I was always a chubby kid growing up and I had considered the extra pounds to be a part of my identity.  My name is Ashley, I am opinionated, I am bossy, and I am fat.  I have been on a diet, since I was 12 years old.  I eat to celebrate, to relieve stress, and to cope with uncomfortable feelings.  Food has always been a source of comfort for me.  A lot of my friends, also struggled with their weight. We would constantly talk about the latest fad diet or workout program, and then later enjoy binge eating together.  I can’t imagine how lonely my life would have been without these women, who understood me.  Food and those women have always been there for me, even when friends, family, or a boyfriend let me down.

Let me tell you something about heavy people, they are a wealth of knowledge when it come to diets.  A lot of us have tried them all.

I could feel that my fatness was disappointing to my family, and embarrassing for my boyfriends.  I felt the need to be funnier, a better host, and more agreeable to make up for the burden others around me must have felt about having a fat friend.  Inside, I was really angry at the world.  My low self-esteem allowed me to be treated poorly in relationships.  I didn’t think I deserved to ask for more.

In 2011, I made the decision to get the gastric sleeve. Not only did I lose a ton of weight, I lost it really, really fast.  My brain could not keep up with the speed at which I was loosing weight.  People began to treat me differently, but inside I still felt like the fat girl.  I then became disgusted when people were nicer to me, or when guy friends all of the sudden found me appealing, or when people thought that it was okay to make comments about other women’s weight around me.  I was still the same person, the same person that wasn’t worthy of your kindness, attraction, or respect before.

The other tough part was I had lost my best friend, and my first addiction, food. I was no longer capable of eating to comfort myself, my stomach was now the size of a banana and eating more than a handful of food would make me violently sick.  Without my best friend to go through all of these changes with, I turned to booze.  Which slide down my new stomach quite easily, if you take enough heart burn medication.  Booze helped me to cope with all of my uncomfortable feelings.

One year after loosing almost 100 pounds, I also got sober.  I knew I couldn’t run from myself forever.  I have been sober for almost five years.  It has taken a lot of counseling, positive self-talk, meetings, prayer, letting go of past resentments, and learning how to deal with new ones to come to terms with myself.  The journey for me to love myself, inside and out has been a long one.  I jokingly say that I am emotionally, and spiritually high-maintenance.  Everyday I have to work on feeling comfortable in my own skin.  I will say the journey has made me less judgmental of others and kinder to myself.

Now, I enjoy working out, because I love getting to see what my body can do.  I am constantly amazed at its ability to grow stronger, and my hearts ability to heal.  The most amazing part about this life is that everyday I get to wake up and decide who I want to be today, I can choose to let go of the old tapes that play in my head. I wish I had known then that I am beautiful and worthy of respect and love.  I am glad that at least I didn’t die without knowing what it feels like to fall in love with yourself.