36. The Tutu

36. The Tutu

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

The Tutu

People often say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder.

~Salma Hayek

The tutu fit too tight on my hips. The frilly pink tulle hugged my curves, accentuating the soft tummy protruding over the fabric.

I was drowning in waves of self-consciousness as I padded onto the stage. My feet dragged and time slowed. I couldn’t concentrate on the routine our dance instructor had drilled into our heads because I was too distracted by how I must look in my pink leotard. I felt enormous and embarrassed.

I was four.

It’s amazing what moments impact a young mind. I can’t remember the name of my dance instructor or what we performed or the faces of the girls next to me. But the memory of that shame is vividly etched in my mind twenty-six years later.

That was the beginning of my body image issues.

Assured it was only baby fat and it would melt away, I buried those feelings of shame, until the unthinkable happened. In middle school, I went from only thinking I was the dreaded “f” word to actually becoming it.

I began packing on the pounds. Food became a crutch, a way to avoid addressing feelings. Time passed and soon I was in high school and then graduating from college. The evidence of my addiction — stretch marks — spread across my body like roads on a map. I had rolls where I’d never noticed them before and new parts of me rubbed together.

Society didn’t help.

There’s nothing like someone heckling you from a car window or a child asking if you’re going to have a baby to sink your self-esteem faster than an anchor in shallow waters. I’m ashamed to admit, I loved myself a little less.

The turning point was unexpected, as many good things in life are.

I joined a weight loss program focused on healthy living. Figuring that if I loved my body more, then maybe I would love myself more, too. I discovered my mentality was backward — the problem wasn’t my body or food, the problem was me.

Losing or gaining weight wouldn’t make me happy—only I could do that.

It happened during a weekly weigh-in. Buoyed by weeks of consistent weight loss and feeling slim, sexy and confident, I nonchalantly stepped on the scale.

Four pounds. I had gained a whopping 4 pounds.

I frantically reviewed my food choices for the week, obsessing over the burger I’d snuck in between fruit smoothies and meals that featured more broccoli than meat.

I tuned out the meeting, lamenting the voluptuousness of my body and wondering how I could ever learn to love a body with more curves than a Grand Prix racetrack.

In my mind, I was still the little girl in a too-tight pink tutu.

Somehow, a voice broke through my wallowing.

The meeting leader was sharing the story of a woman who had attended 100 meetings and lost 100 pounds. Of the meetings she attended, more than half of those times she lost nothing. Sometimes, she gained weight.

A light bulb went off in my head and I began to see myself in a new light. Losing or gaining weight wouldn’t make me happy — only I could do that. And while a scale could be a useful tool, I couldn’t let it determine how I felt about myself.

When I asked people why they loved me, no one had ever said anything about my weight. So why was I basing my self-worth on a number?

The scale is a fickle friend and weight is a fluid thing, but the one constant that should always be a solid in your life is your confidence in yourself.

It’s ironic, but after thirty years of hating my body, it took gaining weight to help me love it.

~Ashley M. Slayton

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