This isn't easy for me. In fact, it's deeply personal. It's the most vulnerable I can be, but in a way, I'm glad you can see me for exactly who I am: strong, confident, worthy, loved.
I love my body, but for a long time I struggled with it in silence. As a model trying to privately overcome my own demons around disordered eating and body dysmorphia, I was challenged far beyond what I was ever prepared for. I’m comfortable talking about my past, and it’s because I share my story with my readers that I’ve learned so many of us share the same painful stories around body image.
I’ve modeled at 16 different sizes, and what I’ve learned is that a smaller size never enhanced how I felt about my body. A lot of times, I felt like I was too big to be thin, or too thin to be plus size. I questioned where I fit in, never seeing women my size being celebrated for being healthy in the media.
In truth, I never felt great about my body until I made the intrepid decision to love myself just the way I am, to feel worthy at the size my body naturally adjusted to. Of course, it took the proverbial pot boiling over for me to get to this place of acceptance, but I'm glad I finally made it. After all, it's exhausting trying to fit into someone else’s idea of what the perfect body looks like.
When photographer Victoria Janashvili learned about my journey, she asked if she could shoot me — nude — in yoga poses for her book, Curve. I was enthusiastic about the project but a bit (OK, a lot!) apprehensive to strip down for a published book.
I was more comfortable knowing the shoot was focused around my relationship with yoga, which has taught me a lot about what loving myself actually means. Yoga is patient, it’s kind and the yoga studio has been an exceedingly supportive environment in which to continue my healing process. (I started practicing when I was 18 in outpatient therapy for my eating disorder, and at 29, I still practice regularly.)
In these photos, I’m a size 14, maybe a 16. When I look at them, I’m overcome with emotion. Not because I’m ashamed, but because I can finally accept my body exactly the way it is, love it and not feel the need to Photoshop it before it gets published.
Media can be a pressure cooker, publishing dishonest stories on bikini-ready bodies and doctoring images that trick us into believing we need to look a certain way to be loved, to feel worthy, to be a "yogi."
If I can be one more inspirational photo that contributes to the body-positive zeitgeist, I’m happy to share these photos. I’m honored to be a catalyst for positive change, to be one more voice that stands up for the millions of men and women who suffer in silence from disordered eating and body shame.
Healthy comes in so many different shapes and sizes. And we can move our bodies in any way we choose. Our workouts don't have to
be the same as everyone else, and we don’t have to be a size zero or fit into name-brand yoga pants just to love ourselves enough to respect and challenge our bodies.
I hid these beautiful photos in a folder on my computer for months, primarily because I thought there was no way I’d share nude photos of myself, and online to boot! I finally decided to share them, though because it takes courage to share the truth. I thought publicizing what I actually look like in yoga poses could heal people, help people, and create a space for inclusion and acceptance for all sizes in sport.
And just maybe, seeing someone for exactly who they are would be the catalyst for you to accept yourself in just the way you are today, as perfect already.