Filipino-American Representation: Easter Sunday

I’ve been following Jo Koy’s career for over 15 years, back when he was a panelist on the Chelsea Lately show. I had no business being 12 years old watching that show religiously every night at 11 PM. Those were the days where I thought 11 PM was late… My sisters and I got into the show because our older cousin put us on. He’s a huge Chelsea Handler fan and let us know that there was a Filipino comedian that was on the show pretty often. He would describe funny comments and the banter that would happen on the show until we finally started watching it for ourselves.

It seemed like every single joke Jo or Chelsea told was in relation to him being Filipino, and I wasn’t mad at it. In fact, I waited it for it. That’s the thing about Filipinos – we take pride in our people that make it big and rep us. Jo Koy took every opportunity to let people know that he was half Filipino and grew up in a Filipino household. At a time where the only well-known Filipino was Manny Pacquiao, it felt good to see another Filipino making it big. Jo Koy is a Filipino-American born in the US, so his upbringing and experiences are pretty similar to a lot of first generation Filipino Americans. Through his comedy, he expresses not only what it’s like to grow up with the typical generational gap between parents and their children, but also showing the dynamic between first generation American-born children with their immigrant parents. After the show ended, I still kept tabs on Jo Koy’s career and followed his projects.

From my own personal experience, growing up there were little to no Filipinos in mainstream media in America. When my sisters and I would see someone that resembled a Filipino on TV, we would get our hopes up and do our research. I think we were desperate to see someone that looked like us in shows and movies that we liked. Not only would my sisters and I have suspected Filipino stars on our radar, our parents would too. “Did you know ______ is Filipino?” they would ask proudly. Usually because the person ended up on Balitang America confirming their Filipino lineage. The Philippines, and Filipinos in general, love to keep up with Filipino stars that make it in America.

It was a good feeling to know that a Filipino comic was selling out venues, getting Netflix specials, got his own Funko POP!, and making headlines. After seeing his come up, we all feel a sense of pride, and can’t help but feel like a milestone is being made in Filipino-American history with his movie, Easter Sunday. I believe this is only the 2nd Filipino movie to play in theatres, the first being The Debut. Jo Koy makes it a point in all of his stand up routines to say that he did not grow up with Filipino idols to look up to. He mentions his sense of pride seeing Manny Pacquiao’s rise to fame. I’m sure he knows that he is that Filipino idol to Filipino-Americans right now.

Jo Koy’s movie, Easter Sunday, that debuted on Friday, August 5th, touched on so many topics in the Filipino community while still keeping it lighthearted. I personally felt like I could relate to almost everything in the movie, given that a lot of these topics and issues are so embedded into the Filipino culture. These have been topics that I have covered on my blog, talked about extensively with cousins and friends, and have thought about on my own time. Over the last couple of years I’ve been doing some deep diving into who I am, what makes me me, and how I was raised. Easter Sunday shows how families may have unhealed trauma and unhealthy family dynamics, but they can still be a family full of love with the best intentions at the end of the day. Filipinos know this firsthand.

In the movie, Jo is conflicted whether or not he should sellout to secure a spot in a sitcom show. It is apparent that they only want Jo in the show if he agrees to do his Filipino accent. He has mixed feelings about it because he believes he’s funny without the accent and doesn’t feel like it’s relevant or necessary for the part. His agent makes light of his torn decision, and encourages him to just agree to do it for the sake of securing the deal. This is an interesting take since Jo Koy is known for impersonating his mom and her accent. It really shows the point of view that there’s a difference between poking fun at your culture versus being told to make a mockery of your culture by people who are 1. not that ethinicity, and 2. seek to profit off of it.

Jo is in a dilemma because he feels the need to prove something to his family. He wants to prove that he is successful in his stand up career despite going against his mom’s wishes to pursue nursing. The long standing joke is that Filipino parents expect their children to go into the medical field. It’s a profession that has a huge Filipino presence. When Filipino children choose to take another career path other than nursing or the medical field, it could get ugly. Filipino parents take this opportunity to use scare tactics to discourage their children from choosing a career path they are passionate about.

This discouragement could be interpreted as being unsupportive and controlling, which let’s be real, it is. However, the nagging encouragement to pursue nursing is really an unspoken desperate plea to avoid the unknown at all costs. Filipino parents don’t know how to put into words that they are worried for their child’s future. They don’t know how to express that they just want the best for their kids and don’t want them to fail. And they definitely can’t put their pride aside to admit that they are afraid of the road less traveled and would prefer tradition because it’s familiar. The lack of communication translates to anger and doubt. For the most part, Filipino parents want the best for their children. They want them to have stable jobs that they know will be in demand and would prefer their children take the safe option. Exploring creative passions professionally goes against the work familiarity that so many Filipinos are used to.

Filipinos are so used to busting their ass to make ends meet. That means starting from the bottom and working your way up. Work wasn’t meant to be something they enjoyed, it was something they had to do to have food on the table for their families. Surprisingly, pursuing a career in something you actually like and are passionate about is somewhat a new concept for traditional Filipino families. Thankfully, my parents never fell into the stereotypical Filipino parents who push nursing onto their children. I’d be lying if I said it was never suggested, but my parents just wanted my sisters and I to finish college in anything we wanted. Being a college graduate was all that was important to them, so going for what we wanted to do was never the issue. My sisters and I were lucky, because I know a lot of people whose Filipino parents weren’t as lenient.

To Jo’s family, he’s the big shot that made it in Hollywood, so it’s totally understandable why his character felt pressured to agree to something he was strongly opposed to if it meant landing the role. As a Filipino kid whose mom didn’t want him to pursue comedy, he’ll do almost anything to avoid letting his family down. Introducing this internal conflict in the movie sheds light on the fact that a lot of Filipino adults still feel the need to be successful because they dread being viewed as a disappointment to their parents. The sad truth is this: not wanting to disappoint your parents doesn’t just stop when you’re a kid, it continues on into your adulthood. Especially when you feel like you have to make them proud, but also outshine others.

There’s a lot of pressure to be successful and make your Filipino parents proud. But there’s also a lot of pressure to be better than those around you because you’re always being compared to someone. We see this play out in the movie with the relationship between Jo and his cousin Eugene. Clearly, Eugene’s character is the typical loser cousin who means well but just can’t seem to get their life together. Even though Eugene’s flaws are ridiculously apparent, Jo’s mother has her beer goggles on. She insists that Eugene is a “good boy,” even though it’s clear that he has tangled himself in with the wrong crowds. Jo rolls his eyes multiple occasions when hearing his mom say that Eugene is a good boy, not because he’s jealous of his life, but because he knows that she means Eugene is a good boy in comparison to him. In this instance, what’s being compared is how attentive Eugene is with Jo’s mom while he’s away trying to jumpstart his career.

As Filipino children, we are no stranger to being compared to our siblings, cousins, or family friends. And nothing is off the table for bragging rights – it can be about success, appearance, how big their house is, the person they married, what material things they own, what field they work in, how they treat their parents, what life choices they made, what school they got into, etc. It can be a very toxic game elders play because it can either motivate you or make you jealous and bitter. Putting everyone else under a microscope just opens the doors for judgment and gossip. In the Filipino culture it can seem like everyone is concerned about everyone else except themselves.

Religion plays a big role in the Filipino culture. I grew up around the Santo Niño statues, praying before eating, and going to church on Sundays. It was interesting, but not shocking, that Jo Koy decided to have a church scene in the movie. After all, the movie’s setting is supposed to be for Easter Sunday – resurrection day. Filipinos are known to be very religious and attending church on Sundays is a typical thing. When Jo is forced to give a speech in front of everyone in attendance, he calls out his mom and Tita’s feud. In a way, Jo is calling out his family members for not practicing what they preach. Exposing his family’s drama in church revealed something deeper. It’s not just about the petty drama, but the underlying meaning behind it.

The movie tastefully shows the Filipino family dynamics when it comes to feuding within the family. However, in real life, these scenarios can get straight up ugly and petty. We see how Jo’s mom and Tita take little digs at each other throughout the movie. They play it petty by threatening not to go to each others’ parties, not eating food the other made, leaving early, stealing recipes, trying to out-do each other on presents to the Philippines, and making rude unnecessary comments to diss each other. It’s funny for the sake of the movie, but we know scenarios like this that played out in real life. And it all boils down to pride.

Every Filipino family can relate – you have the aunties or group of elders that like to stir the pot and talk shit. It’s all fun and games until someone gets butthurt off something and it turns into a he said she said moment. In Easter Sunday, Jo’s relatives couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason for the argument – and this is very true in real life as well. They tend to give their side of the story to whoever will listen, and then these people have to act like they don’t know the drama when the other person gives their side. Everyone is aware that this is going on, but the chisme is just too juicy to not listen to. So many sides and points are made that by the end, you don’t even remember what came first, who dissed who, or what the real argument is about. But it just shows the pettiness and pride Filipinos have when it comes to confronting an issue.

But the problem is, the issue is never confronted. Instead, the flames are fanned and the problem just gets bigger because everyone is just in everyone else’s ear. Both parties know that the other is angry and talking behind their back, which is the reason why they feel the need to get everyone to rally behind what they are saying. But that’s the issue – things are never resolved. It’s always passive aggressive anger. Instead of confronting each other respectfully, it always needs to escalate further to be resolved, or resolved for the moment. Filipino families are traditionally tight-knit, but they are notorious for grudge keeping. There is no such thing as things being forgiven and forgotten for our elders sometimes. It can be swept under the rug, but the next time something comes up, that shit is coming out from the backburner and being used again. Filipinos love hard but fight harder, over the pettiest things sometimes too.

A lot of built up resentment can cause these family feuds. And it all boils down to this – someone gets their feelings hurt, and they don’t have the tools to properly express those feelings. In the Filipino culture, admitting your feelings are hurt or that something bothers you is almost like a sign of weakness. Everyone wants to come off all bossy bad-ass, but the truth is, everyone is just butthurt and it’s a front to cover up those hurt feelings. And because we are not taught to express those feelings, they bubble up in other ways – anger, petty remarks, jealousy, acting like you’re better than others, acting like you don’t care, and being a straight savage in the worst way possible.

We see the result of hurt feelings manifesting itself into ill-mannered behavior in the movie when Jo’s mother tells him that he’s not a good father. Jo’s mom is hurt over what his Tita said – that she’s a bad mother. So she tries to lessen her shame by saying that if she wasn’t a good mother, maybe he isn’t such a great father either. It’s a chain of unnecessary hurt, and honestly everyone’s reaction in the movie was priceless. His post office uncle got me with the, “What is wrong with you?” comment after his mom blurted that out. Of course, this is a movie, so a resolution was made after the climax of insults and childish behavior. But it gave us a glimpse into how far things can go when pride and hurt feelings are commanding the ship.

Easter Sunday hit closer to home since the movie takes place in Daly City! That’s crazy to me. My city, the city known for its Filipino community, is the setting for a movie. Daly City is often shadowed by San Francisco, so it felt good to see us being put on the map for once and not piggybacking off of San Francisco or the Bay Area as a whole. I loved that Easter Sunday was in my city, it showcased food that I eat, Tagalog was spoken throughout the movie, and the mannerisms of each character made me think of my own family – That just made the movie that much more relatable.

Overall, the movie is exactly what I expected it to be. I watched it on opening night and then took my whole family to see it a few days later. I felt like it was a big moment for Filipino-Americans and wanted my parents to be a part of it. My parents really enjoyed it and I feel like every Filipino in that theater could relate to something in the movie. For once, we were watching our experiences play out on the big screen. That’s a big deal. For so long I’ve wanted to see the Filipino experience in media, in our textbooks, in the arts, and now I feel like we are finally getting that representation.

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

Sabrina: My Journey To Self-Love

Story 6 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 Sabrina’s story, written in her own words:

“Today, I’m taking y’all on a journey. The journey of how little Sabrina went from an innocent girl who didn’t have a care in the world, to feeling the pressures of society and succumbing to her inner negative thoughts, and all the struggles and learnings she has gone through in the last 24 years of being in this body. So buckle up and hopefully, this story helps someone out there going through it feel less alone. 

Growing up, I always had a turbulent relationship with my body and eating habits. As a baby, I was pretty chubby, but was also a colic baby, meaning I was just a complete nightmare to be around. I would cry all the time and fuss about eating so much to the point that my mom would spend hours trying to get me to eat and had to feed me water with a spoon. I was really out here trying to dehydrate myself. Over the years, I continued to have problems with eating and would need to be force-fed by my parents. At that time, I had really poor eating habits and would waste all the lunches my parents would pack for me. 

This all changed though around the age of 8 when my body finally recognized how amazing food tasted and I started to inhale everything in my line of sight. My diet was super unhealthy at this point. I would prefer fast food instead of the home-cooked meals my parents made for me. After school, I would beg my parents to take me to McDonald’s, KFC, or Taco Bell. At McDonald’s, I would order 2 fish filet sandwiches, chicken nuggets, and maybe a diet soda to wash it down, which would all be demolished by me before we even got home. 

Around the age of 10, my family had moved to India where we ended up staying for two years during my middle school years. My school at the time offered meals on campus and it was buffet style. We would have so many options for breakfast, lunch, and snacks and no one to supervise us or tell us how much we can or can’t eat. This was literally my dream come true and I happily ate as much as I wanted and didn’t give a care in the world. 

However, soon enough, this safe bubble I was in popped. I distinctly remember a specific time when my family and I were in Goa, a beautiful beach city in India, for vacation. I was about 11 years old at the time and was starting to develop into my womanhood – aka grow boobs – and I had no idea what was going on with my body. I was playing in the ocean with my sister with our clothes on and my mom called me to come out of the water. She told me to cover myself or wear another shirt on top since my boobs were very visible under the wet shirt. I remember feeling so ashamed about this and immediately ran back to our hotel room and started crying. At this point, I didn’t even feel comfortable wearing a swimsuit because I knew my body was going through changes, and I felt so so self-conscious. I didn’t know this at the time but this was a significant turning point in how I viewed my body. I would continue to feel bad about my body for many years to come. 

As puberty hit me like a freight train, I continued to gain a lot more weight. By this time, we had moved back to California and I was starting high school. I was close to ~150 pounds being a 5’ 6” girl and my relationship with my body grew more turbulent. My doctor told me I was overweight and suggested that I exercise even though I was playing competitive sports at the time. I started comparing my body to other girls in my class and would feel so bad about myself. During track and tennis practice, I would always feel like I didn’t look as “athletic” or as “slim” as other girls in our sports uniforms. I remember hating my tennis uniform because it was a sleeveless top that made me conscious of my arm fat. I would feel bad about eating the bagels that my teammate’s parents would bring for tennis meets. I was envious of the other girls who ate whatever they wanted and their bodies still looked “skinny.” It seemed like they didn’t even have to try to look that way and here I was beating myself up about eating a bagel. 

I started to dread going to the pool or the beach because it meant that I had to wear a swimsuit. While other girls were wearing bikinis and feeling super comfortable in their bodies, I still couldn’t even bring myself to wear a one-piece without feeling fat & undesirable. Mainstream media made me feel like the ideal body type was to be skinny and have a flat stomach. I was not skinny nor did I have a flat stomach which made me feel like something was wrong with me, my body, and that I should be doing something to change my body. 

This feeling worsened every time I went to a family party and some uncle or aunty would comment on my body. “Oh Sabrina, you look like you gained weight,” or “Sabrina, you are looking better than last time. Looks like you have lost some weight.” These comments made me feel even more insecure, self-conscious, and made me feel like I had to look a certain way to be considered pretty and worthy. Word of advice to anyone who gets unwarranted comments like this from family or friends: fat shaming and skinny shaming is never okay, don’t let them get to your head. It says more about their own insecurities and way of thinking than anything else if the first thing they feel the need to comment on is someone’s physical appearance. It’s such a shallow way of looking at the world. 

Of course, I let their comments get to my head. Self-confidence was at an all-time low and my body dysmorphia led me down a very restrictive path. When I was a senior in high school, I decided enough was enough and I was done feeling bad about myself and my body. I decided to go on a very strict low-carb, high protein diet and exercised intensely every day for 45 minutes. I would have some cereal for breakfast, a salad for lunch (probably ~300 calories), maybe an orange (like a small ass cutie) as a snack, and would head to my part-time job after school.

During this time, I was strictly logging everything I ate on My Fitness Pal and was so anal about hitting my daily calorie, and macro count. My body was not getting the nutrition it needed and I started to slowly develop a binge eating disorder. I would have a very light calorie day at school, would go to work in the evening at the accounting firm I was interning at, and try to avoid looking at the table full of food that my coworkers brought. 

Eventually, I would succumb to my cravings – cause ya girl was basically starving herself during the day and was so hungry. I would take any food I could get my hands on, go down to the basement at work where I would usually file documents, and gorge myself. I would feel so ashamed for doing this that I would literally make sure no one was near me while I stuffed my face – like I haven’t had food in days. After I finished binge eating, I would usually feel so bad about myself and so physically uncomfortable. I remember one day when it was a particularly bad binge eating episode, I literally sat on the floor with food all around me and sobbed uncontrollably at work. There were days where I would go back home after these episodes and exercise to burn off some calories to make myself feel better. But this never made me feel better since I was 1) so bloated and uncomfortable 2) felt like I ruined all my progress for the day. This would usually end in me breaking down sobbing, feeling more guilt, and ashamed. I would look at my body in the mirror, hate what I saw, and to make myself feel better, I would binge eat again. 

This was a very silent struggle that I went through. My parents didn’t know that I was going through this because honestly, I was doing a pretty good job of hiding it. I would always binge either at work or late at night at home once my parents went to sleep. I would be so ashamed of how much I was eating that I would make sure to do it in secret. 

It took me a while to realize what was happening and what I was doing to myself. I knew that I was binge eating because of my restrictive diet, but I never made myself throw up after these episodes, so I never labeled it as an “eating disorder.” Boy was I wrong. One day, after a particularly bad binge eating episode, I googled “How do you know you have an eating disorder?” and “How do you recover from binge eating?” This sent me down a rabbit hole until I finally opened my eyes to my reality. If I continued down this path I knew this wouldn’t end well. I dealt with my eating disorder for almost 8 months and that was probably the lowest point in my body journey thus far. 

After months of this, I knew I couldn’t live like this any longer. I didn’t feel healthy or comfortable within my own body and I hated feeling so superficial about myself. I started to be honest with myself about what I was doing to my body and how destructive my mindset was. The summer before my freshman year of college was when I found the plant-based community and started watching documentaries like “Coswspiracy” and “Forks over knives” and read books like “The China Study” and “The Starch Solution” (highly recommend). I instantly gave up meat after bawling throughout those documentaries. I learned about the environmental impacts of the animal and dairy industry and realized I had to make a change. I also loved how in the plant-based community, there was a focus on eating nutritious whole foods and not restricting the number of calories you ate. I was vegan for the first 2 years of college, transitioned into vegetarianism after, and am currently trying to go vegan again. 

During this time, I also came across the concept of intuitive eating which is essentially eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. Sounds easy enough right? But if you have ever struggled with an eating disorder or even followed any diet rules you know this isn’t so easy in practice. Since I had restricted certain foods and had binge-eating tendencies, my body was so out of touch with its natural hunger cues. Psychologically, I needed time to get over the diet culture mindset. It took me about 4 months to get to a point where I could stop counting calories and feel comfortable with eating whatever I wanted and however much I wanted. 

During this period, my focus changed from losing weight to listening to my body. I worked on shedding all of this conditioning I had about food, diet, and my ideal body. I was finally eating intuitively. What helped me during this time was to ditch the calorie-tracking apps and unfollowing any accounts that were promoting a certain body type.

In college, my body continued to go through many changes. I gained the infamous Freshman 15 (more like Freshman 25 in my case), and didn’t exercise consistently the first two years. That was the first time since my childhood where I felt liberated and unrestricted. I didn’t care as much about being a certain weight or looking a certain way, and I let myself eat freely without limits (with the only limit being that I was vegan but that didn’t stop me from finding the wonderful world of vegan junk food). 

Of course, this liberating feeling didn’t last long. I started to feel bad about all my weight gain and started beating myself up for letting it get this far. I would try to go to the gym to do cardio or a group class but never stayed consistent and felt demotivated by all the strength and stamina I had lost. The summer before my junior year, I discovered the weightlifting community and loved the focus on gaining strength & building muscle vs. losing weight and having a skinny figure. This was a huge mindset shift for me in how I viewed exercise. Prior to this, I always saw exercise as something I had to do to burn calories and lose weight. Weightlifting completely reframed that for me, and now I wanted to lift so that I could gain strength and see my progress. 

As I continued to weightlift throughout my junior year, I started eating more since I was hungry and wanted to gain muscle. I started to see how food is actually fuel that would help me get stronger and build muscles vs. something that I had to limit and keep track of. The last two years of college were probably the most comfortable and proud I felt of my body. I worked really hard to gain strength and shed past conditionings of restrictive eating. I felt like I finally arrived at a place where I could feel confident in my body and love what I saw when I looked in the mirror. 

Now, don’t get it twisted. I’m not saying I’m suddenly happy in my skin or that I never have destructive thoughts about my body. I still look at the mirror and focus on the “flabby” or “unflattering” parts. I still pinch the fat on my stomach, arms and back and wish it wasn’t there. I still have moments of low self-esteem. I still look at the mirror sometimes and am not happy with what I see. 

The media makes us believe that diet culture is so mainstream and that everyone needs to adhere to these strict ways of eating to look a certain way. It’s truly scary how ingrained this is in our culture, how often it is practiced and seen as normal. The staggering truth is that the diet industry is a $60 billion/ year industry. We are constantly being pitched something that makes us believe we need to lose weight – a fitness program, celebrities promoting weight loss pills, brands selling clothes that only fit a certain body type, etc. It’s hard to not fall into the trap of thinking that we need to change our bodies when all we see online is eurocentric beauty standards and a lack of representation. 

Since the pandemic started, my whole workout routine has completely gone out the window. Without a gym, I’ve been struggling to stay motivated to do at-home workouts. I have lost all the muscle mass I worked so hard to build in the last few years and have beaten myself up for not working out consistently. I have slipped back into feelings of low self-worth and have had moments where I’ve been critical of my body in the past year. Whenever I have these moments, I remind myself that this is MY body and the only body I will ever have. It’s a privilege to have this body and I have to honor and love it at all stages. I spend extra time on self-care and self-love practices that help me get out of that negative headspace and allow me to focus inward instead of outward. Taking time for gratitude has been essential and I thank my body for being my vessel on this earth and allowing me to have all these dope experiences. This has allowed me to be comfortable with accepting myself the way I am in this present moment. 

If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would hug her and tell her that she is beautiful and loved just the way she is. I would tell her that your weight doesn’t define your worth. Diet culture is a load of bullshit and you should never try to conform to something you see on the internet. Food is meant to be enjoyed and life is meant to be unrestrictive. I would tell her that criticizing your body for years hasn’t helped you at all so why don’t you try accepting yourself and see what happens. 

As a society, we are conditioned to think that we need to look a certain way to feel happy and confident in ourselves. The media feeds into this thinking and makes us feel like we’re less than and/or not beautiful just the way we are. If you’re reading this and have been through or currently going through something similar, just know you are amazing just the way you are, and fuck society’s nonsense. Don’t value your body over your being. No one can take that away from you and you have so much more power and agency than you realize. Everyone has body issues, even those you idolize. When you come to realize that everybody deals with body image issues in their own way – even the people you might consider as flawless – then you can start to accept yourself just the way you are. We are all different shapes, and sizes, and that’s what makes each one of us unique and this should be celebrated. There is no one else like you. We only have one life to live and one body so we must take care of our home & nourish it with love, kindness, and empathy. I want to share my story with others because I know I am not alone in how I feel about my body. We need to speak to one another and shed ourselves of the programming society has instilled in us. The more we do this the more we can feel liberated and closer to our truth.” -Sabrina

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 🥰😘

In the Eyes of the Beholder

I’ve always stressed the importance of being media and social media fluent. If you keep up with my writing, you will notice that the topics I cover somehow come back to social media and comparisons, and how we intake and perceive media.

With me, social media is either a good thing or a bad thing, no inbetween. It’s either I’m inspired and motivated, drawing information and shared beliefs from pages I follow and educating myself, or down the rabbit hole I go. Everyone knows exactly what I mean. The rabbit hole of comparisons and insecurities. All of a sudden you’re questioning your successes in life because you came across a certain page on your explore, and then you read through the comments, and stalked her life, her friend’s life, shit you even found her mama’s page through the tags. And then you realize, wow, I don’t even know these people. And they literally don’t even know who I am 🤣 But everytime I go down that route, I have to remind myself that this is social media. It’s so fucking curated and sometimes – let’s all admit it – fake as fuck. Said this before and I’ll say it again – people only post what they want you to see.

Before I started posting on my blog consistently, I considered myself a pretty low-key person. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been on social media. But I think compared to the average user, I was more private with my life. Yeah, I’d post here and there, once or twice a month, if not more, but I really feel like what I posted was nowhere close to disclosing parts of my real life to everyone. Even with stories on Instagram, I was never one to post about my daily life. I’m more of a “I’ll give you lil snippets here and there,” type of person. Of course, I’m not knocking the people that DO post all about their lives. I honestly can care less how you choose to use your social media platforms. It is truly none of my business. But I choose to keep my personal life under wraps. And it’s not until now that I’m posting my personal struggles on my blog that people see through the window of what I’m really like. And even then you still 100 ft. from said window, just sayin’.

I’m very choosy with what I choose to share and open up about, especially since this is with the public. It’s so weird that I want to live a low-key life, but at the same time I want to share everything to break societal norms. I hit a point in my life where I’m like… dude, fuck all this fake curated bullshit, show me something real, talk about some real deep shit, open up about those emo ass struggles we all face as humans. I was tired of seeing airbrushed, fake it till you make it, artificial ‘I’m livin’ my best life,’ type of content. So I started speaking my truth through my writing and journalistic work.

And at this point, I think we all know I’m not gonna front like I got my whole life made. Clearly, I’m so confused about my life and career decisions that I made how many blog posts about it just to vent. And to be honest, I’m probably not done writing about my anxieties yet.

Before I started posting consistently every week, I would occasionally post on my Instagram a blog post or article I wrote for SFSU’s Xpress Magazine. And that would seriously be like once every 2 months or something. Especially if it wasn’t for Xpress Magazine, and it was just me writing a personal blog post that was totally not school related, that shit would be like 1 post every 3+ months, if not longer.

I made this blog for school in 2016. At the beginning of 2019 I think I had like…. 33 or 34 posts. Maybe even less. More than half of those posts were blog posts I HAD to write for class / assignments / articles I wrote throughout my Journalism degree and thought, if I wrote it, might as well share it! Maybe less than 10 of those 33 ish posts were written ONLY for my blog and because I wanted to and felt like it.

So just picture how shocked and confused I was when this happened…

About 2-ish months after I officially graduated in December, I made plans to hangout with an old friend I’ve known since I was about 9 or 10 years old. Michael and I haven’t seen each other since our 8th grade graduation back in 2009, and briefly talked during our school reunion a year later when we were all freshmen in high school in 2010. So it was literally 10 years since the last time we saw each other and really caught up.

I didn’t know what to expect. Of course I was excited to hangout with him since we were super tight during our cringy years, but so much time had passed I didn’t know how it would be. But when I saw him, he started telling me about how he’s a crazy party animal, stories of how his life has been since being openly gay, and all the crazy shit he gets himself into! I was truly entertained with everything he was telling me. But rewind, before he disclosed all this information to me, we had to break the ice.

“Dude, so how are you! What’ve you been up to?” I asked.

Michael looked down in a shy manner, leaning on his hand, his elbow on the table.

“I don’t even want to say,” he said. “Nothing compared to what you’re doing. You’re so successful.”

My eyebrow rose in confusion. In my head I was like…. bruh…. I ain’t doin shit what’re you even talking about? 😩

I asked him to elaborate. He told me that he sees me doing “big things” with my blog, I just graduated college, and it seemed like I was very successful.

I almost choked on my Wingstop. I told him how insecure I was about my writing and making things public, how my life is in shambles after graduation because I don’t know what route to take with my life, and how overall confused I was.It really shocked me that he said that. Because he totally saw me in a different light than how I saw myself.

I visited my old journalism professor, Nancy, a few months after and told her about this incident. She pointed out that isn’t it crazy that I could be idolizing someone and comparing my life, but not even knowing that someone could be looking at me in the same light, even though I don’t feel that way about myself. Nancy explained to me that there will always be someone “ahead”of you and there will always be someone “behind” you, we’re all basically trying to make it at different paces. But that doesn’t mean that we are failures if someone is more ahead of us, and that also doesn’t make us more successful if we are the ones more ahead.

It made me realize that the people we think have it all together, probably don’t. In the example of me and Michael, he seriously thought I was so successful and secure in myself, when it was legit the opposite. Yes, I’ve made accomplishments in my life like graduating, and pursuing my writing career, but in my eyes, I’m far from where I want to be. But in the eyes of an outsider, without much context, it seems like I got my life figured out.

I think that’s why I respect Lizzo so much. She’s so successful, her career is flourishing, but she still remains transparent. She posts videos of when she’s depressed, and I think that’s very important to share your successes, but also your struggles. Especially being a famous person who people look up to, she promotes being real. She shows her human side, regardless of how much fame she receives.

A few days before the SFSU graduation ceremony, I met up with my friend, Ivan, to give him my extra Oracle Park graduation ticket. I originally was trying to sell the 2 extra tickets I had, but ended up giving both of them for free. “Fuckit, good karma coming my way,” I thought. In exchange for the graduation ticket, Ivan dropped me off to the crafting store, Michael’s, so I could get some last minute things for my graduation cap. And honestly, good karma did come my way because that drive with Ivan was exactly what my heart needed!

I’ve known Ivan since Skyline College. We are the definition of “started from the bottom now we hereee.” He’s like that gay best friend that always tries to hype you and remind you that you’re that bitch! And that’s exactly what he did during our drive to the craft store.

He could tell by the way I was venting that I was stressed. To the point where he was like “girl, we need to hangout, I could tell you’re really stressed out about this and need to talk!” Of course it was about the future and career choices.

Ivan reminded me who the fuck I was and what the fuck I stand for. It warmed my heart that he told me after all these years he still kept up with my writing. To the point where he described a specific story I did. A true king. I told him how scared I was about not making it in the industry, and how it’s hard to be a successful writer.

“Boo, you got this though,” he said. “You know what, I know you’ll make it. You’ve always been motivated. I have no doubt in my mind you’ll make it! You got the passion! I know you!”

I told him I do have the passion, and I do want to make a difference in this world with my writing. But I voiced my concerns about hoping that my passions can pay future bills. I told him I want to find a way or a middle ground where my passions and career collide and I can make decent money to live comfortably.

“Omg, yeah. That’s what sucks about being a humanitarian. You got passion and you want to make a difference, but you don’t get paid for shit.” And if that ain’t the fuckin truth 🤣🤣🤣.

But both of these conversations made me realize that we all come down on ourselves pretty hard. We’re always worried about the next job, next opportunity, next move, that we don’t celebrate the little victories. Also, you could be that someone that somebody else is stalking thinking, “damn, I wish I dressed / look like/ was as successful/ as confident/ as open/ as cool as them,” all the while you’re thinking you’re a failure and you ain’t shit. And social media plays a big role in that. Like I said a billion times before, people post their successes, but nobody really talks about the waves of emotion that comes with success. The person you are looking up to is probably going through it too. Whether they are famous or not.

We are all at different stages in our lives. What may be a major success to someone is something minor to the next. If you find yourself falling down that toxic rabbit hole and you’re comparing yourself and feeling mad insecure, just know that everyone is struggling in one way or another. Nobody truly has their life together. You’ll also never really know everything about someone just through their social media platforms. We’re all human. We all go through it. In reality, we all want to be perceived as successful and that we have our lives together. But it’s okay if you don’t. Success is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

“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.