I’ve never been a small girl, in fact, I’ve been a big girl for almost as long as I can remember. My life in the States always revolved around food, in some way. It’s a part of my culture, and my state (Louisiana) is famous around the world for our cuisine. I was raised with the attitude that life is short, so enjoy everything while you can. I have embraced this outlook with my entire being, and so has my waistline. I’ve been fighting the Battle of the Bulge so long, I should have a medal. I’ve tried almost every diet or trick, as long as it’s not too crazy or against the law. But somehow, when I look at myself: I’m still losing. As a result, I became quite obsessed with my size. Even when I don’t realize it, I end up comparing myself to everyone around me.
Moving abroad didn’t help matters at first. It made me even more aware of how I stood out, and I did NOT like it. I avoided shopping at first, not even wanting to see a mall and face the fact that almost no store carried things in my size. I asked other curvy girls where they shopped, because let’s face it: I have to buy clothes. After a while, trying to find things that fit me and constantly thinking about how other people seemed so comfortable in their own skin took its toll. I started to be self-conscious around my friends, and even shied away from dating. I felt that my size needed a legal disclaimer, and I’ve been rejected for it more than once. I hated that I was wasting my time in a new city worrying about my appearance, and I realized: I need to let this go and work on myself. Not just what people see, but ALL of me. I took a look at everything around me, and tried to think of things that made me feel more balanced.
A friend suggested meditation, so I decided to start there.
It’s supposed to be a way to quiet your mind, and have a few moments of peace. I downloaded a meditation app, gave it a try, and noticed something very important: My mind will just not shut UP. My time of quiet reflection turned into making grocery lists, coming up with snappy comebacks, and wondering what my mother was doing back home. I tried to think of ways to clear my mind, but I’d only end up humming Jeff Buckley lyrics to the sound of crashing waves. It turns out that what’s best for me is to listen to the app right before bed. It actually helps calm my nerves, and makes me settle down. Is meditation supposed to put you to sleep? I doubt it. However, I’m still going to use it as a sleep aid because I’m an adult and I do what I want.
I also decided to get back into yoga.
I’ve practiced yoga off and on for over a decade, and I’m always happy to spend some quality time on the mat. The only problem is that the yoga classes I’ve attended are really... freaking...slow. Oh my god. While everyone is sitting around me chatting about chakras and breathing energy into their roots or whatever, I am screaming inside. Wait, why are people looking at me? Crap, am I screaming outside too? I’ve got to work on that. Fine. I decided to do my own yoga at home, in the comfort of my Batman pajamas and Spotify playlist. Does yoga to Muse, The Beatles, M.O.P., or Marvin Gaye sound strange? That’s a shame. I actually find it exhilarating. It stretches what I need to stretch, and gets me going for the next pose. It looks like “quiet reflection” is just not for me. I need screaming and loud guitars one minute, then soul singing and maybe some Yellow Submarine the next.
Next up: Food.
This was a hard one. I love [almost] all the food and I definitely love to drink ALL the wine. I’m the girl who goes on vacation and gets off the plane, wearing a bib and screaming: “Let’s eat!!!!” With new cuisine comes new pants, and I realized that while my new-found surroundings were having a much healthier effect on me, I’d still brought some of my old eating habits with me. I had to make a cleanse: I threw out all the junk food (R.I.P. Oreo stash. We had some laughs, and I’ll always remember you.), cut out soda, and just tried to be more mindful about what I was consuming. Produce is so much more affordable than in the U.S., so it’s much easier to have a healthy snack around the house (I have a fruit basket, and it’s weird. I’m a fruit basket person, now). Real talk: when I go on vacation it’s on and popping, BUT I balance it out with a walk around the area I’m staying in, which brings up the next point...
Did you know there’s a place you can go just to exercise!?
It’s called a “gym” and people go there to torture themselves in various ways, until they no longer have any will to live. I know, that’s crazy right? I found myself joining one of these gym things, because I’ve noticed that people in Europe are so active. Everyone walks everywhere in this place, and here’s the thing: They do it on purpose. Whoa. Also, there are stairs everywhere. You can’t avoid them, they hide behind corners just waiting to surprise you. During my time in Spain, stairs have become my arch-nemesis. Which is strange, because the more time I spend at this gym place, the more I realize I have a new obsession: spinning class. Turns out this torture thing is actually good for you. It makes you all healthy and less ill-tempered. I leave my spinning classes exhausted but with a smile on my face, and a spring in my step... I don’t like it.
Recently I ran into a friend, and the first thing she said was: “Hey! Where’s the rest of you!?” I looked around, confused as to who she was addressing. Then I realized I was the only person standing there. Huh. Somewhere along the way, I forgot about my obsession with size. I won’t lie, sometimes it comes creeping back. But I realize that I’ve stopped constantly analyzing my body. I’ve stoppedpinching my waist, looking at my arms, and checking scales. I’ve decided that I would rather enjoy being myself, than spend my life trying to look like other people. So, I will eat the delicious food, I will drink the incredible wine, and I will stop making myself feel bad for doing so. However, I will also commit to taking better care of my health and keep taking steps to make sure that I stay well, Mentally and physically.
I am not skinny and maybe I never will be. What I am is strong, determined, and a damn BEAST in spinning class. I don’t ever plan to change that in this lifetime.
Khephra is a New Orleans native, who re-located to Madrid, Spain at the absolute end of 2013. Some of her favorite things are: food, Theatre, yoga, tinto de verano, and traveling through the country she's only seen in dreams. She can usually be found wandering through the streets of Madrid [because she's lost... again], or at an intercambio. When she's not accidentally cursing at old ladies in Castellano, or wading neck-deep into the dreaded dating pool, she spends her free time working to be a better writer, teacher, and dancer.