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Real Life

REAL LIFE: This is how I ditched the diet and learnt to love my body at every size

April, known on Instagram as The Bodzilla, is showing women that all bodies deserve love.

By Brittany Smith

April Hélène-Horton, 36, from Canberra, ACT, shares her inspiring story:

The sun shined on my skin as I placed my hands on my hips and smiled.
"Perfect," the photographer, Jez, called out. "You look great."
I laughed happily showing off every curve and bump on my beautiful body.
But my self-esteem hadn't always been so strong. Years earlier, the thought of frolicking on a crowded beach would've filled me with dread.
As a plus size woman, I'd been inundated with messages about weight all my life.
Me as a child.
Since I was nine years old, adults would give well-meaning comments that left me feeling embarrassed.
"You could be a model if you lost weight," I often heard.
It sounded like a compliment but it enforced an odd belief that I wasn't good enough as I was.
Growing into adulthood, my relationship with my body only got worse. At 30, I even had a sleeve gastrectomy which was successful. Years later, I slowly put some of the weight back on but I didn't see it as the negative thing I would've, earlier.
With my husband Mikey on our wedding day.
This time, I was sick of starving myself to fit someone else's idea of beauty. I'd thought that being thin was the only thing that could make me happy but I realised I could be happy without caring about my weight at all.
I started following women on Instagram who embraced their bodies and advocated for self-love at all sizes.
That's what I need to do, I realised. I need to love myself.
It was hard to ditch all the damaging and hurtful thoughts I had about myself. But I came up with a creative way to break the bad habits. Every time I had a negative thought, I imitated a buzzer on a game show.
"Beep," I said under my breath. "Wrong answer, we're not doing that."
It was oddly effective.
I made the decision to be happy.
After sharing my journey to self-acceptance on Instagram, I felt even better.
At 35, Curvy Swimwear approached me to model for their new line of cozzies.
"It's time we bring bodies back to the beach," they encouraged.
I loved their enthusiasm and when they told me their ideas for the campaign, I was thrilled.
I started sharing photos on Instagram as The Bodzilla.
"You're going to be the first plus sized woman in Australia to model swimwear on a billboard," they beamed.
My heart soared as excitement filled me. I felt honoured they'd chosen me to spread this worthy message of acceptance.
The photoshoot made me feel beautiful so I waited eagerly to see the final product.
A few weeks later I couldn't keep the smile off my face as I walked through Melbourne, towards Bourke Street Mall, where my billboard was about to be revealed.
I loved taking part in Curvy Swimwear's campaign. Pic Credit: Jez Smith
When I finally clasped eyes on the photo, I was overcome with emotions. Pride beamed through me as I stared at myself, completely speechless.
I looked beautiful but most importantly, happy.
Afterwards, I was inundated with messages of support.
Congratulations on being a role model for generations of women, one lady wrote. You're showing them they can be whatever they want to be.
I got teary hearing their kind words.
I'm proud I'm helping others to love their bodies, too.
All I'd ever wanted was to help teach women how to love themselves and that dream was coming true.
I'm still chuffed to be part of such a special campaign. In a country with as many glorious beaches as Australia, it's heartbreaking that so many women are too embarrassed of their curves to have fun in the water.
We're not worth less just because we weigh more. All bodies deserve fun in the sun.

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