Stevie took this picture of me to post on my Instagram because I support the I Am What’s Underneath – True Style Is Self Acceptance movement. When I was trying to write the Insta post, I realized I have so much to say about this topic, it might be time to write a blog post about the body acceptance part of self acceptance… I’m scared to, but I’m going to do it anyway!
Growing up taller than everyone was one thing, but having the biggest butt amongst all the other girls was another. Starting in fifth grade, kids would torment me by walking around sticking their butts out and noses up. We moved around a lot, and at every new school, they made fun of me and my butt.
Middle school was torturous. Every morning I cried in the shower wishing there was some way to get out of going. I didn’t want to go.
When I got to my new high school, the basketball coach noticed me as a potential center for the team. At thirteen, I was just a quarter inch shy of six feet tall, much taller than most of the boys and girls at the time. He invested time into teaching me the skills other girls already knew having grown up on teams together. I worked really hard. I made Junior Varsity my freshman year and even played up on the Varsity games sometimes.
After basketball season was over that year, I became anorexic. I was counting calories and over-exercising, eating cucumbers and drinking diet cokes. I lost thirty five pounds. I lost most of my butt. I was stick thin. I tried to model, but they said I was “too sophisticated” and “not symmetrical”.
My family and friends asked if something was wrong. There were a host of reasons why I might have wanted to create some sort of control during that time, but really, I was anorexic so that I could look like the pictures of the models in the magazines I was reading. I felt like that was beautiful, and that people would like me if I looked like that.
Then my coach saw me. I had lost most of my muscle and was losing my hair and not getting my period. There is no way that I could have boxed out the other centers in our league with the skinny arms and legs I had.
I had been anorexic for about six months, but I was never sick enough to be hospitalized. I was lucky to have people in my life who cared enough to speak up. I remember eating bags of cinnamon raisin bread alone at night to gain back the weight because I really wanted to be able to play by October when team work-outs started. Over-eating like this was not healthy either, but eventually I got back to my normal size and was able to get strong.
By my senior year, I was being recruited by several colleges and was an All-State basketball player having earned Most Valuable Player and Most Inspirational Player several years in a row.
In college, I got to hang out with other young women like me. I lived in a house with volleyball and basketball players. When we’d walk to the grocery store together, I remember feeling so comfortable in the presence of other tall women. We were together on the quest to find jeans that would reach our ankles, and sleeves that would reach our wrists. Also, the boys didn’t care that I was tall. In fact, they thought it was cool.
Basketball helped me learn how to accept my body, but it was not an easy road. Strangers have approached me to say things about my body that I was too young or naive to know how to respond to. One time a crude dude at the outdoor court said “Damn girl, you’ve got child-bearing hips…” (and there was more that I won’t type). Another time a hippie in flow-y pants at a dance party came up to me to say “You are so tiny up top and so big on the bottom, I’d like to paint you because of your abnormal proportion…” (I am size eight up top and twelve below). More recently, I realized a “potential client” who was supposedly asking me for information over the phone about brands that would flatter his girlfriend, was really just trying to get me to talk about my ass.
These kinds of comments from strangers do not feel like compliments, they feel like icky, slimy, awful invasions of personal space.
It took me years to forget the caloric intake of my food and to, instead, focus on balanced nutrition. It took even longer to accept my body. With constant influence from the media, strangers, and even family, it took time and conscious choices.
For so long I wanted to hide my derriere because I was afraid people would comment on it. I even received unsolicited advice from peers in the fashion industry to not draw attention to it. I find this to be dis-empowering, by the way.
I stopped reading most magazines. I found a good man. I gave massages and received massages. I witnessed the incredible act of child-birth. I worked with teens who were struggling with some of the same issues I had. I surrounded myself with strong, healthy, bold women. I danced. I learned to surf. I bought the skimpiest swimsuit known to man in Costa Rica and wore it… in public. As an exercise, I decided to wear more figure contouring garments that accentuated my hips.
Now I like my figure, I mean really for real. I can run sprints and swim fast and box out and dance hard because of my strong body. Why should I hide? I am grateful to have this body.
I love clothes. I want to wear beautiful things. I care about composition in an outfit, and my figure is the canvas. I do consider wearing darker colors on the bottom sometimes or building up my narrow shoulders to balance out the width of my hips… However, I am not going to not wear a beautiful dress because my butt looks big in it. It is big. It is part of me. And I’m trying to love all of me.
And I help women of all shapes and sizes do the same. Dressing can be fun and creative and expressive. Have confidence. Don’t hide.
I encourage any woman working on putting herself out there more to do three things:
- Be active in ways that make you feel tough and beautiful and courageous. Feel your body work.
- If you start dressing differently, have phrases in your back pocket to whip out when someone says something to you that you don’t appreciate. Be prepared, because you will get comments.
- Watch the I Am What’s Underneath videos on StyleLikeU and consider donating to their Kickstarter campaign if you believe in the message.
My journey to full SELF acceptance is a lifelong one. I enjoy being around women who seem to have settled in to themselves in ways that must feel amazing. When I hear women in their forties, fifties and sixties talk about what it feels like to not give a shit about what other people think, I light up. That’s what I want. I don’t want to judge myself or be hard on any part of my self any more. And I am getting there.
Writing this blog post is one big, small act along the path.
* Many of us humans are acutely aware of our weight and our figures. It’s a common topic of conversation amongst women because it’s a subject we can relate on, especially around the holidays when food is involved. Why not take a break? If you don’t want to talk about it, what are ways to shift the conversation to something more interesting? My friend Alexandra Franzen sent me 100 questions to spark conversation and connection over Thanksgiving!
* If you are a tall woman who wants to know where to find stylish clothes that fit, contact me. Girl, I can help! #tallgirlstyle
* If you’re struggling to find a healthy relationship with food and your body, here are links to Food Addicts in Recovery and Overeaters Anonymous. I’ve seen those programs change many lives in positive ways.