“You know, Hannah – you have such a pretty face, you would be so hot if you lost weight.” I was in 8th grade and the new popular boy just said this to my face. My heart sunk and I had no idea how to react.

 

“You don’t have the body for a bikini, honey. I’m not going to buy you one,” my mom said to me in 9th grade when I finally had the courage to upgrade my tankini. What was I thinking? A girl with belly rolls can’t possibly be comfortable with them showing. I thought she was right.

 

My friend and I came home from the gym sophomore year, both wearing sports bras and workout shorts. My dad walked into the room, looked at my friend, and commented, “Hannah, when is your stomach going to look like Ashley’s?”

 

Mind you, when these comments were made to me, I was a 5’7’’ girl weighing 180 pounds. I was a healthy, normal weight and had it not been for so many comments like these I may not have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder my senior year of high school.

I started to love myself for real when I moved to Australia for six months. When I got there, I went out. A lot. Australians kind of have a drinking problem, but it’s super dope. Australians also have very little reservations about sexuality compared to Americans.

 

One of my friends introduced me to a boy named Sam who she had hooked up with who apparently thought I was… hot? I was shook. He was so cute and had shaggy hair and that hipster boho style that was so in in 2016. He was my Free People fever dream. We started snapchatting and he ended up taking my virginity a couple of weeks later. It was literally the best possible way to lose my virginity. I was on top of the world. I fucked an AUSTRALIAN BOY. IN AUSTRALIA. I also broke my ankle that night but we’re gonna table that one.

 

Up until this point I had never had a boy express direct interest in me romantically or sexually. Except for a very aloof and strange man from my hometown called Lettuce, which is another story for another time.

 

After my night with Sam, and a few others, I realized that beauty standards are relative. I had no idea what euro-centric beauty standards meant. I didn’t know that there were people who didn’t think the ideal body was skinny.

 

I started asking myself, why had I been so cruel to my self, my body, and my sexual needs for so many years? Why had I waited until I was 21 to lose my virginity? I had never even had a boyfriend… Then I realized. All of the subliminal (and very upfront) messaging throughout my entire life had led me to believe I was unattractive and too fat to be loved -- when in fact the entire time, there was a whole world of people and there are spaces where I can be accepted, and even worshipped for the way I look. And deserve it every goddamn time.

I know that my immense privilege allowed me the opportunity to study abroad and have these transformative experiences. But my advice to those struggling with loving themselves and the horrific fatphobia of the country and world we live in is to remember who the fuck you are. Your body does not define you, your sexuality does not define you. YOU are the only person, place, or thing that is allowed to define you.

 

When I came back from Australia, I was so worried about returning to the same destructive patterns of looking in the mirror and hating what I saw. But the body positivity movement on social media, led by queer, fat, black creators was starting to take off. If it hadn’t been for the examples of these people on social media affirming what I learned about myself in Australia, I don’t know if I would be the confident bad bitch I am today. I am so glad that teenage girls today have people like Lizzo to look up to, because who knows how much sooner I would’ve found love for myself. I started to lean into the movement by taking photos in bathing suits and posting them on my Instagram. The feedback was incredible! I could not believe other people actually liked looking at me in my bathing suit.

 

I am writing this weighing in at 250 pounds, a comfortable weight for myself. Do I have days where I struggle with loving my body? Of course. But do I know that I am a bad bitch who loves herself no matter what anyone says? Yes. You are that bitch too, all it takes is realizing it for yourself.

 

I am fat. And I am not only someone who has had many incredible sexual experiences, but I am happily engaged to someone who loves me and everything about me. Had it not been for my self-acceptance, I would never have known how to accept and reciprocate his love. I am so excited to marry my best friend.

 

Your body does not define you. And your body is beautiful. There is not a single voice that should be louder in your journey to accepting yourself and your body than your own. I believe in you, I know you can join me where I am now, as seen below:

By: Hannah Kipersztok