I was a fat kid, now I’m a fat adult. Here are 4 things that helped me more than weight loss.

  • I grew up wearing a size 16; I now wear an 18.
  • I am much healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally today than when I was younger.
  • Being active and buying clothes in the right sizes has helped me the most.

As a kid, it sometimes seemed like everything would fall into place if I could make it to the promised land in a size 12. I wasn’t that much bigger, I told myself as I lay down to button up my size 16 pants, or while my tummy ached from so much sucking my stomach all day.

Now, as an adult, I’m one step beyond a size 12, wearing a size 18 which I probably should have worn all the time. But I found the promised land: acceptance of the body free of shame or pressure to change.

Medical professionals, family members, and random people on the street love to tell fat people that “just lose weight.” That’s the only way my parents knew how to help me in the 1990s as I struggled with self esteem and body image. I even got the message myself, I lost 50 pounds in college before gaining it back once I had kids.

But the things that made me a healthy and happy person have nothing to do with losing weight. This is what I wish I had known before.

Find joy in movement

As a kid in the ’90s, I was constantly playing in the yard, riding my bike around the neighborhood, or orchestrating impromptu kickball games. But when he played T-ball, he was stuck as a catcher. In football, they put me in goal. It didn’t take long for me to absorb the message that bodies like mine didn’t belong in sports.

So I stopped playing. I dabbled in individual sports like fencing, but found no joy or fun in movement until I was an adult.

It was then that I realized that my body can be athletic. There are sports like weightlifting where my size is a benefit. I love hiking, kayaking and obstacle courses. I have fun experimenting with sports that don’t fit naturally, like ice climbing or yoga.

For years I thought exercise had one goal: lose weight. But when I realized that the movement was only for funI fell in love with.

Getting clothes that fit you well, regardless of size

When I was a teenager, shopping was torture. Usually he ended in tears. I avoided any mention of the plus-size section, instead sucking in straight sizes. I never developed a strong sense of style because I just wore whatever fit.

Once I was an adult, I had an epiphany: the size of the tag doesn’t matter. I started by buying slightly larger shirts, then pants that wouldn’t leave pressure marks on my skin.

When I got bigger sizes, I instantly felt better physically and emotionally. No one wants to be squeezed or pinched all day. Now I shop almost exclusively online, where more retailers carry plus sizes. I love experimenting with new styles and even with clothes rental.

It turns out that clothes that fit me well boost my confidence much more than a size smaller.

Cook tasty and healthy meals

The diets of my childhood tasted like punishment. Salads without dressing, boiled eggs, cottage cheese – it doesn’t sound too appealing.

Now I know that healthy does not mean bland. I make stir-fries, curries, soups, and yes, even salads that are bursting with flavor. I eat foods that taste great and nourish my body well. I realized that I don’t have to choose between healthy and tasty, because I deserve to have both.

Identifying with the plus size community

If there was a movement for body positivity in the early 2000s, it certainly didn’t reach me. But today my Instagram account is full of badass with great bodies. Some are lifting weights on the Olympic team, while others are climbing mountains or becoming yoga influencers. They are travel bloggers, lingerie models or experts in their field.

In short, they are doing what anyone can do, but what people with larger bodies were told for generations was not for them. That inspiration and representation go a long way, especially on tough days. Fortunately, now those are few and far between.

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