RECLAIMED: Body by Nancy Azcona

CW: Discussion around suicide & eating disorders

Illustration by Andrea Miranda

“You are a woman — skin and bones, veins and nerves, hair and sweat. You are not made out of metaphors, not apologies, not excuses.” – Sarah Kay, The Type

I have never felt more at home in my body than I did in 2020. For most of my life, I’ve been fat. I was the over-sized, younger, queer sibling that went through an emo/scene phase in her teenage years and growing up in a first-generation Latin home, saying I was the black sheep of the family would be an understatement. I hid it well between good grades, after-school curriculums, and active participation in the church. But around 13 years old I became painfully aware of myself; I, simply existing, walking this earth, free for those around me to judge and perceive. I was 13 years old the first time I ever contemplated suicide. I was convinced I didn’t belong here. So very much longing for someone to see me, and at the same time, to disappear in the shadows. I recently learned through therapy that this is called Avoidant Attachment Style. Putting a name to it hasn’t made it less challenging to harbor close relationships, or made me less wanting of a nomadic lifestyle. I’m just now privy to the fact that I am not alone or “crazy” to feel this way. 

Around 13 years old (perhaps younger) is when I began wearing solely sweatpants and long sleeve tees to school. That was my personal uniform for a few years. I don’t remember being outright bullied for my appearance. I had a “pretty face” so I guess that cushioned the blows that could’ve been. There were a few times I was made to feel different, in the worst way, that sticks out in my mind. Once was when I had a crush on someone in middle school and my friend thought telling him may help, but instead, I was met with incredulous laughter. How dare I, a teenage girl discovering feelings, like a boy. Kids can be mean. Then during tennis, someone was laughing at the way their calves jiggled and I innocently (or thought it was at least) joined in the laughter and was met with a (paraphrased) razor-sharp “why are you laughing?”. Needless to say, I didn’t join tennis the following year. I was shit at it anyway. Whenever anyone showed genuine interest in me during high school, after a pretty massive weight loss, it angered me. I always thought I was being the butt of someone’s unfunny joke. 

I lost about 80 lbs between sophomore year and junior year of high school. I wanted to stop crying while shopping for clothes because the only brands that served me were actually for “older women”. I wanted to stop being a disappointment because that’s what fat felt like. No matter that I was an honor student, on track to graduate early, no matter that I was a youth leader in my church, helping the community; none of my accomplishments mattered. Everything was tied to my appearance. I wanted to stop hating myself. But I hated myself so much that I developed a close-knit relationship with anorexia and bulimia. Searching the then unsupervised Tumblr “pro-ana” tags, I created a routine: 2-4 hour workout days, 5-7 days a week, 500-750 calorie consumption, and purge whenever I “binged” (anything over the allotted calories). At around 16 years old I was destroying my body, but to everyone else, I was losing weight and becoming healthy. Hooray!… At 25, nearly 10 years later,  I still struggle with bulimia. Only now am I in a place where moving my body doesn’t feel like a punishment and eating is no longer tied to a rewards or discipline system. Losing weight will never be an accomplishment for me. I know what it is to be praised for becoming the norm, at any cost. At my lowest, I was the meekest I have ever been. I like to believe I’ve always had some type of light shining from me, but back then, I’m sure it was pretty dim. Consumed with skinny. Not healthy. Skinny. 

My relationship with my body started to shift around 2016-2017. I was in a living situation that drove my depression and anxiety to an all-time high and I was desperately seeking an outlet. I did not want to go to the deep end and possibly not come out. Somehow, I stumbled upon Brooke Ence’s youtube channel, which was just filled with her CrossFit journey. Now, I am NOT/nor WAS I  a crossfitter by any means, but I will say the way she trained and her whole journey on preparing her body to become incredibly strong; appealed to me more than any diet culture or workout fad I had ever come across. I wanted to be strong and happy with myself, and I no longer cared if that came with a thin label or 00 size jeans. Since then I’ve lost weight, yes, but I was able to leg press 300 pounds, take aerial classes, learn how to rollerskate, and climb the tallest mountain in Yosemite. Things I always felt barred from because I was a fat girl. And I enjoyed all of it, so very much. I learned that I was allowed to enjoy these beautiful life experiences, without feeling like I needed an end weight goal attached to them. That I can climb a mountain, and not track the calories. And fall on my ass on wheels and get up without a hot red sensation overflowing my cheeks, because who actually cares. 

Since then, whenever I try to get back into a routine, I try to remember that feeling. As someone who still very much struggles with being told that skinny! is! the! way! to! go! there are times I find myself slipping into terrible old habits. I follow people that motivate me to continue working on my goals, without feeling overwhelmed with the dread of comparison. Curating a space that makes me feel safe to just exist has been so very important to me, and I’ve managed to be able to do so. The cheesy saying of “you gotta love yourself from the inside first” is, again, cheesy, but undoubtedly true. 

Nowadays I can confidently say I am incredibly self-absorbed. I mean it, I can’t stop staring at myself some days; and some days I’m convinced there is a 16-year-old me staring back, absolutely in awe. I truly do owe it to her to love myself this intensely. For years people and society as a whole tried to stifle and muffle my inherent greatness and to be quite frank I no longer give fuck about satisfying the masses. I had a porcelain mask fixed upon my face for most of my life so I didn’t let anyone down, and guess what; I still let people down, even when I tried my hardest. I still have days where I look at myself and think “well maybe if I was just thinner”. Still, there are days where I blame my fatness for my unhappiness, even when everything is coming up roses. I’m thankful those days don’t last nearly as long and come by very sparingly. I wish there was a magic word I could give you. A self-help book that made it all better. An elixir that changed my entire outlook on life, but there just isn’t one. And for that, I am sorry. I hope one day that switch goes off in your mind if it hasn’t already. Until then, remember to be kind, gentle, and overall patient with yourself. 

About the Author:

Nancy Azcona is a 25 year old Salvadorian/Dominican New Yorker living out in Los Angeles since 2017. Queer and first-gen American, the intersections are truly endless. She has been working in the entertainment industry since 2016 and is currently a Production Coordinator at the digital company SMOSH. Her articles have been featured on Funknvibe’s previous blog platform and her spoken word has been performed at their live events. In her spare time she enjoys taking care of too many plants, working on her imperfect ceramic pieces, watching any and all reality TV shows, and using her voice to tear down systematic oppression.

More of Nancy’s work in Mixed Mag:

Beginner’s Guide: Yana Perrault, Actor/Musician (Issue 6)

Beginner’s Guide: Andre Doughty (Issue 5)

Depression in 2020 Hits Different (Issue 4)

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