I've always been a bit self-concious about my weight. From being a fat baby, to a chubby toddler with pronounced jowls, to a solid teenager, I was never slim. I would have given so much to have taken after my beautiful mother, who was as slim and graceful as a small bird. My sisters all got her genetics, and I ended up being the chunky older sister of the family.
If you have read my older posts, you will probably be able to guess how I dealt with the issue. That's right, I stuck my head firmly in the sand, and refused to address it in any way. My mother tried to help, suggesting exercise and healthy diet, but I angrily refused her help. I felt ugly and I took my mum's offers of help as a sign that I wasn't loveable as I was.
I grew up envying my friends. They were slim, active, beautiful people who wore clothes well, while I felt frumpy. Every time I put on an outfit, the thought running through my mind was not: "Do I enjoy wearing this outfit?", but rather: "Do I look too fat in this?"
When I was 18, I went to a convent, and ended up wearing the habit for two years. All issues with the convent aside, the habit was awesome. It was loose and flowing, and the only thing that changed with weight gain was one's belt hole placement. It felt like wearing a ballgown all the time, and while it could be hot and awkward, it was definitely the ultimate cover-up!
Time passed, and eventually I left the convent. I was left with an ultra-short haircut (due to the nun's policy of shaving their heads), moon-white skin, and as big an issue with my weight as ever. I had few clothes left from before I entered the convent and what I had was old and ill-fitting. I had little money to spend on clothes as well, as I quickly began volunteer work in Perth, and was trying to subsist on an allowance of $25 a week.
I ended up wearing cast-off clothing for the most part. Again, I felt chubby, as the two girls I shared a house with were both slim and gorgeous. I walked everywhere, and got really fit, but I never morphed into the petite shape I longed for. Instead, I was known as the strong one, and any heavy lifting that needed doing became my responsibility.
For all that I was strong and fit, I hated my shape still. So it was a surprise when Graham first asked me out. I thought of all the other attractive girls he had met at the same time as me and wondered why he hadn't chosen any of them. I remember spending hours before a date, trying on as many different combinations of clothing as possible, looking for the "thinnest" outfit.
It took a long time dating Graham for me to relax about my looks. Eventually, I realised Graham didn't care about my weight, and thought me beautiful just as I was. I started to relax, and I even became ok with wearing comfy clothes around the house - something I'd not allowed myself to do for years, as I thought they made me look ugly.
But an even bigger step was taken when I learnt, not just not to worry about my shape, but to enjoy wearing clothes. I remember finding a clothing shop that specialised in plus-sized clothes. But these weren't the ugly drapes most plus-sized clothes looked like; no, these were fitted for curves, and cut from bright and fashionable fabrics. The only problem? They were expensive.
I remember describing this shop of wonders to Graham, who then decided to spoil me. He drove us to that shop, stood in the shop while I gathered a bunch of clothes to try on, and then paid for a new wardrobe for me. I went home, changed clothes, and looked at myself in the mirror.
I was beautiful.
Of course, it wasn't all the clothes. I'd always had pretty blue eyes and nice skin and curves. But I'd never seen them from the depths of my insecurity. The self-esteem I gained from those clothes was incredible. I shone - and everyone could tell I was finally happy with how I looked. Graham remarked how my posture changed and my attitude improved once I had put on those clothes and decided I could look good, no matter what size I was.
This is not an apology for an inactive and unhealthy life. I know I need to exercise more. I need to eat and live healthily. Excess weight is a health issue which shouldn't be ignored. But a health issue doesn't need to be a self-esteem issue, and while I try to attain a healthy weight, it's good to have a positive attitude. I can happily admit now that I am strong and curvy. I know I will never look like my beautiful mother, but I can show my own unique happiness and beauty.
I may be a big girl, but I am finally comfortable in my body. It might be chubby, but it is mine. It is strong and cuddly, and I am happy with it.