Plus-size model Alyssa Alexander spent most of her life trying to lose weight. She constantly stressed about her appearance, calorie counting, stepping on and off the scale. She was trying to mirror what she thought society required for her to be called beautiful. But that was her then — she is different now.
In a recent post, the 29-year-old shared with her nearly 20,000 Instagram followers before-and-after transformation photos. However, it was not a weight-loss but a weight-gain transformation, and she couldn’t be happier.
The Kentucky native told Yahoo Lifestyle what inspired her to share the transformation photo. “I see many women daily struggling with their body image and themselves and their happiness in general,” she says. “I realize that while there may be more of me now, there is also more happiness that no amount of weight loss could make up for. I wanted to show that you can still be a healthy, happy person even if you are plus-size or may have a little extra fat or curves on you. It’s not something to be ashamed of or hide.”
In the “before” photo, Alexander says, while she was striving for physical health and fitness, her mental health was struggling: “The effect that eating disorders and body dysmorphia have on a person’s mental health can be just as bad as your physical health,” she says.
The model thought the only way she could achieve happiness was if she hit that goal weight or transformed her body into something that she thought her then-boyfriend wanted, or that society deemed beautiful and acceptable. “We’ve been conditioned to think that smaller is always better … in reality, it’s whatever makes you happier is better,” she says.
Alexander was able to let go of the negative drive toward “perfection” and began the journey to self-love. Her journey led her to become a plus-size model. She also works full-time at the Kentucky Horse Park, bartends at a painting studio, and frequently travels to Los Angeles and New York City for modeling.
She wants to clarify that despite her weight gain, she is healthy, works out regularly, has a balanced diet, and is in no way promoting obesity. “You can have fat and be happy and healthy. Fat does not automatically mean lazy, unhealthy, or, worst of all, a personal failure,” she says.
On what she wants others who are struggling with self-love to know, she says, “You shouldn’t have to live every day hating yourself or wanting to change yourself. I wasted so much precious time being unhappy with myself, trying to change my body.
“I see now the progress I have made in not only my body image but my overall happiness by not letting those numbers define my worth, [and] I want to help others find that peace within themselves as well.”
And by sharing her journey publicly, she is doing just that.