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I've Got You Under My Skin

(Contrary to what the title says, it's NOT about romance, though that's something I may touch base upon one of these days. But feel free to read on because it's still important.) Let's face it: our weight can either be our best friend or our worst enemy. It seems like we're always defined by it - at doctor's offices, for example, if we're a certain height and weight, we're either normal, morbidly obese, or even somewhere in-between. Whenever we shop for clothes, it's always the regular sizes, Petites, or pluses. And don't even get me started on seeing the numbers on the scale. Whatever it shows, we always attribute our success and failures to that number. But does it always have to be that way? I say no, but unfortunately that's not always the case. Take me, for example. It seemed like I was always defined by my weight. I mean, who doesn't love to eat? I did it all when I was younger - I had 3-5 slices of pizza in one sitting AND would go back for more. I would eat at least 4-5 White Castle cheeseburgers, sometimes double, in one sitting. I could never turn down Popeyes chicken, and I absolutely LOATHED salads. The result? Being overweight for most of my life. Oh, sure, I realized that I was struggling to run laps in gym class and couldn't do the number of situps at the health trials we had in school (basically, if you can do a certain amount of situps and pushups, you win an award. Guess who NEVER won?), but I always ate some more to drown my sorrows and shame. It wasn't until my senior year in high school when I took a serious look at myself and decided to do something about it. I took early morning walks around the neighborhood before and after school, I dieted, I drank more water, and I even watched my portions. The weight came off, and by the time prom arrived, I was able to fit into a smaller size dress AND look beautiful. My God, I felt beautiful. I kept that up all through college, going to the rec center and working out for 4-5 days for at least an hour. The weight came off some more. I felt empowered, and I felt beautiful. Then, after graduation, I moved back home to live with my abusive father and I didn't do a single damn thing. No exercising, no drinking water, no nothing. I just sat there and did NOTHING. I thought that I did all the work, it should stay the same, right? Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. When I tried on my size 6 jeans for the first time in months, they didn't fit. And I never felt more ashamed and angry. All that hard work wasted away because of my laziness and reverting back to old habits. When I finally moved out of Indiana for good (another blog post about this coming, I promise!), I was struggling with so much - weight, mental health, dealing with the aftermath of living in an abusive relationship within my family for so many years. It took a toll. Oh, sure, I had minimal success in watching my weight, but it always seemed to come back when I reverted back to my old ways because I did all the work. So, why shouldn't I have a treat? Or two? Or three? And the numbers kept on piling up. By the time I got cast in my first show out of college in 2016, this was what I look like:

Happy on the outside, but VERY rotund in the face and uncomfortable with trying to find clothes that actually fit me. For a long time, I kept on making excuses about why my weight kept on going up. "It's the medicine I'm taking." "I'm drinking plenty of water, aren't I?" "I'm fine the way I am." But the truth was I wasn't fine the way I was, and I knew it. And you know what's sad about it? I didn't do a single damn thing about it. I was the little girl who loved to eat and have seconds or thirds or fourths as often as she can and drowned her sorrows in food and pop. I knew that things needed to change, but as far as I could see, it would be too hard. Why should I try? Then, a chain of events happened that started to change my thinking. At the clinic, I found that my blood pressure was consistently high and had to be placed on the water pill. (It's murder - constantly having to go to the bathroom every time you drink water.) I thought that would lose the weight with the constant drinking of water. Right? Wrong! Then, there was a post I saw on Instagram about losing weight, and I chimed in about the excess skin on your body. Someone pointed out that it took toning and drinking plenty of water to tighten the skin. I can't remember what was said after that, but it didn't matter. Some days later, I discovered I was making excuses again. Excuses. Excuses. EXCUSES. This had to stop. In November/December 2018, I started to take this seriously. It wasn't easy. The usual things that worked previously weren't working for me. So, I had to liven it up a little bit and try something new. What started as 30 minute workouts for three days a week turned into 45-60 minute workouts for 5 days a week. Sure, my muscles were sore when I first started. I got out of breath easily. And there were times when I plateaued. But as much as I wanted to give up, I knew I couldn't. Not this time. What started out as no weigh gain from the first month of my weight loss journey turned into 5 pounds lost. 10 pounds lost. 20 pounds lost. You get the idea. Now, I started this journey at a starting weight of 212 pounds. My last weigh in at the doctor's office was at 157. Wow. Better yet, HOT DAMN!!!!!!!!!!

My original goal was to lost a little over 50 pounds and to be able to fit into a size 6 pair of jeans and pants again. Did I meet that goal? Sadly, no. I can fit into a size 2 pair of jeans and pants. And a 34dd bra. And a size small blouse and t-shirt. I somehow don't even know my own strength. Once again, HOT DAMN! Now, I know what you're all thinking. "Oh, Nessa, I'm so happy for you! But what does that have to do with me?" Well, don't get your britches all bunched up. I'm getting to it now. There's someone out there who's making the conscious choice and effort to take charge of their health and weight. On the other hand, there's someone that says, I'm fine the way I am. I'm not the one to tell you what you should do because this is based on my own experiences, and I'm not an expert by any means. There are plenty of reasons behind losing weight - mostly health. You want to live as long as possible to see your children grow up, see your grandchildren, or even see your great-grandchildren if you're lucky. You want to be the first generation to not be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. You want to be able to move with ease and not run out of breath after 2-3 minutes. My reasons? All of the above. My father's side of the family has a history of diabetes and heart problems, plus he was a heavy smoker. My mom's side of the family has a history of high blood pressure. I want to be able to live to my grandmother's age before she died, which was 97 years old or even make it to 100. I want to be able to complete a dance routine in a musical without being out of breath after a short combo. But even still, there are those out there who are fine in their own skin and are quite content with being curvy and plus-sized. And for that, I admire your courage. I also wish there was more to be done to accentuate body positivity. EveryBODY is different, and it shouldn't have to be a certain way because of how the media says it should be. Not everyone is meant to be a size triple 0. (Funny story, my mom has forbidden to go as far as to fit into a size 0 pair of jeans. What mom says, goes!) For too long, films, television shows, and even theatre have been enamored with the skinny and fit individuals that can do it all - be beautiful, have charm, and can look hot practically naked. But what about those of us with curves? Or plus-sized? Aren't we beautiful as well? There's been a growing movement to celebrate the various body sizes of women and to embrace the beauty they have to offer, both inside and out. Whenever I see the plus-sized models from Unique Vintage, ModCloth, and Lane Bryant, I am amazed at their strength and courage. They not only look beautiful, but they must also feel beautiful. And it's not always easy to do so. For too long, clothing for plus-sized women has always been frumpy, baggy, or just plain awful to wear. Now, the movement is to share the same outfits in normal-sized clothing for plus-sized women. Or even go beyond that. There is a subscription box specifically for plus-sized and curvy women that offers an assortment of apparel and accessories fit to cater to their needs. Is it worth it? I'm not sure because I've seen mixed reviews. More and more stores are taking time out to celebrate the curvy, plus-sized women and embrace body positivity. It's a start, but more needs to be done. In an article I read, there was a plus sized girl learning a dance combination for her high school musical. And there was a call for her to do certain step she was having trouble getting because of her weight. The director had the thought to move her out of the way from the other dancers so that she wouldn't have to do it all. This, as you might have guessed, made her furious. First of all, there are plenty of plus-sized girls and women who can dance very well. You shouldn't have to move them out of the way because they don't look good with the other, albeit skinny, ensemble members. Next, you shouldn't have to relegate them to the roles of the funny fat friend or Tracy Turnblad from Hairspray. They have so much more to offer than that. Why not have them be the lead roles in a drama? Why not have them be the lead roles in a musical other than Hairspray? Why not have a story about body positivity and realize that everyBODY is special the way they are, regardless of what the media tells us otherwise? The moral of all of this? Be comfortable in your own skin. It took me a long time to get comfortable in my own skin, and I'm finally at a point where I am just that. For others, they've been that way all their lives. Whether that was because of a healthy, positive environment where they were celebrated for what they have to offer or having to learn that on their own, they knew it all along. So many of us struggle with this mindset, and I'm glad to know I'm not alone. What does it look like, you ask? Well, for me, it's not only being healthy and confident, but it's also letting the inner beauty shine forth as well. Courage. Empathy. Kindness. Strength. Intelligence. Compassion. An open mind. For others, it could be not caring about what the other people think and be proud of what they have to offer as well. I've seen so many plus-sized, curvy women who are not only beautiful but are confident and proud of who they are without having to change who they are on the inside. Don't we owe it to them that we celebrate their inner strengths by matching the outer beauty with something other than frumpy, lifeless clothing? Or relegating them to the roles of the funny fat friend? Once again, my weight loss journey began because I don't want to be a diabetic or die young because of my inaction against my health problems. I wanted to be at a point where I can be truly comfortable in my own skin and feel beautiful. But not just outer beauty. The inner beauty matters just as much, and that can truly make us beautiful. To every woman out there, whatever body shape you are, I want you to know something: You are BEAUTIFUL. You are STRONG. You are KIND. You are COURAGEOUS. You are WORTH IT. You are INTELLIGENT. You are SPECIAL. You are MIGHTY. You are TALENTED. You are WONDERFUL. You are AMAZING. You are AN ORIGINAL. You are LOVED. Never forget your worth, and never forget that real beauty is found from within. Need any proof? Look at me now.

This is someone who is letting both the outer AND inner beauty shine forth. This is someone who is confident in who she is but needs an occasional reminder that she does have worth and a purpose. This is someone who's weight loss journey mattered because of breaking the pattern of excuses and doing something for the betterment of her health. Your journey is different from mine, and that's the way it should be. Nevertheless, you are beautiful, no matter who or what shape you are. P.S. Listen to Cynthia Erivo's "I'm Here" from The Color Purple for more inspiration. It has served me well, and I hope it does for you, too.

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