As crazy as this may sound, I am thankful for having had the pain of an eating disorder in my life. It forced me to examine myself. Where did I fit in to the rest of the world? What did I want? What did I truly need?
Beginning to feel good about myself regardless of my weight did not happen overnight. During my first year of college, I joined Overeaters Anonymous. I went to a meeting a day for two years. There, I discovered my emotional connection to food -- that I would eat whenever I felt fearful. Because I thought I had to be perfect all the time, I had been pushing down my feelings with food. OA also helped me to focus on my spirituality, my inner self. I began to realize that my focus shouldn't be on my body, but on finding out who I am on the inside.
OA gave me grounding. The steps, meetings and people I met led me to a place where I was understood. I had no idea that there were other people who felt as I did. It was a relief.
I continued the exploration of my true self by reading self-help and spiritual books, taking self-improvement seminars. I was relentless about the pursuit of my own happiness. Generally, I focused on my spiritual and emotional self rather than the physical self I had obsessed over for so many years.
I also learned how to eat normally, using food as fuel for my body and exercise for physical strength. I felt an incredible sense of well being simply by experiencing the movement of my body.
Through therapy I also found out that the pain I experienced as a child manifested itself physically with weight. When I began to examine where the pain stemmed from, I slowly healed, releasing the obsession and fear of food.
Today I am fully responsible for my life and know that with my orchestration and conscious awareness of God's will, I can achieve all the dreams I see in my mind.
Ironically, I am now a successful plus-size model. My weight, which had paralyzed me through my life, has now given me immense rewards. I am now admired because of my full figure.
Being a full figured model in the fashion industry is still a new phenomenon. Even though 62 million American women are size 12 or above, the fashion industry and the media would have you believe that every woman is a size 6, with perfect skin and a perfect body. Even models don't look that way in real life. The art-department computer takes away cellulite and wrinkles and subtly reshapes their bodies. How can we aspire to a physical perfection that does not even exist?
Did you know that models 20 years ago weighed 8% less than the average woman? Today they weigh 23% less. As a model, I never see myself as a freak, the big girl among the thin; I feel that my body's curves hold their own appeal.
It's not always easy to feel confident and secure with your physical self, especially as a woman in a society that puts such a premium on a virtually unattainable ideal. But if at this moment, right now, you can start by accepting that you are an individual, a person like no other, you can begin to feel love and acceptance for yourself. Those feelings will spring you forward into your self-where your self confidence and self esteem are waiting for you.