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How Taking Nudes Helped Me Learn to Love My Body

by Eshal Rose 29 days ago in advice

After a lifetime of struggle, it was time to accept the tummy rolls

How Taking Nudes Helped Me Learn to Love My Body
Photo by Oleg Ivanov on Unsplash

If you have visited The National Gallery in London (or any other art museum), you may have seen walls furnished with exquisite paintings of naked people. For some reason, the artists of the 17th and 18th centuries drew inspiration from buck-naked human bodies.

The paintings themselves are breath-taking works of art. What makes it even more interesting is the true-to-life portrayal of the human body. Yes, the women do not have washboard abs and a thigh gap. It is historical evidence proving that beauty meant tummy rolls and flabby arms at one point.

No one told me being skinny came with its own problems.

For a 5'2 woman, I have been both obese and skinny. As a teenager, I was obese. I didn’t care what my body looked like back then. I was happy and comfortable in my world of French fries, chocolates, and junk food.

With college came a change of country, diet, and physical activity. I started losing weight swiftly over the first year.

The stress of living in a new place combined with a ton of physical movement and poor eating habits led to unhealthy weight loss. Sometime later, I became anemic.

At my skinniest, I was 49 kg.

Becoming skinny opened up a whole new world of fashion choices I had shied away from earlier. All of a sudden, I was hot.

With my newfound popularity came the obsession with remaining skinny. I found myself, nit-picking over the slightest flaws- my boobs were too small and uneven, my stretch marks too prominent, my thighs too huge, my hips too wide.

I wasn’t the only one noticing them either. Friends would make fun of me for being flat-chested. Someone once spotted my stretch marks and told me I was too young to have them. A guy once said I have thunder thighs.

All the male attention I received didn’t change the fact that I didn’t feel hot.

The following years were a struggle to find a balance between my love for junk food and wanting to fit into my favorite dresses. Through it all, I never considered my body beautiful.

As I developed an interest in photography, I came across a particular area called boudoir photography.

The stunning images of semi-naked women immediately grabbed my attention. The lighting, the poses, the lingerie- everything about them looked sensual and alluring.

As I pored over hundreds of gorgeous images, I wondered how they could be comfortable enough to get naked in front of a stranger.

I looked through works of famous boudoir photographers and read hundreds of testimonies from clients. For some, it made them feel sexy, and for others, it felt liberating. The experience revealed their body in a new light. They all said the same thing — they felt empowered doing it.

I tried painting myself like one of those French girls.

Phone in hand, I locked myself in my room. A strange sensation settled within my body. I felt excitement mixed with a sense of recklessness. It felt like I was doing something I shouldn’t be.

Getting naked, I looked at myself in the mirror. My inner voice immediately pointed out all my flaws. There was no way I would look anywhere as graceful as the images I had seen. What I was looking at wasn’t a beautiful body. At least, to me.

The cellulite on my thighs taunted me as I stood there, while my mind told me this was a stupid idea.

Deciding to take a few anyway, I found a spot with good natural light and started clicking.

One. Five. Ten.

I took some time to find the right angles and experiment with poses and lighting. Not knowing what I was doing or how the images turned out, I clicked away till my arms hurt. Switching to self-timer mode, I continued my project, my confidence shooting up with each snap.

Awkwardness and shame left my body and mind soon. In the middle of all this, I realized that I was enjoying myself. I was even starting to feel daring and sexy. I was doing something I had never done before. And I was enjoying it.

By the time I stopped, I felt exhausted and hungry. An hour had passed. Getting dressed, I sat down on my bed to see the results. I wasn’t expecting much.

I swiped through my gallery, inspecting every single picture. Most of them came out blurred or not at the right angles. But going through them, I realized that many looked great.

Some even looked beautiful.

I stared at the screen, looking at myself in a way I had never before.

The body I saw had smooth skin and ample curves. It had prominent collar bones and a narrow waist. The full hips and thighs accentuated a curvy soft body. Even my too tiny boobs looked good.

The cellulite and stretch marks were still there. So were the arm flab and the rounded lower belly that I struggled to get rid of. This body looked different from the one I saw in the mirror earlier.

It felt different.

The woman in the photo seemed confident and sexy. Almost as if she knew she was beautiful and didn’t need anyone to tell her.

Except me.

It was something I needed to hear from myself more than anyone else.

I was looking at my naked image, and I felt beautiful. The body in the mirror was mine. And so was the one glaring back at me with a quiet strength and defiance in her eyes.

Looking at myself, I thought back to the time I had admired the painting of a naked woman at The National Gallery in London. I had appreciated that painting even though the woman didn’t fit into today’s beauty standards.

And yet, that appreciation never extended to my own body.

Not a single one of those paintings showed a perfect model-like figure. They were real and imperfect, and that made them beautiful.

The definition of the ideal body has undergone radical reform over the years. As women, we struggle to live up to these standards every single day. We know the faces on magazine covers and the bodies on the runway are not real (mostly). Yet, we chase that image forgetting that real bodies come with all sorts of characteristics.

It took an hour-long naked photoshoot and about 24 years to love all of mine.

The only way to be comfortable in your own skin, is to accept it fully. What you consider flaws, tell a story about you. My stretch marks remind me of the time I neglected my health. It also reminds me of how I lost weight and gained confidence in the way I look and dress.

I still do not have abs or a thigh gap (I probably never will). Stretch marks adorn my hips and butt as well. I obsess over being healthy rather than skinny. Being sexy has changed from the clothes I wear to a feeling inside. Even after years of exercise, lower belly fat remains a part of me (French fries are still my top favorite food item).

But this body is beautiful — stretch marks, cellulite, hip dips, and all. And so is yours.


Eshal Rose

Writer of thoughts.

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