Body Story ~ Jen I.

Written by: Center for Body Trust

Categories : Body Stories

Body stories are largely missing from the zeitgeist of our time. We are often reluctant to dive into our body stories because we believe they are too taboo to share or too boring to be of interest or value. 

In Reclaiming Body Trust, we shared body stories of those who have defied the standard narrative of body apology, instead demanding care and deep respect. These stories, once unearthed, encouraged others to share theirs, too. 

Here is Jen’s Story.

I remember watching Tricia do a cartwheel during recess in third grade. I found a grassy spot and tried to do one and the results were not the same.

“You just do it like this!” She did another cartwheel. Hands up, arms straight, fling body to the side and throw legs over. “Just watch me.  Just do it!”

I raised my hands over my head. I looked to my side and I tried to will my legs up and over but the moment my hands touched the ground my legs decided they did not want to cartwheel and I crumbled to the ground. I remember sitting there for a moment to get my bearings, to see if anything hurt.

“That’s ok,” Tricia said, standing over me. “My mom’s fat too and she can’t do cartwheels either.”

Wait. What.

This is my earliest memory of having a body.

It was surprisingly easy for me to stuff this memory away.  It was also surprisingly easy to say “I’m not hungry anymore,” when I was definitely hungry but I didn’t want to finish a meal.  I don’t know if I ever put two and two together.  A set of rules I had not even been aware of entered my life and revealed themselves in these tiny actions.  Don’t clean your plate unless they make you.  Don’t ask for seconds. Some foods were good and some were bad and if you wanted the bad stuff you have to eat that in the bathroom or at night when everyone is asleep, where no one can see you. If you can get away with it, don’t tuck your shirt in because then people can see the shape of your belly and how it poofs out.

And then one morning I woke up with boobs and every inch of my body was uncomfortable, like my skin wasn’t big enough, stretchy enough, to keep all of me in.  My breasts were so big that I skipped training bras and went straight to minimizers.  The word Minimizer in italics on the box.  Clothes became items that told me to stuff it back in, all of you, you’re clearly too much.


Currently, as I am writing this I’m hungry. I need lunch but this need to keep going compels me to ignore everything. My body is tired of this argument. We have this argument every day. My brain thinks it knows what is best for me. My body begs to differ and has found its voice ever since I started to entertain the idea that my body is not a creature that can adhere to rules that go against her own survival. She will no longer be ignored.

“Remember what happened when you decided not to listen to me?” she says.

Two knee surgeries. Mountains of anxiety and unhappiness and early morning spin classes and evening hot yoga classes and more tiny tupperware containers for almonds and berries that I hate to admit that I still own. My life boiled down to this. 12 blueberries and a fistful of nuts. My tiny hands and so much hunger.

She is right. I need to feed her. When I don’t, bad things happen and they spiral very quickly.

We’ve been in real relationship for the past five years. I stopped trying to change her because I decided I wanted to choose freedom and not control as a path to happiness. I ask her what she wants, if she’s hungry, if she needs a break, if she needs water. I have to ask these questions because I’ve become an expert at ignoring my most basic needs. I think I’m too busy for these things but I was never too busy to schedule two workouts a day and meal plan and log every step. I have to remind myself of this on the regular with the hopes that it might one day become rote behavior, to care for myself better than my houseplants.


Some days it’s downright delightful to discover who I am without the hustle for a smaller body. In a lot of ways, the world has opened up to me now that I’m asking myself what do I truly want and desire and being honest with my answers. It’s also good to believe I can always change my mind too. Nothing is verboten. 


The world is not safe for fat bodies.

Not only am I fat I am also not white. I am very self-aware. Even though I am socially awkward, I can read the room very well. I’m always second guessing what I’m wearing. I’ve only once been able to fit into a pair of pants from Express. This was a thing. This used to be a measurement. There was a point in my life I could wear the largest size at Express but the material hugged me and emphasized where my belly separates into two distinct hemispheres. Even at my smallest, my belly has always been cut into two, one donut sitting on top of another.

I had always thought that if I was 5 inches taller this would all even itself out and my life would be different.

This is not true. I know that it’s ridiculous to think this but I can’t help but wonder how much easier it would be outside of just being able to reach things off of higher shelves.

All my problems fixed forever for 5 more inches of length.

The mythical taller thin me is never going to exist. Not in this lifetime or another.  

When I was in my late teens I made her up. I saw her for the very first time in a Delia’s catalog. She was slightly taller than I was (5 inches! It’s just 5 inches!). She was rocking some awesome pigtails and a pair of joggers and a crop top. She had black hair and white skin with only a tiny inkling of eye makeup. She looked confident and fun and likeable.

I’m still reconciling that all idealized versions of me I could imagine were white. This is not a mistake considering my life was mostly John Hughes movies and prime time television. As far as pop culture was concerned, I did not exist. Fat. South East Asian. Short. Not particularly spunky enough to be a faithful side-kick. I could not connect to my body because I didn’t want to live in it and the culture kept selling me the idea I could have the one I wanted if I just tried harder. 

I’d like to think that things have gotten better. Some things have but the fact that skin lightening creams are still being made means people are still buying them which means people still want out of the bodies they currently have. 

Sometimes I do too. On hard days I just want a smaller white body just so people will leave me alone.


My body is this nebulous thing. Sometimes I consciously avoid going too deeply, its mysterious rolling hills and valleys and dark places scare me. Knowing what lies beneath this skin means knowing everything. 

It’s easier to move through this world a bag of spaghetti and bones, inconsequential and tangible and easy to swallow. Not this dark sticky confusing mass of secrets

What if I look closely and confirm:

There is nothing special here. You are not worth knowing.

I can’t look at my round calves and proclaim their greatness. I can’t present to you my belly, separated into two hemispheres, my belly button living in the deep fold of my equator, and tell you that this is love. 

The most I can spare is two long minutes in front of the bathroom mirror upon first waking up. My hair sticks straight up and out of the messy bun I slept in, reaching for the sky. This is ok.

My face with fresh lines telling me I slept hard last night. This is ok.

I wipe the crust from my eyes and adjust my glasses and look again. 

This is what I look like. This is what I look like.

This is how I love you. This is how I love you.

Again and again. It has to start small. Everything else may or may not come along for the ride but today this is enough and I wash my face with cold water and my dog finds me and licks my calves telling me he is ready to start the day.”

~Jen I.

What is the story of your body?

Collectively, we need to hear more body stories of others in order to feel less alone in our own. If you’re open to sharing your body story, we invite you explore our body story prompts and submit your own story here.

Your story has the power to change how we regard all bodies. Thank you for telling it.


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