I Gained 100 Pounds, And Yet I’ve Never Felt More Beautiful | My Journey to Body Positivity

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”- Kate Moss

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I think I was around 17 when I first realized that my weight would play a huge factor in how the world would treat me.

Since 14, I started struggling with my weight but it was something that I just sort of dealt with. The way my brain thinks can sometimes be like a formula, so I knew that increasing my workouts and eating less would “cure” my weight struggle. So, I worked out everyday. Skipped breakfast, and before “intermittent fasting” was a trend, I was the queen of skipping a meal and eating in a 4-5 hour window. And it worked. My weight would “yo-yo” every now and then but I simply maintained a super regulated and regimented plan that would keep my weight consistent. And that’s when the eating disorders began.

I have an addictive personality in many ways, and I am a control freak. I’m also an extreme perfectionist. For those who know me, they know that I will do anything to reach my goal, and will go to any length to get there. It usually for the long haul so I wasn’t a big fan of “short term, get rich quick or lose 10 pounds in 1 week” schemes.

I wanted longevity.

Specifically, I wanted to be lean. With my regimen, I could maintain a US Dress Size 8-10; or “Medium”. But my bones weren’t shrinking, and I have a tendency to “bulk” muscle in my hips and thighs and calves. But I wanted to be lean…. specifically, Naomi Campbell, Ciara lean. I figured, I’m 5″9, I have an hourglass-y figure I CAN get there.

So I spent life on fad diets. Atkins, Master Cleanse, Partial Veganism, South Beach, Eat Stop Eat, Dukan Diet, Paleo, etc. I was always on a new diet- and the QUEEN of the DIETS. And as it were, life would happen and I would cram an XL pizza and a brown paper bag of crinkle cut fries and apple fritters down. And I would feel guilty. And then, I would purge.

But I am a neat freak and anyone that has experienced bulimia- that metallic-y taste of bile and acid reflux feeling on the edge of your throat feels gross, taste gross, and water just doesn’t really wash it down. So bulimia was a strategy, but only sparingly. Instead, it seemed more advantageous to be an “exercise bulimic”. I don’t know if it’s a real term but basically, I would eat, and then I would walk, jog or go to the gym after every meal. Which because of time, made it hard to do with three meals so then I would cut down to two meals. And so on and so forth.

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In the world of sex work and adult entertainment, every “ism” you can think of is AMPLIFIED (just like Hollywood, Fashion, Art, etc).

A frustration I experienced a teen trans woman were inequities that weren’t obvious to anyone else except for me, so it seemed. At a size “8/10”, I was consistently referred to as a “BBW“- which I hated, considering all the motions I was going through to stay small. Everyone knows that Black girls kind of have to charge the least for services- and being Black and Trans made it even harder to charge the same amount as the smaller, Asian “ladyboys”. Especially in San Francisco, or California in general, to be honest.

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Aria Sa’id in May 2010 at US dress size 8/10

It’s a weird experience to articulate where your body and the way you look is DIRECTLY tied to your income. Most people just won’t completely understand the experience unless you have been in similar industries. When the way you look impacts how you can eat (no pun intended), ohhhh the lengths that you will go.

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Aria Sa’id and friend, at 20 years old sneaking into Bar with fake ID 

My experiences with my weight and every insecurity I had was increased during my time in sex work. I remember when clients would arrive and say, “oh your pictures must be old, your bigger in real life”.

[Footnote: you know how some celebrities like Beyonce, for instance, photograph BIGGER than they actually are? I somehow, photographed SMALLER, so it was consistently mentioned by clients who felt cheated for some reason]. I should also note that all the negative clients did come from caucasian clients. But the catch 22 of the sex work world: WHITE CLIENTS are who you want, if you want to pay rent, and if you want to work less and charge more. If you charge less of course, you have wide appeal but it means you have to work more. And at that time, though most of my potential clients were Black and/or Latino, no sex worker I knew wanted to turn dates for Black/Latin clients (for a myriad of reasons unrelated to this post…. stay tuned LOL).

My horrors were always the reviews, on Redbook and Erotic Review (is Erotic Review still around). These were platforms where clients, tranny chasers, and the like could post comments on their experience for other consumers (similar to Yelp, if you will). That’s when, post session I would see comments saying “Great experience. Upscale location. But not worth the rate because she lied about weight”, or “If she lost weight, she’d be amazing”. 

My self-esteem would constantly crush, especially navigating all the other aspects. I couldn’t change my skin tone. I couldn’t change my height. I couldn’t change my voice. The one thing that seemed to be something I could in fact, control, felt uncontrollable.

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I left sex work, feeling liberated enough to eat. And eat, did she hunny!!

I would go back and forth between feeling empowered as a curvier woman, but also feel the need to be thinner- especially with the arrival of dating sites like OkCupid and Tindr. I would consistently say, “I’m in my early 20’s, I should be SNATCHED” and the journey of dieting and exercising would continue.

At 24, I underwent a gender confirmation surgery, as a grand denouement of my transition, and with a hope that I would feel complete. And I have to say, that curing my “gender dysphoria” was an amazing journey and I learned so much about myself, and never felt so affirmed and actualized in who I am as a woman. I’m grateful for the experience because I blossomed and evolved post-surgery.

But what they don’t tell you outside of urban transsexual legend is how much your body changes undergoing surgery.

After my surgery, I gained 50 pounds within two years. I was eating normal, and I was exercising every other day. And the weight gain came in. I started dieting aggressively, only to begin giving in to my cravings way more frequently than before. And my metabolism seemed to move like a slug.

Fast forward to a couple years later, I was at a new height in my career- working as a Director of a premier organization, and working as an Executive Director of a coalition- doing both jobs simultaneously. I had been admitted to two prestigious fellowships that offered coveted job skills, connections, travel opportunities and adventure. I participated in both, graduated from both while maintaining two jobs. I also started my LLC and began consulting for corporations and doing speaking engagements and trainings for private sector. ALL. AT. THE. SAME. TIME.

I gained 50 pounds within 6 months and probably more. (100 pounds total). 

When you struggle with weight I truly believe that as a person you undergo the stages of Grief as you gain weight again. At least, looking back, I did. LocnessDesignsdotcom

I remember vignettes of the past where I was in Denial, as my clothes became more and more ill fitting. Part of my process for denial was to then download pictures from thinspo tumblr accounts, and crash diet. Crash exercise plans. “Today I’m going to work out”, and try to make immediate lifestyle changes. Then I would fail. And consistently be in denial, that my weight gain wasn’t bothering me, or making me feel less than. Especially for me- a perfectionist. high producing, industrious woman. a control freak. I felt so fallible in an area I should be able to control. It made me jaded and hopeless.

I remember being angry. I’m not an angry person per se, but my anger can manifest through jealousy. So, I would be jealous of friends who were naturally thin. My best friends are super small, and can eat McDonald’s daily and still be a size 2. In fact, they don’t always have the best “diets” and would often police me on my eating habits. Me, being jealous, would distance from them, resent them when we would get dressed for the club or an outing.

Whereas I normally was super confident and full of camaraderie, I went through a period where I couldn’t “take” when they would get hit on at the club and I became the wing woman.

I couldn’t take going shopping at H&M, and they discontinued their in-store plus size section.

I was angry the first time I had to request a seat belt extender on a flight to London. I was ashamed, and that fueled my self resentment more.

I was mortified when one time with friends, on a road trip, a friend suggested I take the front passenger seat of the car, “to be more comfortable”. These were accommodations and considerations I’d never experienced, and it made me feel so insecure.

I was angry when I ran into my ex-boyfriend at a restaurant, me at 100 pounds larger and looking a hot mess; him, with a coke bottle shaped blonde white woman the same age as me.

That shit fucks with you, and I don’t care what anyone says.

Bargaining, in the stages of grief, is this odd experience of negotiating post anger. You’re flooded with the most interesting thoughts, of “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve”, and you start negotiating with yourself to regain control of the situation.

I underwent this phase going back and forth between Anger and Bargaining, and then being angry, and then Bargaining until I reached a stage in my life of deep depression. 

My big, deep depression came at a point in my life, at 27 years old (hello, Saturn Return) and feeling old. Feeling unlovable. Feeling unsuccessful. At 27 years old I accomplished more than most people in their 40’s, and I still felt like the things I’d worked so hard for in my life were still not coming into fruition. I ended a tumultuous relationship with a man who represented everything I ever day dreamed of in a man, and also made me feel inadequate. And at 28, I struggled with suicidal ideation. Feeling isolated. Not recognizing the woman I was in the mirror. Not feeling empowered in who I was both in the world, and physically.

I also must confess, I didn’t feel attuned to my body in the same way. I didn’t feel sexy anymore. When I was in sex work I had the constant validation that I was desirable. Wanted. Dreamed of. A Goddess. In my previous two relationships during this time, I also maintained that validation but in a less carnal way. Maybe sort of like a trophy experience.

And then…. Nothing. I wasn’t wearing low-rise jeans and a wife beater and hearing whistles on the street anymore. The only guys hitting on me had missing teeth and were drinking taka vodka on the street corner. I went through this odd experience, similar to what I think “washed up celebrities” go through- where you’re praised for a huge moment of your life (for me it was my teens and early 20’s) to not having that experience at all. It messes with your mind, and makes you feel like you failed.

All the while, the experience continued to make me feel inferior. I’m already transgender. Black. Darker Skin. And now, plus size. While my own inferiority complex grew, so did my own phobias. I felt like I became the epitome of undesirable.

The fat, black, dark skinned, transsexual woman.

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Aria Sa’id, modelling lingerie for Safer Sex Campaign (Summer 2014)

Who would want me?

 

Acceptance. 

I went back to my roots. I’m a scorpio, in her Jupiter Return and I had read an article on the experience of hawking back to who you were 12 years ago, versus who you are today, and who you will be for the next 12 years.

I slowly started this slow burning epiphany on my experience as trans teen contemplating telling the world my truth, and in beginning my transition, told the world I was not conforming to it- that the world should conform to me.

And, my next journey/phase of self-acceptance began- with my body, again, but for another reason.

I looked in my tall mirror (I bought one as a radical act), moisturizing my body, and stared at myself.

And in that moment, I realized that the world needed to conform to me, instead of me fighting myself to conform to it.

I’d done it before, so surely, I could do it again.

I reminded myself that I was beautiful, and sexy,

and I began researching rubenesque women in art and

statues of obese women from pre-colonial eras of the world,

and

I ate balanced meals and drank my water,

and said a mantra my sister Breonna taught me: “NO ONE PAYS MY BILLS BUT ME”, 

and minded my business, and

resumed dressing cute and fly,

and resumed dating,

and resumed hooking up,

and resumed going out to parties,

and resumed taking pictures, photo shoots, and group photos,

and resumed smiling.

And in those moments of doubt,

I looked at those pictures of art,

and statues and sculptures,

and ad campaigns,

and reminded myself that my body is literally art.

And I never felt more beautiful.

Because I spent over a decade subconsciously determining my worth on a condition. I inadvertently told myself at 17 that I was only beautiful because I could maintain a certain figure/size.

Some will say I am praising obesity.

And yes, I am. Why not? It such a commonplace experience that I don’t understand why it’s so controversial. Why is it undesirable? So many women, men, and nonbinary people experience it. Live it. Own it. Feel perhaps empowered and disempowered by it. So yes, I’m praising it.

And now, at 28, I now tell myself that I am beautiful, unique, resilient, powerful, and worthy NO MATTER WHAT.

 

The End.

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Aria Sa’id, wearing Calvin Klein (sports bra), Duster Coat (Pretty Little Thing Curve) and Harem Pants (ASOS Curve) paired with rose gold sandals (Torrid) and vintage Louis Vuitton Brown Monogram Bucket Bag GM (Louis Vuitton) 

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