Being body positive is all over the internet these days. But what does it all really mean? Does it mean that you are simply comfortable in your own skin? Does it mean you are happy with who you are? Does it even mean you are healthy? These are the questions that I asked myself years ago when I stopped starving myself to be thin. I asked myself as to when exactly did I begin this nonsense of crazy dieting, or practically starving myself to be thin and attractive because that is what I thought you had to look like as a female. How young is too young to even think that this is normal?
The earliest recollection I had as a young girl that I was getting fat was when I was about twelve years old. It was when puberty had really kicked in and I couldn't fit into any of my clothes from when I was considered tall and skinny for my age the year before. It is so weird how much one can change within a year, and how much I had changed from age eleven to twelve. My body seemed to keep getting pudgy, and I went from wearing girls clothes to having to wear a women's size 12 in jeans, and then by the time I was thirteen and fourteen I went up to a size 13. Back then I ate horribly because that is how I was raised; little Debbie snacks and soda pop was a staple at my house, especially if you were upset, or it was that time of the month. I didn't know then, but I do know now that I was eating to feel better about myself. I didn't have very many friends at all, was bullied all the time, and boys didn't like me at all either. I was an ugly duckling for sure.
I can remember one summer when I was about to turn fifteen, I went with my folks to the lake to swim almost all the time, and walked a lot with the only friend I really had. I stopped feeling sad, and I ended up losing the excess pounds. I'm sure it was all kickstarted with that bad case of chicken pox I got right before school let out too, and I didn't really eat much at all because I was so miserable. But I did recuperate, and I had a great summer that year, and before summer had ended I finally was turning boys heads. Much to my mother's annoyance, I began to grow into a young woman's body to the point where I had a young man mistake me for being nineteen. My hair was long, way passed my D-cup bra strap, I had a new tiny waist, and wide hips even for a fifteen year old girl. I am pretty sure I was a complete nightmare for my poor mother too, because I had figured out long before my freshman year of high school that I had changed the way boys looked at me, and how I was seeing myself for the first time.
The unfortunate thing about being sixteen is when you are dating, it feels as if you are an adult, and you do adult things. Those adult things lead to being pregnant way before you should, and that is when you can kiss your newly discovered perfect body you've always dreamed about goodbye. Say hello to swollen everything, stretch marks, and gravity. Why gravity you ask? Gravity is no longer your friend when it takes hold of your body parts. The once big and perky boobies are gone. The nice round butt that you could sit a glass on is gone. And the stomach that you could wash clothes on also gone. I am not saying that children are not a blessing, and I will never regret having a child at such an early stage of my life, but to all moms out there who miss their once flawless skinned body, this is for you. If you take care of your body while you are pregnant you can get your pre-pregnancy body back, when you are young. I didn't have my second child until I was twenty-one, but with each one I went back to diet and exercise in order to get the weight off. One thing that did help in melting away that baby fat was breast feeding, and my sons literally sucked the excess weight right off of me. Now, what is a single mom to do with two kids in order to make ends meat? Well, I became an exotic dancer, and the rest is history really. But what did my former career have to do with having a body positive lifestyle you ask? Because that my dearies is a career based solely on what your body looks like. And believe me it does a lot of serious shit to your self-esteem.
This can be taken two different ways. One, this may or may not offend some of you because I am going to be blunt about what I am going to say. Two, this is going to be the truth of it, and you may not even care enough to be offended. Being an exotic dancer is all about sexuality, and how good your body looks. Although, every man or woman has their own idea of what the perfect woman is to them, a perfect body shape can range from the tomboy, to the whole lot of Rosie type, with every curve in between. Whether a woman had little boobs, big boobs, big butt, or little butt, it didn't matter, it is all subjective to the beholder. No buts about it, it is still a dancers main objective to look her best, no matter how she feels about herself. I personally felt that I had the most attention, and made the most money when I was skinny. Self-esteem went out the window a lot when it came right down to the nitty-gritty of things. I went through phases where I changed my body so much over the years to appeal to any one particular mans fancy. I worked out just with dancing alone, but I would also walk anywhere from five to ten miles per day on top of it to shed away any excess fat off of my body. I would barely eat, I stopped eating any kind of meat, and became a vegetarian since it kept off my curves basically. I thought by being so skinny that I was more attractive, and then I would go on to punish my body more by tanning. If I weren't sun-worshipping, then I was in a tanning booth trying to look like the other girls who seemed like they were making more money. Luckily, I didn't abuse my entire body like that my entire career, only my twenties. Of course not all of my early years were spent roasting on a rotisserie like a chicken; I did discover that I preferred myself to be pale later when the goth craze swept over the club like a dark wave of black #1.
Fast-forward time up to the years after I had three more children, and my new found love for myself in which I no longer desired to be skinny. I have always been a busy mom, usually always having more than one job or career going at the same time. It can be a difficult thing to do because you end up with not much sleep, and eating poorly. If you add stress to that mix it tends to create a huge tole on your body, so much so that it begins to change. I am not only talking about just a weight gain, but where it distributes to. Curves had become the new "in", and I had plenty of them for days on end. I had a different clientele base as I was still dancing at the time, and it would actually becoming close to the last few years that I did dance. I discovered that I loved my curvy body, I found that I wanted to fully embrace who I truly was, and what a better way then to give myself a permanent make-over. I no longer cared what others, (customers technically) thought of me, whether I was skinny, or chubby, it didn't matter anymore. One of my earliest fears was to simply be myself. I am not sure why I felt that I needed such validation or acceptance, but I did so much so that I wouldn't allow myself in getting more than the one tattoo I had at the time, or getting any more body piercings than the ones I had in the past that I let grow up because it wasn't considered attractive. So here I am, all grown up and decided I didn't give a hoot what anyone thought of me. I was at that stage in my life at the end of my thirties when I decided I wanted a change.
I have always reinvented myself over the years, from basic hairstyles ranging from my natural dark hair, to blonde, red, pink, blue, purple, and then back in black again. Haircuts and styles were off the charts at times, from long and straight with no bangs, to wavy with bangs, bad perms, fried bleached out, even shaved down almost to a burr, and then back to my preferred Bettie style hair I have been sporting for the past several years. I finally determined that black hair is best for me, but I still felt something was missing. I now had two choices, I could start tanning again so I look like an amazon, or I could get tattooed. Of course one or two tattoos wasn't enough, and I wanted to decorate the walls of my temple that I was beginning to worship once more. But I didn't stop there; I had missed having my nose pierced, and liked it so much I did it twice, one ring on each side. When I returned to work, I had a completely different following, and had many suggestions over that I should become a pinup model. And so I did. I defiantly had done my research on the interwebs in order to find different styles of pinup clothes, makeup, and hairstyles. I had a bob with bangs at the time, so it made it pretty easy to practice the vintage hairstyles from the 1920's all the way to the 1950's. My costumes at the club went from mistress of the dark, to the dark angel, and even bubble gum cheesecake style of pinup attire. And yes, I pulled this off in a strip club; I even created my own pinup-style dance routine. I was happy to have finally found myself, and it allowed me to be me.
Unfortunately, with the sweet comes the sour. There comes a time in our lives when things change, and even when we may not know it yet, it is eventually for the better. If you had asked me how it was sour I would say my days working as a dancer became numbered, the customers we once knew no longer came in, and I like the others who were struggling to make it. Although that was my "job", it wasn't what I was working on for a career. My body transformation opened the modeling window again for me, and then that led to acting, which in turn led me into doing more with my fledgling column Dream Big, by turning it into a show. I knew that I had to get out while I could from my night job to pursue my dream careers of acting, writing, modeling, and turning Dream Big into a reality. So I officially retired from dancing, and luckily it was just in the nick of time before the club closed its doors forever. Although in lieu of those final months of very little business, lots of stress, and no sleep I didn't notice I was adding on more weight. It wasn't until that fall that my jeans weren't fitting, and I had to go up to a size ten. I thought this is ok, perhaps I am not meant to be an eight, and maybe that was only because I was too thin for too long. Whatever the excuse I had for myself was fine up until last winter when my size tens were no longer fitting without jumping up and down, lunging, or laying back on the bed just to zip them up. Ladies, we have all done the blue jeans dance. Am I right? By winter I knew that it was getting out of control, but with it being cold out, and working during the day, I didn't have the time or desire to walk in the cold. I was becoming frustrated, and so due to stress the weight wasn't going away.
February of this year I began a work out regiment, became stricter on what I ate, and walked in thirty degree weather. I was determined to lose the weight which was causing health issues with my blood sugar, and even physical ailments. There was no turning back now, and I knew if I didn't change things it would only get worse. I had my kids to think about after all, and I wouldn't be of any use to them if I were sick from diabetes, or heart disease. I also incorporated the vinegar, water, and honey mixture; and then I also took the garcinia cambogia pills with it. I was determined to cleanse my body of toxins, free radicals, and the fat which had accumulated into places I was tired of seeing in the mirror. I honestly think due to the exercise, the balance of foods that I ate, the combination of the fruit extract, and the vinegar tonic I was beginning to see slight changes within the first month. The next few months the weight was slowly coming off, even my kids took notice, and the best part was that I was feeling better. I had more energy, and was able to fit back into a size eight in jeans. Although the main point was to be a healthier, happier me, and I was accomplishing that. Today I am still over my BMI for my height, but I have heard it is because muscle weighs more than fat, and my doctor is pleased with my results so far. I may never reach what may be considered as the perfect body type, no six pack abs for me due to having had five babies, but if I can at least have a flat and toned stomach I will be satisfied enough with that. I know I do have a few more places which need to be more toned overall, but I think if I keep up the good old fashioned hard work with exercise, maintain good eating habits, and try to get a solid eight hours sleep, (who am I kidding about 8 hours really), try being the operative word, and then I should be able to get were I want my body to be. It has been six months now since I began my journey to be a fitter, healthier me, and I couldn't have done it without knowing that I had to make a change, not only for myself, but for my children too. I know that it is not an easy thing to lose weight; I think the hardest thing about it is realizing that health comes before vanity, and vanity is not just about how you look. If you think about all of those woman out there that are unhealthy in their size, but they still feel confident in how they look more power to them. But if you take into consideration that being overweight, or obese, (which are two different health risk sizes) is not something you can accept that it is who you are, and that you are "being body positive". You have to consider that above all else diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and pain in your back, knees, and feet are not at all sexy, and to allow yourself, or others tell you that you are beautiful for who you are, even if you are fifty pounds heavier than you should be is putting your health at risk. I know woman come in all shapes and sizes, but when those sizes are no longer an actual shape, then you must think about your health first. I knew for myself that if I had not started my plan to be a healthier me, I would have only gotten heavier, and then I would have put myself at risk not only to lose my life, but my family would have lost me.
A healthy you can only be achieved if you believe it can happen. As it is with all things in life it can only be achieved with hard work and determination. Be strong, stay strong, and always dream big.