Beauty Beyond Size

This is a hard post for me to write. I always try and share with you all issues that I've either dealt with in the past or issues that I observe on the outside. But this topic is personal, it is very much something that I am currently struggling with and have struggled with my entire life. 

I'd like to take you all back to MsYencko at 14 years old. The day I first noticed a tiny stretch mark across my belly. For as long as I could remember, I've had tiny stretch marks on my arms that came about when I had my first major growth spurt. But for some reason, this mark on my belly felt different-- it looked different. I think I was in the bathroom, and I looked in the mirror briefly, and quickly pulled down my blouse, refusing to pay any attention to it. 

To say that I struggled with body confidence and self-esteem as a teen is an understatement. I would wear a black sweater with everything to cover up my arms and large chest. I hated summer time, because I would sweat under all of my layers that I used to hide my insecurities. Gosh, my teen years were tough. I was a fiery leader in student council and youth group but an insecure mess in private. I look back at it, and I sincerely did not like my body. I couldn't stand how my hips were so narrow and my waist was so thick. I just couldn't stand how I could never find my bra size at Victoria's Secret, and I was subjected to wearing "grandma" bras that only came in white, off-white or black. I was so down on myself, it's even more painful to think about now.

When I got to college and started having my first few puppy-love crushes, it did not get any better. As my confidence lowered, so did my standards and the number on the scale kept getting higher and higher.

Then in the fall of 2012, everything changed. My girlfriends and I sarcastically agreed to attempting weight loss and started on our journey of eating clean+training dirty. I was so fed up of diet fads that I sincerely did not think that this would work, but wouldn't you know it that after 4 months, I lost 25lbs. Over the course of the next few months the weight continued to drop and I went from a size 18/16 to 12/10 (and even size 8 for a brief moment).

Here is a look at a major before and after moment that I captured during my journey.

I felt so sexy, beautiful and unsatisfied. Yes-- you read that correctly, I was UNSATISFIED. Here I was, almost 40lbs lighter, and still wanted to keep losing more. I didn't feel confident enough yet. If I could just lose 10 more pounds, or 2 more dress sizes, then I would be happy. So I would eat bland food, go on ridiculous spurts of food challenges and run in the bitter Chicago winter just to do whatever it took to lose the weight. Despite all of my efforts, I did not lose a pound. Instead, the weight started coming back on. I was still eating clean, working out but I could not seem to lose any more weight. 

My hips decided it was time to get wider, my body began to change and take shape in a way I had never seen. Despite my attempts to pull a Jennifer Hudson and be a perfect size 6, my genes and body structure rejected it. 

So each morning, with my head hung low, I began to despise what I saw in the mirror. Why was it that I could not be the perfect size? How come these stretch mark creams gave me eczema, instead of taking away the marks? Was this some kind of mean joke at my self esteem? 

Then something changed in me, towards the end of last summer. Here I was, a role model to many young girls. Always encouraging them to love themselves, but I couldn't do the same. So I began a routine of getting up each morning and really looking at myself in the mirror. It was not easy at first, because my body looked different every day! I promise you, that as women we have so many things that cause our bodies to change. Stress, happiness, hormones, and the list goes on. Once I began to realize that my body is always evolving, I could not help but love myself. I look at my marks today, and I see a story. I see a testimony of insecurity that turned into confidence. I see a body that will soon carry the next generation-- how can hate something so valuable in God's eyes? 

Our society is so wicked to women. We forget that each person is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. We allow these numbers on a scale, to devalue us and it hinders romantic relationships as well as friendships. How did we get this way? Why do we continue to perpetuate this ideology that there is an "ideal" body type? We are soooo different in our personalities therefore our bodies our bound to be different. 

So instead of wishing I was a little smaller, or have a flatter tummy, I chose to love who I am, where I am at. No one can be me like I can. I am uniquely made in the PERFECT image of God. God loves my, rolls, stretches, thighs and all. This is the standard that I choose to live by. All thoughts and words to myself must fall in line with this positive standard. 

Wether you are a size 0 or a size 20, be healthy, eat well, live an active lifestyle, dress fabulously and be thankful that God has given you a beauty beyond size. 

Do yourself a favor and check out this TED Talk, by Ashley Graham. She is someone I admire and her words are so simple yet meaningful.

Internationally-known body activist, model and entrepreneur, Ashley Graham, describes her journey into fashion industry stardom. She doesn't leave out any gritty details, as she describes the challenging and rewarding progression toward becoming her own role model. Inspiring body confidence in the next generation, Ashley expresses the need for the universal embrace of body diversity as beauty paradigms continue to shift.

Curvy & Fabulous,