\u2018I Felt Ashamed About My Weight For Years, Until I Finally Learned To Recognize My Beauty’

I come from a big family, and I don’t mean there are a lot of us. My dad is 6’8,” my mom is 5’10”, my brothers are 6’7″, and I’m 6′. I’ve been taller and bigger than most people my entire life. But it didn’t bother me until I was 10, when a little boy told me I wouldn’t be so fat if I didn’t eat so much.

It was the first time I correlated food with weight. As far as I knew, I was just big because I looked like my parents—I didn’t even realize food had anything to do with it. But the correlation stuck: Food = fat. Fat = bad. After that, I’d regularly go on “diets” where I’d starve myself for weeks at a time.

Despite my efforts, boys still called me fat. I had an incredibly horrible and mean inner dialogue. I thought that if I really hated myself enough, one day it would stick and I could truly commit to starving myself, to working out even more, and I’d finally, finally be skinny. But it didn’t work.

Once in college after a formal (which I had heavily “dieted” for), I was on a friend’s Facebook account and saw a photo of myself from the night before in his frat’s private group. Everyone was calling me “big Mads” and making jokes about the prospect of one of them hooking up with me. The guys commenting and laughing at it were all of my friends, the people I was around constantly. It shattered me.

But slowly, after college, my life expanded in a way that made me feel good about myself for the first time. I discovered I was a talented graphic artist, began a career in tech, traveled for months for my job and even got a drunk tattoo one night in New York, where I ended up moving shortly after. I said yes to everything and started living the life I’d always imagined. I was slowly warming up to the idea that despite my weight, maybe I was a cool person and that was enough?

One night I saw a meme on my phone that showed a woman at the gates of heaven listening to God talk about her life: 96 years on earth, 65-year marriage, 4 kids, 15 grandkids. She asks God, “What was my biggest worry in my life?” He checked his notes and said, “Oh, it was being 28 pounds overweight.”

I don’t know why, but that just struck me. I thought, have I spent my entire life in complete self-loathing for…no one? Did I waste precious time and tears and sacrifice my health, my emotional wellbeing, and my self-worth being ashamed about something that I don’t even hate in other people? How can I celebrate the beautiful, plus-sized women in my life, but hate myself? Are other people’s opinions worth my energy?

It was transformative. It felt like the coat of shame I’d worn for years just melted off my body. I gave myself permission to let go of the embarrassment, because it never made me lose the weight, but it made me lose myself. I had never even considered loving myself as I am, and not waiting to love myself until I was someone “better.”

Letting go of that shame has made me blossom as a person. I have so much to offer and I know it. Situations that would have been my nightmare in college, like struggling to get into my wet suit in front of friends on vacation, are no big deal anymore. I was fat back then. I’m still fat now. The difference is that I recognize my beauty today, and I’m not fixated on anyone else’s opinion of me anymore. And that acceptance has brought so much joy and peace into my life.

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