I've Lost 100 Pounds & Still Have Issues With Body Image

The part of weight loss no one tells you about.

Her Voice

"Lose the weight and you'll be great," they said. "It's all about getting physically healthy and feeling better."

While shedding the pounds would bring a healthier me and a wardrobe that I had dreamed so long to have, what they didn't tell me about was the constant mental battles that I would encounter. Even 10 years later.

You see, I was overweight all of my life. As a child, I was constantly teased for being heavier than most of my peers. While the teasing hurt, I chalked it up to kids being kids. After all, I teased a few people myself. Kids would ask things like why is your stomach like that? Or they would point out and even pinch my chubby cheeks.

Courtesy of DeAnna Taylor

My weight was mostly due to eating lots of fast food and quick-fix meals. It's not that I necessarily overate, but I was never taught how to eat healthily and I wasn't the most active kid. As early as elementary, I took notice of my size in comparison to my peers; it was even more evident when they would come to school with new outfits from Limited Too. I begged and begged for the chance to buy clothes from there, but as reality would have it, they didn't fit me.

Things got worse as I got to high school. Not only were kids teasing me, but I also had my mother constantly pointing out that I was bigger than most girls in my class and for that reason, boys would never like me. It hurt like hell. But, I didn't know what to do to change it.

Fast forward to undergrad.

During my junior year, I went through a pretty bad breakup that sent me into one of the worst bouts of depression I've ever faced. The pounds packed on mostly due to not getting out of bed and emotional eating. At only 5 foot 4, I found myself weighing around 230 pounds. I was the heaviest I'd ever been and at that point, I was convinced I would be heavy forever.

The desire to get healthier didn't come for another 3 years, during my second year of law school. Surprisingly, my first thought wasn't to get in the gym to lose the weight, but to first get a breast reduction. I was convinced that the bulk of my weight came from my breasts being too big for my frame. Little did I know, the consultation would be the wakeup call I needed to get my health in check. It was there, at the age of 22 that I learned I was morbidly obese and for insurance to cover my surgery, I would need to lose at least 70 pounds first.

I thought the doctor was out of her mind. It wouldn't be until a year later that I'd take the advice to heart and start to take my health seriously.

In early 2010, I began incorporating regular exercise into my everyday routine. I learned to start making better food choices and even cooking at home. By the end of that summer, I had lost nearly 40 pounds and was determined to keep going. And well, keep going I did.

Courtesy of DeAnna Taylor

Seeing my body change week by week, month by month kept me going. Going into clothing stores and walking away with jeans a size smaller than my last visit was the exact push I needed to not let all my hard work go down the drain.

Over the next few years, I would lose around 80 pounds. But, unlike many who lose a significant amount of weight, I was also able to tone up and eliminate a lot of loose skin. In addition to steady cardio 4-5 times per week, I was incorporating strength training alongside it that helped me to build muscle as well.

After reaching what I thought was a plateau, I knew I wanted to push myself even further. A friend suggested that I try my hand at fitness competitions and being the overachiever that I was, I was more than up for the challenge.

I put my body and mind through 12 intense weeks of training and dieting to get in the best shape ever. A few days before the competition, I learned that I had officially dropped 100 pounds total since the start of my journey. I felt unstoppable and went into the competition with the confidence of a winner. I came away with a 3rd place finish and couldn't have been happier, at least in that moment.

What I didn't understand was that a competition body wasn't something that was meant to be achieved for everyday life. Sure, I looked amazing and had rock hard abs. But the regimented food schedule, missing events with friends, taking all kinds of crazy supplements, and spending hours in the gym daily were an extremity.

Courtesy of DeAnna Taylor

After going on to do a second competition and bombing due to exhaustion, I decided that the stress that comes along with maintaining a competition-ready body was no longer for me.

That's when the battle started.

Once the strict dieting stopped, my body began to fill out a little. Sure, it may have only been 5 pounds at most and mostly water weight, but I would constantly compare myself to my "stage body". Even though I was nowhere near what I used to be, I was self-conscious to no end. In my mind, I was slowly turning back into who I was before I set out on my journey. So much so, that despite losing all the weight, I was afraid to wear certain clothing. I was embarrassed by my loose skin and my stretch marks started looking more visible than normal to me. All of this was playing with my mind, despite working my ass off to get in the best shape of my life.

For that reason in April 2014, I walked away from my last stage competition and I'm never going back.

I've decided to live life to the fullest these days by traveling and experiencing new things. This includes eating lots of new foods. My happiness isn't rooted in my weight, but in how much life I've lived. Since I've stopped competing, I've gained about 30 of the 100 pounds back and some days, it's mentally tough to accept. There's this closeted fear that people are looking at me like, "Dang she fell off." I get it, people's opinions shouldn't matter, but let's keep it one hundred. I'm human and social media is real.

While people tell me that I look great, it still doesn't feel right. I'm working out regularly and trying to eat decent, but it's hard to come to terms with the fact that I may never see that competition body that I once achieved.

Courtesy of DeAnna Taylor

It's an everyday battle to accept the body I see in the mirror now. I'm in no way saying I hate myself, but there's just a certain pressure that looms to get back to where I once was.

I'm still figuring it all out and what works for me in the lifestyle that I live today. It's almost like starting over, just with a different canvas. What worked then doesn't necessarily work now and that's ok. It's all a part of the process. I did it then and I'm sure I can do it again. I just have to practice the same patience I did the first go-around.

I'm finally learning to do this thing for me. Not for the approval of my peers, my mother, or anyone else for that matter and that's the most beautiful part of it all.

If you've experienced something similar, how did you overcome the battle?

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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