I have been overweight or obese since I was 7 years old. I’m now about to turn 27. I spent my entire life looking at the girls around me and wishing I looked like them. Once a week, I would walk down the street and little children would laugh at me and call me “shmena” (fat). I have watched countless friends get married. Been a bridesmaid in many of their weddings and always stared at the pictures after and would hate how I looked. There may have been a few “good shots” but I would analyze and criticize every picture of myself. I would measure how much my body took up in each picture. Notice every fat roll that would never leave.
Just over 2 years ago I made the decision to have Gastric Sleeve Surgery to help with the weight loss. It took a year but my surgery date was June 7th 2015. A day that changed my life forever. A day I will never forget. I can't express in words what this past year has been like. I have lost over 120 lbs (55 kg) which is crazy! But, it's not even about the number on the scale. It about all the NSV (non scale victories) that happened. At first, it was fitting into shirts that were to small on me for years. Then fitting into a shirts I bought in smaller sizes for when I was in the in-between stages of losing weight. Being able to buy a gown for a wedding from a store on Yafo as opposed to getting it custom made was a big one. Suddenly I was being noticed in ways I never have been before. I was on a radar that I never even knew existed.
Then, I started liking what I would see when I looked in the mirror instead of just avoiding it completely and wanting to run away.
I have learned more about myself in the past year than I ever have in my life. I shed so many layers both physically and emotionally. I keep on being tested by G-D, where I feel like he is making me take a stand for myself. Just to let myself know that I'm worth it. And some huge tests may I just say. People keep on telling me how great I look. How beautiful I am. I want to believe them, and some days I do. But I know what they don't. When the clothing comes off, my body is just as ugly as it was before, just looks like a shrunken version. I have extra skin that is saggy and still plenty more weight to be lost. When I catch myself thinking like that I really do try to stop it and remind myself how far I have come and that I need to be proud of what I have accomplished.
I have been a fan of Rebecca’s photography before she became a boudoir photographer. I used to wait to see the posts her and her husband would share after doing a wedding. I always noticed how they managed to capture each moment so perfectly and elegantly in a photograph. When she started posting pictures of women looking so beautiful and natural, as well as noticing their comments of self-empowerment, I was floored. I had never even known what a boudoir session was… but I found out very fast. I have gone through so many pictures of women who got to have their own session and read blogs of women who talk about how beautiful they felt and how liberating the experience was. Once again I found myself wishing I was one of those women. I never in a million years thought that I would have the guts to not only stand in front of another person in such an intimate and personal way but definitely, I didn't think that it was possible for me to look like one of those brave and beautiful women.
On June 7th 2016 I celebrated my one year surgiversary. I started to sit and think about what had happened over those 365 days. I had two ways of looking at it. I could think “I lost 120 lbs but also went through some hard times which led me to cheat and not exercise enough. So really I could have lost more…” or I could think “ WOW! I can't believe I lost 120 lbs, I started looking at myself in ways I never have before, opened myself and let myself be vulnerable for the first time ever. Plus so much more…”.
Well, I chose the other option. I no longer want to be focusing on the negative in general, but even more so, when it comes to who I am and what my body looks like. I keep on having to stand up for myself and prove that I am worth it, yet I don't really let it fully sink in that I am. So I decided to contact Rebecca and do a boudoir session. I am not married. These pictures are not for anyone other than myself. Yet, I deserve to see myself as a woman. An attractive woman. A sexy woman. That mindset has been completely foreign to me. Knowing Rebecca and her work, I felt like there is no one better or more trustworthy to share this experience with. It was going to be my own present to myself for all the hard work I have put in. I had no idea how big of a present it would actually be in the end.
After booking my session with Rebecca, I was both excited and nervous. I went out and bought some of my first lingerie ever. Before the session Rebecca was there to talk to me about my thoughts and feelings and help me prepare in anyway needed for the big day. When that day finally came I didn't even know what to think or feel. It was very surreal to me. Just being pampered by getting my hair and makeup done was such a nice feeling. Then watching how Rebecca helped me find the perfect shot and pose, while investing in making it something that is different and out of my normal “box.” I remember thinking that I don't know how to look sexy, how to pose sexy and I assumed that the photos would come out fake looking. As much as I trusted her, I didn’t yet trust myself. As the time went on I got more and more comfortable with being photographed. By the end of the session, I really just let go and had fun with it. Those pictures are my favorite ones of all.
When I finally got the pictures back I couldn't believe it. I kept on going back to them and not being able to wrap my head around the fact that it was me. Any picture that is just of my body and not my face still surprises me. It’s me, my body, and it is beautiful. One of the following nights, I sent this message to Rebecca:
“I just went through the pictures again. when I got to the one of me on the couch, in the red underwear... at first I just stared at the fat rolls on my sides. but then I stopped and thought.. what if it wasn’t me? what if I just saw this picture as a picture that you posted one day..... I would LOVE it!! I would be so damn proud of whoever that girl is!!! and then I realized that that girl was me. and I have to really love myself and the picture... looking back to it now, the picture looks totally different. Thank you so much for being a part in this Rebecca!”
I still have a long way to go in my road to self-love, but I am further along this road than ever before. I always was a good dresser for my body type. I never let my size stop me from having style and putting on a nice dress. But now, I feel good when I do. I don't just analyze myself and wish that I looked like everyone else. There are days when I get back to the unhealthy headspaces but I try to catch myself from it. The goal is not to look like anyone else other than myself…. and I look pretty damn awesome. I just need to remember that every day, and not get caught up in all the imperfection that ultimately just makes me ME.
Hair and Makeup by Sarah Appel