A Body Image Journey // Allison Zashin

 Allison is a 20 year old young woman who can finally say that she is happy in her own skin. She loves taking photographs and writing in her spare time. She enjoys spending time with family, going out to dinner or the movies, and just bonding with them. Her fashion sense has changed as she has matured over the years. Allie is very excited to share her story with you all. Allie says," Remember guys, you are beautiful as you are!"

 

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Alwaysm: Tell me about a time you had a negative thought about your body.

 Allison Zashin: “There was a period of about two and a half years ago when I was in high school where I was bullied by the people I thought were my friends. They would just say things about me, and eventually it convinced me that {what they were saying} was true. They would tell me no one would ever love me because I was too fat, and all this crap about my weight. And for a while I actually believed them, until about a year ago. So it was about four years that I felt that way.”

So what happened in order for you to overcome that?

 “It was the day that I looked at the scale and saw that I was 245 pounds. I decided that I didn’t want to be the stereotypical American, because now it’s the overweight white person that’s the stereotypical American. I didn’t want to be that anymore. I wanted to be my own person. I didn’t want to just fade away in the crowd and be another face. I wanted to be myself, so I made the decision that I wasn’t going to listen to what other people were saying and that I was going to listen to myself. That’s when I started losing weight, and that’s when I got happier with myself and who I am.”

So it was kind of a self-acceptance thing, then, that caused you to start that journey toward health.

“Yeah. For a while, people would just look at me weird because I was different than most people and they would kind of steer clear of me. Because usually, when you see an overweight person you want to stay away from them because they feel negatively and they’re more depressed. They don’t feel good about themselves, so they make other people around them feel bad. I actually didn’t have friends for most of high school because of that. When I made the decision that I didn’t want to be alone anymore, that’s when I started acting happier and that’s when I started getting my group of friends. People saw that I was happy, and so it attracted people around me. Once I accepted myself, then people around me started to as well.”

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Awesome. Tell me more about that journey towards a healthy lifestyle, where you now feel like you are healthier than you were.

“I made the decision that I wasn’t going to eat bread or sugar and I didn’t eat that for about a year. And once I stopped eating it, I didn’t crave it as much. In the beginning, my mom says I was 'very bitchy.' That’s all kind of a blur. I was shaky and weak because I wasn’t eating as much. I used to eat around three thousand calories a day. My mom was helping me, and she chopped it down to like, thirteen hundred a day. So that was a big chop in my day. That whole first month is a total blur. Once I made the choice, I asked my parents to help me with it. So we threw away all of the tempting foods. I didn’t eat bread or sugars so, desserts, for about a year. Then I started adding it back in. But I don’t really eat it anymore, because once you’re off something for so long, you don’t want to eat it anymore. Also, it kind of makes you sick a little bit. I went to the Pancake House on Valentine’s Day with my parents. I got pancakes, but I hadn’t had bread in about eight months at that point. I had to call in sick the next day for work because I was throwing up all night. The glutton made me sick. I eat much healthier now. There was one point after I finished the first year where I kind of went back to my old habits. Then I realized that I was doing that and I was gaining weight again, so I stopped. It was a really hard process, but it helped me figure out who I am. A lot of people think that you have to fix the outside appearance first and then you’ll feel better about yourself, but it’s actually the other way around. You have to fix the inside first, and then everything else falls into place. During the first year I still was depressed and lonely, and I wasn’t really me yet. That’s why I still went back to my old habits. But when I made the choice that I was going to fix the inside first  it was so much easier to get back onto that healthy lifestyle, working out a lot, walking, and eating healthy. I was kind of coming into myself, and not listening to other people when they put me down. I stopped letting it bother me, and after a while it never bothered me when they commented on it. It’s a nice place to be, but the journey of getting here was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Literally. I actually tore a leg muscle along the way. It was a very painful and sad process but now that I’m actually at this point, ultimately it’s worth it because I feel better about who I am. Everybody else’s negative comments don’t make me feel weak anymore, which is nice."

When you say “It starts with fixing the inside”, what does that look like? Besides the lifestyle changes, what decisions did you have to make?

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 “During highschool and my first year of college, I would always choose the wrong people to be around. The guys that I chose to date were always kind of the 'crazies', as my mom would say. I would always choose to date the bad guys and the ones who ultimately would do something to hurt me. Eventually, one of them did something that was horrible, which I prefer not to talk about. I kind of hit rock bottom. So I made the decision that he was not the type of person that I wanted to associate myself with. Once I made that decision, I stopped making those unhealthy choices. I used to make the decisions that would hurt me, rather than help me.  My heart had been broken so many times by people, that I really stopped trusting. Once I made the decision to not deal with those people anymore, then I was able to let myself trust people again. And I was able to heal my heart, and able to free myself from the feeling of thinking about being alone. I know there are a lot of people who have felt that way, I have actually talked to a few of them. What people need to realize is that you don’t have to fit a certain image to be accepted in society and to be loved by people. If you want to look a certain way, don’t do it for the people around you. Do it for yourself. It’s not going to work any other way. It will make you miserable. But once you are comfortable with yourself, you can make the decisions that will get you started in the way that you want to look. What I meant by ‘fixing the inside’ is that you need to be confident. You need to not have negative thoughts about yourself. You need to be strong. You kind of have to be ready for the pain and the injury and the heartbreak that you’re going to deal with along the way. But once you get to where you want to be, it’s going to be worth it. You’re going to look back on it and say, ‘Why did I ever get to that point in the first place? Why was I ever so alone, why was I so depressed?’ You’re not going to be able to come up with a reason because the excuses that you told yourself during that period aren’t going to make sense anymore. Like when I was choosing to date someone, I would only choose someone that would pay attention to me because I wanted the attention. I wanted people to talk to me. I needed someone else to accept me, rather than accepting myself. Once I realized that I don’t need someone else to care about me for me to be happy, then I was actually able to feel true happiness. What most people need to realize is that you don’t just need attention from people, you need the people around you who are going to treat you with the love and respect that you deserve. Be prepared for the pain that you’re going to deal with along the way.  I was not prepared for it, which is why I kind of hit the bumps in the road. Once I realized that the pain and the tears go hand in hand with becoming happy eventually, then I was able to truly get to there."

Awesome. With all that, I want ask you now. What do you really like about yourself?

"I don’t really dislike anything anymore because when I look at myself in the mirror I actually see myself. I don’t see the overweight person that a lot of people see. I don’t see the weak person that I used to be. I see someone who is confident in herself and someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to be happy. The only thing I dislike about myself is that I do have some physical scars, but I am working to get those removed because every time I look at them it reminds me of how miserable I used to be and I don’t want to reminded of that. That’s really the only thing I dislike. I like pretty much everything else because it’s me, and I can’t really change it."

So relating all this to fashion. When you get dressed everyday, what are you thinking about?

“When I get dressed in the morning I usually am thinking, ‘How am I feeling today? Am I in a good mood, or am I sad?’ If I’m in a good mood, then I’m probably going to wear the lighter colors, or the happier ones. If I’m sad, I will usually go towards black or gray. I do try and hide my stomach a little bit. I try not to wear tight clothes, but I’m not basing it off of what will everyone around me likes. I’m just saying, ‘I’m in a good mood, so this is what I’m going to wear today. The light pinks and the light grays.'"

Your journey is really inspiring. Is there any final thing you would say to women who are fighting to lose weight, but it really never happens and they are unhappy with that?

“I probably would say it’s hard in the beginning, and I gave up hundreds of times. I mean I’ve been overweight for over half of my life and once I made the decision that I was doing it for me and not everyone around me, that’s when it really worked. Unless you are doing it for yourself, it’s just going to come back. I would say don’t give up because if you give up, all you are doing is letting the negative thoughts win. And if you do that, then you are just going to be miserable. Keep trying and eventually you’ll find your happiness, and you’ll find where your supposed to be.”

*This interview was lightly edited for clarity and brevity