08/25/2014 06:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

I Wore a Bikini and the World Didn't Crumble

Rachel O'h-Uiginn Estapa

Remember the show on MTV, Made? It took ordinary young adults with big dreams, usually dreams that were the total opposite of their current life, and helped them achieve it. Like the drama girl who dreamed of making cheer squad. The shy boy who wanted to build up courage to ask his long-time crush to the prom. Or the girly-girly who thought it would be awesome to learn how to snowboard.

Through coaches and experts training the young adults, Made usually made good on the promise to help them reach their goals while learning valuable personal lessons along the way. I liked the show and thought it was full of feel-goodery (for the most part).

And I totally wanted to be on Made myself. What would be my goal? To wear a bikini in public.

I spent a good portion of my life wondering what the hell I was doing wrong when it came to weight loss. In grade school, I was consistently a great student, captain of the JV soccer team, and was solo-singing constantly in church and in school plays. In college, I got all A's with a full-time job, an internship at a prestigious political figures office, and still had enough energy to be with friends whilst writing a massively complex senior thesis. I excelled in nearly everything in my life... except in how to lose weight.

All those achievements were dimmed by my biggest failure of all: I was the chubby, albeit smart and funny, girl. And I hated it. I wanted nothing more than to wear whatever I wanted without fear of relentlessly thinking, Do I look TERRIBLE in this? I wanted to feel pretty and thought my body type wouldn't allow for it.

See, I've been there, done that with weight loss. I lost 55 pounds once, only to still feel unhappy in my skin. To me, it was easier to write a 75-page thesis on nuclear weapons policy than it was to keep weight off my body, even with fervent diet and exercise. "What's wrong with me?!" I'd wonder over and over, for years upon years. Believing this will drive you mad.

So, when people assume fat people are lazy for not figuring it out, I wish I could prove just how much MORE energy I spent on trying to become smaller, more than I did on all of my other activities combined. And only a fat person knows what I'm talking about.

It wasn't until a diagnosis of a hormonal disorder called poly-cystic ovarian syndrome helped make sense of the puzzle more, as both weight gain and difficulty losing weight is a key factor to the condition. But that was only part of it -- I had to learn what my self-worth was independent of my body size.

People ask me all the time: what was my breaking point? How did I learn to love my body and not just stop there, carve out a whole community of women through More To Love who also want to feel better about themselves? And I reply with it wasn't one moment, but a series of moments that all lead up to a defining question: Could I learn to love myself even if I never lost a single pound ever again?

Eventually, through adopting body acceptance, I whittled down all the myths I built up around what my body type meant, what it was capable of doing, and most of all, why I was hiding my body (and true self) from the world. I never liked fashion, mainly because shopping was torture, but when I decided to adorn the body I had today with clothing that fit it properly, it became fun. When I stopped assuming guys don't like chubby girls, I dated more and met my now-husband. And when I stopped working out with the goal of weight loss, I actually went to the gym far more regularly, felt fitter and most of all, grew in strength and flexibility.

But in all honesty, ladies and gentleman, my body type is chubby. Nothing magical or profound about it -- nor horrendous or evil, either. And that's where the acceptance really rang true. Now, I give a shrug, a smile and go happily on my way, because this ol' gal is built this way and I treat her right. Why apologize for it?

I have essentially done my own version of Made, becoming someone who's achieved peace with herself and stopped thinking the good life was at the end of the weightless rainbow. And I pour those lessons in my More To Love Class to help other women learn how to love their bodies and selves too. The shape of your body isn't necessarily the only indicator of how happy and healthy you really are. I live and teach that when you love your body, you'll take much better care of the whole of you, and over time, sustainable wellness is achieved.

However, one goal eluded me... the bikini. Oh, the BIKINI! Did I really have the gall to wear one? To think I was allowed to wear one? Where would I even get one? What will people THINK!?! Blah blah blah.

But this is the beauty of the body acceptance movement: it's a community built upon on the average person choosing to love, accept and share their body image story, and in turn, inspire others to do the same. A great example is the popularity of the fatkini, as it's called, which has made a huge splash lately. The Internet and major news outlets shared photos of heavier women wearing two-pieces without a care in the world. Some people freaked out, but most people thought it was awesome and inspiring.

I don't think the fatkini is really about fashion... it's a statement that you're allowed to feel beautiful at your size. And that message makes people feel good.

So, earlier this summer I bought my own bikini and snapped a few photos, posted to my Instagram and earlier this month, participated in the #fatkini tag.


And then the moment of truth came: I was ready to publicly be seen with a bikini at a popular beach. I took a deep breath and removed my clothing. Pause pause... the world didn't stop turning. I did it! "This? I was so worked up about THIS!?"

So, like every other single beach-goer there, I relaxed lying out in the sand, snapped a few photos and felt a big smile on my sun-warmed face along with other body parts which had never felt the sun like this before.


Maybe I should let MTV know about it... or maybe I'll just keep smiling in the sand, looking adorable and breathing in the salt air with a breath of satisfaction for believing I'm worthy of feeling and being beautiful. Finally.

For more information, visit More To Love.