Identity Crisis {Guest Post}~ Winnipeg Boudoir Photography

boudoir photography winnipeg

Identity Crisis {Guest Post}~ Winnipeg Boudoir Photography

boudoir photography winnipeg
TRIGGER WARNING: THIS BLOG POST DEALS HEAVILY WITH WEIGHTLOSS, SURGERY, MENTIONS OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE & SEXUAL ASSAULT, AND FATPHOBIA

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I have a confession. I am starting this blog without a hot clue what I want to say.

Teri asked if I could share a little bit about my journey, weight loss, skin removal surgery, and my views on my body, and while I am SURE that I have much to say on the topic, I am drawing a blank and the reason why is very simple:

Because body positivity is hard.  There. I said it.
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Now let’s jump in:

After a fairly traumatic adolescence and early adulthood battling substance abuse (but that’s a whole other blog post, let me know when you’re ready for that one, Teri.) I found myself almost 300 pounds and hating myself.  I didn’t do much to address my concerns about my weight, but I spent just about every second of every day analyzing my body, my weight, and what I had done wrong to get it to this place where I hated it so much.
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Did I hate myself because I was 300 pounds and society had taught me that everything about that was shameful? Or was I 300 pounds because I hated myself? I searched for the answers. Maybe I was neglecting myself. Maybe I didn’t feel like I was worth caring for. I looked around at family members, was it my genes? Maybe I was subconsciously attempting to protect myself from the violent gaze of men after being a victim of sexual assault. Surely, I am emotional eating to mask the pain. OR What if this was a personal failing?  Was I just deeply and profoundly flawed and that was the hand I was dealt in life? Is Karma a thing? Is the universe getting even for all the mistakes I’d made? How could life be SO unfair?! I spent years trying to rationalize my shame around my weight. Standing In front of the mirror in tears, pleading with the universe to fix me.

It was exhausting.
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Then through the magic of the internet, I found out about the Body Positivity Movement. This idea that I could be fat AND OKAY?! Well that just blew my mind. This whole other way of thinking was so exciting to me. I wanted to know more. HOW CAN I BE BODY POSITIVE TOO?!

I followed all the Instagram accounts, I joined the Facebook groups, I googled the memes, I read the books, I watched the documentaries and to be completely honest,…  I didn’t really get it…

But oh dear Lord, how I wanted to get it! I wanted to feel okay. I wanted to love myself.
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So I faked it. Fake it ‘till you make it, baby!  I walked the walk and I talked the talk. I shared the posts and I publicly celebrated me.  I liked everything I was promoting but I wasn’t sure that I was really feeling it at my core. Years of self-loathing is hard to just turn off. (Am I right?!) Nevertheless, I kept at it. I wanted to be enlightened too.

And eventually the funniest thing started happening,… if you surround yourself with positive energy, reassuring thoughts, and inspiring people,…. It becomes you. You become it. Like, actually.

I had not realized it at the time but looking back, I wasn’t miserable because I was fat. I was miserable because I was filling my own world with negativity every single day.

As the positivity crept in and started taking up all of the spaces that were once full of hate, my whole world started changing for the better.

But now that I wasn’t spending every waking moment analyzing my shame, what was I going to do with all this free time?!

I decided I would take “fake it till you make it” to a completely new level. I entered a Plus Size Modelling contest for a local plus size clothing shop,… and son of a bitch, I won!

I WAS FAT AND I WAS OKAY.
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Around this time I met Teri Hofford and I had my first shoot with her. I loved her light and her energy and I wanted more of it. I had a BLAST.  I started modelling more and I really fell in love with it. Teri’s studio became a safe place for me. I could be who I am, and my body could be what it is, and I never had to worry about anything. Unapologetically naked and unapologetically fat.

I WAS FAT AND I WAS OKAY.

I started dating again and men liked me. I was funny, and charming, and kind of cute even.

I WAS FAT AND I WAS OKAY.

I GOT IT! FINALLY!  I WAS BODY POSITIVE!
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As I started to accept myself more and more I stopped dwelling on the past and began focusing on the future and my goals. I wanted to go to the gym, I wanted to diet, I wanted to lose weight!!!

…. …. ….. WAIT…  What?…. Is that body positive? … Shit. I was stumped.

Like I said, Body Positivity is hard.

So, I reverted to an old tactic… I’m going to analyze this and I’m going to get to the bottom of it!

Why did I want to lose weight?

Surely, to be healthy! Yes, that is body positive.  And I liked feeling strong and powerful! Yes, that is body positive too. The endorphins give me energy! Yes! I am still body positive!

But also, honestly… because I still hated my body. I was still ashamed of my fat.

I cannot say this enough… Body Positivity is hard!
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I went to the gym, I changed my diet, but I also made sure to remind myself of my worth every single day and that that worth was not determined by my weight.

Over the next 2 years, I lost 100 pounds. I now sit around 175 (but I don’t pay much attention). I moved in and out of healthy spaces along the way. I balanced the days I paid too much attention to the scale with days where I just felt happy to be me but eventually I was struggling with a new shame. The fat I hated so much was replaced with excess skin that I hated even more.

Body positivity is hard.
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Could I want to lose weight and still be body positive? That one was tricky.

Could I get plastic surgery and still be body positive?

At this point I was done analyzing, I was going to do what made me happy and I did not care who (including myself) understood it.

With the help of some great women who had been there before, I found a surgeon and had my excess skin removed. The surgery involved cutting a 20-inch horizontal incision across my hips and another 10-inch vertical incision up to my sternum and removing 5 pounds of excess skin from my abdomen.  My belly button was realigned and the skin from my back and hips was pulled away from the muscles and stretched forward and to cover my tummy. This was not a minor procedure. The recovery was hard. I could not take much for pain management due to my past addiction issues. I could not stand up straight and used a walker to get around for 2 weeks. I was off work for 6 weeks and out of the gym for 3 months. I am told I will be fully healed in about a year.
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At this point, the weight was lost, the skin was removed, and I prepared myself to fight a new mental battle against my scars but the most peculiar thing happened. I LOVE THEM. These scars represent my strength. They are a reminder everyday of how truly amazing my body is. When I was almost 300 pounds it carried me. As I started fueling my body with nutritious food and self care it energized me and made me unstoppable. It did incredible things in the gym every single day that I wasn’t sure it was capable of.  It was cut up and stitched shut, and it healed me. I have nothing but MAD RESPECT for this body o’ mine.
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Once I was healed and armed with mad respect it was time for another session with Teri Hofford. I hadn’t done a shoot in over a year and working up to shoot day I was nervous, which in itself was out of character for me but I felt like I was a different person and this was my very first photoshoot. I have shot with Teri a lot over the years. She has seen every LITERAL inch of me but that was my old body. This one was new and I was still figuring it out…#identitycrisis. but I walked into the studio and it was the exact same safe place it had always been. One of the first things she asked me was how I felt about my scars and if I was comfortable showing them. HECK YES! “What have you got for wardrobe?”

“I’m thinking nothing. Are you okay with that?”  LET’S DO THIS! In an instant, I wasn’t nervous anymore. It’s almost like fat Nikita and Skinny(er) Nikita were the exact same person all along (radical concept I know.)  And as always, (no matter the size of my body) I look at the beautiful photos Teri has captured and I feel proud.
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My mind is *usually* a safe place to be now. Rather than feel like a failure or a hypocrite, I accept that body positivity is a process. That it is something I am going to have to work at and that some days will be harder than others. I accept that that I am not perfect. I don’t have all of the answers and that my understanding of what it means to love myself is sometimes going to be lacking insight but I am going to do it anyway.

There is so much pressure on women today to look a certain way and to behave a certain way. It can be confusing to navigate all of the expectations.  When it came to being Body Positive / Self Accepting, I was still trying to do it “right” in the eyes of everyone else and it took a while for me to realize that it is a personal journey. It is about dropping the expectations and just doing you.

As Teri once told me…. The LEAST interesting thing about you is what you look like.
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3 Comments
  • Breanne
    Posted at 23:11h, 10 August

    Thank-you so much for sharing your journey. I am struggling so much with my body image and it is really encouraging to know that it can all get better. I have no idea how or if I am capable of finding this path for myself but I feel immensely appreciative of you sharing your vulnerabilities to give me a little hope.

    You really are beautiful.

  • Dave
    Posted at 18:30h, 20 August

    Beautiful story and photos! I’m not sure why women are taught to hate themselves, but it looks like you’re mostly past that. Rock on!
    Now To Get ready for next years session!

  • Jackie P Caverzan Hunter
    Posted at 17:30h, 27 August

    What an amazing post. I admire you and your drive. You are beautiful even when we dont look at your pictures! Thank you for being so inspiring!!