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When she’s not baking, snuggling her husband, or wrangling her two plott hounds, Stephanie works on empowering people in every aspect of her life: as a volunteer coach and mentor for emotional intelligence workshops, with a local women-in-business leadership organization developing membership and volunteer programming, and running her own business as a LuLaRoe retailer. Having finally realized that clothes can be comfortable AND fashionable, she now shouts that lesson from a mountaintop! Or at least from social media. If you want to check out Stephanie’s style find her on Instagram. Or find her on Facebook and mention this blog for free shipping on your next order*.
I am currently 75 pounds more than I weighed in high school.
In high school, I thought I was fat. I remember sitting on my mom’s lap crying at age 18 because I didn’t like the number I saw on the scale. I wore a size 12 pants and wanted so bad to be a 10.
In college, I thought I was fat. As a freshman I “joked” with my roommate about how tiny her belt was on me, internally tearing myself up over the fact that I needed to get down to that size. By my senior year I was up to a size 14, and when someone commented that I was getting fat I knew I already was and pretended not to hate myself for it.
Four years ago I thought I was fat. I had for the briefest moment bullied my body down to the magical size 10, but it didn’t last. First I got back to a size 12 and then, over the course of just one month, everything shifted. I changed careers, I was diagnosed with spinal arthritis at age 27, I was put on steroids, and I gained 40 pounds–to start. I was mortified. How could anyone ever respect me? How could my husband even look at me? How could I look at myself??
Two years ago I started to address all of the things that ARE wonderful about me. I took a leadership and emotional intelligence workshop and it turns out, I’m pretty awesome. In fact, I am a present, forgiving, and unstoppable leader. But…I still thought I was fat. If I truly knew my authentic self how was I letting my weight stop me from loving myself? From having fun? From feeling comfortable? How present could I be when my weight was such a focus of my life? Why hadn’t I forgiven myself for having weight at all?
It was time to start acting like what I knew to be true: I am beautiful. If I’m beautiful, I don’t need to hide myself. If I’m beautiful, I don’t need the validation of a number on a tag. And in the moments when I started to remember that I am beautiful, enter the magic that is LuLaRoe. For the first time since adolescent weekends at the mall, I could go shopping at the same place as my smaller friends and try things on at the same time! I embraced the idea that tags were nonsense. I tried on things sized small. I tried on things sized triple extra large. I fit them both and I happily put them in my closet! It became a practice for me to ignore the tag and try it on. If I don’t love it when I look in the mirror, it doesn’t deserve to come home with me and forget every story I used to create about why it didn’t look right. Now, here’s the thing. LuLaRoe isn’t the only clothing that I look good in, although it is my favorite. But as I started wearing it I realized I was allowed to wear bright prints and fitted clothes and ignore the numbers on the tag and boldly let the world see me. I was allowed to wear the same thing my friend was wearing, but *gasp* in a size appropriate for my own body. I started experimenting with patterns, branching away from my staple colors of “somber” and “free t-shirt.” I started taking full body pictures of myself and then SHARING THEM ON THE INTERWEBS. Of note, it was really hard for me to find photos of myself over the previous 4 years. Today I am bigger but I wear clothes that fit and I view myself better and my photos are everywhere.
There are a few simple things that helped me on the journey, and I want you to try them.
First, throw away that thing you are keeping in the closet. You know the one; you have to suck in your gut to get it buttoned, or wear a belt to hold them up. If you are actively wearing it and it doesn’t fit, I don’t care how much you want it to, get rid of it. It holds too much power.
Now, go get something to replace it without regard to tag size. Thrift, swap, or spend lots of money it doesn’t matter. But ignore the tag and get something that expressly fits your body. If you need help figuring out what fits your shape, call me! I’ve watched a lot of Stacy London.
Finally, think of two or three words that really express who you are, and put them on your mirror. Post-it note, lipstick with hearts, or fancy calligraphy, put it where you will see it when you look at yourself. I would bet those words aren’t “cruel” or “tears people down.” When you are looking at yourself, let those be a reminder and an interruption the moment you think about judging yourself. Does that judgement align with who you truly are?
Today, I am fat. Really this time: I wear a size 18/20 pants and I have a BMI that I get to handle in order to ensure I’m taking care of myself. That’s okay. My value as a person isn’t determined by the shape in the mirror. I won’t claim that today I never stare at the mirror and wish I was smaller (here’s lookin’ at you, swimsuit season!). But now I take a moment, consider what is really the issue, and figure out how to tackle it. Do I want better core strength? Great! Let’s get to work! Would I like to feel healthier and improve my arthritis symptoms? Completely acceptable! Let’s think about what habits I can change. But in the meantime let’s be real. I make those curves look GOOD.
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