Introduction

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Introduction

When Amy, Natasha, and I first discussed creating Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident, we came to the drawing board with a strong, shared belief — that the curvy women of today had a profound need to read body-positive stories, now more than ever.

We could feel the world was at a tipping point when it came to embracing different body types for women, and that we needed to nudge it over the edge.

As one of the world’s first plus-size supermodels in the early 1990’s, I fought to combat negative perceptions and narrow-minded thinking about women’s bodies. I talked until my voice was hoarse, trying to convince people that even if you are larger, curvier, or fleshier, you are still beautiful. The birth of MODE magazine in 1997 was a big turning point for millions of women above size 12, and for my career as a model, too. For the first time, we got to see ourselves on the cover of a better fashion magazine in photos created by top stylists, make-up artists, and photographers.

But few retailers understood how to change their mindset from “fat” to “curvy” and this beautiful magazine folded in 2001. We’d been exposed to so many negative messages for so long — in the media, from our families, and even from our own thoughts — that a new, healthier attitude was still difficult to establish.

As a long-time Ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association (myneda.org), I’ve seen firsthand how destructive the old way of thinking can be for women of all sizes — large, medium, and small. They can suffer from low self-esteem, which narrows their lives, and eating disorders, which can end them.

Today, I’m happy to see that the world, and our thinking, is progressing — and this book is part of that change.

In early 2016, we saw Mattel issue new versions of Barbie, with different body types, including “curvy.” We saw the first plus-size model, Ashley Graham, appear in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. She looked gorgeous! Curvy women everywhere felt better about themselves; it gave them hope that a new view of beauty was on the horizon.

Those developments gave Amy, Natasha, and me renewed hope and made us even surer that we were onto something. I think you’ll find that this collection of stories continues the conversation in a constructive way. You’ll probably react the same way that we did as we read the stories — we laughed, we teared up, and we shared the stories with each other and with our families.

Each of the 101 personal journeys in this book is meant to fortify you and lift you up. And I’m guessing they’ll bring back a lot of memories, too. Debra Mayhew’s story “Skinny Dipping,” for example, brought me back to when I was a teenager and tormented myself when I had to walk to the pool in my bathing suit in front of everyone, including the boys. In the years to follow, I realized that everyone was self-conscious and feeling the same anxiety. Today, swimming is one of my favorite sports and I hate to think about the millions of women who deprive themselves of the pleasure of swimming because they don’t want to be seen in a bathing suit.

Having just completed the lecture series at the Metropolitan Museum of Art about beauty throughout the ages in classical sculpture, I loved the theme of the celebrated female nude in Lauren Rossato’s “Twenty-Dollar Muse” and James Gemmell’s “An Art Perspective.” Through James’s love and study of art, he questions the dramatic change in the body shape of the female subject in art, and rightly so.

After I read “Cracked Rear View” by Cindi Carver-Futch, I wanted to call her and say, “Go girl!” Cindi’s self-deprecating humor and triumph made me laugh, and reinforced my gratitude for my own bodacious booty.

And on a more serious note, I am beyond proud to have a story in this book by my younger sister, Melanie Flint. In “My Journey Back to Me,” she talks about her emotional survival at the hands of our misguided and troubled father, who used to weigh her once a week and punish her if she went beyond a certain number on the scale. She lived in terror and learned how to starve herself. I had my own humiliation at the hands of our father regarding my weight, but I didn’t know until I read this story what my sister had endured after I left home.

Natasha’s story, “Go Ahead, Look at Me,” closes out this collection. It’s the follow-up to a story of hers that had lain dormant since 2005 and found its voice during the 2016 presidential campaign. After she was flung into the spotlight, Natasha describes how the attacks on her looks by a public figure made her feel, and how she overcame them to find a new confidence.

Each story is unique, but we learn this universal lesson from all of them: We are all perfectly imperfect. And to strive to attain someone’s narrow idea of perfection sets us up for failure and a lifetime of unhappiness. Life is too short and precious to waste time doing that. We need to be happy now, not in 10 pounds or ten years.

Be. Happy. Now.

When I was a middle schooler, my Physical Education teachers always used me in class to demonstrate whatever new sport or activity we were learning. Being athletic came naturally to me. On the field, in school, on the track, in the pool, I was master. I rowed crew in college and I’ve always loved using my body for sports.

I see my body as that of an Amazonian. I am feminine and strong. I eat healthy, organic food, I hike and swim every day, I eat exotic chocolate from my “chocolate drawer” when I feel like it, and I keep a positive spirit. With this philosophy, my body has found the right weight for me.

As a mother with a teenage daughter, I am keeper of the body image flame. I fill the fridge with a variety of nutritious and delicious foods and encourage a celebratory relationship with our meals. I express confidence in my body because I know children learn from example, not words, and that they watch everything. We eat when we are hungry, and we stop when we are not hungry anymore. I encourage consistent movement, like after-dinner walks, and I strive to live and teach my daughter balance.

With this book, you will know you are not alone. Instead, you’ll have dozens of new friends who have the same problems that you have, who share the same insecurities, and who pass along their best tips and advice to make you curvy and confident. I felt like I was away on a retreat with a bunch of great women friends as I read these stories.

I hope these stories give you freedom — freedom from shame, guilt, and body bashing. And I hope they inspire you as they did me and that you turn each page and see a bit of yourself there, as I did. And maybe the negative voice inside of you will be so shocked at our brave storytellers taking belly dancing and posing nude and training for a marathon and wearing a mini-skirt . . . that it will say to you: If she can do it, so can I!

There is no better time to embrace your curvy and confident self than now. This is your body and it is unique. Wake up and shine! Write inspiring quotes on your mirrors with lipstick.

It’s goddess time in a serious way. Take care of you and love yourself: The women of the future are depending on it!

~Emme

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