Marinelle: The Journey Continues

Story 10 of 10. This Body Positivity series is a project I hold dear to my heart. For years, I’ve struggled with my body image, and since reviving this blog, LoveYourzStory, I’ve shared so many of my personal stories, internal battles, and insecurities. This time, I wanted to hear your stories. I took to social media and found 9 individuals who were willing to share their body positive journey with not only me, but my readers as well. I collaborated with two Bay Area photographers, Missdirected (Instagram: @missdirected.art) to photograph these amazing people. Missdirected did not photoshop / alter any of the models’ faces or bodies. These stories are entirely written by them and in their own words, because after all, who can tell their story better than them?” -Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory

This is MY story, written in my own words:

This collaboration / series is one that I hold dear to my heart because I have been a body positive advocate for a couple of years, and have made it one of my missions as a writer. This is a topic I am very passionate about – having individuals feel comfortable in their body regardless of societal body standards. I would like to add that being body positive does not mean that you are confident and reassured in your body at all times. That belief is discouraging and just all around false. Being body positive is definitely a lifelong journey. And I ask that in your responses / blog post, that you be as transparent as possible. I pride myself in sharing real, authentic, and unfabricated stories – being truthful is key.

Marinelle Cabillo

“Quoted above is a paragraph taken from the original email I sent to all of the candidates who were interested in being a part of this Body Positive Series. I was ecstatic when I finally had all 9 slots taken for this project. It has always been a goal of mine as a writer to focus more on the body positive community and document people’s self-love journeys. Collabing on this series with like-minded, brutally honest individuals re-sparked my interest and passion on this community and reminded me why I write – to reach others and share the stories of your every day person. Reading and hearing other people’s struggles and downfalls made me realize that a lot of us share the same feelings and experiences in different ways. One thing that we all can agree on – our self-love journey is never linear.

The belief that people who identify as body positive are self-assured and satisfied with what they see in the mirror all the time is inaccurate. I try to emphasize that a lot in my writing since I am known for being a body positive advocate. Nobody’s journey is linear. You just don’t wake up one day and realize you want to change your mindset, your beliefs, and everything you believed to be acceptable and unacceptable, and just start off with a clean slate. It takes a lot of highs and lows, learning and unlearning, 2 steps forward and 3 steps back, and so forth. You will eventually get to a better place, but the journey is never lateral. You will have your off days, and that’s okay.

I tried to write this post in advance because it’s the big blog post #100. I was about 10 paragraphs deep, and the writer’s block was ridiculous. I wasn’t in love with what I was writing, and I didn’t like the direction I was going in. I originally was going to start off with how I was in 2016, and what steps I took to accept and love my body. But the more I added to it, the more I hated it. Though it wasn’t my intent, I felt like it was giving off the “I didn’t like this, so I changed this, and now I’m enlightened!” vibe. And that wasn’t true. Yes, I changed my mindset and had to put in a lot of work to get to this point, but I didn’t want it to seem like I had a problem, I overcame it, and now I’m coastin. Nope. That wasn’t the message I wanted to emphasize, because the journey continues… for life. So I scrapped it all and started over.

When I say that it took a lot of learning and unlearning to get to where I am today, I mean it. Deciding to love and accept my body for what it was and simultaneously declaring Women Gender Studies as my minor in 2016, really got the ball rolling on changing my mindset and views. I really had to reevaluate what I grew up to believe was acceptable and unacceptable, and how those views and feelings contributed to my inner turmoil. I had to reflect on parts of myself that I did not want to question or explore, but in order to heal and plant new seeds of thinking, I had to pull at the ugly roots that had planted in me so long ago. The Women Gender Studies classes I was taking at the time really opened my eyes to see that these ways of thinking in terms of beauty and beauty standards, are engrained specifically into the female mind at a very young age. And because of the unrealistic standards media and society places on women, companies profit off of all our insecurities.

I refused to be the foolish consumer that only cared about my outward appearance. I had to remind myself that I was so much more. So much more than my outer beauty, than my body, than whatever version of myself I want the public and social media to see. I refused to have companies make a profit off of my insecurities, and stay in this cycle of self-hate and fake confidence disguised by likes on social media. I refused to fall into this habit of following famous people online who alter their images, and give a false sense of reality. I no longer wanted to support companies and brands that publicly excludes, alienates, and makes people feel bad about themselves for being plus-sized.

I had to be true to myself and admit that at times I could be a hater towards others based on my own insecurities. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I’ve accepted that that’s the reality. I had to stop comparing myself to others. And that was something really hard to do. In the past, I would be jealous of people who had outward appearances and features that I believed to be desirable. It was really difficult for me to accept that someone else’s beauty does not overshadow my own. I had to be confident in myself and my own attributes, and separate that from my feelings of feeling worthy based on what I looked like physically. I had to engrain in my own head that I was enough, that I am worthy of self-love at any weight, and each time I fall victim to the negative self-talk, or compare myself to others, or care too much about outward appearances, I repeat the same cycles that I no longer want to continue. This world profits off of our self-hate, and I wanted no part of it.

And as time went on, I learned to literally not give a shit. I wanted to workout, not to lose weight, but because I wanted to be healthier. I no longer cared about the numbers I saw on the scale because as long as I felt good within my own skin, my actual weight didn’t matter. In fact, I wanted to gain muscle, which would realistically have me gain weight. I felt so liberated to do as I pleased without feeling guilty. Restricting myself from foods, places, and clothing was a thing of the past. I wanted to feel comfortable, happy, and at ease with myself. Doing a social media cleanse really helped me push for this change. Once I eliminated accounts and people that made me question my own self-worth, it was the first step of Game Over. What I do not see can not affect me. What I do not see can not influence me. What I choose to see and internalize is completely up to me. With time, college courses, and increasing confidence in myself by positive affirmations, I learned to dissect social media posts. I can appreciate other people’s beauty, even if it is altered, but still know that it is not reality. When I feel myself getting insecure when I hit that explore page, I’ll try to shut it down real quick. It has brought me peace to know that social media in the literal sense, does not matter. It is not something I need, and therefore, I shouldn’t try so hard to uphold a certain appearance. Basically, I shouldn’t care.

I think the pandemic was the cherry on top of the “I literally don’t give a fuck about my outward appearance” sundae. For a lot of people, the pandemic forced us to be alone with our thoughts – probably more than we wanted. Getting used to the shutdown and restrictions really had me focus on the health of me, my family, and friends, above all. I got used to not getting ready for work, not going out, not putting on makeup, not putting on clothes other than my pajamas and the occasional “walk around the neighborhood outfits.” Everything was more relaxed, even though anxieties of the outside world heightened. The uncertainty and the safety of society really had all of us on edge – from COVID, to social unrest, to targeted violence. On top of that, there were no outlets to relieve that stress, everything was shutdown. It felt like I was watching a train wreck and couldn’t turn away. I was constantly reminded of the realities of 2020.

So for me, food became my solace during the pandemic. Looking forward to a good meal that was usually through UberEats or other delivery apps was the highlight of my day / week. It made me feel good to know that I was helping keep some businesses alive during the unpredicted shutdowns. It brought me comfort to eat foods that I used to eat pre-COVID because it brought back a sense of normalcy. My relationship with food has always been a strong one. I love food. I was never a picky eater, and my parents didn’t have to worry about me not eating enough or not finishing my plate. Their concern was to get me to stop eating. And now as an adult, I’m the type of person that would rather meet up at a restaurant or grab something to eat than hangout at the club. I’d say 100% of my social life revolves around eating good food with good company. When I’m traveling and going to new places, my main focus is what I’m going to be eating. I want to try all the foods that each place is known for, and I will literally plan around what food I want to get. And with the pandemic, eating bomb food went from being a social, bonding, unwinding and having a good time, to suddenly being my comfort and sense of normalcy.

We all know that the pandemic is still going strong today – almost a year and a half later. Relying on food to give me comfort and make me feel “safe” while the world fell apart, mixed with everything being shutdown, meant that there wasn’t a lot of exercising happening on my end. Everyone joked about people coming out of quarantine putting on a lot of weight, and for me personally… where’s the lie? I’m for sure – hands down – the biggest I’ve ever been in my life. I’m not ashamed to admit that either. When the jokes of weight gain started circling early in the pandemic, I knew that I was informed enough to see the humor in some of the memes, but I also knew that there were some people out there that would really be struggling with this topic. When people around me would comment on not wanting to gain weight during the pandemic, I would get defensive and quickly add in that it’s OKAY and normal to gain weight during something as serious as a global pandemic, and it should be the last of our concerns.

It made me sad to know that during a time of crisis, people were already dreading the aftermath of the pandemic’s tole – gaining weight. When I hear people putting themselves down for not working out as much, gaining weight, or not having any motivation, I try to chime in and let them know that it’s okay to be feeling those emotions. Especially with my sisters, I find myself being overly aggressive with my messages of being content with gaining weight, but I realize that not everybody has the same outlook. For me, gaining weight during the pandemic was expected. However, I really didn’t expect COVID to be a problem to this day, I didn’t expect it to last this long. I tried my best to remind myself that my body will be changing along with the state of the world, and it’s okay. I was so used to not wearing makeup, not putting on my regular clothes, and not being in the public eye. Dare I say the homebody in me got comfortable to this new normal? Because I definitely got comfortable being comfortable and not thinking twice about how I looked!

I started working in person again in June 2020, to date, that’s over a year working in person. But during this time, up until recently, my mind is still in lockdown mode – not caring to be seen by anyone, social distancing, not having a social life outside of work, and basically living in workout leggings all the time to feel comfortable throughout the work week. My eating patterns remained the same even though I was back at work because the dreadful news of the world would still stress me out. For me, things were “back to normal” for the last year, given that I’ve been going to work Monday through Friday in person, but I would constantly be reminded of the state of the world every time I looked at my phone, turned on the news, or went out in public. For me, the masks are a constant reminder of the world we are living in. Living day to day for the last year and a half not knowing if you could be the carrier, have the sickness yourself, or infect someone you love is such a stressful way of living. I constantly had to weigh out the pros and the cons of hanging out with people outside of my family. It was a gamble every time, and I hate that to this day, every choice I make to expose myself to public places can result in a horrible ending. On top of that, restaurants remained closed, there were still many restrictions, and it felt like we were far from seeing a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

When vaccines started rolling out, and things started to slowly open back up, I definitely felt the results of my anxiety filled binge eating patterns that were heightened throughout the pandemic. My friends and I were vaccinated, and started to see each other more regularly again. With time and more people getting vaccinated, restrictions started to ease up little by little. I was very slowly getting my social life back, and that meant wearing clothes other than my comfy workout leggings that I live in every day at work. I mean shit, pandemic or not, ya girl always lived in leggings Monday through Friday, because working with kids, you need to be as comfortable as possible. But it was a huge eye opener when I started to wear clothes outside of my work outfits. I felt like the Pikachu meme where he’s all surprised with his mouth open, even though I knew this was going to happen. My clothes didn’t fit the way they used to.

At first, I didn’t even really care that I was gaining weight. I was like… whatever it is what it is, we’ve been in this pandemic for a long time. It’s what I expected, and I had mentally prepared myself to slowly transition out of the lockdown. I anticipated that my body was probably not going to look or feel the same prior to the pandemic. I had to remember to be kind to myself. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t alone, a lot of people are going through the same transitions as I am. We are all just trying to adjust back to normal given everything 2020 has put us through. I have come to a point in my life where I know that my outward appearance is the least of my problems, that I am worthy and enough at any size, and that negative self-talk will get me nowhere. I know all of this. I’m completely aware. I try to practice this and feel confident and reassured with whatever reflection I see in the mirror. However, I am human, and I still have my feelings of insecurity. I’m not confident and self-assured all the time, and that’s okay.

In the past, I would’ve been deep in my self loathing ways by now – hating my body, restricting myself and then binging at the end of it all, and talking negatively to myself. But I know where that path would lead me – down a deeper hole. I’ve learned time and time again that making myself feel like shit will accomplish nothing. It will just have me feeling bad about myself and I won’t have the motivation to do better because I’m too busy sulking in my misery. There is literally nothing to gain from negative self-talk, but it’s such a common habit. Especially when you are feeling down, insecure, and frustrated with yourself, it’s hard to stop that voice in your head that is tearing you to shreds and dragging you through the mud. But I knew from experience that if I went down the self-loathing route, it would result in me being really hard on myself, which would push me back into the same cycle I tried so hard to unlearn.

Now, my off days / episodes look a little different. I’m not ashamed that I gained weight, I don’t totally hate what I see in the mirror, and I don’t let people’s commentary or opinions affect me. However, my views on gaining weight has changed over time now that I’m getting older. It’s no longer about how I look, I’m more so concerned about my overall health, given that my late 20’s are just over the horizon, and it’s something I should be keeping an eye on. I was aware of how I was using food to cope, but feeling not the best in my old clothes, and not feeling confident with what I saw in the mirror, brought to light my relationship with food. I was starting to see that during the pandemic, I would eat until I was stuffed to “treat myself,” but really, I’m just binge eating for pleasure and because I’m stressed.

I acknowledge my binging habits that have heightened during COVID, but I refuse to call them “bad habits.” Speaking only for myself, labeling them as “bad” just makes me feel guilty and ashamed about how I’ve handled a really tough year, and that’s not my intent. I want to remain kind to myself, but not be totally oblivious to what I want to change. In the past, to try to stay healthy and balance out my love of food, I would try to go to the gym and squat heavy. But gyms are closed, and with COVID going around with different variants surfacing, I found myself not going out as much. Basically my only form of exercise was walking to the grocery store and hiking once a week. I had to come to the realization that I would get winded doing simple tasks, and I have gotten too comfortable being lazy and not wanting to do anything. It wasn’t about how I looked on the outside, now it’s about how my current habits are making me feel on the inside. I feel sluggish, unmotivated, and unhealthy. Acknowledging what I want to improve, without bashing myself and putting myself down, has allowed me to make small but conscious changes to try to get in more exercise to make me feel better.

I know that for me right now, being healthier means being more active, getting more exercise in, and trying not to binge eat when I’m stressed out or trying to treat myself. A common misconception is that the body positive community promotes unhealthy habits, promotes obesity, and glorifies health complication that come with being overweight. This is not true. Just because you identify as “body positive” doesn’t mean you are glorifying obesity. Being body positive doesn’t mean that you are against working out, it doesn’t mean that you hate skinny people, or that you ignore your health. Being body positive sure as hell doesn’t mean that you are always feeling good about your body. For me, being body positive is being inclusive to all shapes and sizes, it’s being kind to yourself regardless of what your weight is, it’s knowing that you are worthy of love and respect at any size, it’s knowing that you are so much more than your outward appearance, it’s trying to love yourself and your body at all stages of life. Being body positive is not letting societal body standards dictate how you live your life, it’s choosing to live freely instead of constantly stressing over how you look, it’s not restricting yourself because you are hyper-aware of your body, it’s being self-assured and confident in being an individual in a world that wants you to conform and feel shitty about yourself so they can profit off of those insecurities. For me right now, being body positive is all that, and at the same time it’s being aware that I have to make healthier choices. And these choices should not be to punish or restrict myself. The goal is to always be loving and accepting of the body that I have right now. This is the body that has gotten me through the pandemic, and is continuing to get me through it.

And doing this Body Positive series has helped me appreciate and see what “body positivity” means to others. What my meaning of Body Positivity is is not exactly alike to anyone else’s definition. As highlighted in this series, being body positive is: not caring about what you see in the mirror, not letting what people say get to you, being your own number one fan, feeling confident without makeup, choosing a Vegan lifestyle, getting back into a hobby, making peace with your past, accepting your body changing to bring in another life, and so on. I appreciate how transparent every single person was during this Body Positive series, and for allowing me to share their very intimate self-reflections.

It’s okay to not feel body positive all the time. I hope this series has helped people see that people go through their self-love journey differently. No two stories are alike, but even then, we still manage to connect and resonate with other people’s experiences. We are all human, and nobody is perfect. We will have periods of progress, but also periods of regression. Don’t feel discouraged if you are not where you want to be yet when it comes to how you view yourself and your body. This is a lifelong process, so continue to learn and unlearn, and get used to the fact that sometimes you will teeter totter back and forth from what you’re trying to outgrow.

I hope that sharing my personal struggles with my forever changing body reaches someone who needs to hear that being body positive does not mean you are confident all the time. That myth discourages people because that is something that’s very unrealistic. Our bodies and our views are forever changing. If you attach happiness to correlate with your outward appearance, you will never be content with yourself. Your self-love and self-respect should never be conditional. ” -Marinelle, LoveYourzStory

Thankful – At What Cost?

It’s that time of the year again – Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. I, like many others, don’t really think twice about correlating Thanksgiving with the sales and deals that come the day after. It’s ironic how a holiday that is meant for people to be grateful and thankful for what and who they have is followed by the biggest sales of the year. People camping out in line for malls and stores hours before opening, being glued to the computer / phone watching the seconds count down so you can add that item to your cart before it sells out, browsing around the internet or store and realizing, “I don’t really need this… but it’s on sale!” I have conflicting feeling about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, who can relate?

Growing up, my parents weren’t really big on Black Friday shopping. They didn’t like the crowds, bad traffic, fighting for parking spots, and didn’t want us spending our money on things we really didn’t need. Black Friday is usually when people try to get their Christmas shopping done in 1 day so they get more bang for their buck. My parents didn’t think it was worth the hassle, and with how many people we have on both sides of the family, it would be an all day event that they were not down for. But some years, my sisters and I wanted to experience the Black Friday madness. And each time we would participate, my dad would say, “All for what? A Sale that’s just basically taking off the tax? It’s not worth it!” As he angrily maneuvered the car from people walking stupidly. And in the moment he would swear that if the next year we wanted to shop, he wouldn’t be driving. But we’d somehow convince him the next year anyways.

It’s funny because most of the time I went out on Black Friday, I never really bought anything. I remember there was one year, I want to say I was a freshman in high school, but I might have still been in middle school. Anyways, we participated in Black Friday shopping, and my sister and I were roaming around Nina’s. May I remind you, at this point in my life, my main income came from birthday and Christmas money. My birthday is in February, so let’s just say my broke ass didn’t have that much money to spend. And because of this, I had to choose wisely what I decided to buy. I’ve always held back from buying things because I feared I’d find something else and not have enough money. But by this time, we were nearing the end of our route. We have gone around the mall and I honestly didn’t find anything I really liked. I felt pressured to buy something for the sake of “I went out on Black Friday.” I felt so pressured, and was in desperate need of clothes that my dumbass bought something at full price. I remember that top being like…. $27.99. That was a lot of money for unemployed me.

I remember when we all met back in the car, I told my parents and sisters that I bought a top…. that was full price…. and they all unanimously looked at me like, “bruh.” I then got the lecture of how I don’t need to buy something if I don’t really like it, how I should save my money, and make better choices with spending, etc etc. At the time I thought it was annoying. But deep down, I knew I only bought something because I felt the need to do it. Like, my ass woke up hella early, my dad drove in this traffic, I was sweating in the mall with the crowds, I was not about to walk out of the mall empty handed. I wanted something to show for it. It’s crazy that knowing it’s the “day” to shop makes you feel pressured to spend your money.

I appreciate that my parents taught me the value of money because I feel like it humbled me as an adult. Growing up, I didn’t have the latest shoes, clothes, or gadgets. I went to Catholic school and had a uniform I wore everyday, with the same black shoes from Payless. I was 25 years old when I first purchased / owned my first pair of Jordan’s (Yes, just earlier this year). It’s not that my parents didn’t have it like that, but that they didn’t prioritize name brand items. Because once you buy a name brand item for 1 kid, you have to do it for all 3. Our parents would buy us shoes from Footlocker once a year, where we really got to pick which one we wanted. I would take that opportunity to finally get some Nike’s.

Obviously when you’re in 6th grade you wanna look cool and rock the trending shit. And if we wanted something that we didn’t need, we would have to save up our birthday, Christmas, and allowance money to get it. Our parents didn’t just buy us things just because we wanted it. We would have to save up our money, or earn it by getting good grades. I remember I would splurge if there was a school dance, or free dress day where I didn’t have to wear my uniform. I would literally try to buy name brand things, or stuff that was in style to look cool. Yes, full body cringe, I know. I remember getting a simple South Pole shirt that just said “SP” in gold, and dropping $30 (does that brand even exist anymore lol). But it really taught us the value of our money, because we had to save up for it and calculate if the purchase was worth it. It’s so much different when it’s your own money you’re spending – even if I didn’t earn the money and it was basically just gifted to me.

Because of this, I’ve learned to live without the name brand clothes, shoes, bags, etc. I learned to wait, and sometimes waiting meant that I realized I didn’t really want it anymore, or I just dropped the idea because I wasn’t willing to drop the money for it. I still wanted nice shit, but I knew my ass couldn’t afford it like that, so I made do with what I had. As I got / get older, I’m realizing the importance of living simple. It’s something I want to practice and be content with. Over the last year or 2, my priorities really shifted and I find myself trying to save up a lot more. I’ve been working since I was 19, and I regretted not saving my money and spending it on clothes / material things when I still didn’t “have it like that.” I have my days where I’m very content with my closet and wardrobe and think, “I really don’t need all this,” and then there are other times where I’m like, “It’s time for new clothes.” It’s like a constant struggle between wanting more and not wanting to give in to material things.

Like I said, I regretted not saving my money when I first started working. I was in my early 20’s, and suddenly I was worried about the future. I’ve been working since I was 19, and I was nowhere near buying a car. At this time reality hit, and I knew I couldn’t be spending my money the same way if I wanted a car, house, and other necessities in the near future. Changing jobs really helped me take that step forward in saving up money. And once I got a taste of not working for $10.50 Daly City minimum wage, I felt like I was making significant progress. For once, I had extra money to spend. Before that, I was literally on paycheck to paycheck and I didn’t even have to pay any bills. My bi-weekly check was just enough to eat out a couple of times with friends. Straight up.

But I didn’t want to lose myself in buying material things just because I could. I rarely buy clothes, and if I do, they have to be on sale. So I know a good deal when I see it. That’s part of the reason why I’m so conflicted with Black Friday and Cyber Monday – I want to live a simple life, but at the same time I’m human and want nice shit. And if I’m going to get nice shit, that shit better be on sale, because my cheap ass isn’t paying full price if I don’t have to. And in my mind I just teeter-totter between knowing I got a a good deal, but feeling so vain because I don’t “need” the items I’m buying. I know that I work hard for my money, and buying myself a little gift here and there (especially if it’s on sale) is not a big issue. I just don’t want it to be the only way I feel good about myself. But since COVID-19, so many people and friends of mine have opened businesses and side hustles. It’s exciting to see them flourish into business owners and seeing friends and acquaintences support each other. Especially with COVID-19 going on, I love seeing small businesses thriving, knowing that my purchase helps an actual person / family instead of a corporation that already has a lot of money. So, this Black Friday / Christmas, really think of your community and how you can shop at small businesses to support your friends, friends of friends, or just someone in your area.

And I’m not saying I don’t like buying myself things, because let’s be real, buying things impulsively can feel really good. It gets you on a high sometimes. Just this weekend I had seen that J.Cole’s Puma’s, RS Dreamers were back in stock in all colors. I love J.Cole, this blog is named after his song, and I’ve been trying to get my hands on them for a while. Suddenly I wanted them all. And I didn’t care at what price. I wanted to support my favorite rapper, and I didn’t know if they would sell quick. The struggle of making the decision to buy them all now while they’re in stock, or wait until Black Friday where they can possibly be on sale but could also possibly be sold out. I bought 2 out of the 5 pairs, and felt good about my purchase. All the while, I’m messaging my best friend, another J.Cole fanatic, about it. He’s all salty because he can’t fit a little boy’s shoe like myself, and has to wait and pay a lot more for a men’s size. He did his research and saw that the same shoes I just bought were $10 and $30 cheaper on another shoe website, and on top of that gave me his military discount. I was gonna say “fuck it, I already placed the order,” until we did the math and realized I could get a 3rd pair for about the same price I just paid for. I ended up getting 3 pairs of the 5 RS Dreamers, for way cheaper than my first initial purchase (which I’m returning). I got basically a 3rd pair for free and saved $10. I felt ecstatic. I was in such a high, and felt good about saving money for something that meant a lot to me and something I’ve been wanting to get. I didn’t feel guilty because I desperately wanted them all and got them at a steal price.

But something I’ve always been taught is to not spend money I don’t have. And that’s where Black Friday and Cyber Monday gets dangerous. Thankfully, I’m a scaredy-cat that is impulsive, but not that impulsive. I’ll never put something on my card that I know I can’t afford. But for some people, that is not the case. What adds to my dislike and negative feelings towards big sales on holidays is that people feel the need to spend money they don’t have. The need to get the latest shoes, clothes, and electronics, at the cost of what? Just to post on the ‘gram and make it look like you have it like that? No thanks. To some, I might sound like a hater. It’s none of my business – what people do with their money doesn’t concern me. And that’s true. But I think it’s worth noting that people go into serious debt by spending money they don’t have, just to play the part they want people to see, just to look stylish and boujee, and just to front like they got it like that… for what?

Your designer clothes and shoes don’t mean anything if your priorities are all fucked up to obtain them. And holidays like Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas, just want us to focus on what we don’t have and what we can buy. All the while it is pushing the lesson of being grateful, thankful, and content with what you have in life. These “holidays” make big corporations richer, and it makes us consumers broke. The need to buy and spend to prove love, companionship, and appreciation ain’t it. To spend money you don’t have to uphold a tradition and holiday makes no sense, and takes away the true meaning of being thankful. And this is part of the reason why so many people have a twisted fantasy of what “love” is. Love isn’t the amount of designer gifts recieved, it’s not about matching clothes, shoes, and what you can get from each other material wise.

Material things can’t buy happiness – we’ve heard that time and time again. The truth is, I want to live a simple life, detached from any worldly possessions, but I’m still human. And I find myself in these cycles where I don’t spend on things I don’t need, and then out of nowhere I will ball out on something or some things. And in the moment it feels good. Buying things for yourself feels good. But it never fails at the end I get buyers remorse. I think of how vain I’m being, especially when I splurge out of the blue. At times I found that I was just buying things to make myself feel better. It’s different when you’re buying yourself something for an accomplishment, or because you truly want it, but it’s another thing to buy stuff for that instant gratification, and shortly after feel nothing. I start thinking of how there are people in the world that don’t have enough food, don’t have a home, clean water, etc. And I think to myself, did I really need that though?

That’s part of the reason why I have conflicting feelings with Black Friday and holiday sales. It sheds light on the ugly parts of society – the part that only thinks of self, material goods, and appearance. And it also sheds light on those parts of me. I love me a good deal, and I’m the kind of person that does no shopping throughout the whole year and balls out on certain times of the year, like Black Friday, where I know I can get things mad cheap. I do think it’s unfortunate that holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are the times (and almost cues) to spend your money, and if you don’t it’s almost seen as weird and anti-holiday. Being thankful for what you have and who you have in your life shouldn’t come with a cost.

(Internal) Land of the Snakes

“Now who more thorough than me? I paint a picture of my pain for the world to see.” – J.Cole (Land of the Snakes)

I named this post “(Internal) Land of Snakes,” because the quote above is from J.Cole’s Land of the Snakes. And I realized that dark place where insecurities will take you is where all my snakes roam. My insecurities that hurt me, want to poison my mind, and will pop up when I least expect it.

A while back, I shared my weight gain journey and how I found peace within the body positive community. Body image and being confident has always been something I’ve struggled with. And I want to make myself clear: it is still something I struggle with. It took years to unlearn all the toxic ways of thinking when it came to body image, self-love, food, and my body dysmorphia. I am in such a better place, and I’ve learned how to pull myself out of that dark space when I find myself getting insecure. I’ve had to re-train my brain to not think so negatively about my own appearance and body. I try to avoid my internal dark place, my land of Snakes. The snakes being my own thoughts, insecurities, ego.

But of course, the path to self-love is a life long journey. I guess I can only speak for myself, but I doubt I’ll ever find 100% enlightenment where no outside or inside force can break me down. Don’t get me wrong, my growth and outlook on body image has improved tremendously. For the most part, I have the body positive mindset 80% of the time. But I do have my days. Since I’ve dropped that blog post about my weight gain journey and my body positive experience, a lot of people have reached out to me. I’m glad I could share my story and have people relate to it, feel inspired, and heal. I appreciate every single person that has reached out to me since then regarding this topic of self-love.

But like I said, I want to make myself clear: I still struggle. I definitely have my days. What’s different though, is how I maneuver my way out of going down that black hole. It made me happy to know that I was inspiring people to start/continue their journey to body positivity/ body acceptance. People would hit me up saying how brave I am, and how they wish they could be more like me. It was a nice feeling, but it also made me feel some type of way. I didn’t want people to think that I’m body positive all the time, because I’m not. I still get insecure. I still beat myself up over things. I still struggle. I didn’t want to be treated as a role model for being plus sized and proud 100% of the time, as if I’m enlightened and shielded from self body shaming. Because it’s not like that. The point of sharing my life and insecurities with the world is to reach someone – anyone – and know that it’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to go back and forth with your self-love somedays. So, I’ve decided to share this story…

I met Madison in 2016 at Skyline College when we were partnered up for a class assignment. It was my last semester before transfering to SF State. I was so excited. We were in an advanced journalism class. By “class” I literally mean “group” because there were literally 3 of us, myself and Madison included. We didn’t have enough people to make up an official “class,” so we were the 3 advanced journalism students that did something different from the rest of the class. The 3 M’s, Madison, Marinelle, and Martin. We struggled together, we complained together, we were confused together ( mostly Martin and I, Madison always knew what she was doing.) Anyways, it was through that class that I met a friend for life.

We met in January 2016, and by June 2016 she was moving cross country from the Bay Area to Boston, Massachusetts. This, though, was all part of her plan. She went to Skyline so she could transfer to Boston to get her Master’s in journalism. She regaled me with all of her stories. Moving from state to state, being from Idaho, hating the Bay Area (the disrespect to this Bay Area Native), and everything in between. She was 23 at the time, me just turning 21. “Damn, this girl has lived.” I would think to myself.

We got really close, even though it was all of what, 6 months? But she let me into her and her long-term boyfriend’s lives, and I let them into mine. They would have hangouts at their house and they would throw the best little parties. From charades, to cake, to crying while eating cake, to brunch, to hot cheetos, to someone dancing with fire, to the home owner passing out in the bathroom and possibly being concussed… we’ve had our fair share of awesome memories. So 3-ish years later, towards the second half of 2019, when she told me she was planning to propose to Bren, I was elated.

Madison asked Bren to marry her in September 2019. She let me in on all her details and plans, from how she was going to propose, to all the intricate ideas she had for wedding planning. They planned to have the wedding in January. They had just a little over 3 months to plan every detail of their special wedding day. I seriously don’t know how they did it, but they pulled off one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to. Moving along…

Towards the end of September, Madison sent me an Instagram photo. I opened it. They were pictures of her laptop screen. She was on a website for bridesmaid dresses, and all the options were velvet. She sent me pictures of the different styles of velvet maroon dresses.

“How beautiful would you look standing next to me in this color dress?!” Her colorful text said.

And that’s how she asked me to be her bridesmaid. She later asked in a more official way, but she couldn’t contain the secret any longer, especially since she knew it was hard for me to take time off of work. I was so excited, especially since I’ve never been a bridesmaid before. This trip was going to be one for the books – a wedding in Massachusetts during the winter, being a bridesmaid, and it’s a little mini vacation.

At the time, January felt so far away. Madison was letting all her bridesmaids pick our own style dress, color, length, etc. She left it completely up to us, with one request : it has to be velvet. I thought “no problem,” and didn’t really put too much pressure to find a dress. I knew she high-key wanted me in maroon, so I stuck with it. I lagged on getting the dress in hopes I would find something better, or wait for it to go on sale. The pressures of wanting to look good at the wedding were slowly creeping up on me, but I kept my insecurities at bay. That was a whole 3 ish 4 ish months from now, that’s future Marinelle’s problem.

I had my eyes on 2 dresses. I couldn’t seem to pick one. So, I waited. I was stalking these dresses religiously for weeks. Black Friday was just around the corner, so I figured I’d wait and get a good deal. So that’s exactly what I did.

“If they’re ridiculously on sale, I might even buy both to see how they both fit, ” I thought to myself.

Alas, Black Friday was upon us. I rushed to the website on my phone ASAP. My first choice dress – missing from the website completely. “No waaaayyyy, whatever,” at this point my heart is racing. I moved on to dress option #2. Large and X-Large, out of stock. I’m in panic mode. This whole time I thought finding a maroon velvet dress was a piece of cake, only to find out my options were limited. I waited until Cyber Monday. Nothing. Never restocked the second choice dress, and the first dress never came back. I panicked and bought a dress from Macy’s almost twice the price. I was running out of time, it was almost December. Having 1 velvet dress is better than no velvet dress, even if I wasn’t inlove with it. But, I would still be on the lookout for those 2 dresses.

Something in my gut (literally) was telling me this expensive dress was not going to be it. I dreaded getting it in the mail because I knew it was just going to make me feel like shit about my body. It finally arrived, and I eagerly put it on to prove myself right. Yooooo. This. Was. Not. It. My thighs were way too thick for the slit that went down the middle of the dress. To me, I looked foolish. This dress was not helping me in any way, didn’t flatter my body, hugged my gut to the point you could see my belly button, and barely zipped up. There was no saving this dress. It was a no for me, dawg.

If I wasn’t panicking before, I sure as hell was now. It was probably a week or 2 into December already, and I had nothing. As if the universe heard me, my second dress choice restocked in my size. Without thinking twice, I bought it. This had to be the one. I literally had no other choice. If I didn’t like this dress, I would be cutting it close ordering another right after. The dress arrived in the mail on Christmas Eve, right before my family and I were about to leave the house for our family gathering at my aunt’s. But I was too curious, I ripped the packaging open and held it out in front of me arm length. I held the dress by the straps, the velvet soft between my fingers. I haven’t wore velvet in a minute. It looked stretchy, and it definitely looked more comfortable than the Macy’s dress. I liked that there was no zipper, no buttons, nothing to restrict my breathing. It was stretchy, and made to hug my curves without suffocating me. I was relieved…. for the moment. I didn’t get to try it on because we had to go. I threw it on the livingroom couch, knowing that would be the first thing I tend to when we got back.

We got back home well after midnight. My family throws down for parties, so you already know I was fed when I came back home. We eat until it’s food colma. And then you make a little more room just to gorge yourself again. This is nothing new to Filipinos at parties. So this was probably the worst time to try on a form fitting velvet dress, right after Christmas Eve dinner.

Merry Christmas to me, I looked pregnant as fuck in this dress. Not even kidding, if I had put my hand over my bellybutton and turned to the side and took pictures, it would’ve looked like my maternity shoot. I was so sad. If I were to buy another dress I’d have to expedite it and pay extra, and that wouldn’t even guarantee me liking it. And truth be told, this dress and the one out of stock were my best bets. I had to just deal with it. I was a month out from the wedding.

“Maybe if I try it on tomorrow right when I wake up on an empty stomach, it’ll look better,” I thought.

Yeah, no. Still looked pregnant. I felt pretty bad about myself. I started getting nervous thinking about how I was going to stand up there and have everyone see me as the fat bridesmaid. I thought of how I’d keep my hair down as a distraction from my gut and arms. I felt fat, I felt unhappy, I felt like my appearance would get in the way of me enjoying myself at the wedding.

Had this been a couple years ago, I probably would’ve dwelled on this, and my solution would probably be unhealthy. It would probably consist of a crash diet, restrictions, and hating myself into losing a couple of pounds before the wedding. That was how the old me would’ve reacted. Me now, I knew I had to get over it. Being sad over my appearance wasn’t going to help me. It was either I act, or I do nothing. I decided to act on my insecurities, the healthy way.

I was on winter break at work for 2 weeks, so I hit the gym almost every day. I knew I couldn’t lose my gut in less than a month. It was impossible if I wanted to do it the right way. So instead, I ate healthier, but didn’t restrict myself. If I wanted hot cheetos, I was going to eat hot cheetos. I wasn’t going to rob my taste buds of things I like just for the sake of appearance. I figured if my gut is gonna hang out regardless, I might as well have a fat ass to match. So I squatted and did legs almost every single time I was at the gym.

I don’t know if there was an actual difference the month I was working out consistently, but there was a difference in my mood. I felt better, not only about myself but mentally and physically as well. I was still insecure about how I would look during the wedding, but the insecurities were quieter now. I literally just stopped every negative thought that came to mind mid thought. I realized bashing on myself has no purpose. It won’t fix anything, it won’t make me feel good in the end, it won’t do anything except make me feel like shit, so why entertain it?

Around this time, I found myself being more and more inspired by body positive advocates on social media. Their content spoke louder to me because I was going through it. This little hiccup reminded me of everything I stand for, and why I chose the body positive mindset and approach.

At one point, someone suggested maybe I should wear a girdle. I said this was the body I have and this is the body that Madison will get as a bridesmaid. That comment would’ve offended me once upon a time, but instead, it slapped some sense into me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t knock anyone who wears girdles. Do you. Its just not my cup of tea. To me personally, if I’m promoting self-love and being real, I feel like a hypocrite wearing something that will alter my appearance.

I really had to give myself a pep-talk at one point and remind myself that beauty doesn’t define me. The size of my gut doesn’t matter. My arms will jiggle and that’s okay. But I refused to suck in my gut in pictures, I refused hide behind the bouquet of flowers all night, and I refused to keep my jacket on throughout the whole event because I was insecure about my body. Especially living in the Bay Area, I’m covered up pretty much 95% of the year, so when it’s time to wear dressy things and clothes that accentuates my body, I do feel insecure.

Weddings make everyone a little appearance crazy, even when it’s not even your wedding! We all want to look good, and wear things that flatter our body types. You can dress your body type as best as you can, but your body is your body. We put so much pressure on ourselves to look a certain way, and if the expectations are not met, you’re stuck there feeling depressed and ugly. But who benefits from that? Definitely not you. Sometimes you have to pull yourself out of that dark hole. Sometimes you need to be your own hype-woman.

Madison asked me what hairstyle I planned on getting since she hired hair and makeup people for the day of the wedding. I asked what she wanted since it was her wedding. At this point I was feeling back to my body posi self. She suggested hair up. If this had been a couple weeks prior, I probably would’ve said hair down no questions asked so I could hide behind it. But I thought an up-do was a great idea. I’ve never had my hair professionally done, and I’m rarely seen with my hair up. It’s about time I bust out of my comfort zone.

The day of the wedding went by smoothly. I did my own makeup because I don’t trust anyone with my eyebrows. But getting my hair done was so cool, I wish I had someone to do my hair every morning. When it was finally time to dress up, I put on my dress and wasn’t worried about my gut, or arms, or anything really. I was just so excited to be there and see one of my best friends marry her best friend. I didn’t hide behind the bouquet, I didn’t suck in my tummy for pictures, I didn’t post a certain way to look slimmer. And it felt so liberating to have no worries. I looked around at all the others in the bridal party and everyone looked stunning. Most of us were all strangers before meeting up in New York for Madison’s bachelorette party. Some we didn’t even meet until the rehearsal dinner. But everyone was genuinely supporting and hyping up one another. We all bonded over being a part of Madison and Bren’s bridal party, and I must say, it felt good to meet all the many friends who were there throughout the married couples lives.

If I had stressed over my insecurities the whole time, I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself the way I did. I would just be too concerned with being insecure and nitpicking at myself, when honestly, nobody even really cares. I’m glad I got to pull myself out of my own head right in time for the wedding. Because when the time came, I didn’t care about my stomach, my arms, the pimple on my cheek that has literally been on my face for over a month, I was too busy living in the moment and enjoying myself. And when we let insecurities get in the way of that, you miss out on a lot of life.

I just wanted to share this story because everyone has their moments. The body positive advocate still feels insecure from time to time, and that’s okay. It’s nice to share successes, but it’s also okay to share your setbacks. Madison shared her wedding album with all of us and I found this picture of me getting my hair done. I love how you can see my perfectly imperfect tummy in the picture. I stressed about my “booty-do (when your stomach sticks out more than your booty-do)” for the longest, and here she was making her appearance in this velvet dress. I love this picture. This is the real me, body relaxed, not posed at all, tummy hangin’ out.