From Body Shaming To Acceptance (And the Many Sizes In Between)

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By Courtney Quinlan

I weighed myself the other day, which is something I hadn’t done in months. I could tell I had lost some weight- not from exercising, possibly from eating less, but mainly because of stress. Stress about my son and school and stress about a recent heart wrenching breakup.

I hesitated as I put my foot on the scale, then paused a moment before I put my second foot – that felt like dead weight, a dead limb I had to hoist onto the scale. I was begging the scale not to say a certain number, I was nervous at seeing numbers.

I realized I have let these numbers define me for so long now. I’ve allowed them to equate to self-worth, to self-loathing, I’ve used them as a shield when men get too close. I’ve let them trap me, let them tell me things like, no man will want to date you this way.

I am curvy – very. Curvy with some extra fat around my middle. Leftover deposits from pregnancy, held prisoner around my waist from poly-cystic ovarian syndrome. And the pre-cursor of pre-eclampsia that added 90 lbs to my small frame during pregnancy.

I used to be small, petite, never had to worry about a thing I ate. I never weighed more than 125 lbs. before becoming pregnant.

Now I have this Rubenesque body that has breasts the size of my face, with some pudge around the middle and relatively stable legs. I’ve often wished I could take the fat from my stomach and transfer it to my ass, then my body would make sense. Then I would fit some sort of pre-determined body type that is acceptable, dare I say desirable? Or flaunted in many forms of media.

My body hasn’t made sense to me for years.

12 years and I still can’t buy clothes off the rack. I don’t have a typical waif, or pear, or apple shape, honestly I don’t even know what to call my shape.

I’m not ashamed of my body. I’m not obsessed with being thin. I am fully aware that I am past the prime age and size of being a super model. To be honest – it’s so nice to let all of that go. I’m 39, I still think I’m attractive. There are times when I even feel sexy, dripping with sex, sexy. There are times where I feel like I’m made of marshmallows or puffed up pastries of some sort.

It’s been interesting to experience both what it feels like to be a tiny, skinny girl and now to be a curvy overweight woman. I’ve embraced it, to an extent.

I’ve tried diets, I’ve tried exercising, but when I get really honest with myself, I just want to be healthy.

I just don’t want to die from complications of being overweight.

I still find men who accept or even LOVE my body. I still move it in ways like a snake, I’m still as flexible as I was before adding these pounds.

I have physical limitations due to my disabilities. My body hurts daily. Chronic pain; sometimes enough to keep me in bed for days. Let me be clear, these disabilities have nothing to do with my gaining weight. They are neurological in nature, yet affect me physically.

Weight did not determine these disabilities.

In those moments my body has no shape, it’s just pain. It just feels twisted, or stuck or pounds and shoots nerve endings like lightning bolts. Those are the days when it wouldn’t matter if I was 100 lbs or 187 lbs.

I stepped on the scale, looking down at my bare feet and legs…

I watched the numbers switch and climb and calibrate. I had lost almost 20 lbs.

I thought I would feel elated, I thought I would give myself a proverbial high-five. But I didn’t. I stepped off the scale and turned to the mirror.

I admit, since my breakup I hadn’t looked at my body much. It sounds silly, it probably is silly, but for a few weeks my own naked body only reminded me of him – how he touched it, the parts he loved…

I didn’t want to think about him, so I stopped looking at my own body.

When I turned to the mirror I ran my hands along the side of my rib cage and let them follow the countered lines of my waist and hips. I studied myself like a cartographer. I became a topographic map, peaks and valleys that had changed over the years, some spots eroding, others adding sedimentary layers.

I held my breasts and felt the weight of them. A comforting weight that rests in part of the palm of my hand and feels like a mother goddess.

I love my breasts.

I then put my hands on my stomach and ran them across the tributaries known as stretch marks, how they feel a different sort of skin, a smooth skin, smooth like a river rock.

I grasped my fat in my hands and tried to see if I could notice just where those lost pounds had gone. What area did they leave? It seemed strange that I couldn’t tell by looking at myself.

My pants were falling off of me, so logic told me I had lost stomach weight (which I wanted to do). Which I have tried to do.

I looked at my worn body and the skin that has lost elasticity and kind of sits and jiggles. The soft fat, the kind that comforts a child to lay upon, like a velvet pillow.

I inspected myself as though this were a new body. As though it was uncharted landscape. I thought about what I would look like if I lost another 20 pounds, I wondered if I would feel happier, more secure.

I realized I wouldn’t.

I was glad I had lost some weight, but I’m at an age now, of acceptance.

I accept my body. I accept that I will never have a super fit, tight, breasts that sit at your shoulders, ass that you can bounce a quarter off- body.

It may have been the first time I was happy about that. I was satisfied.

I can make some improvements; I can tighten my core in hopes that losing weight won’t leave me with skin hanging around my waist, the kind that just lives there, sullen and hollow, while my muscles hide underneath.

It may happen, I’m certainly getting no tummy tuck or lipo or any of those other things that imaginary people with money get.

I realized I loved my odd shape, because this is me and to loathe my shape is to loathe myself, and I have worked far too hard for decades on learning to love myself.

This body carried my beloved son, brought him into this world.

I wouldn’t trade that for a beach bod or 7 days a week at the gym.

I’m just not that girl. I don’t ferociously work out.

I write.

I move my body when it feels right to me.

I step on a scale maybe every two months, because that feels right to me.

I own my flaws because this is who I am. This is exactly where my life has led me. I look in the mirror and I see beauty in shapes that others may not, and for the first time, I’m truly fine with that.

Welcome to my misshapen, fat storage, muscular legged, triple lettered breasts, slight double chin, sturdy arms, no booty, stretch marked body.

This is me.

All these pieces fit together and hold the rest of me in.

This is my container for love and hope and anger and sadness and triumphs and fierceness.

This is my container.

My vessel that carries me and I am thankful for that.

I love every pound.

I love every inch.

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Courtney Quinlan
I am the Camilla to Dawn’s Gonzo. Just a quirky chicken in love with the strange and bizarre. I’ve always had a wild imagination and love being extra (if not overly) descriptive with my words. I love the art of writing, how you can fit words together like a puzzle and rearrange and explore new ways of expression. I’m a poetry and prose girl at heart, although I like to dip my toes into other areas and have a short list of books I intend to get to work on at some point rattling around in this brain. I’m a fiery single mama to a quirky boy with autism who has the most interesting perspectives on life. I’m a fierce advocate for the underdogs in whatever shape or form they may be. I love getting lost in the woods, communing with nature. I’m fairly unfiltered and if you ask me a question, you’ll get a heartfelt and honest answer. I don’t believe in hiding behind my truths. I’m not an extremely graceful person and can often be found tripping over my own feet or wandering aimlessly around the house searching for my keys. I am not above embarrassing myself and often find my own humor hilarious even when others don’t!
Courtney Quinlan

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