09/18/2012 04:03 pm ET Updated Nov 18, 2012

Do I Look Fat In This Body? How I Gave Up Body Hate

Do I look fat in this body?

That's the question I always wanted to ask. I knew it wasn't the dress or the pants or the angle of the camera. What I really wanted to know is "does this version of my body make me look fat?" If it does, will you judge me?

I swear if I have to read one more "half my size" article I'm going to hurl myself out the window! It's not that I think losing weight is bad. In fact, I think it's wonderful! The part of these articles I hate is the "my life sucked and now it's great" part. Dear [weight] loser, your life isn't better because you lost weight. Your life is better because you found the courage to make it better. Putting down Fritos might have been part of the process, but I know that's not the whole enchilada (pun intended).

I have been every size from 2 - 24. I have adopted vegan diets and I've binged out like a fiend. I have exercised responsibly and run until I passed out. You wanna know what made my life feel good? I mean, really, really good? Giving up body hate.

I was ruled by body hate for YEARS. I was terrified at size 2 and shame-filled in size 24. The size of my hips didn't change the size of my neurosis. I was most obsessed at my thinnest. How was I going to keep thin and where could I find "my food?" What if I got invited to a party!? Thin me had the biggest worries of all.

Ultimately, I abandoned the body hate treadmill because I recognized that it was killing me. I've never used crack (exactly) so I can't speak to that particular detox experience. I have, however, given up alcohol and man, did that process suck! Suddenly, Zima ads where everywhere! Sorry young people, I quit drinking in 1994, back when Zima was all the rage. Substitute Red Bull, or Mike's Hard or whatever boozy thing is popular right now. Everywhere I went, people were partying with Zima and I was missing the boat. That's how it felt detoxing from body hate. Oh look, there's a Cosmo cover promising that I can "lose 10 lbs in 10 minutes." How I longed to try those diets!

Fad by fad, I committed to body love and created my own way. I gave up the scale and surrounded myself with body-loving fellows. I talked about my feelings (thank god for therapists) and I committed to my new way forward. I educated myself about nutrition and refused to drive myself crazy. There's a time for ice cream and cake and there's a time for carrots. Both are awesome in moderation.

Today, I love my body. Not because it's skinny, I love it because it works. This belly has carried babies and these arms have rocked them to sleep. These breasts helped attract my beloved and they really fill out a dress. Even if they didn't, they're all mine and I'm more than happy to have them.

Relatives and infomercials are happy to remind me how "wrong" my body seems. "Maybe if your hips weren't so wide or maybe if you were a little taller..." Thank you, grandma, and how are you today? I know JHud lost it on Weight Watchers and Mariah's doing it with Jenny. They're not me. Me, I have this totally radical plan. I eat healthy, move every day and get a lot of rest. That's it. I wear clothes that honor where I'm at and I avoid the voices of shame.

I might never be on a "half my size" cover and that's ok with me. What I have is peace in my pants (and skirts and blouses). I am off the diet treadmill and I eat the food I like. Feeling badly about myself doesn't help me with my weight. It stressed me out and made me crave cookies. You wanna know what makes healthy eating easier? Not worrying about healthy eating. When I feel good, I eat well. When I eat well, my body takes care of itself.

Kathy Carter Woods is a featured columnist for Ricki Lake Magazine.