Browsing Tag

body image


A Complete 360: An Update


The response to my last post, “Let’s Do a Complete 360,” has been absolutely wonderful and mostly positive.  I am overwhelmed by how many people have identified with some element of what I wrote.

Not even 24 hours have passed and it has been shared on social media over 450 times, first by friends, then by their friends, and now by people I have no social media connection with.  It’s very Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.  I’ve received many messages from people ranging from childhood friends and acquaintances to complete strangers.  The post has been read by people in over 30 countries.  The number of views is astronomical and beyond what I ever imagined or intended.  I’m grateful that you, the readers, feel a connection and love from me.  You have it.

There have been, of course, a couple responses which were exactly what I spoke of in my previous post – people who enjoyed the article but felt the need to make sure I know that obesity is not healthy and I’m not being honest with myself by saying it is.  They are concerned of my influence on others, especially youth.  I always appreciate when people are thoughtful and concerned about issues.  That is what brings change!  As I mentioned before, there are a lot of these types of responses online infecting all social media outlets, but unfortunately they are often intently negative and come from an uneducated place, or a place of blind following without understanding knowledge for themselves.  That has not been the case with my “negative” responses, but it is what I referred to in my last post.

These types of responses concern me because they are debilitating to people who are still trying to find their footing and grow into something great.  The person being verbally attacked may be coming from a place I once was – used to bullying, media, and feeling worthless because of their body.  It is dangerous when such a person finally lets their roots dig a little deeper and drinks in nourishment from the well of self-worth, and then someone bored on the internet comes along to put in their two cents on the person’s every flaw, making many assumptions about the intentions and intelligence of the original poster and the effects of their actions on society.  How many times have you watched a YouTube video of a completely tone deaf person doing a cover of their favorite song, only to find a comment section brimming with comments like, “u need 2 kill urself,” “she is so disgusting I hope she dies,” and more?

I’d like to respond to this.

The negative people need to give it up.  Find something beautiful in themselves and focus on that.  In the process, they may meet many great people, some of which might look like or have a history like the people they mock behind the dim glow of the computer screen at 2 a.m.  Put the pride aside.  I get it, because I love to make sure people know I’m right, too.  But human beings – and I say this as someone who has her days of dislike in dealing with lack of common sense – are generally intelligent, intuitive, and all have the same goals.  We want to be better.  We strive for goodness.  We want to succeed.

The purpose of my original post – which most of you welcomingly understood – was that wherever you are at in your life, it is so important for you to see your value and your worth.  It is important to know and feel loved.  If you truly don’t feel like there is anyone out there that loves you, count on me.  Know that my heart has a much larger capacity than my gigantic glutinous maximus, and I have the capacity to love and encourage you.  This world needs more unity, more community.  We achieve more when we feel purpose and a sense of belonging.  I have seen many examples in my life of people – myself included – who have given up because they felt like a burden to society.  I’m sure we all know someone dear to us who has done the same.

Let me make it clear: I am not promoting obesity.  But I don’t think I need to clarify that, because you are smart, intuitive people.  I am promoting self-love, value, and worth, as a way to live your life with joy in whatever phase you may be in.  I’m promoting these values as a way to help you feel more positive and uplifted and to use them as a tool to help you achieve success in all your goals.  I’m encouraging these concepts as a way to build healthy relationships and compassion.

Do I know the risks of obesity?  Yes.  Am I truly, weight aside, free of all illnesses and disease at this very moment?  Yes.  Am I honest with myself about it on a daily basis?  Yep.  The funny thing is, when you’re labeled as something so ugly sounding your whole life, you desperately look for ways to get as far away from it as possible.  I could recite to you every fad diet, trend, life-style, how to perform pretty much any exercise, tell you the going rate of a personal trainer at ten different locations, and lend you one of my 25+ fitness DVDs.  Many of the obese want to get away from it, but the stress of trying to is overwhelming and we can’t quite cross the border.  We’ve got a lifetime of negative thoughts and habits to work through and battle, so we aren’t always successful on the first or fifteenth tries.  We know that we are racing against the clock, and it takes a lot to win the race.

What I have learned is that letting go of the stress of it usually changes my life drastically, which is why I’m keen on encouraging loving yourself where you’re at.  It’s worth looking at your blessings and accomplishments thus far to help you arrive at a place where you are mentally okay to move forward with whatever your goals may be.

For me, that means being okay with myself now and living a fulfilling life at my weight in order to be healthy enough to tackle the huge and daunting task of losing 185 pounds.  It means knowing that life is imperfect at any weight or any stage of physical beauty, and that losing weight wouldn’t make life magically perfect in love.  That frame of mind led me to my recent marriage, to my travel experiences, to my hundreds of friendships across the globe, to better family relationships, and to an actual desire to make healthier choices for myself and look forward to a brighter future.

A Complete 360 is not just an analysis of me at my current weight or physical beauty versus inner beauty.  It is the process of coming full circle.  We often think we need to pull a 180 and change everything about who we are to be a better person.  That is false.  If we take the time to nourish ourselves a little – to let our roots sink deep and explore the soils that feed our souls – we will realize we are actually pretty great where we are and who we are, and we can keep moving forward in the right direction with a little extra self-love and appreciation, value, and worth.

xx Stephanie

with mirth and laughter

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”


Let’s Do a Complete 360

I’m a 32-year old woman.

Hi, I'm Stephanie and I'm 32.

Hi, I’m Stephanie and I’m 32.

I weigh 360 pounds.

Yes, 360 pounds.

What does that number – 360 pounds – mean to you?  What do you think of when you hear it?

If you have already met me and know me, does that affect how you think about me?

How about if you have never met me?

Have you judged me or formed some sort of image of me in the past 15 seconds?

Let me tell you a little about myself.

I am happy, generally healthy, and enjoy my life.

I am surrounded by wonderful family and friends who have gifted me their time, deepest trust, and respect.

I wake up every morning sheltered from the outside, a warm blanket on my skin, a soft pillow beneath my head.  I take a breath and oxygen fills my lungs and nourishes the blood rushing through my body.  I get out of bed and stand on my own two feet, walk to the kitchen, and prepare myself a breakfast from a cupboard that isn’t empty.

I have a dresser of clothing to choose from to wear to work.  Every weekday morning, I go to a job where I am employed full-time and paid a decent wage.  My employer offers me retirement, health insurance, subsidized public transportation, and a happy work environment.

I’m truly blessed.

I look in the mirror in the morning and I see beauty.  I feel loved, empowered by my own mind.  I am interesting and eclectic, assertive and uncomfortable with stagnancy.

How I feel when I look in the mirror is not defined by hashtags or trending news.  It is defined by the goals and boundaries I have set for myself.  What kind of person am I?  How do I treat others?  Have I thought of someone other than myself today?  Have I accomplished something I desire to achieve?  Are there any disharmonies in my life that need to be resolved, such as old grudges, the need to ask forgiveness, or the need to forgive myself?  Have I taken time to see beauty in my life around me?  Do I feel grateful for what I have?  Do I strive to stretch my limits and be a better person each day?

Helping with Hurricane Sandy cleanup.

Helping with Hurricane Sandy cleanup.

It may sound cliché, but inner beauty and reflection really does affect how your “outer beauty” is perceived.  To me, they are two completely separate contradictory categories that don’t integrate with one another very well.

Physical beauty can be looked at in two ways.  First, it can be a characteristic completely independent of any other part of oneself.  I like to think of this as the way the fashion industry, social media, and commerce in general look at physical beauty.  Look at products, goods, and services – we don’t have time to get to know the person in the advertisement.  We need a blank canvas, perhaps with a flair of personality, to provide us a general overview of the product so all the focus is on the product.  Seeing physical beauty in this way permits people to use their own rating scales and systems of judgement based on how they perceive attractiveness, much the same way we may be attracted to a certain artistic masterpiece or a tropical beach instead of a rainy countryside.

The second way physical beauty can be defined is the way which we are accustomed to seeing it on a daily basis, and that is through the lenses of seeing someone’s inner beauty.  When I look in the mirror, sure, I see enlarged pores, blotchy red skin (seriously, isn’t puberty over yet?), and a double chin, but when I reflect on the quality that I make my life, I see so much beyond those simple physical traits.  This second way of perceiving physical beauty is how we see our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers, and friends.

With this current #ImNoAngel buzz regarding the plus-sized industry lashing against Victoria’s Secret, I’ve felt that the media isn’t even as in charge of the standard of beauty anymore, but the consumers are.  Years ago, the media set it, and we consumers ran with it.  It’s in the homes where kids learn behaviors and manners and see examples of kindness and love.  It’s in the schools where educators try to harness the environment in a positive way.  It’s in the news and how we digest our events on a daily basis.  It’s in how we think for ourselves, and how we respond to our fellow human beings.  In general, I feel that we social media users have spun completely out of control with every snippet that appears on the internet.  We are all so tender and defensive and are desperate to be heard, to be loved, and to feel validated and that our voices matter.  This has resulted in many great things!  And it has also resulted in many poorly learned behaviors.

As someone who is clinically classified as super obese (a step higher than morbidly obese), I notice these behaviors and judgements rampant on the internet.  There isn’t a YouTube video with a slightly chubby person that doesn’t have a comment section infected by arguments about obesity, fat promotion, fat shaming, government paying for the health care of fatties, don’t promote fat, fat isn’t healthy, and on and on.  All of a sudden, everyone becomes a physician and nutritionist.  Years ago, in response to this I may have wanted to curl up and retreat.  But through many years of learning that this is my life to live, I’ve grown to love myself and enjoy life the same way as any thin, tall, short, disabled, athletic, what have you, human being.  No one has license to make you feel ugly, unworthy, not permitted to live a fulfilling life just because you’re at the top end or bottom end of the scale, because you were born with a disfiguration, or because of your preferences.



I’ve been obese my entire life.  I spent my childhood bullied.  While I had a few good friends and people generally liked me, there were always a few turds in the punchbowl.  Boys would run up and down the hall like gorillas and yell, “Mmmm ma ma mammoth!” When I’d get on the school bus, kids would move to the window seat and scream in fear that I would “sit on them.”  The kids at the end of the street threw my bike in the leech-infested pond and would call me fatty, fatso, and a host of other names.  Even in college, guys would drive by and yell “beep…beep…beep” out the window like heavy machinery backing up, or “mooooooo” at me.  I never had boyfriends.  Of course, as a teenager and kid, you long for acceptance.  I would buy presents, peace offerings, to give to my mockers in hopes that they would at least think I’m a nice person.  Sadly, it worked, and the teasing mostly stopped.  I let those things define me for a long time.

And then one day I decided to live.

I decided to stop letting the ignorant opinions of others define me.  Did they know my personal story?  Did they know that while other kids brought Little Debbies to school for lunch, I brought homemade beef jerky and fruit rollups, salad (that was in my “I want to be a vegetarian phase”, thanks to JTT), and Herbalife shakes and pills?  Did they know that while I was told I was great at volleyball and really wanted to join wrestling, I never joined because I was afraid of wearing spandex in front of them and having them judge me based on my weight?

Now happily wearing Spandex.

Now happily wearing Spandex.

I started focusing on my positive relationships and the friendships with people who truly loved me and saw me for who I am.  This greatly enhanced my confidence and my belief in myself.  Only when I allowed someone else to negatively define me did I lose sight and begin to fail at all the beautiful plans I had in my life.

I see beauty in everyone and in every moment, and that isn’t just something fat people say.  I feel enriched by having so many different people in my life.  I feel elevated and important through the relationships and accomplishments I have, through the lessons and examples I’ve learned.

I started to say “yes!” to opportunity.  I tried everything I always wanted to – guitar, French lessons, a crochet group with elderly ladies, pottery classes, “jogging” a 5K, archaeology classes, belly dancing with a performance troupe, and being assertive in making sure the men I liked knew how I felt.

Yes, even 360 pound women dance around in a bra and a skirt.

Yes, even 360 pound women dance around in a bra and a skirt.

I weigh 360 pounds.

Do I want to lose weight?  Yes.  Have I before?  Yes.  Is it hard?  Of course!  Will I do it again?  You bet.  Is it a long process?  Yes.

Am I healthy?  Yes.  Aside from PVCs from a magnesium deficiency and recent sleep apnea because of a recent weight gain (and I’ve been told that once I lose about 40 pounds it will go away), I have no health problems.  I’m not diabetic.  I don’t smell bad.  I have lazy days, but I’m not lazy.  I can walk, I can wash myself, I can travel, I can work out.

Fat people like to kayak.

Fat people like to kayak.

I weigh 360 pounds.

I’ve traveled to 16 countries.  I’ve traveled alone and felt free.  I’ve traveled with friends and had the time of my life.  Many ask me travel tips and advice.  Plane seats?  Tight.  But I compact in my own space and chat with my fellow travelers, looking forward to the destination while enjoying the journey. I’ve met hundreds of people, many with whom I still keep in contact.  I travel fearlessly.

360 pound people walk 28 miles all over Barcelona in two days.

360 pound people walk 28 miles all over Barcelona in two days.

I weigh 360 pounds.

I have a college degree.  Full-time employment where I am praised for my talents and abilities.  I speak two languages fluently and can converse in three more.  Music is another language I love.  I make beautiful music and am moved by the music of others and of nature.  I love to go for walks, do yoga, spin classes, and belly dance.

360 pound people graduate from college!

360 pound people graduate from college!

I weigh 360 pounds.

I’m comfortable being me.  I no longer stress over my fat arms or double chin.  When it’s hot, I wear tank tops.  I like to lay in the sun at the park and read a book, usually blaring music and laughing with friends.  I love to cook for others and share a meal.  I’m not afraid to eat in front of people.  We all need nourishment, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I like lingerie.  I enjoy intimacy in my life, all 360 pounds of me.

I weigh 360 pounds.

I’ve dated men at my weight, and at a lower weight.  I started being asked out when I started loving myself and living life.  I began to attract others when I shared the beautiful nuances of my heart and soul with the outside world.  I met, dated, became engaged to, and married my husband at my current weight.  And guess what?  He’s not a chubby chaser and doesn’t have a fat fetish.  He just has a Stephanie fetish.  He thinks I’m the greatest.


360 pound women even get married.

I weigh 360 pounds.

If you do, too, or if you weigh anything – 65, 90, 180, 220, 600 – let me apologize for the internet.  Many people are under the impression that communicating electronically gives them a permit to be a complete ass and to be the all-knowing authority on you, your health, politics, standards of beauty, etc.  Everything is subjective and what we want it to be.

I encourage you to want your life to be awesome.  To want beautiful, great, interesting things.  Don’t let the internet get the best of your beauty.  It will tear you down and make you second guess yourself.  What has the internet done for you to win your love?  Nothing.

Surround yourself with wonderful people.  Be yourself.  Experiment.  Try things you’ve always wanted to try.  Talk.  Smile.  Smile!  If someone says something negative about or to you, let it fall away and keep moving forward.  Feel sorry for that person, and say a silent prayer that you hope they find happiness.

This movement isn’t about fat versus thin.  Let’s cut the crap.  All that stuff has marketing products at the root of it.  So a company makes clothes for slender women and another makes clothes for heavier women.  That’s what they specialize in, and that’s okay.  Some women love to wear lingerie and some are totally uncomfortable in it.  There are stores for every size.  And stop telling slender women to “eat a sandwich” and telling retailers for fat women to “stop promoting unhealthy”…it is all deeper than that.  We all need to wear clothes and eat sandwiches.

I weigh 360 pounds.  I’m pretty awesome.  I’m interesting.  I’m beautiful.  I’m quirky.  And I’ll be all those things if I ever weigh 160 pounds.

This “movement” is about human beings.  It’s about putting energy toward positive changes and making a difference.  It’s about enjoying life and feeling love and fulfillment and joy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this movement.  What are ways you make a difference on a daily basis?  What are some simple pleasures you love to enjoy every day?  How do you feel and show love?  Comment to let me know your thoughts!

Be merry [go-round]!

Be merry [go-round]!


Caving in to being accustomed

I’ve looked at kayaks with fear and trembling and enticement.

Over the past few years I’ve allowed less to scare me, but I suppose there is residual fear from a lifetime of being accustomed: accustomed to the worry that somehow my body will halt me from continuing (“what if I don’t fit?  what if I’m too heavy?  what if I’m laughed at?”) and the ‘what ifs’ (“what if I roll and get stuck and drown and my face gets pecked off by a pike?”).  These things initially flood my thoughts against my own will; a hefty portion of the beginning of my life was spent collecting a magnificent array of nicknames and embarrassing moments from being obese.  My twenties have been embellished with a stream of “Smokey Drives a Cadillac” experiences that have helped rid of that habitual expectation of worry or fear of judgement, and I’ve submitted myself to some of the most amazing opportunities.

Thankfully, while the body has mostly remained on the same end of the spectrum – though with some positive changes – I can say that I’ve shed the majority of the fear.

All of this intro to one little piece of heaven: I went kayaking for the first time.


Let me start by saying that I’m in love with canoeing.  Every year when I come home to visit Michigan, my best friend (of 24 years!) and I canoe the AuTrain River.  There is something so empowering about steering my way down the river, and having the strength to carry us out of any sticky situation.  Arm strength, core stability, positivity, it all counts.

But I’ve been dying to kayak.

Kayaking was like this cool elitist thing to me, kind of like running.  I try to run, I want so desperately to run, but I can’t sustain mileage.  I’m more of an interval girl.  But I still count it as running!  I am infatuated with runners and as they jog by I study their faces, their form, their feet.  They are part of this club I try to mimic, but just am not yet able to be a part of.

I am the canoe and they were the kayak.

But now I’m the kayak!

Dale was one of my substitute teachers in junior high, but we have kept in touch over the years.  She was also my group leader when I was a part of Youth Volunteer Corps and we spent summer days volunteering to help clean up the forest.  She’s always had a great love for nature and not afraid to share that.  Being that I work with the U.S. Forest Service this summer, I have heard about her avid attendance at a slew of our summer programs.  It was on the Night Hike and Owl Calling put on by my counterpart Kelsey and me that I finally got to see Dale.  We chatted after the hike and planned on kayaking the next day at Pete’s Lake “because it’s a clear lake and just in case I roll I can pretend I’m swimming.”


It ended up being extremely windy and sprinkling on and off, threatening lightening, so we postponed a couple days.  I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful night!

We arrived at Pete’s Lake a bit before 7pm, welcome by the twilight’s outreaching arms.  I was excited and both extremely nervous, and I knew I wouldn’t chill out until I sat in the kayak and knew it wouldn’t feel like sitting on a flight on a puddle jumper for two hours (hey, my hips don’t lie…true to size).  She gave me a lesson on getting in and out and how to paddle, and in I went.

It was the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat in.

She pushed me out into the lake.


The word “bliss” is perfect.  It feels like a word that would actually seep along the water from the base of the bow cutting the water, glimmering out in perfect ripples along the side of the kayak.  Blissssssssssss.


We spent the next two hours paddling around Pete’s Lake, chatting about life and the value of having nature as your drug.  It was oddly quiet; usually it’s one of the busiest campgrounds.  Our kayaks cut the glass surface of the lake.  Common loons wailed in the southern corner.  The sun shone for the golden hour and began to create silhouettes as it tucked behind the trees.  It was amazing to see the lake from this perspective.  I spent my childhood summers swimming at the day use area, but never going beyond its bordering buoys (fear of drowning, fear of mucky water, always fear).  The lake was much bigger than I thought it to be, with various bays and treasures along the shoreline.

I could’ve spent a lifetime in that kayak.

I’m considering selling all my possessions and living in one.