photo: iStock

I'm a year away from turning 30 and still have the metabolism of a teenager. Don't hate me, but I'm that girl who can get away with eating ice cream, pizza, Chinese food, cheeseburgers, and pretty much any other junk food without having to worry about gaining a pound. But believe it or not, it wasn't until my early twenties that I started finally appreciating my skinny body. Growing up in a Latino home and having a family full of shapely, full-figured women made it very hard to fit in. Exaggerated curves and hourglass figures were what I was told was beautiful. But let's be clear about one thing here: Not all Latinas are built like Sofia Vergara.

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This body complex began in middle school around the time Jennifer Lopez shot to fame. All the  Latinas in my classes were hitting puberty left and right. While they were showing off cleavage, wider hips, and big booties, I was still rocking a sports bra and buying my clothes in the kid's section at Sears. Not only was I experiencing the pressures among my peers but also from my family, where everyone referred to me as “La Flaca.” It wasn't until high school that I started to actually develop some shapely curves. That meant hips, a round, perky booty, and a tiny waist — but my humble curves looked like nothing compared to the cuerpazos most of the women in my life had.

Against my conservative Dominican dad's approval, I started wearing the tightest jeans (you know, the pocket-less Colombian style) and the shortest miniskirts I could find, all in an effort to enhance my shape. I tried eating more unhealthy carbs like bread and pasta, even fast food — but got nowhere and just felt crappier about my body. Even the boys I dated spoke about trying to "fatten me up" and my relatives always teased that I wasn't eating enough servings of rice and beans.

Before I knew it, I was dealing with serious body issues that no one in my family even realized because to them body issues only encompassed anorexia, bulimia, not eating, or struggling to lose weight. A flaquita trying to gain weight wasn't an issue in their minds — it was the butt of all jokes, but not a "serious issue." I remember hitting a point where I was even toying with the idea of getting a boob job. Luckily, I never had the guts to actually consider it, much less go through with it — but that's how bad my insecurities got.

photo: Johanna Ferreira, Vivala

The reality is — though we may not have had a term for it back then — skinny shaming is a real problem. It's just as damaging as fat shaming, and sadly, it's super common in our community. I've been seeing a whole lot of it these days, especially on social media where girls praise and try to replicate bodies like Kim Kardashian's or Nicki Minaj's. Rumor has it that Kylie Jenner had plastic surgery done to look as curvy as her older sisters. We can’t confirm if that’s actually true or not, but if it is, pressure probably had a lot to do with it.

"Poor body image lowers self-esteem," says psychologist, coach, and speaker, Dr. Cristy Lopez. "A good portion of your self-esteem is related to how positive or negative your body image is. If you don't like your body it's difficult to like the person who lives there." Lopez says it can even lead to depression, eating disorders, false sense of control, young women having unnecessary surgeries, and more.

Luckily for me, I was able to experience a much needed reality check before things got worse. I took a good look at myself in the mirror one day and told myself, 'What am I complaining about? I'm hot!" I learned to embrace my slim body and have been content with celebrating my unique shape, even making sure to take care of it by eating healthy and working out as often as I can.

Lopez suggests that young women struggling with body issues write themselves a positive letter thanking their bodies. "Be grateful for all that your body does to allow you to be alive and functioning. Restructure your negative beliefs, do self-esteem building exercises, and if needed, seek professional help."

If I could write a letter to my teenage self I would tell her, “Girl, you are beautiful. Your body is beautiful. Just embrace it.” I would also like for other young women to understand that skinny women are real, just like anyone else. We're not all runway models and we deal with the same self-esteem and body issues that other women deal with. So let's stop with the skinny shaming (and body shaming in general!) because at the end of the day, that "eat a pizza" BS is equally as dangerous and hurtful as calling someone fat.

It’s about time all women — regardless of our size or shape — come together and do away with all forms of body shaming once and for all. Let’s stop giving into stereotypes and trends, and embrace what makes us uniquely beautiful.

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