I’ve always been thin. Always. It is nothing new for me, something I’ve lived with all my adult life. However, there are certain scenarios where either in the middle of a conversation or out of the blue where people feel the need to point out the fact that I am so tiny. Then starts the discussion about my physical appearance – like it’s something I’m not already aware of.
My weight and appearance, because of the comments and conversations I have experienced, has always been something that I hate talking about. Mainly because, I just don’t feel like I should have to justify my weight and how I look to anyone. In general, my eating habits are terrible and usually contain a large amount of sugar and carbs. I am not anorexic, I eat, just not very healthy. The fact of the matter is, that no matter how much sugar, carbs and other crap I ingest, I don’t pick up weight - ever. Some may see this as a blessing, but I have weighed 50kg for as long as I remember and who knows if or when that will change.
I know that in writing my story it going to open the flood gates (that are my tear ducts) and a lot of women may not understand, being as most women suffer with not losing weight rather than never being able to pick any up. But it’s a situation I have dealt with my whole life and as long as I am as thin as I am, I will probably continue to encounter these kinds of situations in the future. I have been in the thick of conversations where people will suddenly feel the need to talk about a person’s weight like it’s their business, half the time they don’t know the person, possibly someone that has walked past them, or they have seen on social media. But, because of the slack I received in my 20-odd years of criticism, I feel as though I have even less time for this every increasing ‘body shaming’ rubbish. Even today, people surprisingly think it is perfectly normal and (sometimes) okay to discuss other women’s body shapes.
Because of the experiences I have been through, I have taken everything I have learnt and used that to make myself a better person. It has all helped me love myself more – regardless of my weight. I choose not to engage with people who think that it’s okay to body shame people. I choose to ‘tell them off’ and voice my opinion on the matter. I choose to only have relationships with people who are accepting, and end those that are unhealthy for me. I make those choices for the sake of my health. I like to think I am more confident than I was a year ago and I would like to think I love myself more because of the choices I have made.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have days where I look at myself in the mirror and choose to put on a baggy shirt instead of one that is fitted. And there are days where I still wear jeans instead of shorts – regardless of the weather – because I feel self-conscious that day. I know that I will continue to have those days, but there are the days where I chose to show off my tiny waist because I feel good and boy-oh-boy am I super grateful for those days!
What’s more, I am super lucky to have a beautiful wife who loves and accepts me no matter what my waist looks like. She supports me, makes me feel good and is always there when I need picking up off the floor. As well as an amazing group of friends who I am so grateful for.
No matter what aspect of your appearance you’re worried about, surround yourself with people who love themselves and love you. And most importantly, don’t be so hard on yourself. You are one of a kind and you are beautiful. We all are!
I can remember feeling like I was fat from the age of 10. I always felt like I was the biggest one in my group of friends, which when I look back now, couldn't have been further from the truth. We were all pretty much the same size, which means I was the average weight for my age, but I didn't see or feel it back then.
It got worse as I got older and reached a very serious peak when I discovered my first set of stretchmark's at the age of 13. At the time I cried, I hated myself, I hated that this had happened to me. I couldn't recover from it so at the vulnerable age of 13 I attempted the first of many weight loss stints. I lost a significant amount of weight but low and behold the stretchmark's didn't disappear.
I struggled throughout high school which held me back from a lot. At 18 when I finished high school I had a period of grace, where I was happy with my weight. Not my body because there were still those "disgusting" marks, but I could deal with the number on the scale. But as time went on my weight started fluctuating and I put on quite a bit which set off years of dieting. From extremes such as Duromine and weighing everything before putting it in my mouth to the healthy way - eating the good stuff and exercising. But through all of this, no matter how much I lost, no matter how big the difference in before and after photos was, I couldn't find self love and happiness. During this time, I avoided the beach at all costs, I only wore long pants, yes, even in 30-degree weather and I layered my tops to make sure I had all the coverage I needed. I would sweat my ‘titties’ off during summer but I would not take off those pants and I wouldn't dare put a costume onto my "gross" body.
In 2017 I started my last diet, I even started an Instagram account to keep track of everything and keep me motivated. It went well, I lost 12 kilograms, and everyone could see it. The difference in the before and after photos was very evident but I still didn't find what I was looking for - comfort in my own skin. After 6 months of restricting myself to the point of turning down invites to dinners with friends and never wanting to put a drop of alcohol in my mouth, including at my oldest friend’s hens party, I gave up. Towards the end of 2017 I had the moment. The moment that literally changed my entire life and everything I had ever known. I decided to take time out to look after myself, I did a lot of soul searching. I stared in the mirror, I dug deep and I decided to let go of that self hatred I had held onto for so long. It started off with small changes such as stopping myself from having bad thoughts about my body and taking photos of myself when I felt good. I then started another Instagram account to document this journey to self-love and confidence. Choosing to be a part of the body positivity community was the best decision I ever made. I experienced one of the most memorable and freeing experiences of my life in December 2017 when I decided to take my shorts off at the beach and enjoy my time there in just my costume. Again, this was a life changing moment.
Since then I haven't looked back. I choose self-love every day. I want to actively be a part of helping other women reach the point I have because I can’t compare this feeling to anything I have ever experienced. I have given societies expectations the middle finger. I have overcome something that held me back for years. I choose to not waste anymore of my time worrying about numbers or marks on my body. For many of us the hardest thing to wear is our skin but when you learn to appreciate everything that you are, your life will change.
As women, we often focus on the things we wish we could change. For me it’s always been my light skin and freckles – two things that made me unique. All our lives we are taught to be ourselves and that we are unique, but no one ever tells you that being so unique often brings hardships.
I am constantly teased for my light skin but the joke isn’t that funny anymore because it often leaves the question: is that all that people actually see? And it hurts. Not because opinions matter but others find it okay to point out your flaws that you too are trying to cope with too!
Growing up, I suffered from severe eczema to the point where my skin would be raw, making me extremely self-conscious of who could see it. This has been a huge factor for me until last year when I decided to take full control of it. I started sharing my journey online with my followers with a series called #BeRealYo (which has now evolved beyond just my skin but things many are too afraid to share online). I shared about my skincare issues, and not wanting to be seen in public, not being able to wear make-up because my eczema had spread so far. Other women started stepping up and sharing their stories, providing advice and being of support.
There are days when I’m still so self-aware of it, it can be crippling. But being real with those around me has given me the confidence I need. We often look at other women, especially online, and think they have no issues – perfect hair, flawless skin, even tan, toned tummy. Photoshop is real friends! Being a petite girl all my life, gaining weight has always been a mission for me, which may sound ideal but until recently it meant being forced to shop the children’s section because a size 13-14 fit me ten times better than a size 6 in the women’s department. That’s not fun! Imagine working in finance and struggling to find appropriate office attire. But the real icing on the cake is being told, at a fashion show, in front of other people, that I don’t wear enough make-up and look far too young for this industry. I’m 23. I look 16 on most days. I don’t wear much more than a BB cream and mascara if you’re lucky. But that’s what makes me happy and what’s good for my skin. For the longest time after I was told I look too young, I tried to change things and not look so “cute”. “Cute” was offensive. I now officially own it and say thank you. I’d rather be cute than look much older than what I really am anyway. That’s the thing, we hold onto what others say so heavily that we forget why we do what we do, wear what we wear or live a certain way. It’s because we’re happy and have accepted who we are. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.
Now, as someone with a little bit of influence, my vision is to empower women to be real with themselves, by me being real with them. Society has norms, and standards. But who created them? Surely we can change them! All of this has indeed made me stronger and is exactly why I stepped out of my comfort zone and started the clothing brand, Juan. To salute the brave women, to say it’s okay to not wear that dress but a t-shirt instead. To salute those brave enough to be themselves, who dream bigger and do what makes them happy. Never forget who you really are just for a pretty picture. I too have cellulite. I have scars. My hair doesn’t always do what I need it to do and I still don’t have a tan. But, that’s okay because it’s authentically me!
Empowering clothing brand (Juan.): www.facebook.com/stylejuanleo