I have been following Brittany Gibbons for several years and I am so incredibly proud of the work she has done for women. When I decided to post my weight on the Internet a few weeks ago, I braced myself and took comfort in the fact that Brittany has stood in Times Square in a plus-sized bathing suit and lived to tell the tale.
I want to follow in her foot steps. I want to use my platform to show the world what real women look like and to stop lying on my driver's license.
I thought there would be a lot of fat-shaming when I announced that I weigh 180 pounds (almost 50 pounds more than I weighed when I got married seven years ago!) and that, while I do want to make small changes and be as healthy as possible, I don't want to lose all of my curves and I really don't give a flying fig about the BMI chart.
What I got instead was an outpouring of love.
Comments from women brave enough to share their weight also, and often, it was over the 150 mark as well. Facebook messages and emails saying that other women were also taking small steps toward getting healthy.
We're doing Denise Austin YouTube videos together. Walking a mile in solidarity, wearing old maternity pants with toddlers pulling on the legs.
Those comments that I thought I would receive when I publicly announced that 180 pounds on my 5'3" frame puts me in the "obese" category on the doctor's carts, they never came.
No one from high school said anything mean.
No one from college pointed and laughed.
My childhood BFF still wanted me to be in her wedding.
And I realized something: Everybody grew up.
Everybody but the voice in my head.
The one that sees my body in the mirror and sneers, "Are you really wearing that? Do you not realize you have back fat?"
"Don't even bother trying on those boots. You know they would never zip over your calves."
"Do not take a second helping of food in front of these people. Ever."
"You are by far going to be the dumpiest looking bridesmaid. There is no way you can pull of a strapless dress."
I might be 30 years old, but that voice is still 15.
And I need to shut her up.
No one is looking at my underarm jiggle when I attend a wedding as a guest.
My husband's fraternity brothers are not huddled in a bathroom stall at a reunion giggling about how much weight I have gained as they pass around a flask.
My sister is not writing in a secret diary thanking the heavens that she was blessed with the genes from the skinny side of the family and posting a picture of me in a bathing suit on her refrigerator as motivation to never "let herself go" after she has kids.
Those things only happen in my head, as far as I know.
And, really, if they are happening in real life, do I care?
Do you know who's really looking?
Those two little girls who call me "Mommy." The little boy who needs to know what women actually look like so that he has realistic expectations. The man in my bed who has never complained that my breasts are three times larger now than they were when he married me.
My body image has nothing to do with anyone else. Just me. And them.
I want them to see a mom who fits in exercise wherever she can, even if it is through an XBox Connect game in the living room, jumping over stuffed animals.
I want them to see a role model who eats healthy food, but I don't want them to get the impression that to be a grown-up woman means saying "no, thank you" to every birthday cake and pretending to love lettuce while everyone else eats steak and potatoes.
I never want my children to hear their mother say that she is unhappy with her post-baby body and that, by implication, it is their fault that mommy thinks she is ugly.
I want them to see their mother dance with their father.
Even if doing so means that chubby arms and large breasts are spilling out of yet another strapless bridesmaid dress this spring.
And they will be.
Follow Stephanie Giese on Twitter: www.twitter.com/binkiesandbrief