You’ve undoubtedly seen before-and-after pictures on Instagram before. Typically, these pairs of photos depict a fitness transformation or weight loss goal that’s been hit, and are often intended to be inspirational and empowering. Rarer is the celebration of weight gain — likely because we’re taught to seek and revere weight loss.
British model Charli Howard knows, however, that being thin doesn’t automatically mean being happy. The body-positive icon recently took to Instagram to share two photos with her 51,000-plus followers. The first is an older image; the other is new, taken on a vacation in Texas. As Howard explained, while she is visibly thinner in the “before” photo, it is actually the “after” pic that she’s proud of.
She writes, “In the words of Nicki Minaj, I was ‘feelin’ myself’ in the photo on the right, despite being in Texas and having eaten more food than is humanly necessary…It’s taken me a longggg time, but I like how my shape is developing. I like how womanly I’m starting to look… I don’t want to look like that miserable girl on the left, whose gums were always bleeding, hair was falling out, periods didn’t come, etc.”
Howard admitted that while she’s proud of how she looks (and feels) these days, she still has difficulties accepting her body, particularly when being attacked by online trolls. In one instance, Howard recalls, she broke down at the Austin Airport after reading incredibly cruel and hurtful comments about her body online. Almost immediately, all old insecurities and fears came flooding back. But after receiving a hug from a total stranger who had seen her crying, Howard remembered all that she had learned.ADVERTISEMENT
“I suddenly realized that my worth isn’t representative of some mean trolls on the internet,” she writes. “It’s taken me years, but I LIKE MY BODY AND SHAPE. I’m finally healthy. My body isn’t validated by anyone else’s views of me.”
She ended her post urging her followers to be kind to others — because unlike the “sticks and stones” rhyme we were taught as kids, words can hurt.
Howard, who has spoken out about the fashion industry’s obsession with thinness since getting fired from her agency for being “too large” (she was a size two), frequently uses her Instagram as a platform to start honest, important discussions about body-positivity, self-esteem, and bullying.
She explains, “It’s important that people know how damaging their words can be. We live in a society where people think they’re entitled to criticize anyone they want, and in particular, young women. It’s like they’ll allow you to be curvy, but only slightly, and never, ever fat… My body isn’t perfect, but I want to represent the women who don’t see their bodies shown in fashion or in the media.”
Howard also co-founded the All Woman Project, an empowering organization that aims to celebrate the beauty of women’s bodies in all of their different sizes and shapes. After years of struggling to accept her own figure in an industry known for its obsession with strict standards, Howard is finally happy — and she’s helping others to recognize their worth, too.