THE CS BOOK CLUB: Brittany Gibbons’ Fat Girl Walking

The last few months, I think I have gotten the same piece of advice/instruction from almost everyone I know—“Stop stressing.” And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. Mr. Socialite says it daily. My mother has been saying it a lot lately too. Even my physician went as far as to write a prescription literally saying….”Stop Stressing and go have fun.” Thanks Doc. Great advice but easier said than done.

The sad part is I know I stress a lot. Sometimes it’s warranted and other times it’s due to the stars. Yes, I said the stars. Being a Virgo has its privileges but there are some nasty side effects—one of them being the never-ending quest for perfection and the stress that comes with this (Ask me how many times I have actually started this post and why it’s taken me almost two weeks to finally post it, SMDH). But I am learning to manage stress and being a Virgo a lot better as I get older. One of my coping mechanisms is reading.

Just as much as I like to write, I love to read. Magazines (I’m subscribed to a million of them), the newspaper (I blame you Mama Socialite for that one….I read 3-4 different local newspapers every day. Seriously how different can each retelling of the same news item be?) , Blogs (Bloglovin’ is one of my most active apps on my phone) and of course books.

Books are like the ultimate vacation. Where else can you travel to exotic places, time warp to the past or future; or even live someone else’s life (without being on the lam) for free? Alright….maybe for the cost of the book or download but free if you go to the library (support your local library!). For me, books are the ultimate escape from the everyday. And sometimes they are almost as good as a therapist or sister-friend. So it’s no surprise that I am launching the Curvy Socialite Book Club. The CS Book Club will feature new and old books alike (truthfully what catches my fancy at the time) with my thoughts on the book, the author and more.

To kick things off, I will talk about fellow blogger extraordinaire, Brittany Gibbons’ book, Fat Girl Walking.

Many of you know Brittany Gibbons already—maybe not by her real name but at least by her blog’s name, Brittany Herself. She is ranked as one of the top bloggers in the Plus Size/Curvy, Mommy and Lifestyle categories. I think Brittany first came across my radar after I read some coverage about an experiment in body image and self-love were she had sex every day for a year with her husband, Andy (yeah you read that right—yeah she tells us all about it in her book). To be honest, I always thought she was brave as she bared everything for the world to see (she’s also known for wowing the crowd as she stripped down to a bikini during her TED Talk a few years back). But how did Brittany Gibbons become the fabulous body positive activist and champion for the everyday woman? Simple…she was just herself.

Fat Girl Walking is one of those books that reads more like a conversation with your BFF rather than an autobiography. In it, Brittany shares her life story of growing up as a “big girl” in Ohio and dealing with mental illness, obesity, family, dating (not easy at any size) , eating disorders and more. Chock full with hilarious stories riddled with pop culture references as well as some of raw painful moments that out right broke my heart, I found myself sitting their laughing out loud (and sometimes at the most inopportune times—try cracking up in the quiet car on the Metro North….if looks could kill….) and even shedding tears throughout the whole read. She pretty much bares her soul to the reader to giving us all the good, bad and sometimes out right gross details of it all (yeah the post childbirth stories will have you second guessing kids if you don’t have them already) At the end of the day, she takes us on an intimate journey of how she came to love herself despite—rather in spite of—her size.

Fat Girl Walking is definitely a must for your summer reading list….no matter your size.

Brittany Gibbons…herself

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CONFESSIONS: BLOGGER EDITION

The Curvy Socialite is in the September Issue of Ladies’ Home Journal

Ladies’ Home Journal, September 2013

So D-Day is finally here.

I got the September issue of Ladies’ Home Journal in the mail yesterday. A mixture of excitement and dread filled me as I held the magazine in my hands as I stared at the headline, “Love Your Body at 30, 40, 50+.” As I mentioned here a few months back, I was selected as one of the women to be featured in a piece on body confidence. Who would have thought I’d be featured in a piece about that.

So confession time…

Body confidence—or rather a lack there of—has been an issue for me for most of my life.

My vision of how I see myself and what others perceive me to be has dominated decisions I have made, paths I have taken and just how I lived my life in general. It started from a young age at home where I was constantly told that I was too big or too muscular (I was an athletic child) and that I need to be smaller if I ever want to have a boyfriend or get married. I wasn’t considered a pretty child with my thick calves, overdeveloped hamstrings, muscular arms and thick waist. I wasn’t lithe like my younger sister and my mother and every family member made sure I knew that. “You’d actually be pretty if you were skinny,” was a regular comment I’d hear from family growing up. The seed that being of a thicker frame being considered ugly and not attractive was planted back then.  I’d look at all my thin friends and family members and wonder why I wasn’t built like them. What was I doing wrong? What was wrong with me?

For years I was obsessed with becoming smaller. I tried fad diets, diet pills, purging, and starvation…whatever it would take to make myself be considered “small” and pretty. I’d read all kinds of crazy articles about dieting, celebrity diets and listen to what some of my friends and teammates would do to stay small. As a gymnast, I was bigger than many of the other girls on the team.  I was a super toned athlete (think a Serena Williams or a Mary Lou Retton or Shawn Johnson) versus what many thought was the ideal look for a tumbling pixie (think Gabrielle Douglas). I would sabotage myself and pretend to be injured or “not ready” for a meet so that I wouldn’t have to go up in front of crowds and perform. Why would they want to see how fat I looked in my leo?

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Going to college didn’t make the situation any better.  Seeing girls from all over the country and around the world that were beautiful and thin just made me hate myself even more. I would work out a lot and eat as little as possible. Many times, I would take my meals up to my dorm room and eat (or not eat) there. Who wanted to see a fat cow stuffing her face?

My weight would fluctuate dramatically for years. I’d be a size 4 one moment or an 8 a next. But when I entered into the real world, the real roller coaster began. I ballooned up to a 12. For many that wouldn’t be considered fat at all but because now I was a double digit size, I thought my life was pretty much over.  “Well meaning” friends and family had a lot to say about my expanding size. Offering tips or publically letting me know that I was too fat to order anything other than a salad. And dessert…perish the thought!

By my early 20s, my self worth was so wrapped up in my dress size. I was always depressed. I was already in and out of really bad situations with “boyfriends” who used and mentally abused me because they knew they could do that because at the end of the day I was too fat to be cared about. That’s when the binging and purging really started.  I knew it was wrong and could seriously harm me, but I didn’t care. I had seen the after-school specials and made-for-TV movies with Tracey Gold and others who suffered from anorexia and bulimia. I knew it could kill me. But I didn’t care. All those did were give me tips on how to hide what I was doing better. I had to be as close to a size small dress size as possible—at any cost. Ironically, I actually was a plus model for a few years and did rather well with it. Though I smiled for the camera, secretly I was stressing on how fat I was going to look in the pictures that came out. I was generally a size 8/10 back then.

Tracey Gold on the cover of People Magazine

Around this time I met my significant other.  Much older than me, he always saw me as a person. it would make him angry how obsessed I was about food, my looks and specifically my weight. But he is a patient man. He tried to use reverse psychology to get me to eat “real” food versus the “rabbit” food I ate regularly. I began putting on more weight but he didn’t mind. He would tell me every day I was beautiful. But it wasn’t easy for him either. When I got to a size 14/16 we’d end up in fights when it was time to go out on the town. I couldn’t wear that dress because it made me look like a cow. I couldn’t wear that top because you can see my rolls. Those pants…hell no…they made my thighs look huge. Mind you, during this time I was still going to the gym almost every day. But still I got bigger.

Fast forward to a few months ago my blogger friend, Alice, telling our blogger collective about this opportunity with Ladies’ Home Journal to be a part of a feature about body confidence and…we’d be shot in our underwear. I mentioned it to my mister and said I was thinking about applying (more as a joke than serious). He was all for it. So were some of my friends (including Black, Latina & Fabulous blogger, Amaris Acosta). Not thinking they’d actually call me back, I applied. A few days later, I got a call that LHJ wanted me for the shoot. DAMN.

The week before the shoot I was in California. The entire time I was out there I was stressed over the upcoming shoot. I worried about every morsel of food that I ate and worked out as much as possible while on the trip. The trip also served as the medium for another first…the first time I wore a bikini since I was 7. I wore it…but didn’t really take pictures in it. I still hated how I looked.

The day of the shoot finally came around. And after a crazy morning (I had lost my wallet), I finally made it on set. Everyone was so sweet. The staff at Ladies’ Home Journal went out of their way to make all of us “models” feel comfortable. Hair and makeup made us look gorgeous and the gorgeous lingerie. The photographer and his team gave helpful hints as to how we should pose and still be natural. And for the most part, I had a great time.

When I did the interview for the quote to accompany my picture, I talked about how the diets and pills and how I was working on building my self esteem. How my focus was on being a healthier me (all true). I kind of fibbed a little when I said I loved my curves. It’s more like I am coming to grips with them and learning to love myself. Looking back on all the things I did to myself in my never-ending undying quest to be the perfect size2, I knew I had to stop. I already proved my family wrong by getting into a loving happy relationship with a man who loved me for who I was not what the scale said. I have even become a proponent of thick, pleasantly plump, curvy and full figured communities. I love to see beautiful curvy women like Asia Mone’t, Liris Crosse and Christina Mendez in ad campaigns in all their full figured “goddessness”.  I’m in awe at how gorgeous and confident in themselves they are. I want to be like them.

After a trip to the GYN last month, I found out that I actually suffer hypothyroidism (pretty much my thyroid isn’t functioning properly and causes issues like weight gain, depression, decreased heart rate, hair falling out and more). Turns out that it can be genetic (I just found out that there is a history of thyroid issues in my family) and can also be triggered by stress (a constant state of being in my life). The mister thinks that part of it could be from my abusive behavior towards my body. Whatever the cause, I am working on managing it. Because like I said in the article, I am about a healthier me.

But as I sit here looking at page 88… (I have a whole page to myself) typing this post with mixed emotions, I am crying. Pausing from time to time because I can’t see through my tears to type, I look at this picture of me and others from when I was younger and realize how far I have come—and how far I still have to go. To be honest, I am not super happy about the picture (in my opinion my face looks way too big). But I am a little happy with myself because I can say I did it. I took a picture in my underwear for the whole world to see. I did that. That is something to be proud of.

PS…I’m still camera shy and it will take me a while before I start posting more pictures of myself here or anywhere else…but this was a start.

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