Love Your Body

How gaining weight helped this plus-size model find happiness

Plus-size model Alyssa Alexander is a charismatic, natural beauty who exudes confidence on the catwalk, in front of the camera and in real life.

But what you might not know from looking at her is that she wasnโ€™t always so accepting or loving of her own body.

No, this isnt what you think it is. This is not a weight loss transformation picture, but a transformation to happiness picture. . . While some people may prefer the girl on the left, I do not. I am not that girl on the left anymore. That girl was miserable with herself. That girl who was conditioned to think she was fat and couldnt wear that bathing suit in public. That girl that constantly restricted herself, who counted every calorie and ran 5 miles a day and spent hours upon hours in the gym because she was scared her boyfriend wouldn't love her if she gained a pound. The girl that was so insecure with herself and had a horrible relationship with herself and with food. That girl had constant anxiety about trying to be this perfect person for others. That girl that punished herself for eating certain things or missing a day at the gym. . . The girl on the right is much more happier and confident in herself. She works out and eats healthy because she loves her body and what it does for her, not because she hates it or wants to change it for others. She has balance. . . I listen to my body now and give it what it needs to be healthy and happy. Not what I think others or society deems acceptable or beautiful. . . Everyone thinks that once you lose "x" amount of weight you will be happy, when the truth is, for some of us, that transformation to happiness is just the opposite. Everytime that girl on the left would lose weight or hit that "goal weight" her happiness wouldnt change. She was still miserable and unhappy with herself. There may be "more" of me now, but there is also more happiness in me than that girl on the left. . . So go ahead and eat all the foods tomorrow and be happy ๐Ÿค— #thankful . FYI- the tattoo on the left was henna on Spring Break . #instagood #photooftheday #plusmodel #OwnYourCurves #curvygirl #girlswithcurves #celebratemysize #bodypositive #bodyconfidence #loveyourbody #healthyatanysize #ThisBody #thesecurves #happiness #beautybeyondsize #Bodypositivity #curves #happy

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On Nov. 23, she posted before-and-after photos of herself on Instagram. โ€œThis is not a weight loss transformation picture, but a transformation to happiness picture,โ€ she wrote in the caption.

The 29-year-old admits she spent the majority of her life fixating on her figure.

โ€œThe goal of the girl on the left was solely to lose weight. She compulsively counted calories โ€” eating close to nothing at times โ€” and spent hours upon hours in the gym trying to get the body she thought would make her happy and others more accepting of her. But even at her smallest, she was still disappointed with herself and obsessed with being thinner, and her mental health suffered,โ€ she told TODAY Style.

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Women strip down to swimsuits to embrace their beauty

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Women strip down to swimsuits to embrace their beauty

Play Video - 5:31

So what changed from then to now?

โ€œI realized that by hating my body and torturing myself to lose weight to satisfy other people, I was letting others and their opinions control my health and happiness, so I decided to do something about it. I dropped the negative influences in my life and realized that I am great and deserve love no matter my size.โ€

She also credits seeing more curvy women in fashion industry and the media to helping open her eyes. โ€œThatโ€™s where a lot of their influences come from. Iโ€™m so glad that they are are starting to show a variety of body types, so little girls don't have to grow up thinking they aren't good enough or need to look a certain way.โ€

These days, Alexander focuses on how she feels and how her clothes fit, versus the numbers on the scale. And says she was inspired to post her transformation to help others.

โ€œSo many women, and even men, let a number โ€” either on the scale or clothing size โ€” define their worth or happiness. I was victim to it just a few years ago. I felt I needed to tell my story to help others who are struggling with body image could relate, draw strength and know theyโ€™re not alone.โ€

As to how she deals with haters or those who criticize her message: โ€œI just try not to let it get to me and move on with my day.โ€

Wise words from a woman who truly embodies what it means to be beautiful inside and out.