Filipino American History Month

Daly City / San Francisco born and raised. Daly City, California, is known for the huge Filipino presence. People joke around that Daly City is basically “Little Manila.” I was fortunate enough to grow up in an area that is so culturally diverse, but also, had people that had the same background and traditions as myself. I know that a few hours out of the Bay Area in either direction is a totally different story. So I didn’t realize until my early 20’s how lucky I was to grow up here. I know there are a lot of people that have stories about being some of the only Asians at their high school and feeling the need to conform to those around them, which usually meant acting more white.

Of course, when I was younger, I was unaware of how fortunate I was to live in an area where some people have the same features as me, speak the same 2nd language as me, and have similar traditions as my family. At the time, all of this was my normal reality. I went to a Catholic school that highlighted a Filipino-Chinese Saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, every year. And everytime September rolled around, we would have San Lorenzo Ruiz’s mass during school hours. I would feel such a sense of pride. Mr. Mills’ class always “hosted” that mass, and I remember since Kindergarten going to the mass every year.

One student would recite sentence by sentence Lorenzo Ruiz’s story in English, and another student would translate that sentence in Tagalog. I can still remember the script: “Lorenzo Ruiz, our first martyr.” “Lorenzo Ruiz, una naming martir…” There was a specific song we sang at the mass that was entirely in Tagalog. I couldn’t understand the whole song, but I could understand majority of it. This was my “normal” growing up. Celebrating a Filipino Saint, for example, was “normal,” but now I look back and realize it’s because we had such a big Filipino community in the Bay Area. And I took so much pride in it. I was so proud.

When I was in 5th grade I was finally in Mr. Mills’ class. I was excited because I knew that I had the chance to play a role in the mass since he hosted it every year. When Mr. Mills started to ask for volunteers, my hand was one of the first to shoot up in the air. I wanted to be a part of San Lorenzo Ruiz’s mass so bad. The mass highlighted Filipinos and our language, and I wanted to be involved. Luckily, Mr.Mills picked me to have a part in the mass. I was going to be reading the English translation of Ruiz’s story. I was so excited because it was something I had watched for years from the church pews, but now, I’d be the one presenting it.

I practiced every night with my lines. The mass was going to be in front of the whole school, definitely more than 600 people. We would practice in the church, and I would have the microphone. I was known for being a loud mouth, which is probably why I was picked to read and have the role. Mr. Mills would always tell us, “Project your voice. Enunciate!” I could probably use my regular voice and people in the church could hear me without a microphone, so I was solid. I remember the day of the mass, I started to get stage fright. I looked out into the crowd and saw all eyes on me, as Ivan and I stood infront of the whole school. We told Lorenzo Ruiz’s story in English and in Tagalog, and after, I felt such a sense of pride that I got to be a part of something that highlighted my people.

Even though I grew up in a place where there were a lot of Filipinos, I still didn’t understand why nobody on TV looked like me. I would get excited watching shows that had an Asian person, and it was even more heart eyes if I knew they were Filipino as well. It was to the point where my sisters and I would say things like, “Look, an Asian!” “Do you think they’re Filipino?” “I bet maybe they’re half,” when we would see an Asian on TV. So even though I came from an area that was very Filipino/ Asian dense, I knew from a young age that Asians were  not being represented on the TV screens. From Manny Pacquiao, to Shay Mitchell, to Apl.de.ap, to Jokoy, to Jasmine Trias on American Idol, once we caught wind of them being Filipino, we rode hard for them. On Balitang America, the Filipino news station that broadcasted American news through the Filipino lens, they would feature any Filipino making a name for us in America. From the music industry, to entertainment, to education. 

I feel like Filipinos are very proud of other Filipinos who “make it.” Even if they have a small following, just claiming their Filipino heritage will have other Filipinos rep them. I even remember going on Shay Mitchell’s Ask back in the day and asking if she was really half Filipino. She actually responded and confirmed that she was in fact half Filipina. It made me so proud that an actress that I looked up to was representing us on the screen. I even recall reading interviews where Shay talked about growing up in an area that was mostly white, and being biracial had her feeling left out. Seeing people that look like me on the screen was important growing up. I was the kind of kid that literally set a “Filipino For Lyfe” themed MySpace background. Jokoy described seeing other Filipinos on TV as motivation to go for his dreams and make it as well. 

When I got to high school the history books just touched on Filipino American history oh so briefly. I used to skim through the history books in middle school and see where Filipinos or the Philippines was ever brought up. It wouldn’t be much. High school was a weird time. Going to a high school in Daly City meant that there were gonna be a lot of Filipinos. It wasn’t always the case, but sometimes there would be snarky comments (sometimes from people I was even cool with) complaining about how the whole school is mostly Filipino / Asian. Being Asian or Filipino in Daly City didn’t make you special. You were just like everybody else. Which I saw was a good thing when I was younger. But then I hit my teen years and wanted to be different, I didn’t want to be “like everyone else.”

I wasn’t ashamed to be Filipino, but I wasn’t repping it hard like I used to. Why would I have to rep it if everyone and their mama was Filipino in Daly City anyways? Don’t get me wrong – I still would be happy when I saw a Filipino coming up. But at the same time I wouldn’t plaster “Filipino For Lyfe” as a MySpace background anymore because I thought it was cringe. At this age I was on the prowl for a boyfriend (cringe lyfe), and when people would ask if I would ever get with a Filipino guy, I’d respond in a way that made it seem like “never in a thousand years.” Which I thought was okay, since I’m Filipino too. “What if I find out they’re my cousin or something?!” I would say. Which by the way, isn’t too far fetched, my family on both sides are pretty big.

I would say it wasn’t until I got to SFSU and joined the journalism program did I start to get that sense of pride back again. Suddenly, my whole perspective shifted. I took on the role of “journalist” and was bothered over the fact that a great portion of newsrooms are ran by white people. White men to be exact. The lack of diversity in journalism is what ticked me off. And I wanted to change that. I wanted to represent my people and capture stories of people in my community, and branch out further. Suddenly, that pride was back. But that pride was matched with determination. Determined to make change and actually make a difference. I wasn’t giving people a “voice,” because everyone has a voice. I wanted to be so open and chill that anyone felt like they could open up to me and tell their stories, and describe to me their raw emotions.

Suddenly, I had a mission. I wanted to get more in touch with my culture, the good and the bad. And since being on this journey, I have learned a lot, just by talking to people casually about their own experiences. I started to embrace my Filipino culture with open arms again, like how I did when I was a kid. I didn’t care if I was 1 out of 2 billion Filipinos in the Bay Area. I didn’t care about the “Little Manila” jokes anymore. I wanted to learn more about my people’s history, their stories, their struggles. And I wanted to write it. Not some random journalist who is just trying to bang out another story. I didn’t want someone else to be writing our stories.

Especially being out of school, I have made efforts to try to educate myself on my own. I remember writing a paper in community College about how my dad’s side of the family arrived to America. Just by talking to the members of my own family, I uncovered historic events. My great grandfather was a prisoner of War and survivor of the Bataan Death March. This information I would’ve never known if I didn’t have the school assignment, and if I never asked for the story. I started becoming obsessed with other people’s stories. My whole life I’ve been the talker. And now, I’m taking on the role of listener and teacher.

October is Filipino American history month. Every month, we teach the kids at my school about a new country. This month, I chose the Philippines. Over the years I have seen the Bay Area, but San Francisco is particular, changing. And changing fast. And it’s nice to teach my 1.5 – 2 1/2 year old students about my culture and traditions. One of my students got picked up and told her mom she painted a flag for activity. Her mom asked if she remembered what country’s flag she painted. My student responded with, “Well, it’s where teacher Marinelle’s mom and dad is from.”

I had the right idea when I was in 5th grade, “Filipino For Lyfe.”

My Weight Gain Journey

Yes, you read that title right.

You always hear and read about people’s weight loss journey, but rarely about someone’s weight gain journey.

This is something I wanted to write about for a while, but never had the guts to do it. Probably in fear of getting negative comments, fear of getting too personal so publically, mixed with not being ready to share my story when I was still in the evolving process (still am, to be honest). But now, I speak my truth. I don’t expect people to understand my journey, and I know there will be a handful of readers that will disagree with me. But I’m not here to please everyone. You don’t have to agree with me.

I’m sharing my story in hopes that it reaches someone who is struggling with the same thing I spent my whole life struggling with. That self-love journey is the most intense thing to struggle with, especially since it’s all from within. It took me years to cleanse my mind of all the toxic Eurocentric beauty standards that I learned throughout my whole life. To unlearn all the negative thoughts people have and associate with my body type was in itself a journey. But most of all, training my brain to not speak and think negative things about myself was hard mentally. This is my story. This is how my weight gain journey saved my life.

I’ve always thought in my head how outsiders who don’t know me at all see my weight gain journey. Because let’s be real, it’s completely obvious. When explaining this blog post to close friends, I said, “You know, to outsiders who haven’t seen me since high school / early community college, they probably see me in person or on social media and think ‘Daaaamnnnn, she got hellllaaaa bigggggg!’ – thinking ‘what a shame,’ ‘damn, she let herself go!’ But if only they knew what I went through back in the day, and how unhealthy and toxic it all was. Gaining weight and “getting helllllla bigggg” is the result of what I like to dramatically label as my enlightenment.

🎶 Let me take y’all back, maaaaaan! As I do soooo wellllll! 🎶 *J.Cole voice*

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with my weight and body dysmorphia. I was always the chubby little girl growing up. I’ve literally been big since birth. My mom takes pride in the fact that I was 8 and something pounds and she pushed my big ass straight out the womb naturally. Honestly, she deserves all the boasting rights, she delivered all 3 of us naturally and won’t let us forget it! So since birth I’ve been labeled as the big baby.

You know how kids go through a chubby phase and grow out of it? Uh, yeah, I just never grew out of it. The words of adults when you’re that young really absorb in your brain quickly. Around age 4-5, you start being more aware of yourself as a person and that’s when insecurities start to form. I’ve studied that when once upon a time I was an Early Childhood Development major, and I see it now working with children ages 1.5 – 5 years old. I was always being told by family that I was big and “to be careful.” It all stems from a good place, but the execution was sooo lame.

At age 6-7 I was writing in my diary how I need to lose weight. It was during the summertime, so I was stuck at home and obviously feeling mad insecure. I remember writing down a list of things I was going to “STOP EATING! NO MORE!” I jotted down all the foods I was going to avoid for my “diet.” Just the thought of it stressed me out (bruh, at 7), not even a couple hours later, I opened up my diary and crossed out my whole list. It’s crazy that diet culture starts that young.

I got the nickname “Good Life” from my uncle. The joke was since I was big, I must be eating good all the time and have the “Good Life.” I turned red with embarrassment as all the family laughed at my new found nickname. “Its ok!” They all urged. They explained that my older cousin was the previous “Good Life,” she grew out of it, so years later, now I’m the new one. I remember trying to laugh about it too. “Join in the joke so they don’t know you’re actually about to cry,” I would think to myself. But everytime I would be called that, it would be like a full-body cringe, I would freeze up, and I could feel my face getting flushed with pure uncomfortableness. I remember always wanting to angry cry, but it took all of me to hold it in because I knew I’d get in trouble for taking it too seriously.

I think that’s why I became the tomboy. I wanted to be tough, act tough, and be Buttercup in every way possible. Shitty weight comments is what made me grow a thick skin. But even though I was a little tough kid and acted like those comments didn’t phase me, somewhere deep deep down on the inside I was a delicate little flower who struggled with body image issues. I checked my weight on our shitty bathroom scale often and wished I saw something lower everytime. This time frame I’m talking about Kindergarten to 4th -ish grade y’all.

And by 4th grade I had already developed and was most definitely bigger than 96% of the boys in my grade! So at this point, I have family in my ear talking about how big I am, but I also had classmates tell me I’m fat, I could break a chair, and overall just feeling shitty about myself. All of a sudden I had boobs, and I was bigger than everyone else, it was just an awkward time.

Hearing shitty comments that young made me decide early on how I’m not going to talk to my child, or any child for that matter. I’m a ruthless individual if I’m feeling catty. I can destroy someone’s selfworth with just a single sentence. It’s truly a blessing and a curse all at once. I’ve been bullied and I’ve been the bully. It’s all a cycle. Hurtful things have been said to me about my outward appearance, and at times I was the one saying hurtful things. We learn and pick up actions and mannerisms from the environment we grow up in. So since I know first hand what it’s like to be 5 to 10 years old, and being teased about my weight, I know now that I will never be that adult in some kid’s life.

Fast forward to middle school, I’m talking 6th-8th grade. That age group alone is a difficult time in your life already – trying to fit in, find your crew, and maneuver through the childish drama and teenage beef. On top of that you think you’re grown and you’re trying to get noticed by your crush and get chose. I’ve always been stuck in the frendzone hahah. I look back now and it’s funny and cringy as fuck, but back then that shit was tragic. I really felt like I was the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) of my friend group. They were all having their first puppy love romances, and I was always just the bro. It made me think there was something weird about me, that nobody saw me past being a bro. Again, this shit is so cringe and minuscle to me now, but back then I was like damn, what the hell am I gross or something? Little did I know that those feelings in early teenage years are completely normal.

Puberty and all that shit really gets to you. Your hormones are all out of whack, popularity and fitting in seems to be the most important thing in your world, and you’re stuck comparing yourself to others. This is around the same time where Myspace was all that and a bag of chips, and Facebook was right around the corner. Peers were starting to get into makeup and beauty products – on the weekends only – since I attended a Catholic school that prohibited makeup, nailpolish, even ankle socks. HAHAHA.

But the benefit of being in a private school was the fact that I didn’t have to wake up everyday and stress over what to wear. Of course, I didn’t see it as a benefit then, but when I think about it now, it took a lot of pressure off of looking a certain way every day. There was a set uniform. Yeah, they weren’t fashionable or cute, but it didn’t matter what my appearance looked like because everyone had to wear the same thing. There were rare days out of the year where we had “Free Dress” days, meaning we could go to school in our regular clothes. These days were a big deal and an opportunity to show your style. I remember being on Aim (damn, I feel old) chatting with my friends the night before free dress days.

“What are you gonna wear tomorrow?”

“With what shoes?”

“Want to try to match?”

“Well do you have a shirt this color too?”

“Bring your camera so we can take pictures!”

I would also keep a mental note of my scars on my left arm. I almost never wore just a short sleeve shirt because I wanted to cover them. The stares, the questions, the disgusted faces people would make when they ask if they could touch it. I would rarely take off my school sweater, and would only take it off if I was legit sweating so much that it was unbearable. And even then I’d use my sweater to cover up my stomach. All these little steps I would take in the name of insecurities was ridiculous.

But the insecurities only amplified as I got to high school. Freshman year I kind of started thinning out because I had P.E. everyday, something I was not used to at all. Previously in my private school we had P.E. classes once a week, so you can only imagine how shook I was that I had to do this shit Monday to Friday. And when the teacher had to weigh us and shouted our weight out loud so the person writing it down could hear… bruh. As you can guess, I absolutely dreaded swimiming class. Changing infront of my peers? THINK AGAIN, I HUSTLED MY ASS OUT OF THE POOL EVERY DAY TO BE THE FIRST ONE OUT TO SHOWER FIRST AND RESERVE A PRIVATE STALL TO CHANGE IN. YOU THOUGHHHHT 💅🏽

But listen, this is where I wanted to start my story, but I felt like I had to give a little backstory of how this instance amplified what I already was struggling with all my life.

My junior year in high school, the guy I was in a relationship with for about a year moved away permanently. We decided to do long distance. Doing long distance at 17 and having it be in another whole ass country – let me tell you, 10/10 would not recommend.

It was such a toxic relationship. We both feared that the other would cheat, so I coped with it by stalking the shit out of Facebook to get my answers when I felt like I was being lied to. He coped with it by verbally abusing me and making my self-esteem so low that I wouldn’t even have the confidence to find someone else. This is part of the reason why I took so long to share this story. I didn’t want to write this in a way that focused on my ex being the bad guy. But more so, how this experience just stacked on top of all the past insecurities I had since a child. This is just 1 layer of the onion.

Anyways, we were “together” for 3-ish years on and off. 2 of those years were long distance without seeing each other physically in person. And in those 2 years of long distance, I truly experienced my lowest moments. It really felt like a test of my sanity sometimes. I was insecure as it is, and on top of that I had a “boyfriend” in another whole ass country that sometimes went M.I.A. for days. My gut feeling was telling me I was getting cheated on. So I would take to social media to try to find evidence. It was exhausting. Knowing you know the truth but can’t find the evidence to back it up. We fought almost everyday, I went to sleep crying daily, and we would break up to make up constantly.

I was stalking all these new found Facebook friends of his, and why it seemed like all of them were hot as hell with perfect bodies. If those were the kind of girls he was around daily, why would he need me? Now I see why he spoke bad about my appearance all the time, look what I’m up against…

“You should be happy a guy like me even gave you a chance.”

“Fat bitch.”

“Who would even want to fuck you?”

“Look at me, now look at you. I could get someone so much hotter.”

“You can’t get someone better than me.”

“Even my aunt said you’re fat.”

“If I was there I’d beat the shit out of you.”

“Some girls in my class saw on FB that we’re in a relationship and they were like, ‘that’s your girlfriend?!’ ”

All the while trying to flip the script and say that I must be cheating and xyz. I never cheated. Stayed faithful the whole way even though I knew it was a toxic, tumultuous, mind fucking mess. He later admitted that he did cheat on me after we broke up, which made me hate myself for not listening to my gut feeling. THAT SHIT BE THE TRUTH, PEOPLE! THAT’S YOUR BODY’S WAY OF SAYIN, YO, SOMETHING REALLY AIN’T RIGHT.

My senior prom was coming up and he had planned to attend. At this point we were almost a year and a half into long distance. I haven’t seen him in so long. I wanted to prove a point that I wasn’t the same fat bitch he had last seen in person 1.5 years prior. Prom was in April, so in January 2013 I started to diet. Also known as: starve myself.

I would eat just a handful of cheerios in milk for breakfast, I’d take a heatable “green giant” frozen pack for lunch. This said “lunch” was 30 or 50 calories (I forget) of frozen broccoli in “cheese.” That shit tasted like water. And for dinner I’d eat at home, but not as much as I would usually eat. And you know what? It started working. I started to slim down – and fast. But pretty often I’d feel depressed and binge out on a big hot cheeto bag. However, my binging didn’t out weigh the times I was hungry.

I boasted about how I’m trying to look good for prom. I took pride in the fact that I was starving myself but seeing results. People told me I looked good, they congratulated me on my weight loss. My confidence went up, even though I knew it was such an unhealthy way of living. But I didn’t care.

For once in my life I wasn’t the fat bitch. For once I could back up my comebacks that “no, you should feel lucky that I’m with you.” I valued what I saw in the mirror. The size on the back of my tags justified my worth. And for once it was “where I wanted to be.” For the first time in my life, I had confidence in myself. And if you would’ve told me what I was doing was unhealthy and wrong, I probably would’ve justified my actions.

And if you were to tell me that I picked up an eating disorder over a guy that was totally undoubtedly cheating on me, I probably would deny it. But that’s what it was. An eating disorder. And my peers and people around me had the same mindset as me- that it wasn’t that big of a deal. I planned to stop once prom was over, but I was getting used to it. Maybe I could continue after as well? Just until I get to “where I want to be.”

And what’s crazy is even at my skinniest, I still nitpicked at different parts of my body. Yes, I was getting smaller, but I wasn’t perfect. To me, there was always something else that could look better. It took my body dysmorphia to a whole new level. The sad reality was that I could lose as much weight as I wanted, but the self-hate I had towards myself would always tell me that I should lose more.

I did this process of starving and barely eating for about 3-ish months. Until I got the news that my ex wouldn’t be coming to my prom. I was so depressed that I started eating everything and anything. “What’s the point of this anymore,” I thought to myself. I was doing this to prove something to a particular person, and since he wasn’t coming anymore, why bother?

Around the same time is when I had to walk the runway for my sister’s first fashion show. It was a week or 2 after prom, so in my head, the weight loss wasn’t completely for nothing. Like I said in my previous post, I was so insecure during the first show because all the other “models” were actually models. They were all thin, fair skin, tall, and nothing like me. Even with my weight loss, I was still probably the biggest “model” there.

After some time, I gained back the weight I had originally lost. I was now in my first semester of community college. Some of my friends were juicing for weeks on end, and losing a lot of weight doing it. I somehow got convinced to try it. I told my ex I was going to try juicing for a week, low key hoping for a, “you’re beautiful the way you are,” type of comment. Bruh, he got so excited and happy and encouraged me to do it.

I lasted what, 2 or 3 days with juicing? Im not gonna lie I really felt like I was dying 💀. I felt so weak and hungry. I lost a couple pounds but that shit came right back once I started eating real food. Let’s just say I was a lost soul. Stuck in a shitty toxic relationship thinking my appearance would somehow ease my pain.

Finally, during my 2nd semester of community college, I finally ended things with my ex. It was such a breath of fresh air. I really felt like I could do anything and everything in life. I found my motivation to do better, by dropping the dead weight that was holding me back. It was 3 years too long. Nobody should have to go through abuse like that. Physical or not, verbal abuse is real and really fucks with your head.

At the time I was pursuing Early Childhood Education, so I got a child care job at a gym. I was so embarrassed when I first started working there because it was the most ironic thing for me to be working at a gym. Of all places. Hahahah. I took advantage of my free membership and would workout a couple times a week. I felt like I low key had to put in an effort since I was so out of place. I wasn’t a trainer, a body builder, shit I wasn’t even a member.

But it was kind’ve a lot of pressure to work at a gym, especially hearing what Male coworkers would say about people walking by the front desk. Honestly disgusting. I thought, shit, if you’re talking all that smack about someone you don’t know, I can only imagine what you say about me when I’m not around. Because I clearly wasn’t a fitness freak, and a lot of my coworkers were. I would get workout sessions from Jazzie for free since she was a trainer. It was off the clock for her, and I bitched every step of the way.

I really feel like I got this ironic job just so my path would cross Christian’s. He was my coworker that turned into my man real quick. It was so different being with a nice guy. It was actually weird to me. I didn’t know how to act. Even though I was single for a year, I felt like I had PTSD from my last relationship. I didn’t feel like I had to hide how I really am with Christian. For instance, I ate around him. This is something that I couldn’t do before. I would act like I was full because I didn’t want my ex to think I was a fatass. With Christian from the get, I’ll eat all mine and pick at his while I’m at it. The real me, cuz ya girl can eat.

As our relationship progressed, I added that happy weight, and birth control pills didn’t help this area either 🤦🏻‍♀️. But I have a guy that loves me regardless how big or small I get. But I still struggled. I struggled a lot. I hated the person I was. I hated how insecure I was. I hated that I was getting fatter and loved to eat. I hated that I was probably 35 lbs heavier since high school. I hated the way I looked, the body I’m in, the way I strived for the perfect hour glass figure. I hated that I was getting stretch marks. I hated that it was so obvious that I gained weight. But most importantly I hated that I hated myself.

At the end of my first semester at SF State I had a low key mental breakdown that lead to my rebirth. Transfering to SF State was lit. I spent 3 years in community college and finally felt like I was making progress with my life transfering to a 4 year university. SF State has a Quickly’s, a Phó, an Indian spot, pizza, ramen, Ike’s, Mexican food…. you get the point – I never went hungry. My first semester I had a weird schedule. Some early morning classes here and there, afternoon classes, even a night class that got out at 10 pm. I had to eat at school because I was basically there all day.

I remember this day vividly. I was waiting for my 7 pm class and had a gap. I got some Phó from campus and a boba drink, I ate in the cafeteria. It wasn’t too crowded. It was about 6:35 pm, and I finished my Phó, it was dark outside already. I was full as fuck. I sat there looking at my empty bowl of soup and my boba drink that was halfway done. I fucking hated myself. Fuckin’ pig. I felt disgustingly full. I felt so shitty about myself that I wanted to cry. To anyone passing by, I was just sitting, staring blankly at my food. On the inside I was breaking down, on the verge of tears. This wasn’t the first time I felt like this. In fact, I felt this way everytime I ate, especially when it was something I bought.

And while I’m on the verge of completely losing it, I look at the time a realize I got to get to class. I walk out into the darkness, not even caring about my surroundings. I’m passing by people but it’s all a blur. It doesn’t feel like real life, I’m too trapped in my head. I get to class and I’m still bothered. I hate myself. I feel disgusting. I’m so fat. You’ll never be happy with yourself.

Then it hit me. If I were to die at that exact moment, what would I have to show for it? I spent 22 years of my life hating the body I lived in. If I were to die right then and there, could I say I honestly lived? Or was the highlight of my life being forever insecure and unhappy with myself? “No more.” I thought to myself. This will be the body I die in. This will be the body and mind I have to live with everyday. Why waste my time hating it? Right then and there I refused to waste anymore time hating my body. It’s like a switch went off in my brain.

I went on Instagram and unfollowed every Kardashian, every account that would make me feel less than, every account that I compared myself to. I deleted a lot of famous people that edit their photos. “No more,” with every unfollow. It was empowering. I then started looking up body positive accounts.

*follow*

*follow*

*follow*

*follow*

All the while my professor is talking about diversity in journalism.

There was no stopping me. At the end of it all I felt my whole body was tingling. The best high – the road to self-love.

I started educating myself with the body positive community. I realized that I resonated with a lot of them. Their struggles were like mine. I felt likeI found my community.

Of course I didn’t accept and love my body that easily. It literally took so long to unlearn every negative thing that I have ever told myself. I found solace in the body positive community and feminism. When you realize that beauty industries profit off your insecurities, you really start to look at things differently.

Not too long ago I craved to be beautiful. Nowadays I crave to inspire, to be authentic, to be knowlegeable and smart. I crave to fight for body representation, and representation of people of color with different body types in the fashion industry. I declared Women Gender Studies my minor, and I truly feel like it opened up my mind.

I studied up on feminism and different ways that women are oppressed. It was like a revelation. I was intaking life differently. My existence in itself is a rebellious act. I’m a woman. A woman of color. A plus-sized woman. I felt empowered fighting for women’s rights, it’s like I had a new found passion. I was insecure my whole life because there was never anyone that looked like me on TV, in magazines, in Hollywood.

Today I am probably 50-60 lbs heavier than I was in high school. But I can honestly say that I am overall happy with myself. Of course I have those days where I feel big and gross, but I got to remind myself who I am. I am so much more than my weight. I am so much more than my outward appearance.

All that’s ever geared towards women are beauty products, dietary supplements, clothes, and all these things that focus on the outside. Growing up I thought this shit was normal. But what does that tell women? That they’re only good for their appearance, that it’s all they should care about. And I refuse to feed into toxic beauty standards and ideals.

To most, gaining weight is the worse thing that could happen to a women’s appearance. A couple years back I would agree. But now, I eat what I want, I wear what I want, I do what I want unapologetically. I strive to be healthier by working out, but if I don’t go for a straight month or 2, I’m not beating myself up about it.

Not giving a shit about beauty standards and societal norms has truly brought me peace of mind. I’ve grown so much – literally, spiritually, and mentally. This is my weight gain journey – it brought me to the path of self-love and self-acceptance.

For those of you who remember me 60 lbs lighter and have thought “yo, wtf happened to her?!” The answer is, she grew up, she found herself, she doesn’t give a fuck 🥰😘

“Note To Self”

I look at the picture that is posted above and I feel a little sad. I was in 3rd grade in that picture, and if I could tell 3rd grade me anything, I’d tell her sorry. I’d tell her not to give into what the media has pounded into her brain, the unrealistic expectations that we were all brought up on. I’d tell her that you don’t have to be a certain body type to be beautiful, to embrace the body she was given instead of shaming it. And most importantly I’d tell her she deserves to truly love herself, regardless what society projects.

For all my life I’ve struggled with body image issues. I would look at myself in the mirror and find all the things that I thought was wrong about me. From my stomach, to my arms, to the stretchmarks on my thighs, nothing was off limits. I remember watching the Tyra Banks show in the 4th grade, where she stood in front of her whole studio audience in a bathing suit she was recently shot in, where news outlets bashed her for her “imperfect” body. I remember watching Tyra choke up as she finished her speech, and I too started to get emotional.

“If I had lower self-esteem, I would probably be starving myself right now,” Banks said. “But that’s exactly what is happening to other women all over this country… To all of you that have something nasty to say about me, or other women that are built like me, women that sometimes or all the time look like this, women whose names you know, women whose name you don’t, women who have been picked on, women whose husbands put them down, women at work, or girls in school, I have one thing to say to you… KISS MY FAT ASS!”

I was young, but Tyra’s speech hit home. I’ve been insecure all my life. When people talk about weight or appearance, I cringe and hope that the attention isn’t put on me. I have a tough exterior, but the one thing that can bring me to instant (angry) tears, is when someone thinks it is okay to comment about my weight or appearance. That has always rubbed me the wrong way. Growing up I would get : “You gained weight,” “You’re getting bigger,” “You should watch what you eat,” “You would look so good if you were smaller!”… alright, dawg, you don’t think that out of all people I would know if I gained weight? And even if I wasn’t aware, I feel like it is never anyone’s place to casually bring it up.

Reyna Rochin, body builder and personal trainer, felt the pressure of the media and those around her growing up as well. She’s 100% badass, and has a huge heart. She uses her Instagram account to show her workout progress and to also share personal stories. She confessed her insecurities and personal stories on a couple of Instagram posts promoting self-love. Rochin has a ton of tattoos on her upper body and explains why.

“When I was 15, I HATED my upper body,” Rochin said on an Instagram post. “My wide shoulders and back were not what the other popular girls around me had and I was told by several boys that ‘you look like a man from behind.’ My tattoos are there because I love art and the aesthetics of tattoos but if I’m going to be honest, they are also a testament of new found self-love. My arms, shoulders, and chest used to be parts of me I loathed. And, as cheesy as it sounds, it wasn’t until taking lifting seriously did I realize that my broad shoulders could hold a 200 lb front squat no problem, or my strong chest could allow a 150 lb bench press to fly up easily.”

Rafaella Pereira also used working out to deal with her insecurities. She’s a wife, and a mother to a beautiful girl. Her Instagram feed is filled with personal stories of her struggles with body image issues. Growing up, she was told that she was fat, ugly, and dark. And for a big portion of her life, Pereira believed it.

“I would look in the mirror at times and scream, ‘you’re ugly, fat, and you will never be happy,’” said Rafaella Pereira. “I used to blame God for my lack of self-love and lack of motivation to be better.”

But Pereira has used the negativity as fuel to better herself. Her greatest accomplishment, but surely not last, was running a marathon that she would wake up every day at 5 am for. She hopes one day to publicly speak and help others.

As an older woman who is finally trying to come to terms with loving herself, accepting her body, and trying to unlearn all the things that were/ are detrimental to my peace of mind, I see and intake media differently. Up until recently I would look at pictures on Instagram of models, and I would think, “I wish I looked like that…” But ever since Ashley Graham started to break the mold in the model industry, I started looking at media realistically. There are people that edit their photos to try to uphold a “beautiful” image, they airbrush things that they don’t want you to see. But the thing is… IT’S NOT REAL. It’s all a lie. Stretchmarks, cellulite, rolls, IT’S NORMAL. EVERYONE HAS THEM. IT’S REAL.

That’s why I believe all these fashion shows are a joke. For the simple fact that not all body types are being represented. Not everyone is 5’10 or taller, under 110 lbs, with a size 0 waist. And if you are, then cool! I’m not trying to put anyone down for not being like me. However, representation is everything. Young girls and boys are growing up seeing the lack of diversity, and it encourages them to strive to be something they are not. Sometimes not even genetically possible.

Towards the end of 2016 it hit me that I basically spent my whole life hating my body. I look back to the photo above and around that age I had wrote in my diary “I’m gonna go on a diet.” I had an epiphany, and realized instead of being miserable and hating myself, I should love myself and be the person I wish I could look up to growing up. I’ve had too many instances in the fitting room when I just wanted to leave, even cried a couple of times. I’ve always been the bigger girl, and I’ve always tried to compare myself to others. I’ve vowed to try to stay body positive, even though I have my days when I feel the opposite. It’s awesome that there are people like Ashley Graham that promote self-love and accepting your curves and body type, but still also promotes the importance of a healthy lifestyle and working out.  You can be built bigger and still be healthy, but there will always be people and the media telling you that it is not okay. But it is okay. And I wish I could’ve told 3rd grade me that. It’s a long road to unlearning all the horrible things I would think about myself, but it’s so much more worth it than staying in a state of self-loathing and self-hate.