Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I've Moved!

I just created a website devoted to empowering women through the use of globally-curated content,  Donuts & Dissent , where I'll be putting all of my current and already-published articles instead of on this blog. Thank you for your support!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Married. Happy. Autistic.


     So much information about autism and the Autism Awareness Movement is geared toward young children. News flash: adults have autism, too. I'm one of them.

     "But you look so normal, and you're married! You can't have autism!" Exclamations like these always follow whenever I tell people that I'm autistic. It's true: I'm married, I had a career before I was diagnosed with a bone disease that ended it; I probably don't fit into your idea of what it means to be autistic, but it's something that affects me every moment of every day. 

     I think in layers and constantly have between three and five inner dialogues going on at once on different subjects, and my brain doesn't filter out stimuli like it does for the rest of the population. This means that I'm very easily overstimulated. For instance, if I'm grocery shopping and music is playing through the store's sound system, I hear and process every word said; my brain can't make it background noise. This, combined with the bright fluorescent lights and the constant levels of inner dialogue I have going on at any given time sometimes makes me overwhelmed and irritable. As a child, I'd have tantrums whenever I went out because I couldn't take being bombarded by the constant stimuli that my brain was processing instead of filtering.

     When I was a kid, I had a horrible speech impediment, and didn't make eye contact with people when conversing. My volume fluctuated inappropriately, and I spoke both with a lisp and far too quickly to be understood. After years of speech therapy and time working with therapists and psychiatrists to develop an inclination for eye contact, I began to seem more normal to other people.
     When I learned to speak properly, it quickly became evident that I was gifted. I was reading and writing at very advanced levels, and speaking with such a huge vocabulary that it alienated me from my peers. They called me things like "Spock" and "Dictionary", and whenever I tried to speak with them, they'd either stop me every few seconds to ask me what a word I'd said meant or their eyes would glaze over and they'd stop listening to me, not understanding what I was saying. It was around 5th grade that I learned to normalize my speech, forcing myself to limit my vocabulary and add "like"s and "umm"s into my vernacular like the other children did. I still find myself automatically translating things from the advanced, complex way I think into a simplified, modern way of speaking. 

     I often felt alien in school, and never had an interest in what other children were doing. While they were playing on the monkeybars and collecting Pokemon cards, I was memorizing poetry, reading endlessly on the Bolshevik Revolution and teaching myself basic Russian with the help of stacks of library books. I never wanted friends; I had so much going on in my mind at any given time that there simply wasn't room for friends, especially not ones with whom I had absolutely nothing in common. I was happiest when I was alone in my silent room with a stack of books, layers of thoughts swirling around colorfully in my head. I could sit quietly in an empty room and my mind would keep me happy and occupied for hours.

     Along with my Autism comes a learning disability in math as well as an inability to read maps. I can easily comprehend highly advanced abstract astronomic and micro concepts pertaining to things like quantum physics, I'm extremely intelligent and gifted when it comes to all things language, and am fluent in French, but I can't add or subtract even single-digit numbers to this day, despite years and years of flashcards and private tutoring. My obvious shortcomings in mathematics led to a lot of teasing as a child in school, even after I'd gone to the trouble of normalizing my speech and emulating my peers in other ways that felt foreign to me but were commonplace for everyone else.

     Now, I'm on medication that helps manage some of the unpleasant symptoms of my autism, like irritability, panic attacks, OCD and ADHD. To most people, I seem a bit quirky, idiosyncratic or eccentric, but overall "normal". No one guesses that I have autism unless they really get to know me, and, even then, it hasn't been a very big deal to anyone. 

     A few years ago, I was so worried about telling my then-boyfriend, now-husband, that I have autism. Our relationship was serious and we were living together at the time; he knew that I took medication for mental health problems but I'd never told him what my actual diagnoses are. In the end, it was he who mentioned it before I did. He'd found an article online about autism and thought it described me perfectly, and approached me with it. I admitted it to him then. Rather than being scared off by this news, he shrugged it off. "Having labels like 'autism' and 'ADHD' don't change who you are," he'd said, "they just describe you and help me to understand you better. Plus, I've already fallen in love with you." We were married in Vegas a few months later.

     There are so many different levels of autism. I'm considered high-functioning, though I struggle everyday to fit in to a world that isn't made with me and my needs in mind. So much literature on autism is geared only towards parents of small children with autism; those of us who are adults with it rarely get mentioned, but we exist. There's life after an autism diagnosis, and even though it presents a lot of unique challenges, it's possible to live a fulfilling and beautiful life with it. I don't see it as some horrible thing to be fixed; it's part of who I am. I love my colorful, vivid mind, intense imagination, fierce intellect and rather impressive inclination to excel in all language-related endeavors. If someone gave me the choice right now to take away my autism, I wouldn't do it. I'm happy. I'm perfect just the say I am; I don't need to change, the world just needs to expand its understanding and accept people with autism as unique individuals with just as many useful gifts as challenges. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Loss Of A Parent, Not To Death, But To Abandonment

I always get irrationally angry when people post pictures on Facebook with captions like, "A Mother's Love is Forever" and "Nothing Is Stronger Than The Bond Between Mother and Child".

What a bunch of bullshit.

My mother walked out of my life years ago and never looked back. I texted her and set up a meeting at a coffee shop a few years ago, but, after waiting there for an hour, it became evident that she'd stood me up.

So how do I deal with it? How does one cope with the loss of a parent not to death, but by abandonment? I think it would've been much easier had she just died; it's hard knowing that she's out there living her life, being mother to her other children, being wife to my former step dad.

The wound gets less raw as the years go on, and I take a lot of comfort knowing that. In another seven years, maybe it won't hurt at all; maybe I'll be able to get through a Mother's Day without bitter tears and an all-consuming jealousy of my mothered friends.

It's better that she's out of my life. She wasn't good for me, and my life improved significantly once she removed herself from it. She's a selfish, terrible sociopath who should never have procreated, and she abused me greatly and often.

With her out of my life, I've been able to focus on myself more. She consumed my world, convinced me that I'd be nothing without her, demanded all my attention without giving me anything in return. She stole thousands of dollars from me, stole my jewelry, stole my mental well-being, my life. Now that she's not in the picture, it's easier to see more objectively just how terrible she really was as a mother to me; my most basic needs went unmet. I'm so much healthier and better off without her in my life, but, even though intellectually I understand this, not having a mother still stings, and leaves me feeling rejected.

I still want a mother. I want a mother to get my nails done with me, a mother to call up when I need marital advice or a good cry, a mother to teach me how to bake and use a sewing machine, a mother to be a mother. I get so bitterly jealous of my friends who have relationships with their parents that I start to resent them, and that's so unhealthy. I'm still working on getting over it. Years have therapy have taught me to focus on the positives and try to forget about her.

I still get flashbacks of her whenever someone walks by wearing Chanel No. 5, when I see someone with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, when I hear certain music, and when I see brands of clothing she used to model for. They play like tapes in my mind, these flashbacks, and for a moment it's like I'm a kid again, turning my laundry basket upside down and standing on it to reach the window so I can climb out and run away.

I used to run away and sleep in drainpipes out in the Arizonan deserts, because I felt safer and less lonely there, among the rattlesnakes and coyotes than I did at home- with her. Sometimes I'd be gone for days without anyone noticing or trying to find me.

Creating a childfree family with my husband has helped me to get over a lot of the abuse and neglect- we have two rescued dogs through which I get out a lot of my maternal inclinations, and, for the most part, I feel totally fulfilled in life. The hole inside me where my mother used to be grows smaller all the time. I really hope that one day, it'll be completely gone, because she's not worth my time.

Maybe that's what makes me angriest: how much time I've devoted to worrying about her, thinking about her, hating her. It's time that I let go and stop being so angry. I want to turn the page completely, but my thumb and forefinger are still gripping it tightly, unwilling to move on.

This is me letting go. This is me giving the five year old in me sleeping outside in a dark drainpipe a hug and tucking her into a warm, safe bed. This is me learning that I'm content within myself, and that I'm happy for my friends with parents, not resentful. Good for them. I hope they appreciate what they have in their relationships. I hope they know how special that bond is, because my story is proof that there isn't an automatic biological bond that forces the mother to love the child; the parent makes a decision to love the child or not. Mine chose not to, and I feel sorry for her, because I'm a fantastic person who's worthy of love, and she'll never get to see that.

She's missed out on me getting a driver's license. She missed out on choosing a wedding dress with me, she missed out on my wedding, she missed out on the adoption of my two dogs. She's missed out on birthdays, surgeries, near-death experiences, hospitalizations and car crashes. She'll miss out on my whole life, and I pity her for it.

That's how you move on when a parent abandons you: you create your own life for yourself, feel sorry for yourself for a minute, then learn to pity your parent and move on. The missing parent isn't worth your time or even the energy it takes to miss them. They're pathetic, they're nothing, they're gone. Now's your time to be strong, build yourself up and just let go.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Origins

Of note: I wasn't sure whether or not I should publish this; I thought it was just an indulgence rather than something worthy of throwing up on here for all the world to see, but a friend convinced me to. Trigger warning: I talk about a suicide attempt.

At seven years old, I decided to kill myself. I knew what to do, I planned it out, I waited in excited anticipation for the perfect moment to give myself the gift, the peace and stability, the stillness and permanence of Death. I'd personified death into being a sort of magical spirit that could take me out of the mess of anxiety and chaos that was my life. At seven, I saw Death the way other children viewed the Tooth Fairy or Santa Clause, and was just as excited for its coming as my peers were about the arrival of their imaginary characters.

I sat on the edge of the tub; it was cold and pristine, my already-fat thighs stuck to it. I couldn't get the pills down- not enough of them, anyway. They were too rough and big for my seven-year-old body to swallow. I choked and gagged on them, filling dixie cup after dixie cup with water, trying to get them all down. Finally, I just chewed a couple, but the taste was overwhelmingly terrible. "I don't want to die with such a bad taste in my mouth," I remember thinking, frustrated and angry that things weren't going the way I'd envisioned over and over again: me elegantly swallowing the bottle of Clonazapam and slipping softly into Death's arms, the way other children slip into the water of a lake to float on their backs and stare into the sunshine.

I ended up just getting violently ill and sleeping all day. There wasn't anything romantic about it; there was no drama, no fanfare, no relief. No one even noticed. I was so disappointed.

People today view me as a body positive activist; someone who encourages people to love and accept their bodies as they are without qualifiers and exceptions. I post pictures of myself publicly, for the world to see and judge and critique. My fat arms, my cellulitey thighs, my fat ass are all out there on the world wide web, and I get emails and messages daily from people calling me inspirational and telling me how I touched their lives in some way by being so "confident and brave", to use their terms. I'm seen as a positive, smiling person who exudes confidence and self-love, and I am that, and so much more. My story is deep, and dark, and twisted, and private. As open as I am, there are secrets I'll keep caged up like dark birds in my chest, and their fate will be to die with me.

What my followers don't know about me is that I'm a survivor. I won't bore anyone with the sad and dark details of my particular life experience, but many things (and one person, two if I'm included) have tried to do me in, and I've survived it all. My sweet Death was within inches of me so many times, so close I could see It almost clearly whenever I closed my eyes, but It pressed its long, spindly, cold finger to my lips and whispered closely in my ear with the intimacy of a lover, "Not yet." And I lived. I lived, simply and with an impossibility that both under- and overwhelms me still.

I'm still here. That seems like such a simple statement; an obvious to you, but to me it's heavy and loaded, full of both impossibility and excitement. I've made it. I feel like I've been through it all and come out on top, the victor in a game I'd been forced to participate in my whole life. The page has been turned, and the future is blank. I can do whatever I want now, I've been freed.

I still feel Death tethered to me, but not closely; It is tied to me loosely like a balloon on a string, miles high up in a clear blue sky, a figure far away, full of helium and unknowability.

Having survived so many encounters with Death, how can anything like body image seem like a big deal? By being what others call a 'body positive activist', I don't feel like I'm doing anything exceptional or big and brave. It feels as natural as breathing, which is something I can finally easily do now that Death is miles away and I'm firmly planted on the ground. Now that I've overcome my former life, I don't get embarrassed, or feel silly, or let people's negative comments about my appearance get to me. I spent so much of my life dying that it's finally my time to live, and, goddamnit, I'm going to, without restraint or hesitation; unabashedly and fully.

I love myself because I was so unbelievably brave for being through what I've been through and surviving. I had to buck up, alone, and figure out impossible situations. I had to fight and claw and scratch my way out of a very dark place to emerge this person I've become. My life before was like an origin story, and  now I feel like an unstoppable force of nature, having risen up from the ashes of all I'd defeated.

Mental health and body positivity are so important and so inextricably linked, and I want to continue to promote both so that people can feel even a bit like how I feel now: powerful, positive and secure within myself at last, though still full of faults. I can be cold, brash and indifferent; I can be demanding, impatient and elitist. I spent so much time hating my body and feeling inferior that I feel like I'm entitled to a bout of elitism or over-confidence every now and again; I have many years of hate and darkness to make up for.

Whenever I start feeling overwhelmed or worrying about trivial things, I remind myself to look at the big picture. I remind myself of where I've come from, of the battles I've fought, and that, cosmically, even those fights that seemed enormous to me are nothing. Life is too short and precious a thing to waste hating yourself and your body. Choose to live, instead.

Monday, August 24, 2015

My Plus Size, Body-Positive Sex Life


     In the interest of full disclosure, I'm very sex-positive. I've had numerous sexual partners, men and women. We're taught as children that sex with multiple partners without marriage makes people "sluts" and devalues them. We're also brainwashed into believing in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the concept of 'virginity'; that you can be defined as pre- or post-dick, and that a penis has the power to take away some sort of intangible but valuable part of you and make you less of a complete person in some way. I don't buy into any of that. I definitely promote safe sex with trusted partners, but life is hard; get all the pleasure you can out of it.

     Now for my great confession: I was a covers-pulled-up-to-my-chin, lights-off, minimize-jiggling-however-possible lover. I hated my nude body. I used to think somehow that if my partner couldn't see the parts of me that I didn't like, (s)he'd magically not know about them. I specifically chose strategic lingerie that hid my belly and covered most of my ginormous booty, and I wore fishnet stockings not to be sexy, but to hide all my cellulite and to try to minimize my huge thighs. I never felt sexually satisfied, because I never allowed myself to be sexually satisfied; I was always too caught up in my own head and insecurity to enjoy myself, and I'm sure my partners could tell and that it ruined the experience for them, too.

     Then, I met a partner who finally called me out on it. I was in bed with a pleather chemise on and feeling the butterflies low in my belly that didn't come just from sexual excitement, but from being nervous about my the upcoming vulnerability and insecurity I was going to experience. He lit a ton of candles, ripped the covers off of me, and just stared at me. I've never felt more insecure and uncomfortable in my life. He stood there at the edge of the bed for what felt like an eternity, just staring at me, and when I got the courage to look him in the eye, I saw nothing but adoration, love and a hunger for my body staring back. I realized he was *enjoying* me, rather that critiquing me. He took off my tights, my garter belt, my lingerie, and loved me, just as I was.

    "Why do you hide behind all this?" he'd asked, removing my chemise slowly and kissing each inch of skin he exposed while doing so, "You're so beautiful without it."

     That's the moment I had my great epiphany: he knew I was fat. All my partners did. Wearing modest lingerie, turning off the lights and trying to hide under covers didn't somehow magically make them think I'm a svelte little size 2 vixen. People can obviously can tell that I'm fat, it's not a big secret that I'm hiding from them. My sexual partners, too, knew going into this that I'm fat.. and guess what? They still all wanted to have sex with me. There's no sense in allowing insecurity to hold me back from letting loose and enjoying myself.

     Now, I love freely and without apology, and the difference is night and day as far as how satisfied I am. Sex can actually be FUN. When I shop for lingerie, I choose pieces that I like rather than ones that I think would strategically hide my perceived flaws the most effectively. Not only has choosing to be unabashed sexually done wonders for my body positivity, it's also boosted my self-confidence and just generally improved my outlook.

     Feeling too embarrassed and ashamed to have wild, unbridled sex is a terrible feeling, and one that I never thought I'd overcome. The key to opening up (no pun intended) for me was to find a partner with whom I was comfortable enough to allow him/her to enjoy every inch of my body, and then try to see myself through their eyes. It also helped to realize that I wasn't fooling any of my sex partners by not allowing them to see me fully nude in the light; they knew I was fat, and they still wanted to love and adore me.

     Being fat isn't automatically a sex life death sentence; it's SO possible to have mind-blowing sex and be overweight. Go out there, be safe, and remember- practice makes perfect.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why I'll Always Be Fat (And That's Okay)

     I've been 300lbs (+/-20lbs or so) since I was 12 years old. I've been very overweight my whole life. I have a hormonal imbalance that medication hasn't been able to control that leads to, along with extremely painful bursting ovarian cysts and infertility, weight gain and an inability to lose weight like normal people.

     I exercise regularly, eat healthier than anyone I know, and don't lose weight. I've consulted with numerous physicians and specialists over the years, and the consensus has always been that I'll never see any significant weight loss without lap band surgery or gastric bypass surgery. Even then, they said, there's a chance the surgery could be unsuccessful for me. 

     Many overweight people complain about their joints hurting, generalized and persistent fatigue, and of having no endurance physically. I don't seem to really have those problems. I can walk up 3-4 flights of stairs before feeling winded, I can jog a mile without stopping, and I don't have any noticeable weight-related aches or pains. My blood pressure is perfect, my cholesterol levels are perfect, and I have perfect blood sugar; my doctors are always shocked by just how healthy I am on paper; I'm just 'morbidly obese with an increased Body Mass Index'.

     I've struggled my whole life with being fat. My earliest childhood memories are of schoolmates calling me names and making fun of my weight. Before I hit puberty at 9 and subsequently found out about my hormonal imbalance, my parents took to me to dietitians and nutritionists to figure out how to make me lose weight. Nothing worked. My mom bought me every diet pill and supplement she could get her hands on that promised miraculous results that never came. Being sent to a camp for overweight kids to lose weight ("fat camp") was brought up every year, but I didn't want to go and socialize with other kids, even if they were fatties too.
     I was miserable to the point of being suicidal. I used to daydream of having liposuction done, and would beg my parents for some sort of surgery to force my body to look differently. Doctors started suggesting that I consider Gastric Bypass surgery when I was in middle school, and though I was terrified of surgery, I begged my parents for it. I hated my chubby stomach. I hated my fat arms, my touching thighs, my enormous ass and huge breasts. My little double chin and chubby cheeks made me want to cry whenever I looked in a mirror, so I avoided mirrors almost at all costs. I didn't wear makeup regularly until my junior year in high school simply because I didn't want to look in the mirror long enough to try to improve my appearance because I was so disgusted by what I saw. I wanted to be flat, normal- I wanted nothing more in the world than just to blend in and be like everyone else.

     Finally, when I was 23 years old, I decided to have serious conversations with my OBGYN, psychiatrist and physician about having some sort of lap band or gastric bypass surgery done. They all encouraged me to, saying it was my only option. 
     I wanted to be thinner SO BADLY, but something didn't sit well with me: I'm healthy. I don't feel tired or like I'm unable to do things because I'm overweight. I hike. I kayak. I have cardio and leg days. It struck me then that I couldn't think of a single thing that my fat was physically preventing me from doing, except for going on certain rides at amusement parks, but being able to go on rickety amusement park rides with weight limits somehow didn't seem like a good enough reason to go through invasive and dangerous weight-loss surgery. I remember taking out my most current documented extensive blood work results and seeing that everything indicated that I was in above average health. I sat on my bed and stared at it for a while then had an epiphany: I realized my body isn't stopping me from being happy. I am. 
     My negative perception of my body was harming me more than being 300lbs was. The big problem wasn't with my weight, but with the way I saw myself. 
I decided then that I didn't want to have invasive, risky surgery with an uncertain outcome; I took weight-loss surgeries off the table that day, and instead felt angry at all the professionals who'd told me that going under the knife was my only option for ever being happy. 

    A journey lay before me, and I wanted help to figure out how to go about becoming more positive about my body and loving it as-is. I excitedly told my psychiatrist about my newly-discovered revelation, and all he did was repeat that I needed to have weight-loss surgery. I was so disappointed and angry, but I wasn't discouraged. Learning to love my body felt like the right thing to do; I could feel deep in my bones that it was the way to go for me.

     I decided to start out by making a list of all the things I liked about myself physically. It looked something like:

-nice boobs
-white, straightish teeth
-okay eye color

     It was pathetic. I stood naked in front of my dreaded full-length mirror and tried to see myself from every angle, searching for something to find pretty or attractive. I remember hating my fat, squishy stomach, the light flecks of cellulite all over my thighs, the roundness of my upper arms. 

-nice butt, but too big

     I added to the list. Then I crossed off the 'but too big' part, and decided that that's where I'd start: cutting out negative self-talk. No longer would I look in the mirror and think, "God, I'm ugly today" or "I'd be pretty if only I could lose some of this fat on my arms" or "I wish more than anything I didn't look like this." I vowed to compliment myself instead whenever I slipped up and mentally bullied myself. 

     "Ugh I hate how round and big my forearms are... but... my ass looks great in these jeans," basically became my inner monologue. It felt stupid and cheesy at first, but it felt more natural after a while. 

Eventually, I started to see my beauty. I started experimenting with fashion and wearing clothes I actually wanted to wear, rather than what I felt was most flattering on me. I realized that I don't owe anyone "flattering"; I owe myself happiness. 

     It's been about a year since my big revelation, and I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life, even though- you guessed it- I'm still 300lbs. I have a husband who adores me, I'm hit on constantly out in public, I have thousands of followers on IG and Tumblr and people tell me all the time how inspirational my self-confidence is. I went from a sad, fat, little kid who regularly considered suicide because I hated the way my body looked, to this body-positive, confident fat babe. I am so proud of myself for finally becoming body-positive and realizing that my physical body wasn't preventing me from being happy- my negative self-image was. I'll continue to eat well and exercise, but I'm done obsessing about things I dislike about my body. My fat is here to stay, and I am who I am. Anyone who doesn't like it can go lick a cactus.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Fat Girl's Guide To Self-Confidence In A Society That Profits Off Of Our Insecurities

Finding self-confidence and a style identity as a fat babe in a world that's constantly labeling us as 'before' pictures can seem to be a near-impossible task. We live in a society that generally glorifies thin body types as perfection, while labeling plus sizers as people who need to be "fixed". I don't have a thigh gap; in fact, mine are full of cellulite. My hips are wide, my booty is enormous, I have a belly, my arms are big and I weigh a solid 300lbs, yet people stop me on the street constantly to compliment me on my style. This is how I found the courage to come out from underneath baggy, shapeless clothes and embrace my curves, "flaws" and all.

Step 1: Stop Bullying Yourself

I'd often catch myself looking at my body and thinking that it was ugly, or gross, or too big/too celluiltey/too stretch mark'd. I realized that I was constantly bashing my body; that I was bullying it and making myself feel worse. To remedy this, I decided to stop allowing myself to use negative words when thinking about my body. Whenever I did slip up and have those thoughts, I'd make myself go back and compliment myself instead. My inner dialogue went something like, "Ugh nothing fits me right, I feel so ugly.. but my butt looks really good in these jeans, and I have such a nice smile." It felt silly at first, but when I kept it up I saw that it was really starting to improve my outlook not only on my body, but on life in general.

Step 2: Realize Your Worth

It's so easy to get caught up on body image; our society teaches us that it's tightly connected to our self-worth, which just isn't true. Part of gaining the self-confidence to rock the edgy fashion trends I want to (sheer! crop tops! short shorts!) was realizing that I have so much more to offer the world than my appearance. I wrote a list of all the things at which I'm excellent and kept it taped to my mirror, so that every morning, I'd be reminded that I have value as a person, and an identity beyond the word "fat".

Step 3: "Fat" Is Not A Bad Word

All my life, people have hurled weight-related insults at me. I've been called a whale, a pig, tubby, a chubbers, fat; every time someone called me one of those, it stung me deeply and left me feeling insecure for days. Realizing that "fat" isn't synonymous with "ugly" was a big game-changer for me. I AM fat. So what? "Fat" and "beautiful" aren't mutually-exclusive adjectives; I can be both. When I feel down, I scroll through body-positive hashtags on Tumblr and Instagram. Seeing all those photos and posts of fat babes absolutely killing it always reminds me that being fat doesn't automatically equate to being unattractive.

Step 4: You Don't Owe Anyone "Flattering"

I unapologetically rock crop tops and sheer blouses with nothing but a bra underneath. I go sleeveless, I wear short shorts.. I participate in whatever fashion trends I feel like participating in, because no one owes anyone "flattering"; being yourself is enough, without body shapers, without long-sleeves and pants, without covering up and hiding your body to make other people more comfortable. YOU have to be happy with YOURSELF and not live for other people. I used to wear baggy sweaters in 90 degree weather because I didn't want people to see my fat arms, my rolls, my chub. Now, my comfort and happiness is my #1 priority- I no longer care what people think about my cellulite, fat, etc., and that's such a powerful, liberating feeling. My mantra is: If people don't like the way I look, they don't have to look at me. Some people won't like the way you look. You're going to have haters; that's just part of life. universal popularity is unattainable, so instead of trying for it, you'd might as well make yourself happy.

Step 5: Go For It!

Body acceptance/love is a process that takes time and work, but when you're feeling up to it, I dare you to try out new trends that go out of your comfort zone. The first time I went out in public in a sleeveless dress, I was terrified and insecure. The second time wasn't as bad, and now I don't even think twice about it. When you go out of your fashion comfort zone and the world doesn't end, you'll feel unstoppable!

Self-confidence doesn't always come easily, but cutting out negative self-talk, taking stock of your true value, realiziing that "fat" isn't an insult or synonymous with "ugly", and forcing myself to step out of my fatshion comfort zone helped me to be able to love myself for who I am, stretch marks and all. Because we live in a society that glorifies skinny regardless of health, people will always try to make fat people feel badly about themselves, perhaps even more so if they have the *audacity* to be both fat AND happy. Being confident and secure in yourself makes it easier to let negative comments roll off, as the fabulous Jinkx Monsoon would say, like water off a duck's back. So, get out there, be large and become your own brand of fatshionista! There's no better feeling than the self-confidence that comes with unapologically rocking your curves and knowing you're hot as hell.