I’ve Finally Stopped Fighting My Natural Body Type
06.01.17
Collage by Maria Jia Ling Pitt. 

The girls I sat with on the school bus were particularly brazen, a nearly feral brand of eight and nine-year-old. Something about being on that bus would cause us to lose our collective minds. We would yell, teach each other dirty words and, on warm days, tie our shirts up above our bellies in an attempt to look “sexy.”

Given the chaos, I didn’t expect my friend Abigail to pause one spring afternoon in the third grade, look down at my bare legs and say, “Wow, your thighs are really wide.”

The students around us continued to howl and jump, but we sat still, both looking down at my legs squished out on the dark-blue vinyl seat.

“Look at mine,” Abigail said when I didn’t respond.

She sat next to me, and when she did, what padding she had on her upper legs spread out ever so slightly around her femur and knees. She was right. My legs were a lot wider than hers.

I mumbled something incoherent in response and changed the subject, inching forward so that only my bottom was on the bus seat and my legs weren’t flattened against its surface. I sat like this every warm-weather day for the next several years.


As elementary school turned into middle school, I became fixated on other girls’ legs. They looked so effortlessly tiny to me, so delicate and incidental. When a friend in the sixth grade discussed her “double zero” size at length, I nodded, uncomfortable and filled with anxiety that she would ask me what size my own pants were, and that I’d have to reveal that they were not, in fact, anything close to a size zero, let alone a double zero. It didn’t occur to me that she could simply see that we were different sizes.

At home, my mother cycled through VHS workout systems where women in leotards with smooth skin and long hair smiled through crunches, lunges and bicep curls. She invited me to join her and I often did. By age 11, I was waking up before school to do pilates and yoga tapes.

I was not overweight, though even if I was, this behavior wouldn’t have been any more appropriate for such a young girl.

My mother encouraged me, no doubt believing that she was setting a positive example, not realizing that when I came home after school to find her doing yet another Firm video, I would stare at her robust, strong thighs and trunk-like torso, trying to understand why they never got any smaller. She’s just got to keep going, I thought. She will get there soon.

I applied the same mentality toward my own body. If I just kept going, I believed, if I just kept running in place and doing leg lifts, I would whittle my body down.

Adolescence took hold, and my curves filled out more distinctly from year to year. I began dreading school shopping and the fatiguing disappointment that, no matter what I did or what I ate, I would have to pick out bottoms that were a size larger than the year before. I was at a loss to explain this unceasing growth.

I never asked my mother why this was happening, and I never mentioned it to any other women in my family. Instead, I continued riding my bike, going for walks and by high school, eating protein bars for lunch. By the end of college, I had an overflowing drawer packed with pants that no longer comfortably fit, but which I forced myself to squeeze into.


In my mid-twenties, I spent a week with my grandmother, my mother’s mother, flipping through old photo albums and interviewing her about her life at my age. Her suburban apartment’s covered wall-to-wall with photos, so I was surprised she had so many stuffed away in a desk drawer that I had never seen.

One album was from the early 1950s. All the photos are black-and-white; many are posed portraits taken by my young grandfather. Until recently, my grandmother never let me photograph her, and any attempt to do so resulted in cursing and hand-waving. Evidently, this was not the case when she was young and recently married. There she was, standing confidently on the beach, or posing in a homemade bikini in front of my grandfather’s car, or sitting, legs crossed, on a rock wall with her younger brother.

She stared into the camera in snapshot after snapshot, her body sturdy, unapologetic and, to me, shockingly familiar.

“Apparently I got my figure from my grandma and never knew it,” I texted my boyfriend with a photo. He laughed and did not dispute what was so suddenly obvious to me.

“Grandma,” I said. “Didn’t you tell me once that you hated your legs because they were so skinny?” She is 85 years old now, and she is very slight in the way that a lot of elderly women are. I’d assumed she had always been that way.

“No,” she says, almost snorting. “I thought they were too big. I always hated my thighs.”

It dawned on me then that the shape that I had spent nearly two decades attempting to hide, remedy and “fix” was not something to be fixed at all. The bottom half that had made me feel so different than the other girls I grew up with was inherited. It was genetically and generationally mine. It was the same body that allowed my grandmother to have six healthy children, and my mother to have five after her. It is the body of generation after generation of women who fall down, pick themselves up and keep walking.

This revelation was not a perfect fix for years of internalized criticism and on-again, off-again crash dieting, but it did help me clean out that drawer full of pants that will probably never fit me again, replacing them with jeans I could sit comfortably in. And above all, it stopped me from constantly apologizing to myself for not being able to alter a body that I now know to be so, so irrevocably, and astonishingly, mine.

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  • Anne Dyer

    Yes. We all look most beautiful when we are the size nature intended us to be. Celebrating our natural shape is such a life altering choice. I am so ridiculously small chested and after two kids it’s another level of negative. My favorite sports bra is from the girls section. I have now watched half a dozen friends get boob jobs without one shred of envy. My breasts look just like my moms did when I was a kid. And I like them 🙂 They are never in the way and when I want to show an asset I just walk in a room backwards.

  • Rachel King

    Love this. I have stocky, sturdy legs which have allowed me to run 2 marathons and dominate yoga classes but I still cringe thinking that I have the pins of an American Girl Doll whenever I try to sport a short skirt. I’ve found it helpful to think of my body as an “instrument” rather than an “ornament” (pretty sure I stole that from an old Alanis Morrisette interview) but my legs are still a body hang up for me. I legit google “celebrity cankles” to make myself feel part of a community. I also like to focus on how awesome it is that I even HAVE LEGS. Some people don’t even have legs to feel insecure over, so that’s always a plus. Great piece, thank you for writing and sharing this.

  • meme

    Oh the flashbacks of using my mum’s thigh-master at age 10. I know my mum always ment well (she has spent a life “watching” what she eats), but I hope I never pass the same complexes to my kids.

  • Abby

    Ooooooh boy this was not a good work read for me cause I’m about to get emotional at my desk. In the past few years, I’ve gone from being incredibly svelte to having the exact same body as my mother and I’m not taking it well or gracefully. This helped, though, so thank you.

  • Thank you for writing this, Monica! It’s crazy how poignant childhood memories of weight are, even this many years later. I distinctly recall feeling so much bigger than what felt like all of the other girls in my sixth grade class; crossing the 100 lb mark before they did (god forbid), moving into the juniors section of jeans, feeling so much heavier and simultaneously less than all of the girls in their size zero denim.

    I’ve always had an athletic body type, which roughly translates to a small chest and muscular thighs, and it’s always made me feel insecure. But I’m trying to look at my body for what it allows me to do, rather than any imperfections I might perceive in it—to run marathons and do yoga, to walk and to just move at all. Glad to finally be gaining some perspective, even if it took a cool 15 years to get here.

  • Mary Kate Kloeblen

    I totally can relate to this on so many levels!! I’ve always had thick thighs and a booty, and I also remember being really self-conscious and fixated on having thinner legs when I was younger – especially middle school and early high school. At that time I always felt like I looked clumsy and less graceful than the girls who had lighter, more dancer like bodies. I have been an athlete for my whole life, and honestly playing my sports and coming to the realization that having thick/strong legs were actually more of an asset to being successful in my sports vs. a hindrance was what really helped me limit that type of pressure I was putting on myself.

  • Molly D

    Genetics. Finally someone writes something about this!!!

  • Rachel Dlugatch

    I relate to this so much! I’ve always had bigger legs than all of my friends and really resented it.. even when I was pretty skinny, my thighs seemed disproportionately large. It wasn’t until I started rowing (/crew) that I learned to love my thighs. These thighs can make a boat move fasssst! 🙂 Also it’s nice being around other women with bigger thighs and doing a sport where that’s the aesthetic people aspire to.

    • Kate

      YAS GIRL ROWING. It wasn’t until I picked up rowing in HS and then being on a women’s team in college that made me feel like it was ok, GOOD even to have thunderthighs and crazy hamstrings. love love loved being around women that had similar physiques to mine and we could celebrate one another for our strength

  • Kay Nguyen

    I have been very self conscious about my body since I started puberty, I’m still not happy with it but I have learned to accept it more. Over the years, I found out that everybody is the most beautiful when you’re comfortable and confident about yourself, I’m very jealous of those who can do so….

    https://www.myblackcloset.com/

  • Alice

    My grandma has an also iconic quote “when it was fashionable to have curves I was thin as a stick, now that thin is in I’m fat”. I don’t know when I started hating my legs but my grandma’s comments about how I had such nice, round, thick thighs didn’t help. I inherited them from my father and I wish I could accept them like you. Every time I put on some weight it goes straight to them and they rub and remind me of their existence constantly.

    Yes they take me places, but they are sldo the reason some days I don’t want to clothe them and leave the house.

  • pennyjenny

    I cringe when I think back to my middle school years… I was skinny and totally remember “dieting” and talking about weight loss because my mom (who was super-thin) was always dieting/talking about how much she disliked her body. It makes me sad now. I remember my mom letting me buy a bikini but telling my younger sister (one year younger) she could only have a one-piece because of her weight. I remember thinking I was SOOOOoOoo fat in high school, when I was even slightly underweight and buying size 2 jeans. Actually a lot of girls on my cross-country team ended up with eating disorders (myself included), and that makes me really, really sad. We were all so strong and worked so hard, but we were so unhappy. Then I got to college and gained a ton of weight. I have so much work to do mentally to get toward accepting my body (and treating it better), but I’m trying.

  • sum

    I’ve always had relatively thin legs and little to no curves but never thought much of it. I envied my friends’ more beautiful faces with their big eyes and nice bone structures. Not that long ago I discovered that one of those beauties has always been very self-conscious about her body, especially her slightly larger thighs and booty. It’s definitely just her genetic body type that she can’t do much about. And it pains me to see that she focuses so much of her (negative) energy on it when I just think she is beautiful.
    Reminds me to fight back negative thoughts about my own appearance too.

  • Delta Badhand

    I am 55 yrs old and still cannot come to terms with this body that’s stuck to my head. I detest it more than I can say. I find it repulsive and extremely unattractive. i cannot see it as beautiful. I do not want it to be mine.

  • claire

    needed this! as i enter my second year in my 30’s, my body is changing and its been difficult to adjust. but as i shop for swim suits, i’m learning to embrace my new curves and shop accordingly. having body goal models like ashley graham help tremendously, too!

  • Caroline

    I had an eerily similar thigh discovery on a school bus! I was 12, my best friend had thighs half the “spread” of mine, and I never forgot it. Still working on saying nice things to my legs and how good they are lookin and workin today.

  • moonwalkinglady

    I loved this article. I also had a few formative experiences with friends that made me self-conscious about certain parts of my body — despite the fact that I have always been thin, and was never really bullied. I’m finally learning to not compare my body to other bodies, but it’s a long, slow journey.

  • tiabarbara

    this resonates with me so clearly… I was always crash dieting (though my mother denies she ever tried to put me on diets (“it’s was about eating healthier!”)) and through all of that, my belly still goes round when I sit and my thighs are still massive. It wasn’t until the last 12 months that I really started to just shut up with the negativity and embrace the body that I was given. And why would I ever want it to change? The fact that parts of it jiggle when I shake are hilarious and so definitively me!

  • Julia Park

    Thank you so much for writing this. (Also, as a fellow large-thighed human, I really enjoy this illustration to help me think of my thighs as bad-ass and powerful – you may have to click and zoom in on it!)

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/42c9ace29e125f2714e516b0ff945a2771f90abef3936eb72f7dbba05d275b90.jpg

  • JO

    <3

  • lyndsaymcgregor

    This was a great read and really resonated with me. I danced competitively until college and have the calves to prove it – and I’ve always been hung up on them. Added to that, I’m like two different people from the waist up (tiny) and the waist down (not so tiny – my grandmother called my hips “child-bearing” when I was 16). It’s taken me years to come to terms with the fact that you can’t spot reduce and I’m slowly making friends with my strong legs and learning to love the shape from my small waist and wide hips.

    • Lil

      I dream of having your figure! <3

      • lyndsaymcgregor

        That’s such a nice thing to say! ^.^

    • Jessica Downing

      I also got the ‘birthing hips’ comments growing up and hated it because my sister was super tiny and I wasn’t, but now I know I’ll be grateful when it actually comes to having kids! haha 🙂

  • Cynthia Schoonover

    In my twenties, I gave up on being skinny, because I am built like my mom and my maternal grandmother. I was a teenager in the era of Twiggy, which didn’t help either, and everyone I knew was thin. I’m happier being me.

  • Erika Galan

    I love this essay. Somehow it’s something I needed to read despite the fact that I am 28 and should be much more accepting of my own “wide thighs.” Beautifully written and inspiring. Somehow different than all of the other “Love your body!!!!!! NOW!” articles out there. xx

  • Lil

    I have broad shoulders, a flat chest, and super thin legs. No waist at all.

    Reading this article was eye opening. I’ve always been envious of women with thick thighs. I’ve always thought that to have a larger bottom half was so feminine and classic, like Renaissance art.

    I don’t like my body any more than I did before reading this article. But I definitely feel the need to be more careful when self-assesing myself out loud because I realize by not publicly loving myself, I might be influencing others to do the same.

    • Adrianna

      “I’ve always been envious of women with thick thighs. I’ve always thought that to have a larger bottom half was so feminine and classic, like Renaissance art.”

      I think part of the reason I always fixated on my larger thighs, butt, (and bust) was that I was thrusted into ‘womanhood’ before I was ready. My body was simultaneously sexualized and shamed before I even started menstruating. I would also identify my gender as androgynous, so it was frustrating that I looked the opposite.

    • Bananadrama

      Isn’t it funny how the grass is always greener? I like flat chests and wish I had a “ballerina chest,” and my friend recently had a breast augmentation because she “always felt too flat.” I thought she looked great! (More power to her, I mean, I’m happy that she’s happy now, of course.)

      I have a print of Botticelli’s Venus up and I look like that. I’m pretty okay with my hips and thighs now.

  • catiekat

    This brought tears to my eyes. The women in my family all have thick legs, no matter what we do. It’s balanced out by small waists, but it makes pants shopping a nightmare. I’ve always been so self conscious about my knees and calves especially. Once, I wrote a short paragraph for a magazine contest on how I’d grown to love my strong, curvy legs. I won, but they changed my words to “long and slender” and cropped my legs out of the picture. It still makes me furious to this day. It was supposed to be an empowering article about women’s self-confidence, but just reverted to cookie cutter beauty standards. Anyway, thank you for writing this. Knowing that we’re not alone in the self acceptance process is both empowering and comforting.

  • Trishita

    What a great article! This needs to be read over & over again. Thank you for this.

    Honestly, I am so over this discussion of body size and weight as acceptable social communication (really is a big part over here in India – acquaintances often ask, “You’ve put on some weight, haven’t you?” as if that’s so fascinating).

    I am tired of watching healthy, successful, go-getter women berate themselves over and over again for not fitting in standard sizes – colleagues inhaling coffee like there’s no tomorrow, skipping meals, killing themselves for craving pizza.

    We need more self-acceptance – I definitely needed it when my family told me to lose weight while desperately trying to lose weight themselves.Now, my family can’t wrap their heads around the fact that I absolutely love my curvy body outside of positive feedback from anybody else.

  • anonymouse

    What a fantastic essay, thank you for that. It’s so freeing to finally be able to see your body as a vessel for your soul instead of something to lean against a wall or drape across furniture.