How a Boudoir Shoot Helped Me Love My Body

Photo by Jen Hearn

hen you live uncomfortably in your own body, it shows. It shows in your posture, your facial expressions, your wardrobe choices.

From about age twelve or so, I vacillated between extremes of ill-fitting clothing. When I wanted to hide, I wore over-sized clothes that I swam in. Other times, I stuffed myself into jeans a size too small, caring more about what the tag said about me than about the red, angry lines cutting into my skin at the seams of my pants.

I struggled with my weight for twenty years, believing that my worth as a person was tied directly to my desirability as a romantic partner, which was tied directly to my pants size.

I was never one for sex with the lights off, but I still felt ashamed of my body when I had sex. I felt like I needed to apologize to my partners for what I looked like naked. My deeply instilled shame about my body tainted everything about me for nearly two decades of my life. I’d fall in love with anyone who wanted me to, because I was so sure no one else ever would.

Fighting my eating disorder

My personality was replaced with a bag of shake mix.

After several years of extremely restrictive diets and over-exercise, I realized in early 2019 that I had an eating disorder. I didn’t think it was possible to have one of those if I was fat, but there’s no doubt that starving myself and obsessive calorie counting, macro calculating, and food purity perfectionism had combined with my body shame to completely hijack my joy.

My personality was replaced with a bag of shake mix. It was not pretty.

I lost a hundred pounds and when I went on anti-depressants, left an abusive marriage, and went through one of the most stressful months of my entire life, I started gaining weight.

But this time, I let it happen.

This is just what my body weighs. It doesn’t mean anything about me. It’s a neutral fact. A data point.

Replacing shame with love

The happiest fat person I see every day is me.

As I worked through my harmful beliefs and habits around food restriction and perfectionism, I changed the way I interacted with fat bodies in media and in the mirror. I followed social media accounts that featured fat activists, health at every size educators, and fat people living their lives.

I loved the looks on their faces. Serene. Blissful, even.

Comfortable in their bodies.

The more I saw comfort, and not self-hatred, on the faces of fat people in my Instagram feed, the more I let myself feel it about my own body.

The happiest fat person I see every day is me.

So I booked a photography shoot to celebrate this glorious, amazing body and all the things it has done for me.

This body has run half marathons. This body packed up everything I owned and moved out of an abusive home. This body hugs my friends. This body moves me around in the world. This body is amazing, and I spent too long hating it for just being itself.

My boudoir shoot changed how I look at my body

My body is beautiful. And I can finally see it.

Something I appreciate a lot about my photographer is that she doesn’t edit me heavily. She will, graciously, adjust my acne at my request, but my rolls are my rolls, my hair is my hair, and my freckles and moles are my freckles and moles.

And when I looked through the photos, not one of them made me wince. Not one of them made me think, “Oh this will not see the light of day.”

Every photo in the gallery from my boudoir shoot was something I would celebrate and think was beautiful if I saw it on Instagram.

I am comfortable in this body. It is beautiful. And I can finally see it.

Prone to sudden bursts of encouragement. They/them. Queer, autistic author of bit.ly/GaslightingMillennials

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