I wasn’t supposed to be a body positive advocate. When I started my plus-size style blog, it was meant to share my outfits and inspire other plus-size women to live fashionable fat lives. I wanted to journal my style evolution online and get a job in fashion. But when you are a plus-size women who decides to wear bold colors and take full body pictures, you’re automatically labeled as a body positive advocate. Any plus-size body that grows a following on social media and takes full body pictures is instantly labeled a self-acceptance warrior.
At first I never described myself as body positive because I didn’t love my body. Fashion was my passion and my body was just simply a vessel that held my clothes together. It wasn’t until I noticed that I was holding myself back from fashion due to the hate I had towards my body, that I decided to start wearing crop tops for the first time and showed off my legs after years of hiding them. It wasn’t just because I didn’t want to feel like I constantly had to hide by body, but because there were so many outfits I wouldn’t wear. The lines became blurred and I realized that fashion was the medium I was using to show other women to accept their bodies as they are.
After realizing I was a self-acceptance advocate, I digged deeper into the many topics in relation to being a body positive person. I shared personal struggles like being fat shamed at the doctor, the fears of wearing a two-piece swimsuit for the first time, dating while fat and so many other topics that many of us regardless of jean size could relate to. It was the best thing society had forced on me. I was learning to accept my body and helping others to accept their own.
I loved talking about these topics because other men and women were benefiting from the conversations online. People seemed to listen and the feedback seemed extremely positive—for the most part anyway.
But things started to change two years later. I gained weight and went up one jean size. My body positive talk went right through them. All of a sudden I was too fat to preach self-acceptance. I felt frustrated and hurt. I realized how bodies that are bigger tend to be less accepted in the plus-size community.
Bodies like mine are constantly compared to bodies like Ashley Graham’s or Iskra Lawrence’s. These two women have what are considered ideal “curvy, plus-size bodies” and the only acceptable ones to speak about in regards to body acceptance. They talk about their cellulite, stretch marks and other flaws and are praised for speaking about them because their figures are shaped in a way that still fits certain beauty standards.
I received a DM from a follower who noticed my weight gain. They went off on me for gaining weight and how it felt like I was trying to “force” my beliefs on people. Going up one jean size all of a sudden made me inadequate to talk about loving my body. Regardless of the fact that I only received one mean comment, it still really affected me. I was much more aware of how different the comments were towards women who spoke about body positivity and looked like Ashley Graham and those who looked like me. What had given me a voice in the community was the same thing others were complaining about.
I became very aware of my weight gain and everything I preached about being happy with yourself at any size went out the window. I posted less and didn’t mention anything about my body when I did. I had been silenced. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. But what made me less deserving of body positivity and self acceptance than other girls? When I was smaller I believed girls who were fatter and bigger than me deserved to feel good about their bodies, so why couldn’t I?
Women with bodies like mine or Tess Hollidays bodies represent what is ”wrong” with the movement. Our bodies are not the norm of beauty, sexyness and self-love. To them we represent the opposite. Yet bodies like ours are the ones that are breaking the barriers and shutting down beauty standards.
Though it can feel like I am speaking into an abyss, it only reminds me of the work that has to be done. Until we realize that there is not a size limit to being body positive—and that all bodies are to be respected, loved and admired—I will continue to speak about loving my round belly with stretch marks regardless of how uncomfortable it might make certain folks feel.