Body Image

Learning to love and accept yourself is a difficult task. At some point in my life, I had to teach myself to love my big, tall, brown body - the magazines and society had nothing to offer me on that.

When I look back at all the body image moments that devastated me as a young girl, I feel like a hero who experienced an atrocity and made it out alive. It’s almost impossible to explain the pain of rejection, and even more impossible to explain the pain I felt as a young girl being rejected because of my size. Because of my body.

In the little town I grew up in near Jerusalem, Neve Shalom, I was always the tallest, biggest girl around. At the age of 12 I was already taller than my parents and wearing a shoe size that not one shoe store carried for women or young girls. I have early memories of people either constantly worrying that I was too big or making fun of my size.

Even though I was raised by a Persian mother who feeds people endlessly, I have memories of relatives taking away dessert from me and demanding that I eat less and work on becoming smaller. Most of the time I felt ashamed to say I was hungry.

When I left for the USA to attend college at Brandeis I gained a lot of weight, and every semester when I would visit home, I got questions like, “what are they feeding you there?”

Trying to shrink my body and prevent myself from being my natural size was my status quo for too many years. Despite over a decade of contrary evidence, I still thought my size was temporary and that very soon I’d lose weight and start being happy – I’d start living my real life – the one where I’m not constantly hungry and my life doesn’t revolve around food.

I was fighting my body.

I fought my size. I fought my shape. I even fought my curly hair – my body took up enough space as it was, and I thought straight hair made me look thinner.

Deep down inside I knew this wasn’t me. I knew that the way I lost weight and tried to change myself was neither healthy nor authentic. I was finally through fighting.

When you fight your body, it fights you back. When you accept and love your body, it loves you back.

At this point in my life I realized that while I’m a successful, confident, high-achieving and articulate woman, there is something stuck in my throat - a tall, curvy, curly brown woman who wanted to just be herself and her size - and I was not letting her.

That woman began speaking to me, her silenced voice aching in my throat as I realized that she needed a voice.

First I stopped straightening my curls. Then I slowly stopped weighing myself all the time, just to see how it felt. Then I switched to workouts that felt good, without forcing or hurting myself. I allowed myself to eat foods that felt good and that I enjoyed, without judging myself.

I began releasing this tall, big woman into the world and letting her be who she is.

I started doing stand-up comedy, incorporating my dating life into the routine, talking about my experiences as a dominant woman. I began to experience the freedom and connection that can only come from speaking your unapologetic authentic self. And while it’s a long and ongoing process (some days I’m not sure of anything) one thing keeps being proven to me - no one will show up for me if I’m not there.

Instead of internalizing and fearing that I’m too intimidating, I got up on stage, looked people in the eyes and said. “I’ll be the one here with the mic, in front of the camera, being that tall big woman you are going to admire.”

After that, I decided I was going to say yes to creative opportunities. I was accepted as an ROI Community Fellow at the Schusterman Foundation – and even performed my first stand-up comedy routine in English as part of the program. The experience exposed me to so many other young, talented and creative leaders. Everyone in the program was introduced to me as the Noam who was not afraid to get up on stage and perform.

I never could have expected what happened next. One of the other fellows approached me about taking my journey off the stage and onto the screen. He wanted to make a movie about me. Not exactly a feature Hollywood film, but an opportunity to share my story and my journey with others. The video we made is the debut of that big, tall, beautiful woman, who was silent for so long.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vj4DzERIHr8

When I first agreed to start working on this video, I imagined a young girl somewhere watching it. I imagined her taller than all her friends. I imagined her not seeing women who look like her on TV or in magazines. I imagined her wanting to shrink every time she gets ready to go out with her smaller friends. I imagined her watching the boys persuing her petite friends and not her. I imagined her starting to go on diets. Straightening her curly hair. Watching other girls go shopping and easily finding clothing in their size.

I imagined her looking at this video and rethinking her body, reconsidering her power. Realizing that there is much more than that narrow, unrealistic beauty ideal.

If I was able to help even one young girl reconsider changing her body – even one thing about her body – then I’m the happiest woman alive. I wish there had been someone there to do the same for me, before I wasted years trying to change.

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

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