Natasha Jones: Stay True To Yourself

Natasha Jones, also known as “@oliviaeyes” on Instagram, is best known for her fashion content on social media. She’s a freelance curve model, brand ambassador, influencer, and content creator. When looking through her Instagram feed, you can see her confidence and infectious smile radiating through her photographs! However, this San Diego native had no plans of becoming an influencer. Natasha had no idea that her love for content creating would have her modeling for well-known brands, partnering with others, and inspiring others around the world.

Natasha was born and raised in San Diego, California. She graduated from the University of San Diego, the first in her family to graduate college, with a bachelors degree in Media Communications. She originally wanted to be a pediatrician and studied human biology for four years. However, Natasha made the drastic change to study communications when she realized how intrigued she was with social media and the interconnectivity of the world. After making the switch to communications, Natasha’s plan was to work behind the scenes in advertising or marketing. Her goal was to highlight minorities to better represent people from different backgrounds and bring inclusivity to mainstream media. She never imagined that she would be doing just that, but with her being in front of the camera.

“I never envisioned myself being an influencer – or model for that matter – I was too shy and didn’t think I could ever be in front of the camera,” Natasha admitted. “If anything, I hoped to work behind the camera and bring representation to minorities whose stories are often never told and rarely seen in mainstream media. It was super important to me to highlight young female voices.”

Ironically, the pandemic helped get Natasha out of her shell, and got companies sliding into her DM’s. Because of the shutdown, Natasha and her sister were insanely bored in the house. Like many others, they had nothing to do while the world waited patiently for COVID-19 to pass. Natasha bought a ton of new clothes before the shutdown and had nowhere to wear them to. For fun and to just pass time, Natasha asked her sister to take pictures of her in her outfits so she could post them on Instagram. The sisters explored all of San Diego for different scenic opportunities, making sure to social distance from others who were also trying to get out of the house for fresh air.

When posting the photos on Instagram, Natasha would make a point to tag where she purchased each item incase people wanted to know where to purchase it. Her main objective was to take cute photos to show off her new outfits since no one she knew in real life would be able to see them. Her love for fashion brings her so much joy because it allows her to feel good in her skin. After a few outfit posts, Forever 21 reached out to her and asked to send her clothes in exchange for content. Natasha couldn’t believe it. She fell into the modeling / influencer world completely by accident! Natasha never planned to go down the influencer route, but believes that the pandemic definitely helped push her in that direction.

Natasha had a previous Instagram account where she would post her occasional selfies. At the time, she was self conscious about her body and was only comfortable with posting her face on social media. Natasha didn’t join Instagram until she was in college because her mom believed it can make you vulnerable to people with ill intentions. So when she started posting her outfits online during the pandemic, she thought nothing of it. She had no intentions on going viral or gaining such a big following. She genuinely didn’t believe that anyone would care to follow her or keep up with her personal life. But after a couple of months of keeping up with her content and posting with Forever 21, Natasha saw a big spike in her following.

“Before becoming a full time content creator/model, I had a small amount of followers just from posting selfies,” Natasha said. “I thought it was cool, but I gave no real thought into this turning into a career. I had gone to school and graduated with a degree that I assumed would help me land a career behind the scenes.”

But Natasha rolled with it anyways. She believed that at the time, she was too naïve to even be skeptical about pursuing modeling and content creating as a career. She was in a place in her life where she just wanted to experiment and test out the waters with what she wanted to do with her life. These opportunities were something new and exciting, something completely out of her comfort zone. Natasha was way too excited and eager to try new things and dive in head first, that she didn’t even have a chance to psyche herself out of it. On top of that, she had a very supportive inner circle. Her friends and family were very supportive and encouraged her to pursue a social media career. Natasha and her sister have bonded over taking photos together. Her sister is the reason why she has so many great shots to choose from.

It was pretty early on when Natasha realized that doors were opening up for her. After posting content for Forever 21, opportunities started coming from left and right. She noticed that her Instagram photos were being used on Forever 21’s website and ads. Brands started reaching out to her because Forever 21 is such a well-known company. “This is just the beginning,” she thought to herself. And she was right. She decided to go for what she wanted – literally. Natasha didn’t wait for certain brands to reach out to her – if she really wanted to work with them, she would reach out to them first. The very first brand she reached out to was Parade because they stood for everything she believed in – inclusivity and diversity.

“I wasn’t nervous at all because I felt I had nothing to lose,” She said. “Even now – you can’t lose something you don’t have. I am a huge believer in shooting your shot because the worse thing that could happen is they say no, but there are always going to be other doors for you. Also, those same people who told you no will come back in the future asking to work with you!”

But Natasha did have that voice in the back of her head telling her that she wasn’t model material. She never thought that she would get into modeling or content creating, so it was hard to see herself in that new light. In the past, she had friends who were already models and content creators, and they pushed her to post more consistently on social media. But she never thought that she could be “that girl.” She didn’t think she had the confidence or “look” to be a model. Natasha was intimidated because she rarely saw girls who looked like her creating content and modeling for well-known brands, so at the time it seemed like a distant fantasy.

However, the pandemic opened up Natasha’s eyes to so many worlds and experiences. She was exposed to so many body positive and curve influencers during lockdown. Seeing people built like her, with similar body types, and not the traditional “model look,” inspired Natasha to change her views of what models can look like. Seeing others be so comfortable in their skin made her embrace her curves and reflect on her internalized fat phobia. This is why Natasha is so passionate about representation. She believes seeing diversity in mainstream media has the power to change one’s mind, opinions, and world view.

Natasha is grateful that she can be that light for others to embrace their bodies and beauty in an industry that is still stingy with representation. She feels so blessed that she has built a platform that people can connect with. It warms her heart to know that she is that person that some women look up to, since she has been in the same position in the past. She still feels like plus-sized women are still very under represented. There have been many times where she feels like the token plus-sized girl in the fashion industry, being used to lure in business from plus-sized people.

“I think that many companies use me and girls who are similar to my body type to be like, ‘Look! We have a plus size girl who is wearing our clothes!!’ ” She said honestly. “Most of the time, these companies only go up to my size and claim that they’re inclusive. If you only go up to a size 14, you are not inclusive and need to reevaluate your entire brand.”

Natasha received many offers from brands to do campaigns. But it wasn’t until she got vaccinated that she did her first campaign with Rue21. It was towards the end of lockdown, a year after she started posting consistent fashion content on her Instagram page. She waited to do in person campaigns because her family wasn’t comfortable with her traveling to LA for work during COVID’s peak. Natasha is still in awe when she sees herself on clothing companies’ websites and social media pages. It’s crazy for her to realize that just 2 years ago, she was buying clothes from these brands and now, she’s one of the faces of their company. She gets emotional because she knows the younger version of herself would be so proud of how far she has come.

Some may find it hard to believe, but Natasha had no prior experience with modeling before she got into the industry. She enjoyed taking pictures with her friends, but the shots were all in lighthearted fun and not considered professional modeling. Like with anything, practice makes perfect. Natasha is still learning to be comfortable in front of the camera and working with other photographers. Some of the tools she uses to better her posing is to have others take photos of her until she feels more relaxed and comfortable, watch YouTube and trendy videos that give tips on how to pose, studying other influencers and models’ photos for inspiration and tips, and always practicing those poses and techniques when she can. It’s not as simple as smiling for a photo, a lot of time, effort, and practice goes into perfecting different shots.

Natasha quickly saw her following on Instagram grow. She was completely shocked, and quite honestly, scared. Suddenly it seemed like all eyes were on her. Natasha jokes that if people really knew how “uncool” she was in real life, they would unfollow her immediately. She’s a very humble individual, and doesn’t think her life is any more or less exciting than the next person, so for a split second, she felt the need to pretend to be cool in front of the camera. She started to second guess how she looked in some photos and the image she wanted people to see online.

There were times where Natasha struggled with finding her own rhythm in posting and caught herself trying to be like other content creators. She felt as though her content had to be a certain way and had to follow the status quo of other influencers. In doing so, she was becoming unhappy with overthinking her posts. She wanted to remain true to herself, but at the same time, she was conflicted with getting too personal with her followers. She considers herself a very private person, so finding the middle ground of sharing just enough so your personality shines through, but at the same time not over sharing was something she had to get used to. The last thing Natasha wanted was for her followers to think that she was an imposter. She found herself going through the motions of imposter syndrome.

She realized that she was becoming consumed with overthinking her online presence. She decided that the best thing to do was simply be herself. She didn’t want to lose track of who she was for the sake of content. Not being herself was mentally exhausting and took away from the fun of creating content. Now, Natasha posts whatever content she wants on her page. She doesn’t like to overanalyze a photo, look at analytics, or overly edit any photos.

Now I just post or share whatever I want. If you like me, that’s cool, but if you don’t – feel free to unfollow. I’m not meant for everyone – no one is, and life’s too short to pretend to be anyone else other than you. I am so grateful for creating the little IG family I have and hope to bring some sort of positivity to the platform by just being myself … When I feel I am being too critical of myself I take a step back from socials. I try to prioritize my mental health above work. If that means deadlines are missed then I will simply notify whoever I am partnering with to let them know. You have to do what makes you happy so figure out what you want and do that. If you need a break, take it! If your hobby turned into a job then make it into something you can enjoy again. Do what you want, whatever that may be.

Natasha Jones

But, influencers are human too, which means there will be times where they’re not in the mood to create and times when they’re experiencing insecurities. Just like any of us, Natasha is juggling a full-time job, social life, home life, relationships, and so on. She is not always in the best spirits when she is on a strict deadline, but she understands that there are deadlines that need to be met. What gets her through these tough moments of finding the motivation to create is knowing that she genuinely enjoys what she does. Natasha sees content creating and modeling as an outlet where she is free to express herself. She describes it as feeling as though she has her own private world where she is in control of the narrative of what others see and know about her.

The fact of the matter is, the public will never know more than the content shared. Natasha still has her moments of feeling insecure, which people would have never gathered from her pictures. Natasha remembers a specific shoot where she didn’t feel confident in herself:

When I first started posing in more revealing outfits, I was not confident. The first lingerie collab I did, I was wearing a two-piece set out in public on the beach. I thought it would be no biggie because I looked up to so many plus size influencers who always wear two pieces out and about. But when I was about to take my photos, I felt so self-conscious. I had never worn a two piece lingerie set nor a two piece bikini in my entire life, yet alone with people around me, and I started crying. But my sister comforted me and talked me through it. I also wanted to go through with it because I had a moment where I was like, ‘Wait… why are you crying? Do it for yourself. Do it for those people you say are beautiful just the way they are.’ On those days I feel low, I always keep in mind I’m doing it for the ones who look up to me. My IG fam means so much to me. I always want to make them feel seen, loved, and confident in who they are.

Natasha Jones

Social media is usually portrayed in a negative way, but Natasha always remembers to embrace all the positive that comes with being a public figure. She is so grateful for her Instagram family and friends. She uses the people that look up to her as motivation to embrace her curves and accept her body for what it is. Natasha celebrates all the women who look like her thriving in all aspects of their lives. She’s constantly amazed with how many kind people she has met who genuinely want to uplift others instead of bringing them down. Instagram has remained a fun outlet for Natasha to express herself, be creative, and have fun!

Natasha gained such a loyal following by reciprocating the love. Her motto is, “give love, receive love.” She always makes a point to answer DM’s and comments on her posts because she appreciates anyone who would take time out of their day to show her some love. She feels a sense of community with her followers and feels as though they are her friends. Natasha does admit that she typically doesn’t respond to men’s DM’s because it makes her uncomfortable. She tried to respond politely to men’s DM’s in the past, but has always ended up regretting it. So, in her comments she’ll usually respond with a “thank you,” and keep it at that. Natasha wants her platform to be a safe space for all women. She loves to see the endless amount of love and support she gets from women all over the world, so she tries her best to maintain a positive space where she feels comfortable interacting with others.

Because she is so dedicated to her followers, Natasha has made it a top priority to only endorse companies that align with her beliefs. She knows that there are a lot of people who look up to her, so she is very careful with what she promotes. Natasha has no problem turning away deals with well-known brands. She has gotten paid offers from companies who sell diet supplements, waist trainers, personal trainers, Botox, and the list goes on. Natasha admits that the money being offered is nice, but not tempting enough for her to support brands that promote fat phobia, capitalize on people’s insecurities, and tell people that they are not good enough by just being themselves. She remains true to herself and her beliefs, and refuses to work with brands who go against everything she supports and believes in.

What many people may not know is the fact that Natasha was a full-time content creator and model during the pandemic, but also juggling a job as a Social Media and Influencer Marketing Coordinator for a San Diego based company as of last year. Natasha’s mom pushed her to get a job to utilize her degree she worked so hard for. Her mother is very supportive of her influencer career, but is also very skeptical. Like any parent, Natasha’s mom just wants to make sure that her daughter is thinking ahead for the future, as content creating can be a very unstable profession. Even though her mom is skeptical, she is very supportive of Natasha becoming a full-time freelancer once she starts seeing consistent big results. Either way, Natasha understands that her mother’s worries come from a place of love.

Since Natasha has a full-time job as Social Media and Influencer Marketing Coordinator, she is constantly juggling both jobs. Throughout the week, she works her 9-5 job that utilizes her college degree, and the weekends are for content creating with her sister. She edits photos throughout the week and preps them for posting usually the day before she posts them. She has not quite found her balance yet, but it has pushed her to learn how to prioritize her time. Natasha is using this time to figure out what career path she would like to test the waters in – as she has both experience behind the scenes and also being in front of the camera.

As she goes on this new journey of balancing out her job behind the scenes and simultaneously pursuing a freelance career, she hopes that she can manifest her dream future. She knows that life is a crazy ride, and you’ll never know where life can take you, but she hopes to work towards her goal of becoming a full-time content creator with no other jobs on the side. She is so grateful for her current job because it allows her to see behind the scenes. It has opened her eyes to the social media industry, which allowed her to learn so many new strategies from a brand perspective that she can apply to her own following. And it has made the obvious more apparent – that her true passion is in content creating.

“I thrive in fast paced environments so I truly feel I have found my passion,” she shared. “I trust  life will take me where I need to go so until then, I’ll just keeping taking everything that comes my way day by day. I strongly believe everything happens how it’s supposed to, so being able to work on both ends of the social media Industry has been a blessing!”

At the start of the pandemic, Natasha had no idea that posting her cute outfits would lead her down this path and open so many doors and opportunities. Her following on social media continues to grow, but she still remains humble. People are starting to recognize her in real life, but Natasha still tends to lay low and doesn’t like to make a big deal of her online fame. The most important lesson that this journey has taught her is to love, accept, and value herself. Growing up, Natasha always strived for perfection. She wanted to fit in and feel accepted. Now, she is content with knowing that it’s perfectly fine to be a work in progress and be yourself. She believes that whatever is meant for you will always find you.

Natasha’s advice to her followers is to always stand up for themselves. She believes it’s important to prioritize your values and beliefs, making sure that the choices you make align with what you truly believe in. She’s a firm believer in following your dreams – even if it means taking a leap of faith! After all, that is how Natasha became a content creator and freelance model. She is so grateful for the community that she has built online. Her goal has always been to celebrate and support women, and her online presence is doing exactly that.

“I want to create a safe place for people to feel like they can be themselves and that they will always be more than enough,” Natasha said. “If people take anything away from my platform, I hope that they know how beautiful they are, just by being who they are. All I want is to be a source of positivity, representation, and maybe some comfort when they’re feeling low. We all have the power to be a light in this world – I just want everyone to recognize that in themselves.”

April: The Scar That Brought Life

Story 9 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 April’s story, written in her own words:

“Before I found out I was pregnant, everyone said I had lost so much weight. The thing is, I didn’t even realize it. I didn’t notice until I physically went to go weigh myself and saw that I was at 115 lbs. when usually, I’m 130-135 lbs. I didn’t notice it until I looked back at pictures and saw how my face lost weight and my clothes looked more loose fitting.

At the time, I’d just moved from San Francisco to Merced in Central Valley. I was born and raised a city girl, so moving to the Valley was a big change for me. I didn’t know a lot of people where I was. I only moved because my boyfriend relocated for work, so I moved out with him to the Valley. It was a whole new world to me, I couldn’t just step out and walk across the street to Mission to check out grocery stores. The place wasn’t my vibe, so I was very depressed. I was home sick. I didn’t have much to do or look forward to.

I was still feeling insecure about my body, still feeling ashamed of my arms, or not having more boobs. Growing up, my idea of a “good body” was to be slim and toned. I was always skinny growing up, I had some fat, but I was more…boney? Haha. It was more because I had a fast metabolism because I would eat a lot if I liked the food. I was – and still am – very picky with food, but when I like it I’ll definitely eat a lot. There weren’t places I was familiar with since we had just recently moved there. I had to eat at different restaurants to finally find the places I liked. It wasn’t so much that I wasn’t that hungry to eat but I didn’t really find places that I liked that much. I’m so picky with food and the variety of choices we have in the Bay Area are endless.

I found out that I lost 15 pounds before I got pregnant. How could I lose that much weight and not even know it? But I still felt uncomfortable with my body thinking I looked fat. I noticed my clothes were getting too big and a little more loose. Especially my bottoms! My jeans or shorts would be loose on my ass and waist area, and I’d be frustrated because I liked to focus on my figure, so accentuating it with clothes meant a lot to me.

When I found out I was pregnant, it was because I was a week late on my period. I was on birth control pills, so I wasn’t sure why I was late. Then I went to take a pregnancy test at Planned Parenthood and they told me I was 5 weeks and a day pregnant. It was bittersweet. I was scared. It wasn’t the right time for a baby. I was more worried about telling my parents and not the actual fact that I was pregnant. I wasn’t working, I moved 3 hours away from home, and now I’m pregnant? Being pregnant just felt like something that would make me a bigger disappointment to them. Not to say a child is a disappointment, but for so many things to not be right, it just wasn’t the right time for a baby. Not at all. I wasn’t working. I wasn’t happy where I was. Let alone my relationship was rocky at the time. It was just NOT the time for a baby.

My belly didn’t start showing until about 4 to 5 months in, which in the beginning kind of sucked because I just looked bloated. I didn’t want to wear fitted clothes in the beginning because I looked like I just got fat. I couldn’t wait to finally show my belly and wear clothes to show it off. To just walk around and be able to show people you really pregnant instead of just a verbal confirmation. When my bump finally started to show, it felt nice to be able to match the whole “I’m having a baby” with a big belly. Just walking around rubbing my belly when it was out there starting to show made me feel closer to my baby.

My wardrobe already had loose clothing. I didn’t really buy any specifically for maternity clothes, I just used whatever I had. My clothes were starting to fit tighter just around my belly. It was nice, but also frustrating at the same time because the time it took for me to find clothes that I felt good in was difficult. I wanted to show my belly but a lot of my clothes weren’t appealing to me on my body. I expected the physical aspects of pregnancy, but not the mental or emotional aspects.

I knew I would be insecure about my stretch marks so I got cream early on. To me, they just looked like scratches. I didn’t want them on me. I’m already a little dark, so the stretch marks would be darker and show more. I looked so hard for cream. But to be honest, I only used it a few times and didn’t even remember about putting it on. In the end, it wasn’t that important to me anymore to fit into my routine.

My whole “pregnancy plan” didn’t go as planned at all. I always thought when I became pregnant one day that I’ll be close to my family, but I was a 3 hour drive away. I thought I’d go out more, but I wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere, especially in the heat. A lot of my experiences during pregnancy were the complete opposite of what I had envisioned, which just goes to show you that you can’t always plan for this shit. I always had an ideal pregnancy, even before I got pregnant. I wanted to experience a natural vaginal birth. A C-section is a major surgery, and I never wanted the scar from it. From what I’ve heard and read, a vaginal birth is easier recovery, gave the mother more control over the birth, and I felt like it would give me and my child a deeper connection if I physically pushed him out of me.

We had gone to an ultrasound where we found out my son was frank breeched, meaning the baby’s bottom is down and his feet are by his face. The doctor told me that if he doesn’t flip head first by 38 weeks, we would need to speak about the next steps. I was around 32-34 weeks when they told me, and they say that babies usually turn on their own around 36-37 weeks. Mind you, I always said how stubborn my son was during my entire pregnancy. We had paid for 2 ultrasounds, 1 to see gender and the other to get a 4D image of him a few weeks before his arrival. He would always cover his face! When they tried to find out the gender, he wouldn’t move or turn. So of course, when we get to my 38th week ultrasound, he’s still in a frank breech position.

I was told I would need a C-section, but I also had an option to try an ECV procedure. An ECV procedure is when the doctors push on your abdomen to try to turn the baby from a breech position to a head down position, so that’s a whole 180 degrees. I went in for the procedure, and at first there was one OB doctor trying to push and turn him. Then she called for another doctor to help. I can’t lie, it was painful, but I was willing to go through it to hopefully get him to turn, but he didn’t. That’s when I decided a C-section was going to be the way to go. Choosing to have the C-section was a selfless act because it wasn’t what I wanted or planned for me, but it was the only safe decision with birthing my son.

I don’t think I failed as a mom because I didn’t have a vaginal birth. I still birthed a healthy human being. I just didn’t get to experience the birth plan I had in mind. We focus so much more on how we want to give birth, instead of just appreciating that our bodies are growing a child inside of us. We aim towards having the birth plan we wanted, and if it doesn’t happen, it just brings us down, which isn’t good for the mothers or the baby. I was more afraid of the surgery itself. A lot can go wrong during any surgery, so I was very anxious about it. What if the epidural doesn’t work and I feel everything? What if something goes wrong during the procedure itself? What if something happens to my baby? There were just a lot of unknown questions that were scary about the surgery.

I got a call from my OB about my C-section schedule. I was getting my nails done when he called to schedule it for Thursday, September 19th, 2019. That was only a week away. That’s when it hit me: shit was getting real and we were really about to have a baby. I called everyone to let them know that it was scheduled. Everyone was sending their prayers and well wishes that everything would go smoothly.

It’s delivery day! My C-section was scheduled for 10am, so we had to be there a few hours earlier. But when we got there they were behind on surgeries so it got pushed to 12. The anesthesiologist comes in and has me sit still in order to administer the epidural. They had asked me what music I wanted during the procedure, and I said 90’s R&B. I thought that was pretty cool to be able to choose the music playing, it just set the vibe for it all.

My doctor makes the incision and I just feel pressure and pulling. It doesn’t hurt, it just feels weird because they’re tugging at your insides. The doctor pulls and pulls, and out he came! Jalen had his umbilical cord wrapped twice around his neck which the doctor said may have been the reason he didn’t flip inside my womb. But then we hear his cry, and we have a healthy 21 inch, 7lbs 8oz baby boy at 12:55pm. We were in the procedure room since 12pm.

When Jav handed him to me, I didn’t cry. I shed a tear, but I didn’t really cry like how some moms usually say they do, or even what I actually expected of myself. I thought I’d be bawling. All I did was shed a tear. I always felt guilty for that. It made me think ‘does this mean I don’t love my son enough because I didn’t get that emotion?’ It wasn’t until recently where I realized I was just in complete shock. My mind and body had just gone through a whole different experience that I wasn’t really prepared for, like yeah you can study up on what to do but you won’t know what outcomes it’ll bring.

Recovery after my C-section was difficult. I couldn’t even wash or bathe myself, my boyfriend had to do it. Imagine being so strong, enough to birth your child but not be able to clean yourself? It was uncomfortable, but it was so hard for me to bend or move at all because of my cut. I felt so unlike myself and hated that I needed my boyfriend’s help to clean, bathe, and wash myself. He was basically my hands and feet for me. I was grateful for it, but I just wish I could’ve done it for myself. I didn’t like not being able to care for myself. I couldn’t walk for long periods of time and was in so much pain, but walking was part of being able to recover.

Don’t believe people when they say that C-sections aren’t considered real births. Your body physically brought a child into this world, it’s real. It’s not easy. The process, the recovery, the postpartum, it won’t be easy but it’ll be worth the pain, vulnerability, and sleepless nights. Accept the help that people are willing to give you. You just went through a major surgery, it doesn’t make you a bad mom to say you need a break to rest your body while someone cares for your baby. I’ve personally turned some help down, but I get it. You can’t really just mentally and physically walk away for a little bit and focus on yourself because you have someone who depends on you now. But you also won’t get through your recovery if you don’t rest and take care of yourself as well.

In the beginning, the cut was still tender to the touch. I still felt the pain of it so I noticed it way more. I guess you can say I’m kind of a perfectionist, so if shit doesn’t go my way or look right, it gives me anxiety. I didn’t feel like my body looked the way I wanted it to. I knew I’d always have the scar, but I just wanted to see if I could lighten the scar a little bit. But now that I think about it, I obviously didn’t care that much because I didn’t end up buying any cream. I don’t regret having negative feelings about my scar because it made me realize that the appearance of it didn’t matter. No one cares that it’s there because it’s part of my birth story – every mother has one and everyone’s story is different. It’s the story behind the scar, the first selfless act I had to make for my son. A permanent scar to show that I was cut open layers deep with my insides being moved around for the doctor to remove my son. Now I have the greatest joy of my life.

Sometimes I would find myself comparing my body to other moms and their recovery, not even knowing their birth story. But it made me feel down that I didn’t have the energy to exercise or work on my body. I appreciate and have a new found respect for what our bodies can go through as women. To be able to recover and push through, to birth, and raising our little one. I used to just dress with baggy clothing in the beginning of my pregnancy and didn’t like to show too much skin. Some days I’ll look at myself in the mirror, analyze how my body looks lately, and when I’m feeling down about my body, I’ll wear baggy clothes so I don’t show my arms, or wear a t-shirt instead of a crop top because I don’t wanna show my stomach. On days I feel insecure, I mostly try to hide my body. But then there are also days where I’m so proud to have the figure I have even as a mom.

I guess I just moved on from the idea that I have to look a certain way because I’m still young. I didn’t just wake up one morning and was super confident in how I look. I still have my vulnerable days but I’ve started buying more fitted clothes, more crop tops, and clothes that I actually used to wear before I was a mom. I tried to box myself in with what styles to wear to be conservative because I’m a mom, and now I just want to look good for myself and feel comfortable and confident in what I’m wearing.

You can imagine an “ideal pregnancy and birth story” but there’s so much that you don’t know that can happen until that moment, until it happens to you. We are all mothers. No matter what our birth story was, is, or will be. If you focus so hard on what you want and imagine to happen, you won’t appreciate what’s actually happening, you’ll probably even resent the experience because it wasn’t what you expected. But the whole experience is a beautiful gift, you’re bringing a new life into the world. Once you have your baby in your arms you won’t even be so focused on how it came about, you’ll just be grateful, full of joy, and filled with unconditional love.

Don’t compare yourself to other moms. You don’t know what they experienced mentally and physically with their own birth and recovery. Our bodies are all different. Be patient with your mind and body, only you will know what you can take. Be patient with yourself. Recovery isn’t easy and dealing with a newborn is even harder. It takes time to get into your own rhythm and balance that works for you. It’s not about you losing weight, it’s about accepting the body that brought your child into this world.” -April

Ayla: My Body Is Allowed To Change

Story 8 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 Ayla’s story, written in her own words:

“Growing up I would constantly compare myself to my older sister, she was shorter and more petite than I was (and still is). She ran cross country, had a thigh gap, and abs in middle school. Next to her I felt tall and ugly, however, I didn’t know how to express this feeling other than becoming painfully shy. It wasn’t until high school that I became more social and looked at my body differently. I never thought of myself as skinny because the standard of thin was ridiculous in the early 2000’s, but two memories have stayed with me and have shaped my body image. The first came from my older sister. She was commenting on how I had a tummy and how I should learn to ‘suck it in’ so it would look flat. She said I should do this ‘all the time.’ The next incident happened in 11th grade while getting ready for a party. I put on a crop top with low-waisted jeans (of course) and asked my ‘friends’ if I looked fat. None of the girls said anything at first then one responded that I was a little fat and had an overhanging tummy. The idea that my friends thought my body was too big (even if now looking back it was the skinniest I’ve ever been) and I actually shouldn’t show my stomach hurt, at this time I began to view myself as the ‘bigger’ friend not only because I was tall, but now because I knew my friends thought of me as larger than they were. At this time I began to develop body dysmorphia, it got worse when I started comparing myself to other women’s bodies more and more.  

It wasn’t until college that I began viewing my body differently and it was at this time that I discovered the body positivity movement. I was first exposed through Instagram with the model, Ashley Graham, and singer/influencer, Lizzo. They were so unapologetically plus size – I felt inspired! It made me feel better to realize that other women were living comfortably in their own skin. I began to buy clothes that didn’t just make my body look a certain way or I’d fit into when I lost more weight. I bought things that felt good and fit my body! Finding the right clothes remains a challenge for me because of my height, I’m 5’11, so I have to purchase all my jeans online in the ‘Tall’ section of stores and often tops that flatter other people don’t fit me at all! Instead of trying to fit my broad shoulders into the dainty blouses that were currently trending in fashion, I began to shop for what flattered my body. If I could give one piece of advice it would be to stop following trends and start shopping for what feels, looks and is comfortable on you! Although Instagram helped me discover the body positive movement, there was a negative side to the app. I found myself scrolling for hours on models like Emily Ratajkowski and comparing myself to impossible standards, on some level it has destroyed how I view myself. 

The ‘perfect’ body being pushed on Instagram is entangled in the ever changing mainstream media portrayal of how women should look. More recently I have realized that the standard of beauty is so unattainable because convincing women that they are ugly is an entire market, selling makeup, surgeries, injections, skincare and more is a billion dollar industry! If we began to accept and radically love ourselves, then many rich and predominantly white men would lose many millions. However, knowing this doesn’t change the fact that I am still struggling, loving, accepting and living with my body to this day.

In order to change my mindset, I began confronting my body dysmorphia and all that came along with it. I began nourishing my body when I was hungry and not waiting hours until I was starving. I stopped forcing myself to feel guilty if I didn’t workout every day, and told myself to stop the self-degradation -something I’m still working on. For over five years now, I have been struggling and working every day to develop a healthy relationship with food. However, I often go days eating very little, then suddenly binge 2,000 or more calories at night and feel awful about it. My unhealthy relationship with food began in college when I left home and had to take full control over my diet. It was difficult for me to eat three meals a day and it was during this time that I developed an eating disorder that lasted me a little over a year.

My freshman year of college, I would skip meals, eat laxatives, and even take pain meds to curb hunger. I am 5’11, and at my worst, I weighed under 120 lbs. I did this because I associated being skinny with being beautiful. People began commenting on my health and were visibly concerned for my well-being. I remember my boyfriend saying he wanted to see me eat a burger and my grandma encouraging me to have some potato chips. However, it took being constantly weak, often blacking out when I stood up, and being cold all the time to end a year of disordered eating. Since then, finding a balanced and healthy relationship with food is something I am still working on, but it has gotten a lot better over the past six years. 

My relationship with food went from counting calories, only eating when I was starving, always talking about my body, food, and dieting, to eating when I am hungry, treating myself to desserts when I want, and not feeling guilty when I have a burger! There were a few things that led me to accepting my body. The first was when I realized that I would be in this body for the rest of my life and loving it would only make me more beautiful, not less. The next step I took to realizing I had an eating disorder and body dysmorphia was to change my focus to what I loved about my body, not what I hated. I began to appreciate my long legs, my nose that is similar to my cousins and reminds me of my family, belly button and belly ring, smile, and teeth! 

Another step I’ve taken in order to heal my eating disorder and body dysmorphia has been to unfollow Instagram accounts that make me feel bad about my body. Before I go any further with this I’d like to say that I am all for anyone and everyone getting cosmetic surgeries and have nothing against it. However, when influencers post on their pages advertising a product, for example waist trainers, flat tummy tea, etc., when they themselves have had work done and didn’t get their body from those products, it is extremely damaging for mental health. Someone who has had liposuction and a BBL should not be telling their audience that they got their body from a supplement! This is why I have unfollowed and cleaned up my Instagram from influences who lie or omit the truth of where their amazing bodies came from, obviously photoshop their pictures, or advertise a lifestyle that is unrealistic and that they themselves don’t even live. By not seeing these images everyday and replacing them with real women bodies I became happier with my own. 

The last thing I did in order to change the perception I had of my body image was to sometimes take down any full-length mirrors I had around the house. I’ve realized that my body is the LEAST interesting thing about me. I am multifaceted, and getting to know other parts of myself is self-love! By removing the reflection of my body, I have been able to explore so many more positive parts of me, instead of spending an hour in front of the mirror analyzing all the things I dislike about myself. I began to use my time journaling, doing yoga, cooking healthy foods, and spending time with close friends. I no longer associate beauty with having a flat stomach and being thin – beauty is how I make others feel, beauty is my uniqueness, and beauty has no real definition. After discovering the body positivity community, I have moved my focus off of my physical appearance. I began to judge my body less, treat it more gently, and really discover what self love is. 

The body positivity movement was founded by black plus size women, they paved the way for a more inclusive fashion industry, better acceptance of mental health, and helped me change my own personal body image. Although I am not black or plus size, the body positivity movement has helped me lessen my body dysmorphia and taught me to unconditionally love my body. Everyone’s journey with their body is different. Some days, I don’t want to look in the mirror or resent how I look from every angle. What the movement has taught me though is that my body is mine for the rest of my life. It will carry me from birth to death and nourishing it with positive thoughts and actions will let me be my best self. 

Something I’d like readers to know is that I am tall, white, and stereotypically pretty. I have benefitted from privilege in one way or another my entire life. However, I didn’t think I was beautiful most of my 24 years, and that is what society wants. They want you to feel ugly so they can sell you makeup, feel fat so they can sell you a diet, and feel undesirable so they can sell you a new outfit. None of those things has helped me love myself. Accepting who I am has come from words of affirmation, conversations with close friends, and feeling confident in comfortable clothing! If you are struggling with body dysmorphia, sometimes the hardest part can be realizing and accepting that there is a problem with how you view your body. However, once you acknowledge that you are worthy and so much more than just your physical appearance there is a whole community ready to welcome you! I’d like to finish with one of my favorite quotes; ‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.’ – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.-Ayla

Allysa: To The Girl I Once Was

Story 7 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 Allysa’s story, edited by Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory:

“Dear Allysa,

I know you hate your body now, and you think you need to have a “perfect body” like you see all over social media. You also feel lost and stuck in your body because you just won’t accept it. You think about your body negatively, but that’s okay. You are going to realize that the “perfect body” comes in different shapes and sizes no matter how much you doubt yourself and the body you’re in. You are too focused on social media’s definition of a “perfect body,” and you keep asking yourself, “why can’t my body be like that.” You grew up thinking like that and it made you think that’s the only body type out there. You’re struggling with looking for clothes that fit you or what you’re comfortable in. You can’t get the clothes you want because you are afraid of what people think of you. You have to get oversized clothes to be comfortable because you don’t want people to make fun of your body.

The question is, “what is the definition of true beauty?” You’ll finally realize that “true beauty” comes in ALL shapes and sizes. Always keep that in mind because your body is beautiful just the way it is. 

Your current relationship with food is not the best. You binge eat every 1-2 hours because you are going through anxiety and depression, making you feel stressed out and confused. You think binge eating will help you get through all of the problems you are facing, but it won’t. You’re seeing your body and face changing because you binge eat. It’s to the point where you’re not comfortable taking pictures of yourself because you don’t like how you look. You’re too focused on what your body should be, even though you know it’s not good for you. You’re skipping some meals because you think it will help you lose weight, but it won’t help you mentally or emotionally. Even though food is good, you think you can’t control your eating habits. But the truth is you can control your eating habits if you believe in yourself. 

I know you’re going through countless mental breakdowns where you start to doubt yourself – from your body to your future. Your mental breakdowns have made a huge impact on your eating habits. 2018 will be the most traumatic year of your life because you are going to go through depression and anxiety. You will lose yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally. The real reason why you are going through mental breakdowns is because you are still grieving the death of your cousin, who you loved so much. You have a special bond with her & she inspires you to follow your dreams. She is still your light whenever you see her smile or her face. Right now, you can’t accept that she is gone and you feel empty inside because her presence is not with you anymore. But try to remember that she will always be watching over you and you’re doing everything you can to keep her spirit alive.

You just sit and cry when you want to be alone, and think that no one is going to help you. You say, “what am I going to do?” and think no one is going to understand what you’re going through. You keep blaming God for taking your cousin away so soon. But that’s not the case, you know your cousin fought for her life. She was strong & brave after all she had to go through. You’re not comfortable opening up about your mental breakdowns to anyone yet, that’s okay. But keeping your mental breakdowns to yourself is very unhealthy. You will realize that you can’t help yourself unless you have people helping and guiding you through it. 

You’re thinking about who you can talk to about your emotional breakdowns. You start to think of who you can trust that will help you, people that have always been there for you, even at your lowest. You’ll turn to your Godsister, Ezra, & your best friend, Janine, because they’re the only ones who have been there for you since the beginning. But how do you tell them? You need someone to be by your side through all of this. Once you reach out to them, they’ll completely uplift you. They tell you that they believe in you, which motivates you to be the best version of yourself. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where you’d be. After some time, you’ll finally have motivation and words of wisdom to finally realize that you are worth it and enough to be in this world.

2019 is the year that your life changes. That is the year you focus on yourself. You’ll finally accept who you truly are because you will learn that only you know the real you. So don’t put yourself down just because you don’t like how you look right now. You’ll finally find yourself by changing your eating and exercising habits. You start to journal, where you write about your day and all the things you like about yourself. You’ll start to portion out your food and drink more water. You’ll make working out a daily routine. Losing weight will make you proud of your hard work, it will boost up how you see your body, and you’ll gain confidence. The amazing thing is you did everything for yourself. You’ll start to believe that you are enough.

You’ll get back into dancing, and it’ll make you feel more confident. You’ve been dancing since 15 years old and your dream has always been to be a professional dancer. You stopped dancing at 19 years old because you didn’t like how you performed at a birthday event. Giving up dancing was hard for you because you loved it so much. Dance is how you expressed all of your feelings, but you felt like it was not going to take you anywhere in life. But how would you know? It’s okay to doubt yourself sometimes, but what’s not okay is quitting on yourself and what you love doing. If only you knew that right now, in the present day, you are pursing your dreams in becoming a professional dancer, and you’ll soon move to Los Angeles.

I want to apologize for how I treated you. I’m sorry for not believing in you. I’m sorry for the way I thought about our body- being too focused on what our body “should be,” not what it truly is. You are going to be so proud of the Allysa now, because you have come so far.” -Allysa

Trixi: My Post-Bodybuilding Journey to Intuitive Eating

Story 4 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 Trixi’s story, written in her own words:

“Growing up in a stereotypical Asian household, I was expected to be above average. I had to be better than the best. I always felt like I had to give 110% percent to prove that I am worthy. Anything less than perfect made me feel like a failure. I meticulously planned and created lists to make sure I got into a good college, and secure a job after. I took the advanced classes, became board members for clubs, and made myself look like the best candidate in writing. The last thing I wanted was for my parents to think I was slacking. 

So ever since I can remember, self-doubt loomed over me like a dark cloud. I always had negative thoughts in my head telling me I couldn’t achieve anything even if I tried my best. After graduating college, I expected the negative thoughts would die down, but they continued to weigh down on me. Regardless of what I achieved, I still felt like I didn’t accomplish enough. 

Then, I decided I was over it!!! To overcome my insecurities and prove to myself I was capable, I decided that I would complete a challenge soo hard that if I achieved it, it would immediately squash all the negative notions I had about myself. This was the very first challenge I took on for me, and not anyone else. I was so used to performing to meet the expectations of others, but this is something that I wanted to do for myself. 

Disclaimer: We are not defined by our achievements! We are all inherently worthy. But, I didn’t know that then. lol So in June 2019, I signed up to compete in my very first bikini bodybuilding competition…and this is where the plot thickens: what I initially thought was simply a test to boost my self-esteem turned out to be the beginning of my body positivity journey and healing my relationship with food.

For 6 months, I followed a strict meal plan and training regimen. I completely cut out sugar and dairy (two of my fave things), I drank 1.5 gallons of water a day (which was already a challenge in and of itself) and gosh, I said no to pad thai more times than I can count, and I fucking love pad thai. Training included fasted cardio in the morning, about 2 hours of training in the evening, followed by 30 mins of post-training cardio. In addition to changing my physical activity and nutrition habits, I had to learn to better manage my money (cause bodybuilding ain’t cheap) and my time to juggle a full time job and somewhat have a social life.

I took it day by day. I showed up and eventually these tasks became habits. I began to see myself as an athlete and I started to believe that I could really win this competition. There were a lot of temptations (food, drinking, sleeping in). Executing the plan wasn’t easy, but making the right decision was simple. I know that most may have difficulty with following very strict rules but having a plan and checking off boxes was what I was used to. I had the mentality of “If I want this, then I have to do that”. And if I don’t, I won’t get it. This time, the goal was to win, and all I had to do was to execute the clear-cut plan that was given to me.

November rolled around and it was finally competition day. I placed 1st in True Novice, 2nd in Novice, and 4th in Open. But regardless of my placing, I already felt like a winner. I proved to myself that I was strong, I can show up no matter what, no excuses. Even before I hit the stage, I was so proud of what I accomplished. I didn’t even care if I didn’t win or not. No judge could have told me that I didn’t bust my ass to get here! While bodybuilding helped me gain confidence, it also brought to light my complicated relationship with food.

After my competition, my training and meal plan became more flexible. But this flexibility really threw me off. When I stuck with my meal plan, I wondered if I was being too strict, and not giving myself time to enjoy food. When I did enjoy food, I wondered if I was letting myself go. I fell in a loop. My mind would switch between “Follow your meal plan or else you’ll gain weight too quickly” then restrict myself from eating anything “bad”. But then I would think, “Enjoy some treats! Live your life!” and I would binge. I would eat and eat, waiting for my stomach to tell me that I was full, but it felt like my stomach was a bottomless pit that was impossible to satiate. I was waiting for my brain to tell me, “ok that’s enough,” but it never came.

This battle led me to explore my eating habits growing up. When my family went to restaurants, we would always order like an insane amount of food and get absolutely stuffed! Even when we were so full that we could barely breathe, we always made room for dessert. “Food is nourishment!” they justified. But rather than focusing on nutrition, food was mainly for comfort and celebration. Even when my body told me to stop eating, I ignored all satiety signals to continue celebrating. So even before bodybuilding, my satiety cues were practically nonexistent.

The cycle went on for two months. Restrict and binge. Restrict and binge. Restrict harder, binger harder. I looked in the mirror and saw I was no longer lean. Looking back, I didn’t gain much weight but at the time I hated what I saw. I felt big, I felt out of control. Mentally, I was slipping.

I knew this eating pattern was unhealthy but I felt like I couldn’t get out of it. It got to a point where I no longer trusted myself; the body that once triumphed on stage was now failing me. It felt like my body was hijacked by something else, and I was stuck in this vessel, just watching myself derail. Naturally, the scale started to go up and I felt like I was gaining weight all wrong. I spent so much time looking at myself in the mirror and criticizing myself. Front angle, side angle. I would hold and pinch my fat, wishing I was lean again because lean meant I embodied discipline and hard work. It meant that my behavior aligned with my goals. Back then, the goal was to get lean to win a competition. Now, the goal was to live a balanced and healthy lifestyle, but I had no clue what that meant! It isn’t so straightforward. There is no clear-cut plan for that.

People began to notice that I refused to eat and drink anything that wasn’t outside my meal plan. Comments like “Just one bite won’t hurt!” and “It’s only one shot” really bothered me, because at the time, I felt like one bite or one shot can really ruin my body. Following my meal plan gave me a false sense of security, and I didn’t know how to transition out of it post-competition. 

Christmas was my all-time favorite holiday, but that year, I dreaded it. Thinking about all the food that will be at parties gave me so much anxiety. And just my luck, that year, our annual Christmas potluck was held at my apartment. Even at my own party, I was so scared to eat the “wrong” thing. I felt overwhelmed and paralyzed, but on the outside, I pretended I was okay with not eating or drinking anything. I tied so much of my identity to being disciplined and put together that I was terrified my friends would find out the confident athlete they saw on stage just a few months ago wasn’t there anymore.

That night, I eventually caved. I started to eat, and again, I couldn’t stop. By the end of the night, I felt so uncomfortable that I went to my room to change to less fitting clothes. When I took off my shirt and saw how bloated I was, the self-loathe set in and I started to cry. Never in a million years did I think I would develop body dysmorphia. I was 10lb up my stage weight which actually put me in a healthier weight, but in my eyes, I gained too much. I hated myself for being out of control and I hated myself for having such a fucked-up relationship with food. I felt disconnected with myself and with others. I felt alone and overall a fucking mess.

My friends saw me breakdown. “I didn’t want you guys to judge me.” I admitted shamefully. But as one of my friends put it, “The people who love you will always be there for you unconditionally, and the people who do judge don’t matter.” Seeing my friends concerned was my wake up call.

After that night, I decided it was time to heal my relationship with food. The first step I took was to destigmatize foods as being either “good” or “bad.” I learned that restricting myself was just as harmful as indulging which often led me to binge. Opening myself to all foods lifted constraining thoughts. After this shift in mindset, I felt liberated and empowered to trust myself again.

Next, I adjusted my eating habits to not only be healthy but also sustainable. Fitness is a huge part of my life and to improve my performance, I need to fuel my body properly. At the same time, I love to hang out with friends over drinks, and eat with my family at the dinner table. Finding balance was a whole lot of trial and error. Eventually I learned I feel my best when I eat nutritious foods about 80% of the time. I meal prep most of my food and occasionally I use Door Dash (aka my best friend during quarantine). This may not work for everyone. It is completely subjective and depends on your own goals and lifestyle. 

Lastly, I evaluated and reset my intentions. I learned that my beliefs around food were rooted in self-loathe and punishment. I felt like I had to be perfect all the time or else my efforts didn’t count. It was an all-or-nothing mentality. Now, I see it as a journey of self-discovery. I know that I am going to slip up occasionally, and that’s okay! I have learned to respect my body and to love myself no matter what stage I’m in. If I am making an effort to honor my body, I know I am on the right path.

Despite the mental roller coaster that bodybuilding put me through, I would still compete again. I came in with the intention to build trust in myself, and looking back, it taught me to do just that and more. Next time around, I won’t be competing to prove I am enough, but simply for the fun of improving in this sport. I’ll be coming back with a better mindset, and a healthier relationship with food. It’s been a year and a half since my competition, and I am just now feeling comfortable with my eating habits and my ever changing appearance. While my relationship with food is a work in progress, I am really proud of how far I’ve come.” -Trixi

Alisa: The Insecurity Within

Story 3 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 Alisa’s story, written in her own words:

“I’m Alisa Nguyen-Le, and I’m a 4’11” half white, half Vietnamese cisgendered woman. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with insecurities around my short height, acne, and weight. To this day, I am working towards accepting and loving parts of myself that I once would grimace at. The journey of embracing body positivity and unlearning societal beauty standards is not easy, but to me, it’s crucial in order to live a truly fulfilling life. That is why this project spoke to me so much. 

Around the age of puberty, I started breaking out with severe acne and developed a hatred towards the way my face looked. From once being called pepperoni face to my family always commenting on my skin, I never wanted people to look at my face. Every time I would look in the mirror, all I could see was my pimples and my scars. Because of the insecurity of having acne, I started wearing makeup when I was in the eighth grade to cover up my blemishes. In high school, I would put on a full face of makeup every single day to make me feel more confident and mask my insecurities I was having. When I put on makeup, I felt like a different, more likeable person. It hurt to look at myself in the mirror, and it was impossible to tell myself that I was beautiful unless I had a full face of makeup on.

On top of that, growing up in a community that was predominantly Asian, I always wanted to look more like my Asian side to fit in. With makeup, I felt as if I could alter my looks to be more of the person I wanted to be. When I would look in the mirror, the voice in my head would criticize everything I saw including the paleness of my skin, my acne, my sparse brows, my small lips, and my baby face. After I started to take birth control in college, I began noticing that my skin was getting better. Despite my acne improving, I still felt a lingering insecurity inside of me. I started to realize that the way I felt about myself was internal and that I had the power to change the narrative in my head. When I started to feel “ugly”, I would tell myself that no two people in this world are exactly alike and to embrace the face that nature had given me. By making this a mindful practice in my life, I slowly started becoming more confident in going outside without makeup at all. Finally, I was finally able to tell myself I was beautiful naturally.

Despite my progress in accepting my natural face, I also started to notice my body shape changing after beginning to take birth control. I was gaining weight. In the past, I would be able to eat whatever I wanted without gaining any weight. I would eat a lot and enjoy every moment of it. However, this started to change dramatically, and I started to tell myself that I couldn’t eat the way I used to. I began to feel insecure about the way my body looked, especially when wearing a bathing suit. My thighs were getting thicker, and I started to gain more fat on my stomach. I started to label my arms as flabby and would suck in my stomach when taking photos. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I felt like I was in someone else’s body. At the time, I was with my now ex-boyfriend and genuinely feared he wouldn’t want to be with me anymore because of the way my body was changing. I would discreetly throw in comments to hopefully receive compliments and validation from him to help make me feel worthy enough. This was also when Instagram influencers started to become more prevalent, and I started developing a habit of comparing myself to more fit, pretty, and skinny girls I saw online. I started going to the gym more regularly, and though it made me feel better, I started to base my self worth on whether or not I gymmed.

To this day, I struggle with only wanting to wear one-piece bathing suits (if I have to wear one), not wanting to wear outfits that show my arms, and avoiding crop tops (even though I love the look) to avoid feeling embarrassed over what people can see behind the fabric. I have fears that folks from high school will see photos of how I look now and think, “wow, she’s thickened,” or “Alisa let herself go.” It’s tough when I look in the mirror, and I’ll think I look good, but when I see myself in photos from the same day, I feel repulsed at how “fat” I look. I’ll genuinely question, “is this really how other people see me?”. During January 2020 (right before the pandemic), I went on a trip to Hawaii. I hated almost every single photo of myself in my bathing suit. After this trip, I told myself that I wanted to make some significant changes in my life to lose weight. I wanted to gym more aggressively, and I wanted to change my diet. I had seen other people try a keto diet and saw that it worked for them, so I told myself that I wanted to give it a try too. Although I started somewhat strong, I quickly started developing my old habits of eating carbs (mind you, I’m a huge foodie and love all foods, so this was incredibly challenging for me). My failed diet made me feel like a failure as a person. 

When the pandemic hit, and gyms started closing, I honestly felt a bit of relief. Relief that I wouldn’t have the pressure of physically going to the gym. I also started to not feel as poorly about not sticking with my diet as my mind had shifted from being hyper-aware of how I looked to getting acclimated to “the new normal” of the pandemic. Although I always knew in the back of my mind that I had an unhealthy obsession with the gym, I never did anything about it. This changed dramatically during lockdown. After having no other choice but to sit down and reflect on what really mattered to me, I deprioritized my looks and shifted my focus to my health and the health of my loved ones. I also began to hear people talk about “quarantine weight,” which made me feel better knowing that other people were on their journeys. Now, my focus is to try to take care of my mind, body, and spirit. If I work out one night, then great. If I don’t, I try not to dwell on it. If I feel like eating something, I will try my best not to feel guilty about it. Of course, I’m a believer in “everything in moderation,” but I recognize it’s natural for things to become unbalanced from time to time. 

It’s a life-long process, and I wish I could say I’ve moved past this internal battle with myself. Because of this internal battle, there are times where I feel like my obsession with exercising manifested itself into an obsession with at-home workouts. There are also times when I fear that I will develop the same obsession I had with the gym pre-covid life. However, in those moments, I have to remind myself not to be too hard on myself. When I die, I know people won’t remember me for how I looked on Instagram photos, but rather who I am as a person and how I made others feel. When I do feel my insecure mindset starting to creep up, I try to remind myself to channel that energy onto uplifting affirmations instead. I tell myself that everyone is beautiful the way they are, and everyone is on their self-love journey. I tell myself that it’s okay if I don’t look like the model girls I see on Instagram. I tell myself that people love me unconditionally, regardless of how I look. I tell myself that I am beautiful, even if it’s hard to believe at the moment. I know the journey of self-love is difficult, painful, and sometimes almost impossible to endure. However, through resilience and strength, I have faith that everyone will be able to see their natural-born beauty and embrace who they are inside and out. As we live in a digital world, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in beauty standards from what we see on the screen. I think it’s important to remind ourselves that what we see online is curated and does not always reflect reality. However, social media isn’t always negative, and it gives me hope and inspiration to see more body-positive activists spread the message that everyone is beautiful in their own way. 

Although the “body positive” movement is often associated with advocating for bigger bodies in the media (which is absolutely necessary), I hope that one day, the stories of all body types will be shared. It’s important for all people to tell their story so our society becomes more understanding and empathetic of the people we surround ourselves with. For anyone else struggling with their body image, I want you to know that you are loved for who you are, regardless of what you look like. You are beautiful and unique. You are strong and will get through these challenges. If there is one thing that you take away from this story, please remember that you are not alone and we are in this together. You are one of a kind and there will never be someone exactly like you. Embrace it.”

-Alisa

Lorna: Being My Own Hype-Woman

Story 2 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 Lorna’s story, written in her own words:

“Growing up, I have always been a big girl. The tallest in my class, the thickest dancer in the back, and the biggest center on the court. At a very young age, I thought that because I was Samoan and Tongan, that was immediately why I was so big. I had a love hate relationship with my body because I did love my body, but I believed everything that people told me about my body, too. As much as I try to be my biggest supporter, everyone has their bad days. 

Sometimes I return a joke with a joke, but when I was younger, there were some incidents where my temper stole the best of me. There was a time where this one girl in my class was going to tell another girl that I was rolling my skirt up and didn’t wear a shirt underneath my uniform sweatshirt cause I was sweaty. The first thing I thought of was to throw a slightly filled gatorade bottle at her to stop her, but instead ended up hitting the girl she was going to tell and gave her a huge bump on her head. Another incident, I threw a volleyball at a group of boys because they were teasing me during our basketball game at recess, calling me a “beast” with a negative snare. I smacked one of them right on their face and when he got up, it looked like he was literally seeing stars and he had the volleyball imprint on his face. Another incident and my favorite was when I was just starting to learn how to play basketball and I also had just transferred to a new school. The girls in my grade would make fun of me because of the way I would jump stop, pivot, shoot, and run, because just like everyone else who starts something new, I was just learning— so I probably did look silly at first. Well, because I was so big, my coach wanted me to be the “big man” on the court and focus on playing defense. At this moment, I was getting frustrated with the girls judging me and my coach telling me what to do. The coach’s daughter was driving the ball down the court, and I wanted to do something right, so I attempted to block her shot but ended up tackling her through the gym doors. Needless to say, the girls stopped teasing me during practice, and I practiced sportsmanship with every game from that day forward by helping opponent players up off the floor, after knocking them down and fouling them. 

As a middle schooler, I was size 14 in dress and size 10 in shoes. I was wearing junior clothes and 4-inch heels because I stopped fitting into the girls’ stores, like Limited Too, at the age of 9 when puberty hit me. My mom knew my personality was bright and reckless so she supported my style of wearing “actually cute” clothes that accented my boobs and big butt. But as much as I loved my body, there was always someone in my ear trying to tell me otherwise. A memory I have was when I was in the seventh grade attending a Catholic School. I was transitioning classes through the outside yard and was crossing paths with the older grade. This kid yelled at me in front of mine and his class, “Why are your legs so big?” My answer immediately was “Well, I’m Samoan.” I really didn’t understand why people asked stupid questions that they think would be funny. I was honestly use to these questions because everywhere I went my bigness was always talked about. It was always a thing on how big my hair was, how big my mom’s oldest daughter is, and how big my personality was too.

At first, I thought the “acceptable” body was having “tamed” hair, slim waist, and thin legs. I was born with huge calves, thick thighs, and coarse curly hair.  Growing up through middle school and high school, I was getting my hair permed straight, because of how easier it was to manage, and I was mostly focused on keeping my tummy “flat” because I felt that was the only thing I could really control.  I liked my tummy only when I woke up in the morning, when I didn’t eat too much that day, and after a workout. It was a great thing I played basketball. Being active was always a priority, but I would still be told to suck it in when going out in a dress or for dance performances. Today, having a “snatched” waistline and a big butt is acceptable and highlighted in all social media platforms. Ads show procedures, pills, and even creams that can help with maintaining this appearance. 

When it came down to wearing crop tops, skinny jeans, booty shorts, and bralettes, I was ALWAYS attracted to this clothing. Growing up in the late- 90s and early 2000s, I was influenced by celebrities like Aaliyah, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Rihanna, Nelly Furtado, Fergie, and Destiny’s Child. I would dress my barbies up with scraps I would cut from my clothing, and then make a cheeky matching outfit for me too. My mom has always supported my confidence and extra-ness, but never let me feel like I was dressing outside of my age. She knew I liked to show my tummy, even though she would always call me out to “suck it in.” Moms be like that. She also supports my twerk movement from chaperoning dance socials and attending my dance performances. Love you, Mom. I could see in her eyes that she sees how happy I get when I’m basking in my greatness, and so I welcome my mother to bask in my self- love with me too.  

I know I’m not the only one, but my family bonds through roasting each other and calling out each other’s insecurities. It’s a weird human normality, but it’s always a chance to stand up for myself and hype myself up— proudly. My mom talking to my aunties about how great – and how not great- I am are all a part of having a big family who genuinely loves me for all that I am. I live wholeheartedly on having a completely balanced life, and even with these negative comments coming from my blood— that itself multiplies my love for my body tenfold. People outside of my race who comment on my body get their comparisons to celebrities and athletes that are known through the media, entertainment industry, or “because they know someone who is also Polynesian.” I am Samoan and Tongan, which I guess makes it tricky for people to guess. Samoans and Tongans are very close islands in Polynesia, so if one was called the other of course just like every other ethnic person, they will feel some type of way for being assumed as a different culture. The last thing that a person wants is to insult a very big person, so everyone approaches me with a caution warning sign before asking me about my culture based on their first observation of me. The crazy thing is that when I say I’m both Samoan and Tongan they say, “Oh I can tell!” I feel like people say this to get a sort of connection with me because they want to be right about me. The way I respond to ignorance is simply by walking away because I will not tolerate being exoticized or to fulfill their desire to want to be right about me. I appreciate the recognition of my culture that people see when they look at me, and I channel that energy into pushing myself to understanding people for their interests instead of basing the first impression on what they look like. 

The Polynesian community are known mostly in society as athletes and entertainers. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Troy Polamalu, Jason Momoa, Dinah Jane, Parris Goebel, and Veronica Pome’e are one of the most prominent role models that represent our Polynesian community in their life’s work. Just like every other culture region, there are different physical attributes throughout each individual culture. When people outside of my culture comment on my body and appearance, they are looking at my thick thighs, big calves, “strongeness,” and long curly hair. When people question my physical appearance my answer is always, “Well, I’m Samoan and Tongan.” These are physical genes that I have inherited from my ancestors. My ancestors are from tiny little islands in the ginormous Pacific Ocean. God had to make these people strong enough to survive off the land that was limited around them, so of course I look like I belong treading the ocean waters— That’s on good strong genes! I am grateful for this body I was born into because it is a perfectly capable vessel to pursue my dreams and conquer my goals.

My relationship with food before was, in my eyes at the time, a beautiful symphony. Food was an escape, a happy place. I was never a picky eater, and especially loved authentic foods from around the world. My favorite to name would be mulipipi (turkey butt), boiled fish eye soup, and chitlins (pig or cow intestine). I love trying new foods, and making the statement that yes, I’m about to grub—and then a nap would follow immediately after. Now, my current relationship with food is that I’m a growing vegan of 3 years. I’ve chosen this journey because I admired the long lasting health benefits and other lifestyle changes that come with choosing to eat predominantly plant based— and I’m saving the earth too? Triple win! I’ve always loved a challenge, and I’m a hard advocate for eating healthy and sustaining our Earth’s natural environment. I still have my cheat days, but will only resort to vegetarian or on really special days, pescatarian. However, if I have never had it before, then I absolutely have to try it. Eating plant based has not changed my body weight or size at all either, which makes me convinced that I’m exactly how I’m supposed to be. Today, my happy place is still in food, and being completely aware of what’s going on in my body is the bonus of me living a longer happier life. 

Dance has been a part of my life since I was 5 years old. I danced hula and Tahitian up until I was 17 years old, and Samoan, Tongan, Maori, and Fijian all through college for Camp Unity— which is a Polynesian summer camp in Daly City, CA—the SJSU Polynesian Club, and for extended family functions. In Polynesian traditions, for every big family event like weddings, family reunions, milestone celebrations, or special birthdays— we love to put on a show of dance numbers, usually by the young ones of the family, as offerings and entertainment to the person we are celebrating, our elders, and the rest of our whole family. The grand finale is a freestyle solo that is traditionally performed by the eldest daughter of the family, and in Tongan it’s called the tau’olunga. In Samoan it’s called taualuga and the dancer is the taupo. I love being the taupo for these family functions because in this moment, I am just feeling and allowing my energy to flow with grace and love while my family is coming up dancing with me, proudly yelling “CHEEEHOOOOO,” and slapping money onto my skin and showering it above me. The money on the dance floor is an offering for the person or family of people we came together to celebrate. I love dancing for my ancestors and angels in heaven with my blood family here on earth. Growing up with these traditions has instilled that I feel the most beautiful when I’m dancing.

Aside from Polynesian dancing, I’m that friend that no matter where I am, I’m gonna dance if my soul summons it. Dancing makes me so happy because it’s the best way I can express my big energy. After college, I wanted to be active in some kind of sport. I am competitive, a natural team player, and I love being a part of an intimate community. I love contact sports because I love competition, but had to stop playing because I had over 10 concussions to count by the time I was 20 years old. I’ve played basketball since I was 9-years-old and got my first concussion when I was 14-years-old. I was a very aggressive and active player, and was always the biggest girl on the court. When I dove for the ball to claim possession, I collided with the opponent player’s shoulder and slowly blacked out and was immediately taken to the ER. After that one concussion, I kept getting smaller ones over the years as my team’s biggest center post player. The last concussion I had I was playing Lacrosse for SJSU’s Club Sports Team, and after that one, I had to completely stop playing contact sports.  So I chose to dance. Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries can increase the risk of developing dementia, even after 30 years. This was the perfect sport for me because dancing also helps with spatial memory, retention, and boosting my cognitive skills.  I got started on my dance journey through heels choreography because I truly admired owning my femininity through a challenge of dancing in heels. 

I discovered the body positivity community when I began my dance journey in 2018. Heels choreography, specifically in the Bay Area, highlights self love and body positivity. There is just something about dancing in heels with bad ass bitches of all backgrounds and sizes that is so special— especially when there are no creepy dudes to hit on you. Choreographers like @vibe.withme, @cosmicallyshonna, @haleyburrr, and @kaiyadionne are only a few of my favorites to name that I’ve come to love as genuine people, as well. After every class, my cup is full of a love that nobody can take away from me. These dance classes bring us women together to show up, choose to love ourselves, and to support each other after that and along the way. The love is also taken to social media where we are following each other and showing love and support on each other’s dance posts and selfies. Surrounding myself with this community has instilled a practice that loving myself through dance inspires others to love themselves too. This has changed the way I look at my body because it shows me that my body allows me to do amazing things like learn a sexy ass floor piece and getting camera ready to perform it right after. 

Now, I choose to accept beauty standards that challenge every aspect of what is “acceptable” in mainstream media. I choose to support artists, actresses, and models that represent the spectrum of beauty that falls in between all categories of size, color, gender, sex, disability, all of it. I choose to believe that my body today is beautiful and sexy, especially when I’m eating a full course seafood boil with my family or when I’m eating a ton of junk food with my friends. I choose to love my body in the face of negativity because it’s my body, not theirs. This body is taking me through my lifetime of happiness and its bigness represents my big energy.

My relationship now with my body image still fluctuates between being comfortable with showing my tummy or not, but I’m also learning to love different styles of clothing that aren’t meant to look skinny. Skinny jeans, crop tops, and bralettes are just as sexy as flare pants, baggy sweats, and loose streetwear tees. I’m learning that sexiness and sensuality isn’t based on how I look, but how I fully feel in that moment. My biggest insecurity growing up was my legs, because it was the most prominent part of my body that people loved to talk about. I hated talking about my legs and even looked up procedures to see if it was even possible to make them smaller. However, now I actually love my legs the most because they are literally my calves of steel. I have never had a leg injury, only too many concussions from playing sports, but my legs are what keeps me active.

What made me accept my body was consistently choosing to accept it when someone was in my face telling me not to. I was being named as “Tree” because I was the tallest girl in my class up until 8th grade, or “Whale” because I was the biggest post player on the court. Coincidentally, I have always loved trees and whales, so I really never allowed things like that to bother me. I internalize my pain in the privacy of my own space and give myself love. I have at least 5 people in this world I can turn to when I need extra love, which then eventually makes me unafraid to feel my emotions through my pride and loyalty for myself. It starts with acknowledging that the negative comments I receive are all based on the same idea that I am physically a bigger girl than what society depicts how women should look. Fuck that shit!!! My life is better, cuter, and happier, through my lens so I’ll choose bravery and courage and will speak about myself with love instead. I refuse to talk to myself negatively, especially when it was about my body— because that was something I couldn’t change, especially as a 9-year-old kid.

At this age, I had to choose to be the one to hype myself up, honestly because I knew no one even knew how to do it. It was apparent that I looked very different from my classmates and so my size was different too— that was very obvious to me. But being “thick” wasn’t cool then, so my friends would say things like “you’re not even that big,” or “you’re very proportional,” but I knew they were just being nice, because yes the fuck I was that big. I knew the bullies were just trying to be funny, so they chose to laugh at other kids obnoxiously, so I also made it my responsibility to stand up for those kids and to be friends with them. I have always been attracted to being friends with introverts because they always ended up being the funniest ones in class and my bestest friend there.  I felt like I had to mostly “play the strong role,” because no one was able to be strong for me. I come off to people as confident and strong in my beliefs— so that’s the role I strive to see in myself too. I wanted to always be the bigger person, for myself and anyone else who felt like they did not belong at that table. It is genuinely fun for me to be the person in the room who decides to bring inclusivity and good energy to each and every interaction.

My advice to anyone else who is struggling with their body image right now is that the most important image is the image you think of yourself. The love you wish from the world is the same love that you can give yourself. You can make as much of love as you want, and you decide who gets to bask in it. If people are talking about you, challenge yourself by giving them a reflection of themselves. Be brave with your body, speak up for others, and give more love to yourself and don’t skip a day. Some advice I would tell my younger self is to love yourself more than anyone else possibly can, every single day. This self- love journey will last longer than any other love you will come across.” -Lorna

Walang Hiya

“Walang hiya,” literally translates to “no shame”/ “shameless” in Tagalog.

My ears are no stranger to this saying. In fact, all my life I’ve heard the terms, “walang hiya,” / “walang ka hiya?!” (“Have you no shame?!”). This phrase was almost always said to my sisters and I by our parents. And it was most definitely said to check us and humble us with the quickness. When you hear someone say, “walang hiya,”(statement form) / “walang ka hiya?!” (Question form) to another person, they’re checking the other person’s character and actions. It is generally not a positive reaction, especially in its statement form, “walang hiya” is most likely followed with a head shake and look of disappointment.

“Have you no shame?” has been instilled in mind at a young age. Every Filipino kid has heard this term growing up. And to be honest, my parents still say this to us to this day! Everyone can relate to their parents telling them that they are shameless, to the point where it’s almost a joke. Well, for my cousins and I atleast. When someone is being out of pocket and takes a joke too far, we’ll laugh and throw in, “walang hiya!”

When I was thinking of what to write for this week’s blog post, I kept thinking of how I could summarize my 2019. I didn’t want to do the typical, “What has 2019 taught me…” / “My goals for 2020 are…” post. I thought back on how I changed from the beginning of 2019 to now, about to close out the decade. And all that came to my mind was, “Walang Hiya.”

Shameless. I was definitely shameless this year. “Walang hiya,” has always been seen as a negative thing, but for me, being shameless this year has brought me inner growth. It has been such a confusing year for me personally. I really had to dig deep and remember who I am, what I want, and where I want to be.

My 2019 new year’s resolution was to start posting consistently on this blog. January 2019 came and went, and my blog was mad crickety. I was freshly graduated, and wanted to start my passion projects. The only thing getting in the way of that was… myself. I was over thinking, being insecure, and shy about my work. It’s easy to say, “just start!” when you’re posting your work for the public to see and criticize.

May 2019 I walked the stage with my journalism class. And my graduation ceremony sparked something in me. At that point I was 5 months out of school, and being back in the school setting, even if it was just to walk the stage, ignited my fire again. I saw my professors, and it inspired me to get out of the slump I was in and do something – anything – writing wise. It took a little over a month, but July 2019 I started posting consistently.

In the past, when I was still in school and would post what I wrote every now and then, I would get insecure about what people would think, the engagement I would get on the post, the photo that went with it, etc etc etc. But now, I don’t care about the likes, the comments, if I look “nice” in the cover pic. The thing was, in the past, I did have “hiya.” I had shame, when I should’ve had pride in my work. I was always taught that there is a very thin line between being proud/humble and being cocky. Posting about my writing / occasional video projects made me feel weird. It made me feel like I was boasting about my work, showing off, and seaking attention. It took me a while to let go of that “hiya” and share my ideas/ posts.

Before I started posting consistently on my blog, therefore all my social media platforms to get more engagement, I was very particular about what I posted. I was one of those social media users that would post like, once a month, and was very choosy on what I chose to share. Like I said before, social media is what people want you to see of them. And for me, I didn’t really feel the need to share anything particularly personal. It was like “you can see my family, friends, boyfriend, and that’s about all I’m going to share.” I didn’t post things if it wasn’t “Instagram worthy,” or if I didn’t look cute in it. I didn’t want to post too frequent, and I didn’t want to have too many posts on my feed. Because more posts on my Instagram meant that I was giving the public more pieces to the puzzle of “me.”

When I started posting a blog post every Monday, all that went out the window. In the beginning I felt some type of way that I was over sharing my life, and posting way more than I ever did before. My blog is kind of like posting my diary entries for the world to see. It gets real real quick. But I knew that if I ever wanted to be known as a writer who writes about real shit, I have to share what I write. That was definitely a transition for me. I’m not one to share my personal life on a Facebook status, and you would never catch me having Twitter fingers if I had beef with anyone. I was always a “think what you want to think, I keep my circle small and the people that matter know the truth,” if I was ever in some drama. But now, here I am, sharing my deepest thoughts, my fears, my struggles, my triumph, for the public to see.

Some of the things I write about would certainly get a, “walang ka hiya?!” from my parents, which was part of the reason why I was hesitant on posting consistently. Surprisingly, my mom hasn’t hit me with the, “walang ka hiya?!” statement yet on anything I have written so far. I think it’s one of those situations where she thinks it in her head, but won’t say it out loud because she knows I’m an adult and that I want to reach a bigger audience. Her feedback to me once was that I curse too much on my blogs. “Its good, but just don’t use ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ because its embarrassing, don’t you want people to read and like you? They may not like you if you curse so much.”

I responded by saying that I’m not writing for people to like me. I’m not changing my writing style to show face, because I’m not like that in person. If you know me, I type how I talk. People tell me all the time that they read my content and it’s like they hear me reading it. I have thought of what I post biting me in the ass. As a journalist, we were taught to be professional all across the board. But that’s why I don’t see myself in hard news, because I feel like I have too much personality. I went on to tell my mom that whoever has a problem with seeing cuss words in my writing, doesn’t have to read. I was taught that whatever content you choose to write about attracts a certain audience, and it’s okay if everyone isn’t into it.

Simultaneously while I’m posting consistently, I noticed 2019 was the year that I gave less and less a fuck about my outward appearance. I’m a preschool teacher, I’m always in leggings, no makeup, and a whatever top, because I’m constantly on the move. Might get shit on, might get boogers on me, might have to clean the whole unit, I literally never know. Even on weekends, I found myself not caring how I looked. And there was some freedom in that. But it sometimes made me sad. I wasn’t putting effort into my appearance because I genuinely didn’t care and was too lazy to put on makeup. But at the same time, it made me happy that I was secure in myself that I didn’t feel the need to look a certain way all the time. I also wake up at 5 am, there is literally no time to get cute anymore.

I took “I don’t care,” to a whole new level. Appearance wise, body wise, and all the above. But I mean this in a good way. I found no point in complaining about my appearance. I put less importance on my outter appearance and worked on the kind of person I was on the inside. I learned that I can only control myself, my actions, and my emotions. I can’t control how others react or how others interpret things. I realized my toxic traits and try to work on them. I’m quick with my words when I’m upset, and I’m still trying to learn the meaning of restraint. That’s one thing where I should have shame! But it’ll take time to break bad habits.

I made it a point this year to not support any business or brand that did not support me as a bigger bodied woman. That being said, I stopped buying undergarments from Victoria’s Secret, and started supporting Aerie for their body inclusivity. It was hard for me because I was a die hard Victoria’s Secret fan for years. I’ve spent a lot of money at Victoria’s Secret and they had my brand loyalty. But when they made that comment about plus size women and trans women, I couldn’t. I could no longer support a company that didn’t care about plus sized women like me. I had no shame in vocalizing my reasons. And now, Aerie loyalty it is.

2019 I really opened up myself to the public. I had “walang hiya” in a lot of things I did, and it worked in my favor. Growing up, I was taught that having “no shame” was a bad thing. Now, I want to share that having “walang hiya” doesn’t always have to be negative. Being shameless in my writing, life, and appearance has helped me grow into a more secure woman.

Here’s to having walang hiya in 2020 🥂

My Gym Story

My first job was at a gym daycare. I watched the kids of members who were working out. At the time, it was my first year in community college, and I declared my major as Early Childhood Education. This was a great first job in the childcare field. However, it seemed so ironic that of all places, it was a freakin’ gym. It was almost embarrassing to tell people that I worked at a gym. I would quickly follow up with, “But watching the kids!”

My coworkers consisted of personal trainers and gym enthusiasts. And then… there was me. Don’t get me wrong though, I made friendships with some old coworkers that are friendships for life! But it really seemed like I was the only one who wasn’t about that gym life. So… I tried to be about that gym life 🤦🏻‍♀️.

When I first got the job, I was fresh out of a toxic relationship. The gym really helped me cope and deal with my inner turmoil. I used my anger and hate to fuel myself for working out. My inner demons and insecurities were my own personal preworkout. I was listening to aggressive “fuck you” type of rap break up songs, and embraced the anger inside of me.

I worked out everyday after my shift. It felt good to be care-free and dealing with the breakup in a “healthy” way. I started working out with my sister and my friends. It was like a new hobby. I dropped weight, this time without starving myself. But sometimes it was really forced. I felt like I was working out to fit in with my coworkers and felt like everyone’s eyes at the gym were on me, because I worked there and was totally not fit.

Even though I was working out consistently, I was embarrassed to do workouts out in the open. You know that feeling when you feel like all eyes are on you, and people are judging your every move? That’s exactly how I felt/feel. To this day I still feel insecure to do lunges out in the open! It’s so dumb because in reality, most people aren’t even paying attention to you, and pretty much don’t care if your form is wrong, etc. But we believe that this is the case, that all eyes are on us and we’re secretly the butt of somebody’s joke.

When I met my boyfriend and we started dating, I didn’t care too much about the gym anymore and just wanted to hangout 24/7. I lost some of my motivation to workout because now I was happy. Remember, I was using my hate and breakup as motivation for revenge body mentality, and after almost a year of that, I finally met someone who made me happy. It’s like I lost motivation for the gym because I wasn’t angry anymore. My only source of motivation was my anger, and with time, when my anger faded, so did my interest in working out.

But I look back at how I was back then, and when I wouldn’t workout, I would beat myself up about it. I would workout, then fall off for a bit, then get in the habit of working out again, then fall off. I was never consistent for long periods of time, and I always beat myself up over it. When I didn’t see progress fast enough, I gave up. When I was feeling shitty about myself, I would give up. When I didn’t go to the gym after consistently going, I would beat myself up over it and make myself feel bad. At times working out would feel like a chore. Like I knew I had to do it and I just wish it would be over with.

It’s so crazy because before meeting me, Christian was all about the gym and hardcore working out. And since we’ve been together, he kind of fell off the wagon for a bit, because we spend so much time together. But now, he’s finding his way back to the gym again, trying to get back to how he used to workout before he met me. And I’m all for it. I know it makes him happy and I know working out has always been an outlet for him. But what I love about him is that he encourages me to workout with him, because he knows I want those booty gains, but doesn’t put me down or make me feel bad if I don’t want to workout – whether that be a week straight or 3 months straight. He’s supportive of anything I choose. He’s hard on himself about being consistent in the gym, but never puts those standards on me. I’ve gained weight since we’ve first got together, and when I’m feeling insecure he always reassures me that he doesn’t care what weight I’m at. Bigger or smaller, I know he’ll accept me no matter what size. And that’s a breath of fresh air to feel secure.

In the past, working out was an outlet to release anger and hate. Then it became a chore. I was kind of over people telling me how to workout. I mean I’m all for tips, but you’d be amazed how many people believe you should take their unsolicited advice and their routine is the best routine.

It took a few years, but I think I found my balance. Its not always a consistent balance, but I’ve come to a place where I enjoy working out. For no one else but me. If I’m at the gym, chances are I’m 100% doing cardio and booty workouts. And I’m no longer fueled by anger, or forcing myself to workout, but more so as an outlet to relieve stress. And I’m also aware that I’m only getting older and there’s no shame in being body positive but still striving to be healthier. I no longer beat myself up for not being consistent. There’s times where I’m consistent, and then there’s times when I’m not. And either way, it’s okay! I can go a month or 2 without working out and still bounce back. I’m no longer going to make working out a chore, but more so make it a positive experience for myself where I want to workout and want to be consistent. But if for whatever reason I fall off the wagon and stop working out for a period of time- that’s ok too.

Don’t let other people tell you how you should stay active. It’s like that once commercial where this lady is trying yoga, the gym, and all these other forms of activity, and she’s just not feeling it. And then she finds her fitness niche, and it was taking walks around the neighborhood. Different things work for different people.

Before I wanted to skinny and petite. Now I want to be strong, lift heavy, and grow this peach 🍑. I’m not scared to be quad-zilla. These Cabillo-calves can get more buff and it is what it is. I also learned that I can’t pick and choose the body parts I want. If I’m working on butt workouts all the time, I should expect my thighs to get thicker as well. And I should love my body at any stage. Thick thighs, fat ass, flat ass, you name it.

My gym journey has been a rollercoaster, but I’m happy I’m at a place where I am content and at peace with my routine. No longer am I obsessing and beating myself up over working out. Anger and hate used to fuel me. And now, working out is my stress reliever. A workout to me now is an act of self-care, as I juggle all these things in my life.

Find your balance 🏋🏻‍♀️

…& If It Doesn’t, It Doesn’t.

I didn’t think to make this the blog post for this week, but it so happened to fit in perfectly with what I just wrote about the week before. Its almost a continuation of last week’s post. This is the other side of the coin.

I had dinner with some of my old Journalism gals from SFSU, as our last supper with Roxy. She’s one of the first friends I met at SFSU, and after 5 years in the Bay, she’s moving back home to SoCal. 💔 So we brought her to San Tung’s. 5 years in San Francisco and she never tried it. Disgraceful. The dry fried chicken, kissed by the Gods one by one and sent down to Earth for mankind. But Rox is a pescatarian… so the dry fried shrimp would have to suffice. San Tung was on her bucket list, so we had to make it happen her last couple of days in SF.

At the end of the meal we were so full, like can’t breathe, I should go lay down type of full. But you know, no meal or hangout is complete without boba 👀. So we ventured out into the cold San Francisco night. And when I mean cold, I mean Roxy is literally trying to use my body to shield her/warm her up. We GPS our next destination, boba. Of course, pick the closest one at this point. The short walk resulted in cold nipples jokes and talks of bloody feet if said cold nipples were to fall off – everyone piggy backing off everyone else’s joke 🤣

At the boba spot, Nicki dips for a quick second to find a bathroom to pee, and me, Bridget, and Roxy are left at the little windowsill inside the shop. We start talking about her move, and how her parents were driving up to come swoop her and all her belongings on the weekend. It was Thursday, and her parents were coming Saturday morning.

“Are you almost done packing?” I asked.

“Not even halfway. Maybe like 35%. I got too much shit.”

She went on to talk about how much stuff she accumulated throughout her 5 years here, and how she was lagging to pack it all away. Then she said something that almost every girl could relate to.

“And what makes me sad is I have clothes that don’t fit anymore, but I still won’t get rid of them so I’m packing it and it’s just taking up space.”

“Roxy, I’m writing about this for next week’s blog post.”

That. Right. There. I can’t count how many articles of clothing I’ve kept in my closet in hopes to “fit them again,” for “motivation,” or for the simple fact that it made me think of the times I was “smaller.” To look back and think, “I was once this size,” and reminisce, as I gently fold it and tuck it back in my closet to find again in the distant future to make myself feel like shit all over again 😊.

Why do we do that?! Why is getting rid of clothes that don’t fit anymore such a big deal? Or more specifically, why is getting rid of clothes that are too small* such a big deal? Because let’s be real, if someone lost weight and their clothes were too big, it would be almost an accomplishment to toss out those big ‘ol old clothes. But if they are clothes that are now too small, why is it that just the sight of them pull at the heart strings?

I mean, obviously I know the answer. Getting bigger is seen as a negative. You’re supposed to stay at your smallest, and never unlock a size higher. And if you do, you must forever be haunted by ghost of clothes past.

All jokes aside, this way of thinking is so detrimental to someone’s well-being. I’m all for someone using their old clothes as healthy motivation to be healthier, but it is rarely that. The “motivation” usually results in self-loathing and negative thoughts about one’s self. There’s a very thin line between healthy motivation and unhealthy obsessions.

I wish I could be that bitch that uses my small clothes as healthy motivation to get back in shape. However, I am not that bitch. I will seriously cry about it internally and let it bother me, giving me a false sense of motivation. In the past I would do crash diets and working out consistently, all for the sake of trying to wiggle this body into whatever the hell clearly didn’t fit me anymore. And since it would be sudden crash diets and forcing myself to workout or I’d beat myself up over it, it clearly didn’t last long. Is just give up. Still keeping the clothes that don’t fit anymore in my closest still, of course. And it’s all because this psuedo motivation is not done in the name of self-love, but self-hate. This is what I mean when I say there’s a very thin line between healthy motivation and unhealthy obsessions.

I once had a friend that was obsessed with diet culture. They weren’t trippin off the clothes that didn’t fit anymore, they were trippin off the clothes they bought for their goal body. Also known as, they bought clothes that were about 2-3 sizes too small – the size they wanted to be. They used the clothes as motivation to lose more weight, but the sadness and longing in their eyes everytime they pulled out the drawer full of “goal weight clothes” killed me. Like they believed their life would begin when they were smaller.

And that’s basically what we’re doing when we fixate ourselves over clothes that are too small. If it ain’t healthy motivation to get ya ass back in the gym because you want to change your lifestyle, than it ain’t helpin you at all. Stop thinking your life starts when you’re a smaller size, when you “get back to your college body” (whatever the fuck that means, can’t relate 🤷🏻‍♀️), or when you fit into those jeans you bought in a smaller size. Stop fuckin’ torturing yourself. What good does it do?

Last week’s post I told y’all fuck it, if it fits, it fits! Who cares what the size is on the tag! And this week I’m telling you : …. but if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. Literally who cares?

Don’t beat yourself up over clothes not fitting anymore. Don’t try to shop for your goal body. Don’t obsess over what size you see and wear.

I used to have this mentality (and sometimes still do) where I think, “I really want new clothes…. hold on, nevermind, I’ll just wait a while because if I start working out and I lose weight, I have to buy new clothes all over again.” STOP. THAT. SHIT. If you wait to wear the shit you want to wear, or buy the shit you want to buy all for the sake of body fluctuations, you’re literally not gonna have shit to wear at all.

Why not style the body you have right now the way you want to? Why must you wait until you’re “different.” If you’re waiting to lose weight to dress the way you want to, then you’re just playing yourself honestly. Feel good in what you wear now. Be you now.

So if it fits, it fits. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. A made it a point some time ago to get rid of all the clothes that I don’t wear and are too small. I gave them all to my little sister. Sometimes I see her in my old clothes and I think oh my God I used to fit that! Some time ago it made me sad. But now I’m genuinely in shock that I used to fit them, or tried to fit them. Like wow, I really forced myself in medium Adidas track pants. Literally who tf did I think I was 😭🤣

But I got rid of those clothes because not only was it taking room in my closet for absolutely no good reason, but it just made me feel awful about myself everytime I saw them. So why keep them? Why do that to myself when I know that’s how I’m going to react? I still have some articles of clothing that don’t really fit/don’t really make me feel nice when I wear them, but I still keep them in my closet just incase I need it for something. You never know when your opinion will change! But also my mentality changed, so my outlook on clothes also changed.

I’m no longer hoarding clothes that don’t fit anymore. Getting rid of them unapologetically and nonchalantly. If if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit 🤷🏻‍♀️.