Welcome to the world of social media. Last year a friend posted a group photo with me in it without asking first!!! When it first popped up on Facebook, my mind flooded with negative thoughts about how fat I looked and what people would think and/or say. “Shit, I thought, I’m tagged in this F***ing pic. Everybody is going to see it. Wait, I will hide it from my timeline. Damnit, that won’t make a difference; she has friends that have friends that have friends, blah blah blah”…;
Well time passed on by and I am happy people will forget they saw that photo! Whew!!!” Low and behold, one year later what appears? My friend’s “Memories,” yep, you guessed it; there’s that picture again. When it first re-appeared, I didn’t’ know if I wanted to kick her or kiss her. Fast forward to now, this photo inspired me to FLIP MY SCRIPT.
My idea of what was considered “pretty,” came from what I saw and heard outside of my home/family. I was fortunate to come from a family that was supportive and encouraging. I escaped being bullied and taunted in school, even though I was a bit “chubby” in elementary school. I believe I was in 4th or 5th grade when I began to notice that I was larger than my friends. Around that time that I began to compare my body size and development to my peers.
I must have said something to my Mother because I recall her saying that I was normal. She explained that everyone develops differently and that at my age it was just “baby fat.” I really don’t recall what else she said; but whatever it was, it must have sat well with me for the time being because I just moved on.
During my Teen years, most of what I learned about body image came from watching the older sisters of my friends, television shows and media advertisements. Based on my observations, I drew my own conclusion that “thinner equaled better.”
To better explain, during the time that I was coming up, light skin and thin body was preferred. As a darker skinned girl, I concluded that since I couldn’t do anything about my complexion, I could beat the odds by getting and staying thin.
During my Junior and Senior years, it was very important (so I believed) to be thin. At the time, I still had not experienced much external negativity or criticism about my appearance or weight. But, in my mind, I needed to be proactive to ensure that I wasn’t subjected to body shaming. I dug into my mental archives. I searched and recalled the images and messages of early on: the thinner girls got the dates, the thinner girls were accepted & popular and overall, thinner girls were “prettier.”
And so it began…while I was never clinically diagnosed, what I know now about eating disorders and body dysmorphia, I exhibited the associated behaviors. I began my quest to be thin by not eating. It all made sense to me, eating can make me fat, so not eating will make me thin. The latter was definitely true. I didn’t eat; I was thin. However, not eating caused me to lose my hair. It was an obvious hair loss. I had a very large bald spot in the front of my head. My mother took me to see a doctor who diagnosed me with protein and calcium malnutrition. He didn’t say why or how I had this, but inside I knew. I kept it a secret. Inside I said “Shit, the jig’s up. I have to start eating” and I did. I believe was 19 at the time. I spent the next year eating “just enough” to keep my family from being suspicious and questioning my eating patterns. I was extremely thin at the time.
Around this time I began to seriously date the person who I would later marry. What I know now to be true, my being thin, was his attraction. Five years or so later, as I began to gain weight, I’m found myself in full on “I Hate My Body” mode. I would spend the next 10 years vacillating between not eating and binging and purging and/or taking laxatives. I would exercise obsessively. I’d tried diets, fasts, cleanses, etc. all for the sake of trying to be thin. It was no longer about trying to be proactive, trying to be pretty so others would accept me or to fit in. My sole intention was to make the person that I had chosen as a life mate happy. I had things said to me such as, “you’re getting undesirable;” “if you get any fatter, I’m leaving.” Hence body shaming.
Over the course of those 10 years, I lost confidence and my self- esteem was gone. I added more negative self- talk that further validated my earlier beliefs. I created my script, I’m not good enough. I’m ugly, I’m fat, and I’m unworthy.
I began to hate the way I looked and refused to take pictures or I’d hide in the back. I would critique every part of my body from my dark skin, to the size of my thighs. I’d convinced myself that I was unlovable and undeserving. When I left that marriage, I took all of that baggage that by the grace of God has now become my fine luggage that I carry with me on my new journey.
It has taken me nearly 20 years to FLIP MY SCRIPT. I have love and support of my husband Greg, my family, friends and my Yoga Community. My journey and approach to self-love and acceptance may be similar to or vastly differ from that of others who have or had poor body image. But my message speaks to everyone. My passion and commitment today is to encourage others to be inspired by something that will lead them to self love.
The picture that inspired me was taken after a Yoga class 2 years ago. I practice yoga consistently now for almost 2 years and am currently a SHINE Power Yoga Ambassador. I learned to embrace who I am through my yoga practice and my training. I recently went to Level One training with Baron Baptiste. Since I’ve returned, I have had several people mention differences that they see in my way of being. The other day a student at the studio said to me, “you look lighter.” I thanked her and smiled. Her statement has nothing to do with my skin color or my weight and everything to do with how I show up. I have dropped the years of negative self-talk – I have FLIPPED MY SCRIPT and oozes out of my pores as:
Black is Beautiful. My Body Fat is Healthy. I Love and Accept Myself. I am Who, Where and How I am Supposed to Be: I am Gina, I am Alive, and I am Body Confident.