This post has been about nine months in the making. I have a lot to say, so if you’re willing to listen and read along, just know that this is a blog post from the deepest corners of my soul. This post is one of the most important posts I’ll ever write.
I hated myself for a very long time. I hated how I looked, how my weight fluctuated constantly, how I was a binge eater, how I lacked control. I hated the relationship I had with food, with clothes. I hated how “beauty” was synonymous with “skinny” and how the media and fashion industry portrayed the standard of “perfection”. I allowed my worth to be determined by others. I allowed others to tell me how I should dress. I was never satisfied with who I was but I didn’t know how to fix anything. Simply, I was my own worst enemy.
Food and I go way back. When I was in high school, and unable to quite figure out my emotions, I would binge eat. I’d sneak into my kitchen when everyone was asleep and eat massive amounts of anything I could find despite its nutritional value. I’ve talked about this before. I would lose weight on god awful diets and gain it all back. Four years ago I became obsessed with working out. I lost over 30 pounds but gained it all back about six months after hitting my goal weight. I couldn’t keep up with the pace I set for myself and 1,200 calories a day was a dangerous low for me.
I thought I hit my highest weight in early 2012, but really, I hit my highest in December of 2017.
But here’s the difference – in the summer of 2017, I started loving myself.
I have only loved myself since July of 2017. Really.
After I nearly lost my life to suicide last April, I began to hone in on what I was experiencing, what I was feeling. I read a lot about what it meant to live in the present, to appreciate every single moment of living. I started writing some really important blogs and personal poems.
I began to accept myself – who I was, entirely, completely, without judgement or limit. I began to let go of the things I was unable to change, allow myself to be exactly who I was meant to be, and live my life with the love I gave to everyone else.
I also realized that, though I was numerically the heaviest I’d ever been, I felt the most beautiful in my 30+ years of living. Ultimately, beauty and fatness had nothing to do with one another.
I felt sexy. I bought a cute little bathing suit and wore it really proudly. My summer wardrobe was fun and I loved wearing everything. I went makeup-less a lot and I walked with my shoulders back, my stature tall. I didn’t care what others thought. I felt empowered and strong. By the beginning of the fall I felt confidence I didn’t know was real. By late November, I was on top of the world.
And around that same time my mother was approached by Soma Intimates. They wanted the both of us to model for an upcoming campaign in April of 2018.
My initial reaction was, “Nah. I’m good.”
I’m not a model. I don’t have the fashion sense my mum has and I don’t love being in front of a camera. I was not about to wear some pajamas for the world to see.
But then we chatted with the contacts at the company. They were impressed with BOTH of us. I wouldn’t really be riding the coattails of my mother; I’d be there as her counterpart. And how cool would it be to share a weekend with my mum, an experience we’d always remember, captured in beautiful photos? And how GREAT would it be for people MY SIZE to see a confident woman proving to the world that there is no standard for beauty?
I was in.
Fast forward to the day of our shoot and my stomach was a MESS of nerves. There were dozens of people on set and I began to question why I agreed to be there. The stylists, makeup artists, photographer… all small, thin, and gorgeous. I felt exceptionally out of place and a bit like a fraud.
But during lunch I had a quick chat with the photographer. She asked really personal questions about me and my journey. She continuously said that she was happy I was there, that I looked beautiful, that I was a natural, that she was proud. PROUD. A stranger, a PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER (who has done work for VERY BIG magazines and brands) told me these things. My openness made the difference. I continued the shoot with pride.
My mum found out in January that she was living with CLL (a type of leukemia). It triggered something in me I had not thought of, maybe ever – taking care of yourself includes physical care. It’s not just about loving who you are on the outside, but also respecting yourself on the inside – eating well.
I changed how I ate. I very carefully, and very drastically, changed how, and what, I ate.
Since the shoot in December I’ve lost 20 pounds – but it’s not about the number. I no longer experience excruciating acid reflux. How bad is acid reflux? It’s so bad that it can cause esophageal cancer. I’ve lived with it for at least 10 years. I now have NONE. My migraines are minimal. My periods are less severe. My range of motion has expanded. I am not out of breath walking up and down the stairs in my house. I am not bloated and my ankles do not swell.
The other positives? My jawline is visible and my lost collar bones are back. My clothes fit my body in a different way that makes me feel good. My belly is flatter. My boobs are smaller.
So here I am, with the Soma campaign about twelve hours away, and I’m nervous. There are going to be hundreds of thousands of people who will see me in pajamas. And outfits. And they’ll see me in photos I didn’t get to choose from. And they’ll see me. They will SEE me.
But I think… I loved myself then. I loved myself then like I love myself now. What’s the difference? That my stomach and boobs are larger? That it’s not what I look like now?
I am the same person. I am the exact same person. I am still Alyssa. I am still strong and brave. I was a survivor then and I’m a survior now. I was confinent then and I am now. I am kind now, but I was kind then, too.
Alyssa is no different when her pants are a smaller size, when her shirt is a larger size, when her face is fuller, when her neck is thinner. Alyssa is the same woman DESPITE her size.
Alyssa is Alyssa yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
I’m not regretful, or angry, or disappointed with myself for the number on the scale. That is a disgusting thing to be embarrassed about. I am gorgeous in flowy shirts or tight pants. I am gorgeous when I’m smiling or crying. I am strong when I’m lifting heavy furniture or when I’m telling my story or when I am choosing to make healthy choices. I am not bad when the bras are big or good when the dresses are tiny.
My size has no bearing over who I am. Ever.
My best internet friend, Alicia, sent me a button-down shirt in the mail. It was hers and she wanted me to have it. I was nervous to tell her that the *size* might be too small, because her thought meant the world to me. I tried it on for the first time today and it was an absolutely perfect fit.
It was perfect because the pattern has Boston Terriers all over it. It was perfect because it was Alicia’s. It was perfect because it was a generous, thoughtful gift from someone who matters. It was perfect because it was a reminder that my health is showing.
It is not perfect because it’s a smaller size.
And if you notice, I am not telling you my starting weight, or my current weight, or my starting sizes, or my sizes now. I REFUSE to display before and after photos because my befores ARE NOT bad, they ARE NOT negative, and they certaintly aren’t “who I used to be.” I was Alyssa then, I am Alyssa now.
And to top all of this off, I saw “I Feel Pretty”, the new movie with Amy Schumer. The theme is all about understanding the power you have when you accept who you are, just as you are. GO SEE IT.
If you’re connecting dots between your size and your value, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Learn to love you for you. Get reading, get outside, get therapy, get whatever it is you need to start understanding who you are. Quit the judging. Quit the negative comments. Quit talking to yourself in ways you’d NEVER talk to your best friend.
You are worth loving. And when someone loves you for every ounce of who you are, without boundaries, love them, too.
And keep your eyes peeled for more details on the campaign, which starts at the every end of the month. My mum and I have been so excited to be part of this.
Love you all.