I’ve been working on a project for the past few months on body positivity. We all follow influential people on Instagram, whether it be a fitness instagrammer, a model, athlete, photographer, you name it. I’ve been reaching out some these influential people to take part in my body positivity blog series. I thought it would be a great way to hear their point of view. These people may have thousands of followers but they are still human. They have all experienced body issues at one point and they may still even have their tough days. It’s helpful to see that these people we admire on Instagram are just like the rest of us. Human.
Today, I’m posting an interview with Megan (positively.megan). I’ve been following Megan for quite some time, her Instagram feed is yes – positive! There is something endearing about her and you can feel that when you scroll through her feed. I was so happy when she was up for doing this interview. She’s a great person to start off the series because she is absolutely positive!
Megan is a wife, a special education teacher, a goofball and a woman who loves to promote healthy living from the inside out.
How has your relationship with your body and with yourself evolved? Can you talk us through your story of where you were a few years ago to where you are now?
Let me take you back to frizzy hair, cheap makeup, and ill-fitting clothes. That’s right… my high school years! Throughout high school I was always the girl who friends would consider “average”. I was neither “skinny” nor “fat”. I was perfectly “in the middle”. In high school, I was blessed to have amazing friends, but body image was simply not spoken of. I know everyone was thinking it and that we all had our insecurities, but no one said much. I WISH body image wasn’t so taboo back then. Perhaps going through all those bodily changes wouldn’t have been so hard. My average body and I got along just fine although I always wished I was as “skinny” as the cheerleaders or that I could fit into the pants at that one “popular” store where the sizes made you feel like crap.
Post high school, I gained a lot of weight. I was away from home and on my own for the first time ever. I ate foods that I wouldn’t have normally eaten at home and was not as active as I was a handful of months prior. Yes, the freshman fifteen happened to me. (Or was it the freshman twenty-five? Hmm.)
This is where things got a little “bumpy” for me. None of my clothes were fitting anymore and since I was out on my own and paying bills, I couldn’t afford a new wardrobe. The only solution I had been to lose weight, but I didn’t have time between school, work, and a boyfriend to workout… gosh no! I could, however, eat differently. I downloaded a calorie counting app for the first time in my life when I was 18 years old. When I entered how much weight I wanted to lose, and at the rate I wanted to potentially lose it per week, the app told me I should be eating 1200 calories a day. With no education in health or nutrition at all, I listened mindlessly to that recommendation and was EXCITED to finally get “skinny!” There was just one problem… 1200 calories a day was starving me. No, I couldn’t eat MORE because then I wouldn’t lose the weight the app told me I would. Since I was already drinking meal replacement shakes every day and eating all the processed fat-free and reduced calorie foods, I only had one more option. Diet pills. You see… my favorite radio channel and favorite radio host always talked about this diet pill that would help you get “high school skinny”. It worked for him and all the co-hosts of the show and why shouldn’t I trust them? (My naive self didn’t think that money endorsements could shape people’s opinions and experience with products just yet.) After subscribing to an auto-renewing monthly shipment of these magic pills, I anxiously awaited their arrival in the mail! The day they came, you would have thought it was Christmas! I read the label. “Take 1-2 pills daily to suppress appetite and LOSE FAT!” With the option being 1-2 pills to suppress my appetite and realizing that my body was always hungry with my new lower calorie intake, I took two and didn’t think twice. Within an hour I had uncontrollable shakes (from caffeine), a killer headache (from some poisonous ingredient I didn’t care about), nausea…essentially an overall feeling of illness. No wonder I wasn’t hungry! But you guys. I wasn’t hungry! Eventually there would be days where I would forget my pills and feel savage hunger, therefor leading me to binge. It was a rollercoaster of destruction for my metabolism, but it should start working eventually, right?
That went on for about two years. The pills, the shakes, the binging… all in secret. Not even my boyfriend at the time (husband now) knew I was doing that. But why? Well, I know a part of me, the educated, bright, caring part of me knew that what I was doing was wrong all along. So why did I keep going? To be honest, the weight wasn’t falling off; it was packing on and that was devastating to accept. One day I got sick. Really sick. Doctor after doctor after doctor couldn’t tell me what was wrong. Talks of MS, lupus, an autoimmune disease, etc. went on and no answers we found. Finally a doctor told me that I might have to start a form of chemotherapy and immunosuppressant drugs to stop my body from being ill the way it was. That would be added onto the 13 prescription pills and steroids I was already taking daily. I was 20.
That doctor changed my life forever. I cried so hard on the way home that I had to pull over on the side of the road. When I got home, defeated, I grabbed a pint of ice cream and turned on Netflix. A recommended movie was “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”- a documentary. Ironic. I was “fat” (so I thought), sick, and nearly dead on the inside after that doctor’s appointment, so I thought “why the heck not?” Upon watching the documentary, I learned that the main character had almost the exact same medical mystery I had! Woah! In the movie, he cured himself of his illness by juicing daily for a month or so. Since a juice only diet wouldn’t work for me… at all… I turned to more documentaries about the power of a plant-based lifestyle. I was blown away and forever changed. That day, I decided to become a vegetarian. Call it a placebo effect or real science, I don’t care, but within a month of a vegetarian diet… my symptoms were going away! As the months went on, my symptoms vanished completely and so did the pills!
Four years later, I was still vegetarian, educating myself slightly more on the power of food, but still only eating 1200 calories a day. I knew WHAT to eat, but not the importance of quantity. I was now married and somehow larger than ever before. I remember the day I learned about Kayla Itsines and her Bikini Body Guide Program. I was in the break room at work eating my lunch and complaining to a coworker that all I wanted for Christmas was gift cards so I could by myself new, BIGGER clothes. She then showed me this girl on Instagram who helped women achieve their dream bodies. That night I stalked way more women than I am willing to admit. I wasn’t just satisfied looking at their before and after photos. I needed to know their stories. Their struggles. I needed to relate to these “unbelievable” women. I got the guides (BBG 1 and the HELP Nutrition Guide) the next day. I sat on those guides for a few more weeks until one Sunday I decided enough was enough. I was going to start the workouts the very next day; and I did! It was hard. My body ached worse than it ever had before, but I instantly fell in love with the program! I felt, happy? Successful? Worthy? Things were going great for the first few weeks, until one-day driving home from work I almost fainted in my car. Somehow I knew, but I didn’t want to admit it. I was STILL eating only 1200 calories a day AND working out intensely for the first time in my life. My body needed more. The next day I upped my calories to 1600, a week later I was at 1800. It was miraculous the difference in energy that I felt! But wait… did this mean I wasn’t going to lose all of my amazing results? I was nervous, but knew it was worth a try. That was the first time I TRUSTED my body. That was a turning point in my life. As the weeks went on I realized that I wasn’t losing my progress. No, I was making FASTER progress and eating 2000-sh calories a day. (Sometimes less, often times more.) This lead me to finally start doing home research on food and nutrition. Shortly thereafter I deleted that prison of an app from my phone and stopped counting calories all together. I was going to eat intuitively. I was going to listen to my body’s needs.
Today, I would like to say that I am truly one with my body. I know what makes it happy. I know what hurts it. I know how to push it safely towards new boundaries. I know how to respect it. I know how to love it. Learning your body is hard and it takes a lot of trial and error. For years I neglected my body depriving it of what it needed. Those years are hard to reflect on, but I know now that those years were needed in order for me to become who I am today. I do not share that so anyone reading this can justify many more years of abuse. No. I say it so someone can read my words and stop what they are doing instantly! So that they can know that health is far different from what health magazines filled with skinny teas have to say and what “that” celebrity endorses to get the perfect curves. Health is about nutrition, movement, self-discovery, and LOVE. It’s about building up your body from the INSIDE OUT!
So to answer your question in the longest way possible… (whoops!) My relationship with my body has changed colossally. My past self-lived in fear of her body. She hated her body and was afraid that because of it, people around her would judge her. It didn’t matter that she was compassionate, intelligent, fun-loving, humorous, and generous… She was never enough. Who I am now wants to hug my past self and tell her that she IS enough. That her body never equated her worthiness and should never impact her happiness, her love, or her quality of life. Today, I don’t strive to be skinny. I strive to be strong inside and out. I strive to have inner peace and accept my body in all its ever-changing forms. I make it my mission to help others find themselves, to fall in unconditional love with who they are as a whole. I love my body, I love my mind, I love everything about myself. It is not conceited or narcissistic. It is happiness. It is bravery. It is strength. It is how I am able to love others deeper than I ever have before. It is how I intend on spending the rest of my life.
We all have negative self-talk. How do you combat that now? How does it compare to when you used to speak negatively?
One day I realized that I loved everyone around me so deeply and with such passion, yet I truly disliked myself. I spoke so poorly about myself- to myself- and spoke so highly of others. It was a sad realization, yet it was one that needed to be made. I have a loving family that will never stop loving me and a terrific husband who thinks the world of me, yet here I was hardly able to find one thing that I loved, yet alone LIKED, about myself. The things that others told me they loved about me were always thought of as “jokes” in my own mind. I warped their truths into something that was more fathomable to me. It was a very dark place to live looking back now.
I watched a documentary that shared the story of a women who every day in the mirror would tell herself “I love you exactly how you are TODAY.” At the time, I thought it was crazy, even NARCISSISTIC. (Sad how society tells us that’s what self-love it…) A few weeks passed and I couldn’t stop thinking of that woman, so I stepped out of a comfort zone and said those words to myself while staring back at my reflection. I laughed. I rolled my eyes. I walked away… Until the next day. I did this over, and over, and OVER again until one day without realizing it, the eye rolling stopped. It had become routine and it actually wasn’t weird anymore. WOAH- I know. The next step was taking in the words, truly believing them. This actually came rather quickly for me. I started finding at least one physical thing I enjoyed about myself each day along with one internal thing as well. I would say out loud “I love myself for exactly who I am today with my bright blue eyes and my generosity at tonight’s dinner.” The things I would tell myself changed daily which allowed me to explore all sides of myself. Eventually I started saying the “negative” less desirable things about myself out loud and proclaimed love for them… like my tummy rolls, hairy legs, or acne on my chin. “Hey new pimple, thanks for joining me this week! Glad you’re here!, and so on. I am a BIG believer that our thoughts become our actions! Once you change your thoughts, you truly change your entire world! Once I proclaim acceptance to something that I am told to dislike, the negative thoughts have no power over me. To love unconditionally means to accept flaws and imperfections without judgement. I love my body no matter what. No. It didn’t happen overnight. But it DID happen with determination and an open mind. For that, I am forever blessed.
In life, we are surrounded by messages from the media and diet culture that we are not good enough. How do you navigate your way through those negative messages as someone who is influential in the fitness community?
I choose to stand for body positivity and the idea of embracing ourselves for who we are each and every day. One of my favorite things to talk about on social media is our “human qualities”- the things that make us perfectly imperfect. The tummy rolls, the acne, the cellulite, the stretch marks. I encourage women (and men) to embrace what makes them uniquely THEM! Society tries to tell us that being human is wrong. Having human quality equates to not being “enough.” I express that those same attributes are what make each individual MORE than enough! If we were all these perfectly photoshopped people with no wrinkles, no blemishes, absolute even completions, and manicured nails, where would beauty lie?
As someone who puts herself out there on social media in a candid manner, I have gotten some backlash from people. Instead of feeding into the negativity, I simply delete the comment. Negativity has no place on my feed. No, it’s not because my feelings are hurt. It’s because I want my page to always be a safe place where people can feel free from judgements. I want them to feel empowered by the comments and messages around them. One negative comment can poison the entire garden, so I pull the weed. Positivity, kindness, and love always win in the end.
What’s the biggest struggle you face with the Instagram fitness community? Is there anything that causes negative talk that stems from the community?
Many “large” accounts live behind a highlight reel. They post only the best of the best when it comes to photos that show off their beautifully posed food, morning abs, and round bottoms. I think that some people view fitness accounts as an unobtainable, unrealistic thing. I wouldn’t say it’s a struggle, but I strive to always show people just how HUMAN I am. I want women and men to feel safe and welcome on my feed. I want them to find things they can relate to and celebrate imperfections right there with me. I never want to be viewed as a fitness account robot. I want to be viewed as a wife, a special education teacher, a goofball, a friend… a woman who loves to promote healthy living from the inside out! However, accounts with permanent perceived perfection are still getting larger and larger. I think that as a society, most people have a problem with seeing human qualities in the media. They don’t want to see rolls, blemishes, cellulite. They don’t want to see what they can see in the mirror. They want to see #goals and day-dream about being perfect. They don’t want to accept that the photos are as real as Santa. I am not judging. I was there, too. BUT, my hope is that human bodies will be less taboo and less “uncomfortable” to see as body positive movements flood social media. My hope is that people who shine a light on the beauty of imperfections will gain enough momentum to help change the world for the future generations to come. Social media is a powerful platform. It’s time it had a powerful shift.
What things do you do if you want to show yourself some self-love?
Light candles and blast my favorite acoustic music under a blanket accompanied by a good book. (Seriously, I am the candle industries biggest buyer!) Aside from that, I allow myself to buy clothes that “aren’t for me” because in reality, all clothes are for me (and YOU), it’s just our attitudes that aren’t right for that clothes! I TREAT myself (not cheat) to deserts daily. I compliment myself multiple times a day, I love myself as deeply as I can that way I can love others more deeply. Finally, I workout and respect my body. It works SO hard for me to keep my alive, to shelter me, to support me from birth till death… The least I can do is help it along the way. I take time to be “selfish” and take time for myself. I sweat. I stretch. I do yoga. I give my body what it needs and I LISTEN to it always.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about how you feel about your body that you want to share with others?
As humans, we are imperfect. We get acne. We have cellulite, wrinkles, stretch marks, and freckles. We get bloated. We sometimes even smell funny. We don’t look like the women, or men, in magazines and we NEVER will. Our bodies are real. Our bodies are living, breathing organisms that work so hard to keep us alive. What we see in the media is an edited projection of what society considers perfect. Do not mistake a photo for what being human really is. Embrace your beautifully constructed human body and never feel inadequate to a photo. You are the real deal! Flaunt that shit!
What’s something you want to tell your followers?
Simply that no matter what society tell you, you ARE ENOUGH. You have ALWAYS been enough. No matter your form. No matter your history. No matter your struggle… You ARE enough. BUT, until YOU believe it, the world won’t believe it. Believing starts when you stop comparing yourself to others. The only person you should ever compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday. Choose to be happier than she was. Choose to accept more of yourself than she did. Choose to believe in your strength a little more, too. Amazing things happen when you focus on building yourself up. You start respecting other women rather than judge them. You start to radiate light and positivity. You start to change the world! Be a world changer. Be you!
Thanks so much Megan for your amazing support on this project! Make sure to go check her out on Instagram – postively.megan.
Just a girl writing down her thoughts on life post-physical setback, body acceptance and wellness.