My Weight Journey
Twenty bucks says that you think that's a typo and I forgot to write "loss" between weight and journey. Well, you would be wrong, my friend! Our bodies are constantly changing and evolving. Sometimes we gain weight, sometimes we lose it. That's life, kid. We are taught that once we reach our "peak" bodies (usually around high school or college) that's how they are always supposed to look. And that's why I want to share my journey with you.
I hit 100 pounds in 5th grade. Am I going back too far? It's important. My two best friends were short and very thin. I don't think either of them weighed over 63 pounds and they made it clear that I weighed a lot more than them. For the rest of my life, I would always weigh more than most of my friends. I was very tall. I hit 5'10 in 6th grade, but I didn't understand that at the time. All I knew was that I had to wear a size 16 at Limited Too (now Justice) which was the largest size they offered.
In tenth grade, I hit 150 pounds. Most of my friends weighed between 100 and 110. I wasn't obese by any means. I was really fit, but I weighed so much more than my peers and I was taunted with back-handed compliments. "Those jeans are so cute! Do they make them in normal sizes?" or "Can I borrow those pants? I could probably make them stay up with a belt." The introductory "Those jeans are cute" was just the means to shame me. I wore somewhere between an 8-14. I preferred looser jeans when they were hip-huggers. "Oh my God. Size 12?! You don't look that big!" Shame.
I started dieting like all mentally unstable teenagers. I joined a gym, worked out almost every day, and dropped down to 145 pounds. My clothing size didn't change. Around this same time, I was "allowed" to start modeling. People had always approached me, even when I was a kid (creepers) about modeling and my parents always kept me away from it.
At the age of 16, I was allowed to try to model. I got a scholarship to a local modeling school (which is total bullshit so please don't waste your time or money) and when my courses were over, I signed with that agency. I did my first test shoot and before my comp cards were even printed, I was booking jobs. This felt amazing! It made all of the mean girls in high school so angry. Yeah, I did weigh more than them but it didn't matter because I was more attractive and I had talent. I am totally snickering to myself right now, but I let myself think that way. I let myself have an ego, and that ego was quickly put in check. I was being submitted to agencies in Miami along with another model who was my age. She had exotic beauty. She's not the kind of girl who would suck the air out of a room when she walked in, but she had a huge toothy smile, long, thick hair, and even longer legs. She was my height, but she weighed 114 pounds. In Miami, she got signed, and I was sent home and asked to lose weight. It killed me.
I tried to lose weight... Again. I was taking diet pills, counting calories, running, constantly working out... but I couldn't get past 140 pounds, and even THAT was not a natural weight for my body. I vividly remember driving to babysit one night, I was ravenous. I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the way over, and it sat on my passenger seat. I wanted to eat it so badly, but I knew the sugar and calorie count were way too high. I lost control, sank my teeth into the sandwich and choked it down as fast as I could. Immediately, the swallow of sandwich produced a swell in my throat, and I realized that I was choking back sobs. I was so disappointed in myself. I was a failure. I wanted this job more than anything, but I was torturously hungry.
If your weight is difficult to maintain, it is not the weight that you should be. Let the number go. I wish I knew then what I know now. I kept hearing how beautiful I was, how perfect I was; I could be a supermodel. All I had to do was get my hips down to 36 inches, and I could leave my high school, tell all the mean girls to kiss my ass, and fly around the world modeling! I wanted it more than anything, but my body wasn't cooperating.
I took a trip to Miami with my local agent. At the time, I thought that I would be meeting agencies, but in hindsight, I think she just wanted a free trip because my friend and I had to pay for her travel expenses. While we were out, clubbing one night (so inappropriate considering my age), I met an agency owner interested in signing me. Of course, being an agency owner in Miami is like being a producer in Los Angeles. It's a pick up line, not a promise. To be fair, this guy (Eddie) did own an agency. He offered for me to move into the agencies' model apartments. He told me that he would help me lose weight so I could be a real model. My problem, as it seemed to him (and my agent agreed) was that I wasn't focused enough in Jacksonville, Florida. I was surrounded by other kids my age eating pizza! The monsters... I agreed that I would be able to focus more in a model apartment. In hindsight, that was not the problem, but I would learn that lesson eventually.
Against my parents' wishes, I decided to move to Miami and pursue modeling with Eddie's agency. I was still in high school, only 17 years old. I moved into the agency's model apartment and was shocked to find that it was co-ed. My roommate (Svetlana) weighed 107 pounds. The other was a male photographer that I rarely saw. I had a very strict regimen. At 6:30am, I would walk to Eddie's gym to meet him. He would set the treadmill for me and I was not allowed to touch it. I ran until I vomited, and he would look at his watch and say, "You have seven minutes left." I needed to prove myself.
After the gym, I was allowed to eat half of an apple. For lunch, half a can of tuna. At night, all of the models went out with the agency to promote various restaurants and clubs. We sat down to a meal together. I was allowed water. Then we would go out dancing at clubs. I wasn't even 18 yet, but that didn't matter! New restaurants and hot night clubs want sexy, young people there, so they pay agencies to bring models because it makes them look good to real customers. I had to dance and "have fun". Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
One day, Eddie asked me to meet him at his house for a run. Red flag. This man was in his 40's, but how could I say no? He was the puppet master. He lived in a very expensive neighborhood. His neighbor was Ricky Martin. He invited me inside, but I declined. We went for a run. He was much faster than me. I wasn't consuming enough calories to have any energy to burn. You have to put fuel on the fire.
When I got back from the run, he insisted that I come in for water while he showered. I had no choice. This was before smart phones. I didn't know where I was in proximity to the model apartment. I stayed in the kitchen. He tried to give me a tour of his mansion, but I stayed at each door, far behind him, with my apartment keys in my hand in case he tried anything. He finally went upstairs to shower and I stayed in the kitchen with my eyes on both entrances, taking note of where he kept the knives and not going too far from them.
My dad was a police officer and used to hunt serial killers. Yes, that makes me paranoid. No, that is not a bad thing. Eddie entered the room and clearly startled me. He tried to get me to tour the whole house, but I made excuse after excuse until he took the damn hint and said we could leave.
The following day, I messed up. I didn't know how bad it was, but I ran out of apples and truthfully, I really wanted an orange. Obviously, my body was not getting the proper amount of nutrients and vitamins from my current diet. I told Eddie that I ate half an orange instead of apple and he was furious! He screamed at me over the phone. Oranges have a lot more sugar than apples. I didn't realize that. I had only eaten half! It's a fruit so I thought it was fair game. I was wrong.
I went into the Miami agency for measurements and weighed in at 120, the lowest I had been since elementary school, but my hips were still a half of an inch too big. I went back to my model apartment, got in the shower, and sobbed uncontrollably. I was broken. I wanted to model. I was pretty, dammit! People stopped me everywhere I went and suggested that I try modeling because I was "beautiful"! Why wasn't that enough?! My heart was shattered. I was literally doing everything in my power to be the "right" size. I had abandoned my family, food, my high school love, myself.
I had enough. I was so fucking sick of creepy old men at the largest agencies in the world, forcing me to put on a bikini, pinching my fat, and taking polaroids. The girl who moved to Miami was not the same person who left. Life is too short to live that way. I could never be happy living my life without food, and I could never be the right size without going through unhealthy extremes. I decided to walk away from modeling.
I went home with my tail between my legs. All of the mean girls in high school would know that I had failed. I would never model again. I wanted to eat pizza. I wanted to drink beer! I was under age, but all of my friends went to parties and made mistakes and where was I during all of this? In the gym. I threw away my tape measurer and my scale.
Who fucking cares
I went out to senior lunch and instead of ordering a kid's size sub with no side, I got an adult meal. I didn't start drinking alcohol until I broke up with my high school love, who certainly didn't love me back and possibly, never even liked me. He was supportive of my modeling, because it was cool to tell his friends that he was dating a model, but he would put me down, make fun of me for my looks, and never allowed me to be around his friends. After we broke up, I started hanging out with my girlfriends. Most of them were dating older guys who would provide us with alcohol like Jager and Malibu (which I can not consume to this day). It got fuzzy, but I remember Taco Bell being a very close friend of mine. Even now, as a vegan, I would totally drink that Taco Bell hot sauce. That's not an exaggeration. It is liquid heaven.
I moved into my own place and started college. I felt like I had missed out on so many opportunities in high school because I was modeling. I decided to join a sorority. For some reason, I believed that the bitchy girls in high school would mature and be different in college. I was wrong. I put on about 30 pounds in my first year. That Taco Bell and alcohol diet was not great for me. Plus, I wasn't working out and I didn't know how to cook for myself. I was eating nothing but crap and consuming thousands of calories in sugary cocktails on the regular.
I was kicked out of my sorority. My so-called "sisters" decided to start a rumor about me (Eat a bag of dicks, Lauren A.) having sex with my date (a guy that I never slept with because I still wasn't over my high school love) and voted to kick me out of Alpha Chi Omega based completely on heresy. I was devastated, embarrassed, ashamed. I couldn't even bring myself to tell my real friends and family.
I appealed to the AXO headquarters and wrote them about everything that had transpired. They decided to let my chapter keep their decision, even though it had absolutely nothing to base it on, and the other girls in my chapter were doing WAY more offensive, vile things in public. Trust me on that one. College was exactly the same as high school. It was full of jealous girls with nothing better to do than create stories about me and try to ruin my life in order to make me as miserable as them. I cried a lot. I drew the curtains, skipped biology, and tried really hard to heal my heart and hide my shame.
When I came out of my pity party, I decided that I would give modeling another shot. I felt like it was the only way that I could really get back at the basic bitches who voted me out of their sisterhood for no reason. Yes, they could get shit-faced at Daytona Beach for Spring Break, but I could fly to Los Angeles, meet with agents, shoot, and feel like I was better than them. I had a contact in LA, a guy that I had met while modeling in Miami, but I had never been to Los Angeles. I had never even flown by myself before. I was terrified. It would be about 7 hours in the air. My week in Los Angeles was... interesting. I really need to write a whole story on this week alone, but in the end, I left feeling like modeling was still not the answer, and I was down one $600 pair of silk heels, thanks to a Canadian "model" with big fake titties who stole them. I'm not still mad about it (Yes, I am.)
When I entered Los Angeles International Airport to fly home, I was really scared to get on another plane alone. My go-to logic was to buy something chocolate. I did this every time that I flew. There is absolutely no logic here, but I thought that if the plane went down, I would want to spend the last few moments of my life shoveling Ferrero Roche into my mouth. I know it's dumb! But it was necessary.
So, I'm shopping in the airport for death candy, and a women walks up to me. She asks me if I would have any interest in being on America's Next Top Model. I was flattered, but not interested. "I'm in college" was my reply. She handed me her card and told me that if I changed my mind, I should call her. She then told me that I would be considered a plus sized model. Gasp.
Now, I knew at this point that I was not fat by any means. I was also really fucking sick of all the women and creepy old men who had body-shamed me for years, forcing me to strip down to my underwear so they could criticize my body. When you hear something enough, you begin to believe it. That's why I left the industry in the first place. But what if I could make a difference by taking my story to television? I mean, no one gave a shit when it was me, but if I had a platform on television, maybe I could help someone else out there who was going through the same thing.
At this point, you are probably aware that I did call the agent, go on America's Next Top Model, and win as the only plus sized model in the history of the show.
I moved to New York and began my press tour, meeting my fans in person. Everyone says that the camera adds ten pounds. I would venture to guess that it's closer to 20, though I do also have a theory that the producers of America's Next Top Model intentionally shot me from low angles to make me look bigger. Regardless, my fans met me in peron with instant disdain. They would say, "You've lost so much weight. I used to look up to you." It was always something along those lines and of course, I hadn't actually lost a pound. I felt ashamed of myself. I wanted to win to inspire people all over the world. I wanted to encourage healthy body image, but everyone who looked up to me was disappointed in the real me. I felt like I had to gain weight in order to be the persona that I had created.
The problem with being a plus size model is that you are never the correct size. If you're a skinny model, you can at least get thin enough to not be harassed by your agent, but a plus model is ALWAYS too big or too small. In one day, I would be asked to gain twenty pounds and lose ten at least four times. My self-confidence was low. I didn't like the person that I saw in the mirror, and neither did anyone else. I was too skinny, too fat, too muscular, too blonde, my skin was too bad, etc. I didn't like anything about myself, but I was supposed to be a beacon of confidence for people all over the world. I was traveling to universities, speaking on healthy body image, trying to inspire future generations to love themselves, just the way they were. All the while, I couldn't even stand to look at myself. It didn't matter how much I weighed. That wasn't what made me feel bad. It was just that no matter what I did, people were never satisfied with me. At my thinnest, I was still called a fat cow by trolls on the internet. To this day, it still happens. I just wanted for someone, somewhere to tell me that I was enough, the way that I was telling everyone else.
Walking away from the modeling industry is the best thing that I have ever done for my mental health. Well, I'm still not completely out of it, but I am not required to jump through hoops and send half-naked pictures of myself at the drop of a hat, along with my weight and measurements. My fiance and I moved to Tennessee and I tossed my scale. We threw ourselves into opening our farm-to-table restaurant.
One day, my agent messaged me asking for photographs of me in my underwear for a huge campaign. I was a size 14 at the time. She responded by telling me that I was too big and she was going to remove me from the board. At this exact same time, she had also just signed Tess Holiday, a size 24 model to the agency. This realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I was now "too fat" to be a plus sized model. I was so ashamed! I didn't tell anyone. I burrowed myself deep into my work at the restaurant and also the community. I stopped posting pictures of myself on social media. I just didn't care anymore what the world thought of me. I couldn't take it. I was working on something bigger than myself, and it had nothing to do with my looks.
It's funny because people always say that they gain weight and become deeply depressed. It's always such a "sad" and "low" point in their lives. I read and see these interviews constantly talking about how their highest weight was their lowest point. I was the opposite. I finally felt free. I felt sexy! Much sexier than I had in years...Possibly ever. Maybe part of it had to do with me living in Tennessee instead of some fashion capital. People in Tennessee are pretty friendly and I won't say that they aren't judgy, but when it comes to weight, they really aren't. Now, when it comes to politics, religion, or football, they are. We'll skip that for now.
Suddenly, no one was calling me a fat cow. No one was insinuating that I should shed a few pounds. I owned my own successful business, was completely in control of my life, and was married to the love of my life, who happens to also be a man who is smart enough to never comment on my weight. Ever.
I stopped caring about what everyone thought. I felt great, and that was all that mattered. When I looked in the mirror, I was happy with the person looking back. It's almost like reverse body-dysmorphia. The more weight I gained, the happier I felt with my body. I was the least self-conscious that I had ever felt.
I received a call from America's Next Top Model. They wanted me to make a guest appearance on the show. The last time I was on ANTM, I weighed about 55 pounds less. When I arrived to shoot, the stylist for my wardrobe had only brought sample sizes that didn't fit me. She was horrifically rude about me being too big. And then Kelly Cutrone walked in. I had never met her before. I only knew that she was known as"Cut-throat Kelly Cutrone." Kelly quickly put the stylist in her place and helped me pick out a wardrobe. She was amazing with me and by the end of the show, I was inviting her to come visit my restaurant in Nashville. I am so thankful for her. Body-shaming people is never the answer. It is not going to make the clothes magically grow. It's just hurtful.
When the show aired, I prepared myself for the negative backlash of how hideously fat I was; the usual response from the viewers, but that didn't happen. The comments were overwhelmingly supportive. I was shocked. It was like, I was finally, actually plus size, and now no one had the cahones to make fun of me about it. I could breathe. It was like I had come full circle. What was I running from my whole career? Who was I so afraid of? No one would, or ever could be as cruel as any of my agents had been over the years.
One year later...
In July of 2017, I went vegan. Gasp. I know. I don't do diets. Me going vegan had nothing to do with me wanting to lose weight, because I was truly my happiest at my highest weight. My mother has multiple sclerosis (she was diagnosed before I was born) and her doctor suggested that she try a vegan diet because doctors know so little about the disease and a vegan diet has shown so many benefits for people suffering. My dad said that if mom did the diet, he would do it too.
Immediately, both of my parent's health transformed. My Mom has been in remission ever since. She also reversed her diabetes, has more energy, lost sixty pounds, etc. My dad has always been a really fit guy, but he did have high cholesterol and acid reflux. Within a few days of being vegan, his numbers returned to normal and he no longer has heart burn. After a few months, my brother was inspired by them to try veganism. He's a big, strong firefighter, so I didn't really see him sticking with it, but two years later, he's still vegan and all of his numbers are healthy.
I felt inspired by my family. I began researching veganism and learned about the environmental impact that eating meat, dairy, and eggs has on the planet. I'm not the kind of massachist who wants to watch animal slaughter videos to empower myself.
When I initially thought of going vegan, it was overwhelming. I envisioned people eating celery with hummus... Something I would only eat in Hell. I tried going vegan three times before I actually committed. The first two times, I focused on cutting out meat. Within twenty-four hours, I would always succumb to dairy. Our restaurant sells these elaborate cheeseboards and it was just dairy! Dairy wasn't meat, right? Then, I saw a gif that changed my life. There was a mother dairy cow who had just given birth to a male. The farmer caught the baby cow before it touched the ground and whisked it away to be killed. The mother cow was screaming for her baby. That's the only word that I can think of to describe it. My grandparents owned a cattle farm growing up and in all of my time around cows, I had never seen or heard anything like that. The more I researched the dairy industry, the more horrified I was. These poor factory-farmed cows are hooked up to a machine that pumps them for milk non-stop. As soon as they give birth, they are re-insiminated. If the baby is a boy, it is either killed on site or killed and sold as veal. I look at my basset hound, whom I call my little cow, and I am horrified that I have spent almost thirty years of my life killing an animal who looks just like a bigger version of the one who sleeps on my pillow at night. We are taught to look at meat in plastic wrap and not see the life that was stolen for it. We add dyes to make the salmon more pink, the steak more red, package them in neat, identical containers like we're displaying shoes and handbags. We have completely lost touch with impact that our choices have on others.
So, I changed my focus. I made my focus cutting out dairy, and the strangest thing happened, I stopped craving meat. It took about three days, but I walked by a tray of bacon in the restaurant and I actually back tracked, because I felt nothing. That was it for me. In the past, I had always had to stop and take a piece of bacon off that tray. It did take me time to figure out how to properly feed myself as a vegan, but after you get past the fact that you don't have to have meat on your plate for a meal to be complete, it's actually super easy. I asked my brother for his favorite go-to's and he said, "I put beans in a pot once a week. It's chili." Lmfao, so... not that difficult to make vegan food! His other recipe was rice. Men...
Going vegan means that I have lost weight, but I can't tell you how much because I don't know or care. For my own mental health, I still do not own a scale. I also don't have any contact with my modeling agencies. I'm not going to let someone else's idea of beauty control the way that I feel about myself and neither should you. I started a non-profit for low-income kids this year as well. We have thirteen gangs in our city and no youth programs. We don't even have free basketball courts and the school system only desegregated three years ago. My "kids" ask for groceries and toiletries for Christmas. There is so much need here. It is exhausting and overwhelming, but I am really proud of the person that I have become. It's presumptuious, but between going vegan and working with the teens, I feel confident that I am leaving the world a little better than it was before I was here.
I wanted to write this because I'm sick of everyone lying about their weight. Everyone fucking lies, especially in this industry and I'm sick of it. I won't ever lie to you on this blog. This is my safe place where I can say anything that I want. I am honest and vulnerable here. You can judge me or make fun or me or whatever you want. I am just here to share my story in case someone out there needs it. I wish someone had been honest with me years ago. In the last two months, I have been told that I am too fat for a modeling job, too skinny for a modeling job, and perfect for a swimsuit job, but I just let it roll off of me now. I am happy with who I am, and that's a lot more important than what I weigh. You are more than a number. You are so much more than your size or your weight.
*Going vegan is my lifestyle choice, but it doesn't have to be yours. Everyone is different. However, I would ask that if you don't remove meat, dairy, and eggs from your life, please do at least consider sourcing your food from local, sustainable farms and participating in meatless Monday. I know, I know, but I have to at least encourage everyone to make a little change for the better! Thank you for reading! <3
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