Weighing In: Perception, No More Hiding


I have so many things running through my mind right now, that I’m not even sure where to begin.  I’ve just returned from an amazing time at Comic-Con 2013! The panel that I formed earlier this year (All Shapes and Sizes Welcome), was a hot panel, standing room only on Friday night, and the amount of audience feedback and press we got was overwhelming! (I’ll be talking about gathering your own press in my next Coffee Chat article).

All weekend long, men and women alike stopped us as we walked by to thank us for speaking out about Body Image, the way women are (typically) portrayed in media, and thanked us for being open and raw about eating disorders.  One woman, even came to our autograph signing and said that because of our panel the night before, she had decided NOT to wear spanx under her cosplay that day.  And you know what, I didn’t wear Spanx all weekend either!

The "All Shapes and Sizes Welcome" panel at Comic-Con
The “All Shapes and Sizes Welcome” panel at Comic-Con

It’s like something inside of me started to click, in a talk-the-talk-walk-the-walk kinda way.   My perception is changing about so many things pertaining to my own journey with eating disorders, weight, and self-love.

For instance, there’s a film project I’ve been involved in for over a year now, as a producer and social media expert, and even though I’ve expressed interest in being an actor in the movie, the creator, (and he told me this in his own words last year), doesn’t see a place for larger girls in the world of science fiction.  Now, a year ago when I had this conversation with him,  I agreed, I explained my story, that typically I’ve been able to stay around a size 7 for most of my Hollywood life, and it was only after a big depression and eating disorder battle in 2010, that I’ve put on this weight and stayed at this weight.  I made excuses, I agreed with him, and I assured him that if I was required to lose 50 pounds I could do so pretty quickly.   (It probably wouldn’t be a healthy diet, but I know I could do it, I’m the queen of cleanses and detoxes).

However, after presenting “All Shapes and Sizes Welcome”, twice in the past few months, and speaking to all sorts of people and press on the topic, I’ve changed my perspective on that project.  There IS a spot for a girl my size in the world of science fiction, just as there is a spot for a heavier man (the same project has already cast a man who is very, very large).  And as I’m growing to love myself at this weight (because I know it’s integral to this journey that I not crash diet), I’m realizing other times in my life, where I didn’t “go for it” or made excuses or offered to change something about me, to feel wanted or to fit the mold that was being asked for.

This weekend was life-changing, and it’s allowing me to even more fully embrace the beautiful woman that I am, regardless of the numbers on the scale.

I typically photograph very, very well. I’ve also learned which poses make me look thinner, and I’m a pro with selfies.  Every so often a photo pops up that I don’t like, and I simply don’t accept the tag, but this time around, I did.  I accepted every photo tag that has popped up. The one where my arms look huge, the one where my shirt wasn’t pulled down and there’s a fat roll showing. I accepted all of them, because isn’t that what I’m preaching?  BODY ACCEPTANCE!

So here I am feeling all mighty and powerful, having come off of such a great weekend, having taught, listened, and learned from all of those I encountered this weekend. Having shared stories, and bonded with my panelist girls over our journeys, and then I come home to the premiere of TREASURE YOURSELF.

Just a few days before Comic-Con, I was offered a lead role in a music video, being directed by Jenn Page. I’ve been wanting to work with Jenn Page for years now, and this video was for National Dance Day, as part of the Dizzy Feet Foundation’s mission to encourage dance as a way to combat obesity.  The favorite videos will be featured on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

All of that sounded so awesome, that even in the midst of Comic-Con prep, I took a day out for rehearsals, a day out for shooting, and the morning I was set to head to San Diego turned into some last minute pick-up shots. I was committed to this video, it’s message, and it’s team.   But here’s the thing, with little time to prepare, and no budget for wardrobe, I chose the best pieces for the character, not the clothes and the spanx that would hide all of those parts I don’t like.  I didn’t even wear a jacket over the arms I like to keep covered. I picked the frumpiest, baggiest outfit for the one scene and I picked a form-fitting dress for the other scene, not thinking or caring, not even really registering that what I was doing was NOT HIDING. It was for the character and not Leah!

And here’s where the disconnect comes in.  I know I’m a size 16 right now. But the strange thing is, in the past, even when I was a size 3 or 5, I still thought I was fat. I still had a lot to critique when I saw a photo or a project I had shot, even though somewhere in my head I knew that I was an unrealistic assessment, and I was thin or “average” depending on the year. But this time, I really am FAT!  (And I hate that word, but for this article I’m using it.)

I had gotten so used to avoiding full length shots, and wearing spanx with 3 levels of tight tank tops over them, and using camera angles to make me look longer and thinner, that I don’t think I truly knew what I really look like right now.  As long as I only focus on my face, I can forget what the rest of my body looks like.

Watching and sharing this video was/is very difficult for me.  It’s a beautiful message, it’s shot and directed beautifully, but I think this is the first time in about 2 years, that I’ve seen myself, full-body on camera, with no makeup, no hair, and just raw, real, and me.  No camera angles, no lighting tricks.

And it was difficult and painful to watch.  My negative mind immediately went to , “No wonder you don’t have representation.” “No wonder you’re single.”

Even after this amazing weekend at Comic-Con, sharing and teaching others to accept themselves and love their bodies.

I’ve watched the video about 10x now, and each time I find something else I LIKE about me.  My emotional range is great, my smile, my eyes… the fun energy of it all, and each time I’m focusing less on the fat rolls when I’m sitting down, or the size of my butt as I walk away.

I guess what I’ve realized is that I have a long way to go still. Speaking openly about it is certainly helping, but my reaction to this beautiful dance video, shows me that I have a long, long way to go for my own body acceptance.

And I’m glad you’re all on this journey with me. Please do watch this video, it’s gorgeous and a powerful message for all.  And if you’re on your on journey of self-love and body acceptance, please know that you’re not alone.