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I’ve always loved pop culture, celebrity fodder, and people watching- as I’m not a very social person myself, I look at this habit as the introvert’s way of connecting with the outside world (I kid, sort of).

Reading glossy tabloids and women’s magazines has been one of my favorite ways to kick back and relax since I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. I would be enthralled, seeing Lindsay Lohan’s partying antics, Paris Hilton hitting the club, and Britney Spear’s downward spiral. I learned about the ways of humanity through analyzing the (often bad) behavior of the hottest stars.

I remember this moment as if it were yesterday; it was a typical Saturday afternoon, I was with my step-mom and step-sister after going to the grocery store to pick up food for the weekend. I was able to get a couple of magazines, which I was already pouring over in the car.

There was a headline on InTouch about Nicole Richie’s weight, questioning if she was too fat. I felt a slight pang of insecurity as I read the first few lines, thinking about my own body image.

I have always been on the curvy side- I guess you could say chubby when I was young and didn’t have wide hips. I never had a flat stomach or thighs that didn’t touch, even though I was physically active and ate as healthy as a child with picky eating habits could. This is just the way my body is made.

That didn’t mean I was excited about it, though. Or that there weren’t people who reminded me that I didn’t meet the thin ideal that they held about women’s (and sadly, children’s) bodies.

As I got deeper into the article, I discovered that a “source” apparently had access to Nicole Richie’s scale, claiming that she weighed 125 pounds. Now, Nicole Richie is 5’2, a rather short woman, so 125 pounds looks a lot different on her than someone who is even 5’4 or 5’5. The magazine quoted a dietitian in saying that even though Richie may have appeared to be overweight, she was actually still within the BMI’s range of normal weight.

At that time, I weighed almost exactly 125 pounds and was a little less than 5 feet tall. I instantly realized that I wasn’t any different than Richie- people would also question and scrutinize my size, would assume I was too fat, and probably never consider me to be pretty or sexy.

I was fucked.

This was a very defining moment in my life, that led me to take on the belief that I was ugly, and therefore, unlovable. I assumed that no boys would ever want to date me and that that was the reason I seemed to be left out of crushes and first kisses. As long as I looked like that, I could never find romantic or sexual bliss.

These beliefs took me through my teen years, following me like a shadow I could never escape. It seemed that every time I would take one step forward in body love, I would take two steps back into body shame. As my peers were starting to sexualy blossom, I felt stifled. I thought the only way to change it was to change my body.

This mindset definitely informed my eating disorder, which had somewhat of a bipolar nature. I was determined to become thin and thought that if I just put my mind to it, it was something I could easily attain.

While I did manage to lose 30 pounds in a few months when I was 14, it didn’t create the fairy tale I’d imagined for myself; I still felt too fat, I still wanted to lose more weight, I was still insecure, and I still wasn’t getting the romantic attention I craved so deeply. I was however being praised by my peers and even family members for my weight loss- which is beyond fucked up. I was barely eating at this point and was definitely acting weird around food, which should have probably set off some alarm bells with my parental figures, but I digress.

I inevitably gained back all of the weight once I hit a low point in my depression at 15, which never came back off again. For so many years, I felt that I could never be happy if I continued to read to the world as fat.

The turning point happened when I was about 18 years old and had discovered the world of feminism. Body positivity was a popular topic and area of interest to me within feminism, that I started to apply to my own body and life.

For the first time, I saw myself as a person, rather than a body.

This journey of self-love lead me to wear crop tops and short shorts, bikini’s to any beach or pool venue, and write viral articles on owning my body. I felt so confident and sexy for the first time, ever. I even had people looking up to me on how to love themselves!

As the initial spark wore off, I started to get into my old habits once again though, of hating myself and wishing myself to be thinner. I had a complicated relationship with my dormant eating disorder and felt that I wanted to be thin, even if I didn’t have to be in order to accept myself.

Fast forward to the last couple of years, I’ve become very spiritual. I am turned on by learning about metaphysics, enthralled by psychodynamics, divination, astrology, and Zen Buddhism. I even turned this passion into an intuitive coaching practice, I was so excited about my studies.

As I started to understand how my thoughts and beliefs informed the experiences I was attracting into my life, I understood that my body shame was playing a huge role in the types of romantic and sexual experiences I was allowing myself to have. In other words, since I wasn’t appreciating or respecting my body, my partners weren’t either.

I realized that I had to form an inner love and peace with my body, if I wanted to be able to experience intense attraction. If I felt that I was good looking, beautiful even, I would attract people and experiences into my world that would reflect that.

Wouldn’t you know, as soon as I stopped assuming that men were judging me and rejecting me because of my appearance, it stopped happening!

In fact, the opposite types of men were coming into my world- the ones who loved curves, who wouldn’t have ever dreamed that I should look different, the ones who appreciated vivacious red hair.

As my current boyfriend told me during one of our first conversations, “you’re a cute Jewish girl.”

I’ve realized that I don’t need to be considered conventionally attractive, hot, or sexy to be all of those things. I just have to love myself and believe that I am attractive, hot, and sexy. Or, whatever else I choose to embody!

Being the cute Jewish girl is exactly who I’ve projected myself to be, because that’s who i want to be. I like being adorable, I like being short, I like being myself. This feels like me. This feels like my body.

I, Erin, the cute Jewish girl, love myself the way I am.

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