for yourself and others. This one is HARD. Like, really hard. But you do not deserve to have people tell you that you are lesser. Even if you have to stand up to a parent, a teacher, or someone you really admire, you are WORTHY of their apology for making you feel bad. Tell them their 'compliment was double-edged and that you 'looked good' before the weight loss as well'. Tell them that yes, you are fat, but you are healthy and wonderful. Tell them to use their negative energy on something other than you. At the very least, they will hopefully learn from their mistake and not make comments like the ones that hurt you going forward. ** SIDE NOTE: If you are a parent and are reading this, I implore you PLEASE, please, please, do not ever make negative comments about your child's weight or eating. Guess what, we live in a cruel world sometimes, so chances are your kid has already been told that they are chunky or fat. Chances are that they have already compared themselves to the airbrushed goddesses in the magazines. Chances are they are already on their way to hating their body. I know that it is your job to make sure that your kids are healthy, but you do that by serving nutritious food, by being an example of a well-rounded lifestyle, and MOST IMPORTANTLY by nurturing their mental health by telling them how beautiful they are no matter what size they are, no matter what other people say, no matter what, no matter what, no matter what. I have not been a parent, but I have been a child told by people in positions of power that I should not eat more, that I am not beautiful because of my weight, that I have no self-control, that I am fat. Hearing those words from the people that are supposed to love you with no bounds is going to negatively impact them. Trust me, I know.

  3. Fill your time, energy, and social media with all shapes and sizes of bodies and positive outlooks on life. Get on your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook RIGHT NOW and delete all of the people that make you feel lesser. Get rid of everyone that doesn't inspire you, but makes you second-guess your beauty. Don't worry, they'll be there if you miss them down the line, but you are WORTHY of seeing how you feel without those negative feelings creeping in every single time you scroll through your feed. Here are some of my faves: I truly love them all.

- My wonderful coach, Susie, has an inspiring blog all about fitness, mental health, and self-love. If you are wanting a combination of it all, she's an amazing resource.

-These two girls have been CRUCIAL in my self-love journey. We need to normalise all bodies and to show how fake social media can be. Alex and Danae hit all the right spots and always introduce me to delicious, curvy, content.

- If you want a plus-sized, Black, fitness icon.... look no further. She might not be the girl to follow if you feel guilty about workout content, but I personally find her inspiring as heck.

-I found both of these ladies in my workout videos! One was in Barre Blend and one was in MM100. I loved seeing different body shapes and sizes while working out and have enjoyed their content since.

America's Next Top Model Icon and Body Love Advocate. Golden. Obsessed.

If you are going to follow ONE YouTuber I recommend, make it Sierra Schultzzie. She is a beautiful, curvy, positive FORCE who talks a lot about size-inclusion and body-love. Massive fan.

Beatrice Caruso is on a weight-loss journey, but she is doing it RIGHT. By making sustainable nutrition changes and finding fun ways to get her body active, she literally makes me snort out-loud every video. Super real. Super refreshing.

Natacha Oceane is like a guru when it comes to intuitive eating. It's something I am very interested in and all of her food literally looks to-die-for. She knows what she is talking about and has done lots of in-depth research. I trust her implicitly.

4. Do the work. I have said it earlier, but I say it again. As much as I wish it was possible, you are not going to wake up one morning and just love yourself out of the blue. It takes perseverance and hard work. You need to do the journaling, you need to write yourself sticky-note love letters, you need to change up your social media, you need to tear up those awful magazine covers that compare 'beach bodies', you need to say thank you when someone compliments your beautiful body instead of snorting in disbelief, you need to second-guess those initial thoughts that pop into your head that tells you what beauty is and is not.

5. You are alive now. You are vibrant NOW. Do not let this unattainable standard of beauty stop you from living your life to the fullest. Wear the bikini, go on the trip, attempt the hike, learn to love every thing you have.

If you ever, EVER, want to talk about body-love, exercise, nutrition, radical self-acceptance, etc. I am here for you. Thank you so much for reading about this terrifying, exhilarating journey I am on. You are so so beautiful <3


A.C. Woodruff

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