I've been heavy ever since I was a very young girl. My weight fluctuated from chunky to chubby as I grew up.
My mother – even though I love her very much – used to point out my weight like it was this ugly, fat curse I needed to control. I was punished with sugar withdrawal, and was rewarded with one sweet a week if I could sustain a sugar-free diet throughout the week.
Sweets, fats and otherwise yummy foods were the enemy, and they were waging war on my young body.
My mothers critique – coupled with a mean group of thin girls I surrounded myself with growing up – led me to hate every inch of my naturally larger frame, plus all the extra cushion I added to it.
I can remember one specific incident where I snuck into my skinny step-sister's room one day. I took a pretty dress I found in her closet and attempted to put it on, in order to prove to myself I was just as pretty as the stunning Ashley was.
After squashing my size 16 self into this teeny little body con dress and staring at myself in the mirror in horror, I actually remember punching my stomach and sobbing my eyes out, just thinking about how hideous I felt.
This fat body I had was a problem. It looked bad. It was going to kill me, and it made me undesirable to the boys... whose attention I craved.
As the years passed, my childhood chubbiness turned into womanly curviness. I grew out of my awkward phase, and into my somewhat swan phase.
As I started to lose weight and come into my adult body, I felt a confidence grow within me. I wasn't as nervous about my weight because the people around me had started to give me approval. I was succeeding in the teenage hot department.
Then, one day, as I was strutting out of my high school and toward my cute little car, I overheard a group of older boys giggle at my miniskirt. They were saying a girl with thunder thighs like mine should cover herself up.
I was mortified.
I shuffled to my car with my head hung. When I made it to the safety of my front seat, I began to cry. The ugliness I felt for myself when I was a kid came flooding back once again.
I spent the next few years of high school finding attention in the wrong places. I was sleeping with older guys who treated me like trash, but told me I was beautiful.
My curves were desired, so I lowered my self-esteem in order to boost my ego.
In my 20s, I was the heaviest I have ever been. I was bordering 300 lbs, and I was unhealthy and unhappy.
I still don't know what compelled me to walk my thick butt into my first yoga class. Maybe it was the grace I saw when I looked at yogis, or maybe it was the calm on their faces as they elegantly moved through those ridiculous poses.
I just knew I wanted to be them, flawlessly executing these incredibly strong sequences with a smile on my face and sweat on my brow.
I kept up a steady practice over the years. Eventually, my dream is to become a yoga teacher, so I can hopefully impact at least one other person who doesn't feel beautiful. I want that person to know he or she IS beautiful.
After my years of practice, the thing about yoga I appreciate the most is how beautiful it has made me feel. I am still a very heavy woman.
I could be healthier. I could eat kale like it's going out of style, and I could still hate every inch of me.
BUT I don't.
I have learned through practice that I love to eat cheeseburgers, love to watch my body move, love to meditate and most of all, love myself.
For all my flaws, for all my perfect curves, for every tear I've shed thinking I'm not enough, my practice has brought me to a place where I feel whole.
I truly love the body I am in. It is strong, sexy and beautiful.
The stretch marks I've gained through my years of weight fluctuation are beauty marks to me. The jiggle that ripples through my frame is a sign I am mobile, and that is stunning.
These thunderous thighs help me walk through life with a confidence that won't quit. I am thankful for what yoga has taught me about loving who I am.