From Mel: I never know what I'm going to learn from someone's story, but I ALWAYS know that I am going to walk away more awake, more connected and with more compassion. Below is Angela's journey with body acceptance.
From Angela: I grew up in northern Wisconsin in a rural town. Fashion was not at the top of the list; dressing warm and practical. Easter dresses rarely allowed for cute shoes; instead we wore our winter boots and jackets to church. I was the oldest of two girls. Many times as a child all bundled up in my winter gear, people would refer to me as a boy. Light colors were discouraged because they got dirty; instead black or navy blue were my winter clothing choices. My hair was chopped around age 5 because I didn’t take care of my hair. I still remember my mom taking a picture afterwards, my face streaked with tears, it was so short. My dad will tell us to get our “swimming trunks on”; I would correct him as say “we wear swimsuits.” As a child, I was aware of the shape and size of my body. It was reinforced by family, school age friends and then my own inner voice. I will never for the day that I was called “fat”. It was in 5 th grade and it was the annual school weights. I remember getting my number that I was a 100lbs. I was mortified!!
After I got back to the classroom, a note was on my desk. I opened it and it said, “Your fat.” It’s one thing to battle the inner voice in your head; it’s a completely different game when others notice and tell you. Oh and the grandmas that say what they feel. I remember my grandma wanted to make a little sign for my sister that said “you’re not fat, just short for your size.” Luckily my mother prevented it from being made. My mother taught us to love ourselves no matter our size. It was difficult to listen to her advice, when all I heard was my voice.
I held back on living my life thanks to hating my body. I danced as a little girl and continued until Jr. High. I stopped due to the costumes becoming more revealing. I didn’t have a nice flat stomach. In fact, I had a permanent line on the stomach that I referred to as the “continental divide”. Its why my pants were always worn so high. I finally got my love of dance back when through cheerleading (only one season) and the the Pom Pom squad. I hated the stupid gold suspenders because that were push to the side due to my boobs.
Speaking of my boobs….
My boobs came into bloom in third grade way before any other girls at my school. I remember being a B cup in six grade. I hated my boobs. They were not nice and round like we see on TV, rather they were cone shaped and not symmetrical. I guess we are genetically blessed with bosoms in my family. I tried to cover them up in baggy clothes; oh and I hated swimsuits!!! But I pushed through and joined the swim team in Jr. High. Once again, I was more developed than my fellow swimmers. I had this routine before each race: pulled my swim suit up toward my neck, pop my goggles on and grab the block. Well unfortunately, I was nervous and forgot to pull up my suit.
As I entered the water, I felt my swimsuit plunge down to my stomach. I pulled it up then swam my race. Sadly, after I touched the wall, I was disqualified due to taking one too many strokes to reach the surface. All because of my fucking boobs. Throughout life I had wardrobe malfunctions (boobs popping out of my prom dress, color bra shown on family photos due to buttons that were tight across my chest. As I grew up, I dread clothes shopping especially for bras. I couldn’t wear the cute stylish ones; in fact I referred to them as “over the shoulder boulder holders”. For years, I thought I was a 38 DDD; however, my dear friend stated “you’re not wearing the proper bra size.” I was pissed she would say it; but, I called her from the dressing room thanking her that I was a 38G. Let me tell you, when your “girls” are lift properly you look like you just lost 10lbs. Plus my back and shoulders didn’t kill me.
I came to peace with my boobs when I became a mother. I never planned on nursing my daughter. If I hated my boobs, how the hell would I accept touching them and pumping. I did it and it was the best decision, I ever made. First I lost all my baby weight quickly, but it created wonderful moments with my daughter. She still loves to nestle on them while watching TV.
I did feel misunderstood when I was a child and teenager. I chose to have short hair in high school and yet people still thought I was a boy. I remember working at the grocery store, a gentleman came up and said, “excuse me sir”. I pointed to my boobs and said, “you might want to rephrase that statement.” I do believe women are misunderstood when it comes to the shape of our bodies. We are reminded by magazines, radio ads, social media that we all have an extra 10-20 pounds to lose. We are pushed to lose that “muffin top” or eat salads for lunch. Luckily my mother didn’t reinforce these things in our home. I remember skipping meals or cutting back to lose weigh in high school. My friends were always shorter and smaller. My mom had a rule not to share clothes with friends. I had no problem because they would have been swimming in them.
I felt silenced by stores in the mall that didn’t have various sizes. My boobs were too big and I had no hips…well hip bones but I was thick through the middle and long legs. My mother religiously bought my clothes through JC Penney’s catalog because they had Plus Sizes. I remember girls being excited about prom and the variety of dresses. I was like, the first one that fits me I’m buying. I was a fat, chubby, big boned girl. My internal voice was the loudest. Telling “this is why you don’t have a boyfriend or why you are not popular.”
Today it sickens me that women’s clothing gets smaller and smaller. I even noticed with my daughter that her sizes cut so far in. Hello clothing industry, we are not all shaped like hourglasses. As a mother it’s my mission to educate my daughter that beauty is more than her stomach, legs and thighs. Sadly, she has already dealt with a girl calling her fat. It was one time but she will never forget it, just like I will never forget my note.
My transformation of how I view myself began when I worked at Remuda Ranch Eating Disorder Treatment center. I met Mel as a body image therapist along with other amazing eating disorder specialist. While working in this environment, it tends to alter your perception of yourself. Along with my growth, my faith was a tremendous solace. God makes beautiful things perfect in His Own Image. I witnessed pain, suffering, that women experienced. I cried when I got the letters that some “didn’t make it” and took their own lives over hating themselves.
After I left Remuda Ranch, I made it my personal mission to advocate for healthy body image. It started with no scale in our house. Ava’s father and I taught her all foods are good in moderation and proportion. When we go to the doctor, I have Ava turn around backwards and ask the nurse not to announce her weight. We encourage her to be physical active to keep our muscles strong. Horseback riding created some rock solid muscles in her legs. Despite my effort to protect my daughter from the diet industry, fat shamming comments or social media; it still penetrated her heart and thoughts. I felt that I failed as a parent. I was supposed to know how to fix her thoughts and teach her to appreciate herself.
I continued my passion through advocacy work with NEDA. I had to stop once I began working. I attended a documentary, EMBRACE, with Ava and a fellow colleague. Taryn Brumfitt is this amazing Aussie lady on mission to allow us to embrace our bodies. She is phenomenal. I hope to meet her someday.
Here are my two cents about life: Stop the crazy diets; they don’t work. Stop forcing yourself to fit into a swimsuit or wedding dress that will look much better if you lose 20lbs. It’s not worth it. I wouldn’t change myself in any way. I have accepted my saggy non symmetrical boobs; they nourished my daughter. I have accepted my flabby stretched marked stomach; it was the home to my unborn child and my daughter.
I’m imperfectly perfect. My body shape is not a tragedy. I’m imperfectly perfect.
Phenomenal woman that’s me.
My name is Angela and I’m phenomenal.