I didn’t know fat was something I should feel shame over.

The Body Project has given me the chance to explore why I am so great and the opportunity to share it with the world. I feel connected to a community I didn’t have access to before.
— Nicole

I have known Nicole my whole life. She was that zany girl with the biggest laugh I’d ever heard in the choir room in high school. We weren’t close friends, but we were friendly. She’s just as genuine today as she was then, and I am incredibly appreciative of the fact that she squeezed in a private session with me (she was supposed to join this Sunday’s session) before moving out of state this Friday.

As she stood in my bathroom doing her make-up while I pinned up her teased hair into a mo-hawk, she explained how she wanted to capture her quirkiness: her bobby-pinned mo-hawk she’s always looking for an excuse to wear, her sexy, sequined black dress, her awesomely adorable two piece lingerie, her glittery eye makeup, a light-hearted pose and a strong pose…simply, HER.

The session was peaceful and full of gratitude. Not only did I LOVE the way the photos turned out, but then she sent me a story that seriously kicks ass. Like Nicole does. :) Enjoy.

I was 24 years old the first time I realized I am supposed to be ashamed of my size. I was in graduate school, participating in an advance listening course. I was having a discussion about women and their bodies with six of my peers, all of whom were between sizes 2-14. I was the last to share. I listened as each of my classmates shared about how advertisements, men, friends and family members had led them each to believe they were too big to be attractive. When it was my turn to share, I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Should I lie to fit in with the group, or be honest and admit I didn’t know fat was something I should feel shame over?

I do not remember what I said to my peers, although I know it included the truth:

I have never felt shame for being me, and I have never defined myself by my size.

I give all the credit to my mom for my long-lasting naivete. I wish I could share the secret of how she raised a large, loud, and proud woman, but I am not sure there is only one answer. Here is what I have learned since becoming aware that “they” be ashamed of my body.

I am a lot of things.

If I had to pick fifty words to describe myself, not one of them would include fat, big, large, fluffy, or plump. They would include fierce, independent, happy, head strong, funny, witty, pretty, and smart.
Smart. Funny. Sassy. Independent. Confident.
Smart. Funny. Sassy. Independent. Confident.

If you needed me to describe my physical appearance, I would probably tell you I am solid, strong, and have beautiful eyes. I have a smile that serves me well in my profession, putting people at ease and allowing them to open up to me. I have arms that easily lift my 40 pound dog and 35 pound nephew. I have legs that let me climb, run, walk, and travel. I would not describe parts of me that jiggle and shake. Those do not add up to my sum.

Around the same time I learned that I am supposed to feel shame when I look in the mirror, I also learned how to express my feelings about the topic. I love me, I appreciate me, and I know I am constantly striving to be the best me I can be. I am confident and capable as I am. However, I have no confidence that men, specifically date-able ones in my age bracket, will ever appreciate me. On the rare occasion that a man tells me he thinks I am attractive, it is usually accompanied by the phrase, “I like big girls,” or some variation.

I am not a fetish; I am Nicole.

One well-meaning friend suggested I try to find an online dating site for blind men because they might appreciate me more. The only man I ever loved told me he was the only person who would ever be able to love me. Comments like these reinforce my greatest fear—that no one will be able to look beyond what society and advertising says about my size and appreciate me for me. Lucky for me, though, these comments and situations have not changed the value I see in myself. I am a woman, a sister, daughter, and aunt. I add up to so much more than the number on the scale.

More than 302.
More than 302.
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