When I Look At You: My Journey To Body Love

 GIF by  Denyse !

GIF by Denyse!

Henlo everyone!

"As always, hope ya'll had a fly wknd."

^ That's what I wrote a month ago before I seemingly abandoned this place. Lmao.

If ya'll follow my Insta feed, you'll see the last post I wrote involved my grandmother's passing. In taking time to grieve + support my mother, I let go of updating anything 'cept Stories!

My grandmother, Margie, was full of life and courage. She lived to be 104 (!!!!), and beyond her positive outlook during troubling times, I feel like I'm carrying her creative energy. She loved to sing and dance when she was young, and I've been inexplicably inspired since she was admitted into the hospital mid-December. I mean staying up past 2:00 AM writing most nights of the week type inspired...

Any relation? who knows. but otherwise, KEEP SCROLLING FOR the LATEST GUEST BLOG!

Thank you to the kween Nelli Agbulos; this is their second time guest writing for bklynprose! This was Nelli's first post about running eight miles for Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Shouts to Nelli's vulnerability 😮 Show some love in the comment section below or on IG. We're digging into body love today, yall.


 Nelli at the finish line of her 15K race here in NYC! # strongnotskinny

Nelli at the finish line of her 15K race here in NYC! #strongnotskinny

This is a letter to my body I wish I’d written five years ago. To my curves, legs, arms, tummy, and every single part of my body that’s pushed me through miles of running: Thank you for moving me forward.

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Five years ago, my doctor told me I was 30 pounds overweight. It was an embarrassing summer afternoon, and my mom and aunt were there when I vowed to never eat french fries again.

During the fall season of my senior year of high school, I went through stints of working out and eating healthily. Other than decreasing the amount of food I ate and walking every chance I got, I didn’t know what I was doing.

But after that appointment, I began to hate my body. I also thought “body positive” was a joke. Back then, #BoPo was a foreign concept that I understood as "losing weight = be happy" ❌

My initial thoughts on body positivity were magnified by peer pressure to have a boyfriend. At one point, a boy came along who would break up with me three times over the next three years. Whenever we’d meet, he’d say:

“Did you lose some weight? You look better now.” His comments about my body stung.

I wanted to be happy, and I thought I would gain that by losing weight and dating him. It wasn’t until the final breakup that I realized I was relying on another human to provide the love I deserved. I was tired of feeling sorry for myself, so I drafted a plan -- a lose-weight-and-be-happy plan -- that would help me forget that boy, lose 30 pounds, and be loved.

So began the 3+ mile runs, gym routines, and healthy eating. I tracked my gym activities, read fitness magazines, measured my waist, counted calories, and followed fitness influencers on Instagram. It was an unhealthy obsession fueled by a desire to see immediate changes in my appearance. Those results came and people noticed, but their comments didn’t make me appreciate my body.

People would say:

“Oh, you lost so much weight! You look so good.” with each compliment came additional pressure to stay thin. 

Running became an escape from my 30-pounds-heavier past. But eventually, running started to feel like an act of self-care. I began working out because I wanted to be stronger. I stopped counting pounds and counted miles and minutes instead. In my senior year of college, I realized that I actually enjoyed waking up early to run and feel that post-exercise high.

My mindset slowly shifted from “I must run to lose weight” to “I want to run and see how much stronger I am today.” 🚨
 Nelli Agbulos in her element. # strongnotskinny

Nelli Agbulos in her element. #strongnotskinny

It was exhilarating to achieve fitness goals and set personal records. Motivated by my own terms, I began competing with myself. I learned that the love I thought I needed from that boy was self-love that I cultivated all by myself. It was humbling to look at my body in the mirror and appreciate its strength. 

But I have good and bad running days. Participating in races can be intimidating. Often, I end up wishing I was faster and leaner.

And my Filipinx culture also PRAISES "thin" bodies. I’ve been at family gatherings where the ambiance is toxic with gossip on who gained or lost weight.

My path to body love has been more like a zig-zag line because of its complex relationship to my mental health, body dysmorphia, and cultural expectations.

It’s hard to not play the comparison game, but I’m on my way 🌄

I’ve begun to appreciate my body’s strength and energy. I look at the mirror with love. Now, running helps take care of my mental health (re: anxiety), allowing me to be one with the wind and the earth. With each stride, I’m in charge of pulling myself forward. When it comes to loving my body, I’m not bound to anyone’s standards but my own.

It’s taken nearly three years to understand the truth behind #strongnotskinny. I thought getting the body type I wanted was more important than the validation felt after a hard workout. I thought becoming thin was “body positivity,” because that was what fitness influencers said. Size 2 = beautiful, which = complete body acceptance. 

How I understood body positivity was a misinterpretation of the movement. Focusing on becoming strong instead of skinny made me realize that ignoring people’s opinions was the best thing I could’ve done for myself. 

When I look at my body today, my happiness does not correlate with my appearance. Fitness media no longer puts me in this trance that my body wasn’t good enough to begin with.

But we need to make space for inclusive dialogue. Women + non-binary people of varying ages, sizes, and races need to feel accepted beyond Western, white beauty standards.

Each individual comes with their own set of experiences and social influences that shape their perception of beauty. It can be hard for someone to come to terms with self-acceptance when there's a lack of spaces that validate their shifting emotions. Everyone deserves to have equal opportunities of support.

 Issa support system. Via  GIPHY .com!

Issa support system. Via GIPHY.com!

In creating spaces that give a voice to those who are underrepresented, it's important to ask ourselves: 
  1. What does body positivity mean to other women of color?

  2. How can we, realistically, talk about body positivity in regards to capitalistic ventures, such as gyms and workout entities that profit off of our insecurities?

I’m learning that “body positivity” holds a different meaning and experience for me as a Filipinx woman. Each person’s body is held up against unrealistic cultural norms that expect all individuals to be thin. For me, it’s taken a lot of mental strength to not succumb to Asian cultural standards. One’s that assume Asian women should be skinny because they are fetishized as objects of desire. The expectation to have a thin body can be found everywhere, amplified by fatphobia and Western beauty ideals.

Constructive dialogue on body positivity can happen. Body insecurities come and go, but what remains in our hands is how we decide to define our self-worth and how we practice self-compassion on our own terms. Choosing to respect and honor your body immediately puts you on the path to body love.

And so, dear body:

I appreciate your resilience, how you make me physically and mentally stronger. I promise to be responsible and patient with my progress in loving you. I promise to respect the power that comes from within me. I promise to share that with others. And I promise to encourage others on their pursuit of body love. Onward and stronger.

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Nelli, a creative and runner from Vancouver, Canada, can be found at marianellivagbulos.tumblr.com. 


Guest bloggers are the best part. the best.

bklynprose is a platform where self-identifying women + gender-nonconforming voices thrive. Please continue sharing your stories aaand talk to me here if you're interested in writing or contributing to this jam!

See ya'll on IG and probably around town if you're a queer in NYC! 

love love love so much

~ LATIANA