I never set out to be a voice in the body-positive movement. In fact, as recently as a year ago, my most significant life goals hinged solely on losing 200 pounds so I would fit into a body deemed attractive and acceptable by society.
I desperately wanted to have a body that gave me permission to do the things I loved, like dance in public, and a body that gave me permission to outwardly be the person I was inside: a confident, quirky woman with endless goals and dreams.
My quest for this perfect body started at age 10 and eluded me for the next 19 years, creating an uphill trek through self-doubt, eating disorders, polycystic ovarian syndrome, weight loss, weight gain, and towering waves of depression.
I hit rock-bottom more than once, but I didn’t quit my life. I kept living and I kept dancing.
A co-worker urged me to film myself and put the videos on YouTube in a series called “A Fat Girl Dancing.” One of my videos went viral and my inbox exploded with messages from all over the world from people saying that watching me dance had made them cry or changed their life. This was overwhelming to me –- and very telling of the society we operate in.
It took me years, but I have finally made peace with doing what I love. Whether I’m thin or fat or somewhere in between, I won’t stop dancing. While some are OK with it and some are not (I try to force myself not to scroll through the YouTube comments), one thing is obvious: it’s different. It’s different and it’s shocking, to some degree, but it shouldn’t be.
Now, at age 29, the path has finally leveled. I’m arriving at a place of self-love. Cultural norms, societal pressures, and the whims of the fashion industry do not define my worth as a woman or a human being. My intelligence, personality, talents and contributions do not fluctuate with the numbers on a scale. I am unwaveringly ME.
The same goes for YOU. No matter WHAT you’re struggling with, embrace what you have to offer, love yourself right this minute and start affecting positive change for yourself and others.
No excuses. No shame.
For more information on Whitney, and to join her No Body Shame campaign: