Name: Reshanda Billy
Age: 34
City: New Orleans
Occupation: Life Coach

Please describe how YOU see your body in general, when you look in the mirror. 

I love my eyes, head shape, butt, and legs.  These are the body parts that I see as attractive and what I like to accentuate to draw others attention to when possible.

I least love my neck and stomach because both have fat that make me feel unattractive.  

On a “good” day, I accept my body with the future goal of change in the back of my mind. On a bad day I can only see myself as fat and slovenly.

What do you consider beauty to mean? What is beautiful to you?

I have an intellectual concept vs. a reality.  Intellectually, I would roll out the trite saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  However, when I see someone with striking looks, it is really that person who I clearly “value” as being beautiful.  

What does a healthy body image mean to you and what are your body image goals?

I want my body image to be based in the knowledge that I do everything I can to be my best physical self rather than what I want to change about it.  

I need to begin focussing on my inner self-talk from sentences like "Nothin' looks good on me” to phrases like, “I’m doing my best to get to a point of real health and fitness.”  

Lizzie Velasquez is a woman who I aspire to be like in the sense that she accepts herself even though other people are sometimes cruel to her about the way she appears.  When I see her in public appearances, she smiles just as big and walks just as confidently as any woman who is publicly recognized as "beautiful."  Its clear that she finds herself beautiful and this is the quality I want for myself...and for that to be more important to me than the way others see me.  

Can you talk about a time in your life where you felt body confident? When you didn’t? What shaped your feelings?

A couple of years ago I was in a cabin with several other women.  They began to comment on how strong I looked.  I felt extremely confident at that time.  A time that I didn’t was definitely middle school where a girl kept calling me “big butt.”  That incident stuck with me and for a long time I felt shame about it although I realized the shame wasn’t about how I felt I looked but about the fact that I didn’t stick up for myself.  

Have you had issues or challenges with clothing in regard to body image?

At a certain weight/size, I don’t feel I can look attractive in any clothes anymore. It's when I am larger than a 1X.  I usually just give up and sometimes leave the house not even looking professional because I feel that there’s nothing I can do to improve things.  

Does your body image affect how you eat?

Yes and no.  I have been a stress eater in the past and gained a lot of weight.  Since life changes have led to much less stress and more stability of emotions, I have been able to make better choices that are catalyzed by my dissatisfaction with my body.  The way I eat is healthy though.

When do you feel best? 

I feel best after receiving a sincere compliment.

How has your body image changed over time? 

It has declined. *Reshanda has since added the following since this statement from her original submission (and I LOVE it!):

When I wrote my initial responses, I apparently expressed a decline in my feelings around body image.  I would say that overall, my feelings have been much more positive.  I have moments like I described tonight where I have the desire to be fawned over and told I'm beautiful by my husband (see question below)...but more and more I'm becoming aware of how much marketing and consumeristic messages play a role in how I think my relationship with my husband should be and how I think I should look.  So my critical awareness has already made a huge impact in my body image, in that I understand that there isn't one way that women should look.  

Who do you feel influences your body image most?

Family and partner.

I know that my body type isn't what my husband has historically been attracted to...that he was ultimately attracted to me for who I am as a person and not for my body.  This is truly what so many women claim to want from a mate, yet I find myself so deflated whenever he makes a comment that brings the fact that he doesn't find me beautiful to the forefront.  I know he doesn't think I'm ugly....not even unattractive.  But the fact that he names other women as beautiful and has never referred to me that way hurts. Yet, intellectually I realize how wonderful it is that despite not being a "beauty" by societies standards, he fully embraces and accepts me as I am. He absolutely has never shamed me or made me feel bad even when I reached my peak weight during a stressful time in my life. I feel that the problem lies in me. I wonder if I'll ever reach a point of feeling beautiful or accepting myself in such a way that I truly feel I am enough even though I don't have "model" good looks.

What pressure around body image do you feel?

There is pressure from media and family.

What are your thoughts on media/advertising/social media and how they affect body image?

The media plays a big role in body image for sure.  After reading Brene Brown’s work, I believe that critical awareness is how we gird ourselves against falling into the trap of perfectionism.  Ideally, "normal' would not be represented as a narrow, cookie-cutter image.  Variety and difference would be

How do you feel about altering appearance through cosmetic surgery and applications like Photoshop?

To each his own. Do it for the right reasons. I honestly haven't thought much about cosmetic surgery or photoshopping. My instincts are that there are a million ways that people adorn themselves and enhance their appearances on a daily basis...why single out those particular ways?    

Do you have any advice/tips/suggestions for other women who would like to improve their body image?