Relationships

Seeing My Body With Fresh Eyes

Seeing My Body With Fresh Eyes

For the next few months, we’ll be featuring a series of personal essays from contributing writers. Each person will share a true story about dating — from texting to sex to breakups. Kicking off this theme is Ashley Ford, whose feelings about her body changed when she started dating a guy 20 pounds lighter than she was…


For our first date, Kelly took me four-wheeling in a huge mud-filled obstacle course. Hours later, we were covered in mud and giggling. Then he kissed me. I hadn’t known how I felt about him, until his lips were on mine — but then, I knew. He felt familiar and safe. But he also weighed less than I did, and that was nerve-wracking.

When we got back to my house, we walked into my bedroom, laughing about something or other. He asked, “What’s that number on the wall?” I hesitated, then decided to tell the truth. “That’s how much I weigh.” I’d been keeping a record ever since the last guy I dated told me I’d gotten too fat for him to reasonably be attracted to. Kelly just nodded, and continued telling me a story about four-wheeling with his best friend. Then he kissed me again, and said, “How soon until I can take you on a second date?”

Kel never brought up the number written on the wall, even when the numbers changed. I thought he was being polite, but when I asked he shrugged.

“I don’t notice it. Even if the numbers have changed, you feel the same. I like the way you feel.”

That night, I stood in front of my mirror and attempted to just feel my body, without judgement. I liked how I felt, too. Still, I was convinced the sensation of liking my body would leave when he did. We’d both insisted our relationship shouldn’t be too serious. I was fresh off an obviously bad break up, and he would soon be leaving for an out-of-state internship. College was coming to an end for both of us. We had time to have fun, but not to build something long-term. Or so we thought.

We remained friends, even when he returned from his internship and immediately moved to Seattle. We spoke on the phone often. I’d moved to Indianapolis, gained more weight, and decided to take a break from romantic love. I was happy. But one year after he moved away, Kelly showed up on my doorstop, a thousand miles from his own, and kissed me.

“Are you seeing anybody?”

I shook my head no. I’d like to say in that moment I was thinking how sweet or wild or romantic this all was. I wasn’t. I was wondering if he’d noticed how much weight I’d gained. I was back up to my highest weight, 190 lbs. I wondered if he’d gotten a good look at me before he kissed me. But there he was, still standing in the middle of my living room, eyes fixed on mine, waiting for me to say something. I asked him to come to my bedroom and talk.

He convinced me to give a relationship a shot. He’d still be living in Seattle, and I’d still be living in Indianapolis. We decided we’d visit each other, and if at the end of the year we were still happy, we would find a way to be in the same place.

We fell in love a thousand miles, and one time zone, apart. We read each other’s favorite books, sent each other care packages, and he texted me every morning to say he hoped I was having a great day. We talked about our fears and insecurities. For the first time ever, I told someone — whom I wanted to be attracted to my body — just how unattractive I actually felt. He said, “It’s not a body’s job to be perfect. It’s to keep you alive. I love your body for keeping my favorite person alive. Please, don’t hide it from me.”

Almost as soon as we’d agreed that I’d move to Seattle and freelance, I got offered a full-time writing position in New York. I took the job, moved to Brooklyn, and six months later, Kelly followed. Again, I worried what he’d think about my weight once he had to look at me every day. What if the long-distance part of our relationship was what allowed me to remain attractive to him? My worst insecurities about my body scurried to the front of my mind.

Then, he moved in.

Almost immediately, I realized how wrong I’d been. When I’d complain about having to shave, he’d ask, “Who are you shaving for? If it’s for you, just do it. If it’s for me, don’t. I want you to be comfortable in your body.” When I’d wear makeup he’d tell me how beautiful those colors looked on me. When I didn’t, he’d hold my cheeks in his hands and kiss my “fresh face.” He loved me in clothes I’d been told weren’t flattering for someone with a belly like mine. When I wore something tailored, he praised me for my style. When I got out of the shower, he’d stop to watch me cover myself in moisturizers from head to toe. He looked at me with adoration, encouraged me to present my body the way that felt right to me, and in doing so, helped me manage my twisted view of my body.

Of course, it’s not all roses. He can be aloof, and I can be messy. I’m an efficiency freak, and he could actually care less if something takes five minutes longer. We even got into a huge fight at the Happiest Place on Earth. But we find our way back to each other, and I never worry he’ll tell me how hard it is be with me because I’m fat and difficult.

Maya Angelou says, “Love liberates. It does not bind.” Before Kelly, “love” always looked like fixing myself the right way, so someone could bring themselves to love me. Being perfectly shaved, perfectly thin, and perfectly presentable. Now, I know real love makes room for you to love yourself the way you are, and the way you want to be. I feel more beautiful than I ever have, and I allow myself things I assumed were only allowed for women doing a better job at being pretty than I was. I allow myself to live fully. I present myself to the world in a way that feels right to me. Love got me here. Whether Kelly and I stay together forever (fingers crossed ’cause I really like him), is irrelevant. This is who I am now. Love liberated me. I’m never going back.

I like the way I feel.

Ashley C. Ford

Ashley Ford is a writer, editor and public speaker. She is currently writing a memoir, and works as a senior features writer at Refinery29. She lives in Brooklyn by way of Indiana.

P.S. A seven-step guide to heartbreak, and who initiates sex in your relationship?

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo. Portrait of Ashley Ford by Eric Ryan Anderson for The Great Discontent.)

  1. Kidest says...

    Beautifully written — Ashley’s prose have an intimate feel to them that I can achingly relate to.

  2. I love that line about the body’s job being to keep you alive, not keep you attractive. Kelly sounds like the right kind of guy to have around.

  3. Kat says...

    There should be a trigger warning: all the feels. As in I am now weeping openly in the middle of Amtrak’s Waiting lounge in Penn station. Because this was my last relationship. I was already overweight to begin with when we met – he was a special forces agent and could pick me up like a twig (that I def wasnt). But as he lost muscle and I gained weight I did end up weighing more than him. But he told me from day I that I was “perfectly constructed”: beautiful inside and out. And I believed him that he could feel like this, but I didnt believe that anyone else would. And when it ended, my greatest fear was, Was there anyone else in the world who would see me like he does? And thank you to this article that yes, there can be: myself. I might have gone “back there” mentally – but I can Remember. And recover. and for reminding me of what it felt like, even for a moment, to believe I was perfectly constructed.

  4. Kelly T says...

    This is absolutely beautiful. It brought me to tears. Thank you so much for sharing such beautiful words.

  5. Ally says...

    wow. this honestly sounds like a fairytale. this is so cool. i recently gained alottttttttttttttttttttttttttt. #recovering from anorexia. i am bigger than i ever was and a huge insecurity i have is that guys wont like me- as in attracted to me. but Ashley your story gives me a lot of hope. Thank you for sharing!!!

  6. Melissa says...

    Thank you for writing this. I love the body positive part of the story, but more I love that you have found the kind of partner that I wish for everyone. My husband makes me feel all of these things, too, and I want that for all of my searching friends. And I want all women to know that they deserve this kind of love and should not settle for less.

  7. Mindy Schaper says...

    Beautifully written, and I am so happy you found love. He sounds like a keeper!

  8. Sha says...

    I cried so much

  9. Alison says...

    What a beautiful essay. As someone who has struggled with body image and who is finally becoming comfortable in my own body and skin at 42 this really resonated. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Camille says...

    This is beautiful. Just a note that the social copy says she’s 15 lbs heavier but the essay intro says 20. (The difference may seem trivial, but not to a big girl like me who can so relate to this story!)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, camille! i just fixed that — basically, ashley says she’s 20 pounds heavier now, but was 15 pounds heavier when they first met, so that led to two numbers in the text. thank you!

    • Camille says...

      Thank YOU for clarifying–I was just being nosy for personal validation, mostly, haha! Excellent, excellent essay.

  11. This is beautiful

  12. Kat says...

    This is absolutely beautiful, thank you for sharing your story! As women we all at some point (or constantly) are our worst body critics, and this is a reminder to love ourselves and others for who we/ they are regardless of size. Our uniqueness is what builds our individuality. LOVE.

  13. Hannah Spring says...

    This is a beautiful, realistic, love story. And so perfectly written. Thank you for sharing. I’m particularly moved by the message of CHOOSING self-love here. Regardless of shape or size, accepting my physical appearance feels nearly impossible most days. On days when I feel particularly lacking in confidence, I want to hibernate and cover up. Even on days when I’m feeling relatively good about my appearance, I focus on the parts that I want to improve. With all the diets, exercises, plastic surgeries, makeups, clothing styles, etc etc out there, it’s tough to feel settled in our bodies, even when our partners do seem to see nothing but the good parts. So many of the women (and men!) I know struggle with this. Love liberated you, but you also chose to believe and accept that love instead of shying away from it. You inspired so many by sharing this. Thank you.

  14. Anon says...

    Does he have a cousin with the mindset similar to him? Is he single and does he like girls?

  15. kelly says...

    Thank you for sharing this story. I loved this. I am now 42 years old and have struggled with self image my entire life. I was never one of the naturally thin girls. Thirteen years of marriage and two kids later, I still struggle with being comfortable with my body. Thankfully, my husband still thinks I am sexy (he must need new glasses).

  16. Love

  17. This is beautiful, and you are beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing of yourself. You inspired me on my journey to have a better, more whole, and more loving relationship with myself.

  18. Kim says...

    This could not have come at a better time for me. Thank you!

  19. Abbey Warner says...

    Ashley, thank you so much for sharing this piece. I am pretty much the same size as my boyfriend and have thoughts like, does he notice? What if I gain more weight and he doesn’t, and then I end up much bigger? I know these aren’t “good” thoughts and honestly I’m not really sure where they come from, but I just feel like if I could give my body a break from my mind it could sort things out all on its own, haha. Reading your (and Kelly’s) story was so heartwarming and encouraging, and something I’m sure many of us needed to hear. Can’t wait for your memoir to come out!

  20. Anna says...

    i really needed this. thank you, truly.

  21. Mercy says...

    loved this…wish I had been able to read this 35 years ago <3

    • catherine says...

      This was perhaps by best birthday gift. I realise i’m writting a few days later, but this affected me on so many levels. I cried. Thank you for this article. WE NEED TO LOVE OURSELVES!!!!!!!!

  22. I’ve always been the kind of person that usually reads but never comments but this essay really hit the feels. As someone who is a bit on the ‘heavier’ side, it’s nice to read that there is still people that accepts you for who you are, no matter what your weight is. It’s heartwarming. I’m one of your younger readers (I’m 17.5!) and essays like this is really inspiring. Keep it up. Lots of love <3

  23. Britt says...

    Where can I find a guy like this?

    • Denise says...

      they ARE out there… it just takes patience to find one! i went through many frogs before finding my prince. we’ve been together over 23 years now.

  24. What a wonderful piece. As an aspiring writer I really admire your style. You had me hooked from the very start. The sheer honesty is so well-versed in prose here. I know exactly how you feel with a guy like yours. My partner is the same and I’ve never been more confident…I can finally focus on my other goals without feeling guilty :) best wishes for your relationship.

  25. Barbara says...

    AMEN!!! What a beautiful story of falling in love with your man and yourself, simultaneously! I have a similar pair of love stories. :)

  26. What a gem of a story. Go you!

  27. Linda Burke says...

    Great story — wishing you both the best!

  28. Maija says...

    This hit close to home. Being a 190 lbs means I pretty much always date guys who weigh the same as or less than me. And even though I’m definitely confident and most of the time don’t mind it there are times, especially when getting intimate, when I can’t help but think “I’m bigger than you and I’m ‘not supposed to’ be”. Or like last week, when I booked my summer vacation and my first thought was “yasss, beach parties!” and my second was “I can’t look LIKE THIS on the beach”. It’s a constant struggle.

  29. ohnomyboots says...

    Love Ford. She’s my Twitter crush.

  30. ALDWIN HUMPHREY says...

    OWTSTANDING!!!!!!!! (I’M A QUE AND I MEANT TO SPELL THAT WAY!!)

  31. Landi says...

    Thank you so much for this.

  32. Brooke says...

    This blessed my whole life. I’m happy for you and hopeful for me.
    Blessings in Abundance!

  33. This is so lovely. A beautiful love story–between Ashley and Kelly, and between Ashley and herself.

  34. Ashley says...

    First of, Ashley, you are a seriously talented writer. Secondly, thank you so much for sharing your struggle. I love the quote from Maya Angelou. I shall store it in my memory bank. I’ve struggled for 11 years to trust my husbands opinion of my body. He tells me that I’m beautiful in a hoodie and no make-up, and outwardly I say thank you, but inwardly I think –there’s no way I can look beautiful. I think it’s a daily mental battle for me to choose to live “liberated.” And not bound by my twisted perception of beauty. So, thanks again for this beautiful and well written essay.

  35. Wow… thank you for sharing this ❤

  36. vernon says...

    Great storytelling. Could be the beginning of a wonderful novel.

  37. Jordan says...

    This is sooooo beautiful. Thank you for sharing your beautiful partner, relationship, and self with us. I feel better in my body reading your (and Kelly’s) words.

  38. Aurrita says...

    This is beautiful!

  39. Chana says...

    I am married to a man like Kelly. No matter what I weigh or how fat I get he always tells me I’m perfect , sexy, beautiful. The problem lies within me and my body image. I wish I could get to where you are.

  40. Mirella says...

    Loved this so much – thank you.

  41. James says...

    This is something I wish, at the time, I was better at articulating to my ex. I didn’t have the words or, i guess, the maturity to give the same message as Kelly did. Good story, might help my find the words in the future

  42. Jessica says...

    This made me cry and and reminds me to appreciate my husband more than I do. We’ve been married more than 10 years and together for almost 17…and by this point I weigh 100 pounds more than he does. Obviously he would love to see me lose weight for health and happiness, but he has never once made me feel badly for being fat or at times slow to keep up with some activities. He’s always encouraging, and to my utter amazement still somehow finds me sexy and beautiful. I don’t understand it, and often brush him off when he says something about to that effect when complimenting me; it’s an insecurity I need to let go of and enjoy.

  43. Shay says...

    I’m going through the same thing now and it’s so hard not to think about your weight while in a great place In your life. I keep hearing happiness can make you gain weight lol idk how true that is but I’ve been in a great place for the past 2 years and I’ve gained 30lbs.

  44. Coco says...

    Beautiful written. Empowering and liberating words for all women. Blessings and gratitude Ashley. ooxoo

  45. Claire says...

    This brought me to tears. Thank you. I admitted to my boyfriend that I haven’t shaved in 2 years and that if I ever did shave again it would be for me and not for someone else. He understands that and knows how ridiculous it would be to ruin what we have for something like that. If you think about it, who the hell made the rule that women have to shave to be considered attractive? We’re mammals too. :)

  46. YOUR OUTFIT IS TOO ON POINT
    thanks for this

  47. Tamera says...

    Hang onto Kelly, they don’t make men like him anymore. (Or if they do, I haven’t found him)!

  48. Becca says...

    I am totally bawling reading this. You are a godsend. Thank you for writing this.

  49. The pacing of this writing was exquisite. So many lines felt like veil being removed.

  50. This is such a beautiful story. It’s so sad that we, as women, feel so self conscience about our bodies. I love how Kelly told her that her body kept his favorite person alive. That is so beautiful and wonderful.

  51. Claire says...

    Beautiful essay!

  52. Meredith says...

    This essay really moved me (tears!) and was beautifully written. I, too, have a partner whose love for me teaches me to love myself better, and more wholly. I aspire every day to love my husband as well as he loves me!

  53. Cassie says...

    this is beautiful. thank you. thank you for being honest and open with all of us and more importantly, yourself. i wanted to cry reading this, knowing how it feels to not love your body and not be sure if anyone else could either. thank you. i hope you continue to love and be loved this amazingly.

  54. I absolutely love this. Being so open and honest about one’s insecurities is never easy…thank you Ashley, for being so brave <3

    xx

    bombshell-to-be.blogspot.com

  55. Jin says...

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful journey.

  56. Cassie says...

    This is absolutely incredible. Thank you Ashley for writing this and COJ for sharing it! There needs to be more men championing for women’s love of themselves, just as they are. What a refreshing read. All the best to Ashley and Kelly! Fingers crossed for you!

  57. Alex says...

    Thank you so much for writing this. I kept thinking as I read this that it is the pressure we are putting on ourselves sometimes that is the hardest. The body is to keep us healthy and until we are sick, we often don’t realize what a luxury it is to have health. We under-appreciate the hard work of our bodies and just see the number on the scale too often.

  58. This is a beautiful essay. Unfortunately I don’t think most men are like Kelly :-( Maybe we also need to consider what we can do to ensure we raise the next generation of boys to have this sort of healthy respect for women’s body image.

    I’m so glad you have found peace in your skin Ashley. Never look back!

    http://www.thislifeisbelle.com

  59. Ashley says...

    I am thrilled for you Ashley :) thanks for sharing this—keep writing. All the best to you.

  60. Flora says...

    This essay was so beautifully written, the author is such a powerful storytelling with a feel good, honest message and outlook on life and love. Thanks for sharing!

  61. Chandra says...

    Thank you for this. Oh what time I’ve having atm. This made me tear up too. And I appreciate the Dr. Maya quote. She has so many beautiful life reminder she and fortifiers.

  62. Nancy says...

    I’m in tears. What a beautiful testimony of self love. Thank you.

  63. Ashley, This is a beautiful story and I am so grateful you shared. What a gift you had, in the experience of someone loving you into loving yourself! I’ve been on a journey too – with weight, body, and food for some time, and am just starting to heal. I’m so thrilled for you, that you are able to be at home in your skin.

    I hope we can both be emboldened as writers and as rebels in this very diet and body obsessed culture. I think you are fabulous – and hope we can both write more about these things!

    http://www.thewefiles.com

  64. Aja says...

    I love this piece thank you. I will be writing that maya angelou quote in a wedding card this weekend. As a fellow Indiana turned Brooklyn girl, I can relate. Lets all try to get more comfortable wth our bodies, one day at a time. Xox

  65. Hillary says...

    Thank you for writing this! It’s exactly what I needed.

  66. Rachel says...

    Thank you. This made me tear up a bit. So powerful.

  67. Alexandra says...

    Personal is political and therefore I appreciate so much that there is a place like this where women of all kinds share their stories of all kinds because it is so important and it is the only way to create the world we want to live in.

  68. Nicole Brant says...

    Best post ever! Immediately following Ashley.

  69. Oh i really love this <3

  70. Cazmina says...

    This is so lovely and just what I needed to read today. May we all learn to love our bodies, and may we all find a Kelly!

  71. I’ll just say I LOVED this. Thanks so much for sharing. :)

  72. Stacey says...

    I love, love, love this. So beautiful.

  73. Savala says...

    (PS – Thank you, Cup of Jo, for not posting stories about ways women can “fix” their bodies through dieting or hide their “flaws” or do all the self-and-soul-shrinking things the world so often tell us to do. In this regard your blog — this cultural spot you’ve created — is unique and progressive and downright revolutionary. It reflects the way the world should be! And I LOVE you for it!)

    • Alexandra says...

      Totally .

    • <3

  74. Savala says...

    I cannot say enough good things about these essay! Thank you so much COJ for sharing it with us. And thank you, Ashley, for telling this story! You wrote it with such unadorned honesty and its beautiful. I also think your story is more common than mainstream culture tells us! Women are so trained to cover up the ways our bodies don’t look like what is on TV and in magazines; but I bet if we were all liberated we’d know there are so many women who weigh more than their men. Also, as a fat woman married to a skinny guy, it was lovely to see some of my story validated and reflected back to me. And to see another woman who appears to be a diet-culture dropout. :) What a treat! I just can’t thank you (COJ and Ashley) enough!

    • Polly says...

      I am the same. It took my now husband for me to be confident in myself and allow myself to feel confident and lovely just the way I am. And I love walking around mostly undressed just to drive him crazy. I would have never done that before. There are good partners out there and it’s important to be strong to find the right ones.

  75. Alice says...

    Beautiful, honest, powerful – the writer and the essay. Thank you thank you for sharing xx

  76. Karen says...

    I can’t believe all the great things we get to read and talk about here. This gives me hope and a sense of sisterhood. I am deeply thankful for all the great people contributing to this blog- the writers and all the women who comment. After a horrible day I feel so much better after reading this- THANK YOU!

  77. Karen says...

    Thank you, Ashley! This made me cry tears of joy!

  78. Lori says...

    I love this both for the amazing message and for how beautifully it is written!

  79. This is such a wonderfully enlightening essay, thank you for sharing Ashley. If only we could all see ourselves the way our loved ones do, and we could all use someone like Kelly in ourselves to help boost us up.

  80. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Hugs.

  81. Twyla says...

    Something I once read really shifted my feelings about appearance and how it relates to love. The writer asked us to think about the people in our lives that we really, deeply love. What do they look like? Are they models? Thin? Perfect? I began to think of some of my dear friends in their 80’s, wrinkled, grey, and pudgy. My brother, who is insanely tall, hairy, with a funny underbite. I realized I don’t love them because of their looks. The way they look is actually a non-issue – I love them because of who they are, their beautiful hearts, their generosity and loyalty. My thinking shifted about my own looks and I realized the people who love me most feel that way for the same reasons. The fact that the sun-spot on my cheek is getting bigger or that my neck is getting saggy in my forties has nothing to do with it. I have to love myself for the same reasons.

  82. Alex says...

    I am literally in tears reading this. The insecurities are all too familiar, the message is powerful, and the story is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  83. wow. this is so great. reading this gives me new eyes to see myself differently.

  84. Kaitlin says...

    What a beautiful essay – thank you Ashley!

  85. Kate says...

    I love this :) it’s such an empowering message

  86. Anna says...

    This is so beautifully written; I love it. Thank you!

  87. shanti says...

    I adore this story. Thank you for sharing Ashley!

  88. Eleanor says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  89. Kat says...

    What a powerful message. It can be so easy to tear ourselves down, to feel like we’re never good enough, strong enough, worth enough. Sometimes it just takes that one person–who likes and loves you most when you are at your worst. Thank you for sharing.

  90. emily says...

    yes yes all the yes’s.

  91. Katie says...

    I’m so excited for this series, it is off to a great start!

  92. This is beautiful. Touching. I see myself and other women in this piece as well. Thank you.

  93. Caroline says...

    My relationship with my body fluctuates- distressed in my teenage years, apathetic in my mid 20s, comfortable in my mind 30s. At 38 I find myself worrying about the effects of aging and noticing new contours. Getting near 40 also makes me feel like the window to get the ideal body is closing. I loved the reminder in this piece that our body is here to keep us alive, and that we should be thankful for its efforts. Being a body is a difficult and thankless job, no need to be unkind and add the pressure of it looking a certain way.

    • Robi says...

      One of the things I love about being 42 is I feel like I am free to just be me. My body has looked the same for a long time and I am trying to keep it moving and treat it well so it keeps working for many more years but I also feel like the pressure to have a “perfect” body has melted away in the way the extra pounds never would.

  94. Maggie says...

    This piece SO resonated with me. This part, “I allow myself things I assumed were only allowed for women doing a better job at being pretty than I was.” WOW. I felt the same way she did for years! I was working out constantly, dieting, making excuses for my appearance (like anyone cared!). My husband has always been complimentary about my body and appearance, and so encouraging. And yet, it took years and a skin disorder (that’s now healing) to really shake up my head and all my pre-conceived notions of what beautiful and attractive was. I still go through moments of despair, and try to exercise and eat healthy for fun and enjoyment. The moment I start to get crazy thoughts again (“…maybe you shouldn’t eat lunch”), I shut myself down and have a little self-love party (“you are strong! you are healthy!”). Reading this piece gave me even more confidence that I’ve been working to acquire. Sometimes you need to hear that other women are feeling the exact. same. way.

    Thank you Ashley for sharing your story! xo

  95. Jillian Rae says...

    Thank you for this! I am going to love this new series. My girlfriends and I are new to our 30’s, and with it came a stream of untapped insecurities. I myself, am someone with a little more softness to my body. I love the reminder to feel my body, and how great that is. My body is a tower of strength, and it has kept me alive. Love is freeing, and maybe anything that does bind me, isn’t worth the agony. I shared this article with a friend of mine who has been struggling with her body image lately, and we both agreed we are strong and beautiful. I’m saving this when I forgot how wonderful I am, at whatever weight, at whatever time.

  96. Ella says...

    This is an amazingly powerful message, thank you for sharing!

  97. Katie says...

    How beautiful to find someone who is so open about their appreciation of you!

  98. Rachel says...

    I really needed to read this. Even though I had not idea that I did. Thank you. A thousand thank yous.

  99. Heather says...

    “I allow myself things I assumed were only allowed for women doing a better job at being pretty than I was.”
    Wow. This line rang so true to me.

  100. Christine says...

    I am deeply glad to have read this. It closely echoes my life, though I’m not through to the other side of accepting my body fully (yet). I met my boyfriend when I was at my thinnest, half the clothing size I am now. And since gaining weight steadily for several years, I’ve felt less and less attractive and worthy. The way he feels about me and looks at me hasn’t changed, which is something I usually just shrug off- because how could it be true when I look this way? But now I feel incredibly lucky to be taught about this level of unconditional love every day. I didn’t even realize how lucky I am until I reading this piece!

  101. Katie says...

    Ashley, this was an amazingly beautiful essay and I feel grateful I got to read it.

    I’m married to a man who is 2 or 3 inches taller than I am and…20-25 pounds lighter than me. On one hand, the older I’ve gotten the more I seem to accept my curves, but sometimes I wonder if I know the difference between “accept” and “despondently acknowledge.” There are times, when biking, that I feel grateful for my strong legs and full thighs – especially when biking uphill. But later, I look at those full thighs in a mirror…how they appear in skinny jeans or shorts and think “If only my legs were longer…if only my thighs and calves weren’t so big…” There’s also a quote I don’t think I’ll ever be able to un-learn: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” (Thanks Kate Moss.) Meanwhile, my husband loves me fully clothed – whether in skinny jeans or a flow-y dress – as well as completely naked. At my most vulnerable he’ll kiss my soft, bare stomach and in that moment I know that my battle isn’t with MY body (my body is strong and full and soft)…it is with the perception that one single body type (thin) is the ideal. It feels like a constant battle. I hope one day I can say I’m on the other side of it.

    Thanks again, Ashley!

    • hita says...

      Your comment about lessons to be unlearnt got me. I’ve struggled with a few of those myself. And on the other side you realize how laughably wrong those ‘lessons’ are. As is this one. Sounds like she just had never tasted a truly delicious moment in life. How could skinny ever compare? How sad!

  102. Carol says...

    This was incredibly touching …

  103. karen says...

    Yes.

  104. Allison says...

    thank you for not only writing this, but sharing it with this community. so refreshing to hear that there are men who really SEE women, and not just their bodies. i want to high five this kelly, fella.

    i met someone new and started training for a marathon in the same week back in December. it’s been such a learning experience all around. training has made me feel super connected to my body in a new way & has helped with the confidence of having to ‘be seen’ by someone new. (have to call out my own word choice there .. “having” to be seen .. perhaps I should say, “getting” to be seen?) he commented one day that my legs feel “so solid” and i kind of loved it. not big, or muscular, or strong .. just, solid. and solid they are. these legs that can handle 26.2 miles are the same 2 legs that wrap around him at night to feel safe and secure.

    cheers to solid women who are loved by solid men. <3

  105. Kim says...

    “real love makes room for you to love yourself the way you are, and the way you want to be”

    saving this as a personal reminder, thank you <3

  106. Maria says...

    Love, love, love. Thank you, Ashley!

  107. k.s. says...

    i cried tears of joy for this. thank you for reminding us that we should celebrate ourselves fiercely and without apology – and in turn, should ask that of our partners (should we have one). I lost that foundation in a (bad) relationship once & found myself taking apart my body’s worth – it’s ability to love, to find joy in everything, to be an amazing sister/daughter/friend – and instead judge myself for its shape and size. two years post relationship (it ended after he told me he couldn’t have sex with me on our wedding anniversary because I was too ugly and he was sad he had to look at me – that kind of man) and it’s still something I struggle with – – but life is journey and I’ve got all the time. x

    • Katie says...

      Wow, that is so hurtful! I’m sorry someone told you that.

    • Carrie says...

      I’m so glad you ended that. How horrible. Keep pushing through it, don’t ever do to yourself what he did to you.

    • melissa says...

      Anyone who says that to you never deserved you. I hope you learn to know that in your heart of hearts. Not to be harsh, but good riddance to him. You’re better off without.

    • Karen says...

      Oh, that is just mean! Sending you lots of hugs!

  108. Ashley, this is beautifully written. Thank you for sharing it with us. xo

  109. Emily says...

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I can’t express how important this story is. To all the women reading this – Love yourself. Love is the answer.

  110. I love this. And as a large woman, I have only ever dated men who weigh less than I do, and they often respond with the same comment of loving how I feel AND how I look. Now married for nearly 14 years, my husband, who at nearly a foot taller than me, still weighs less than I do, doesn’t care at all. He cares that I smile because it means that I’m happy.

  111. Maggie b says...

    Thank you for this. Beautiful writing, heartfelt & powerful.

  112. Audra says...

    This is wonderfully written and so relatable. I wish it didn’t take men telling women we’re beautiful for us to feel like it’s true. But it’s often another’s perspective that can enlighten our thinking. I work on loving myself every day, and look forward to the day when it might not feel like so much work :)

  113. Carrie says...

    This is one of the best things I’ve ever read on Cup of Jo! I feel so inspired and refreshed. Please have Kelly as yours for always. He sounds like my husband in his attitude toward my body and looks (plus I’m super efficient and he’s slow also!). We all deserve that kind of love. And by the way you are a mega babe too, so.. there’s that :)

  114. Kate says...

    Beautiful. Thank you so, so much for sharing.

  115. bisbee says...

    So wonderful. Ashley, you are so lucky to have found someone that truly loves you for you. I found someone like that…it is not all lollipops and unicorns, but he thinks I’m the prize he was looking for all his life. If you find someone like that, cherish it!

  116. Jami-Lin says...

    I love this. I can relate to having a romantic partner who loves you in such a way that opens you up to this whole new delicious way of seeing yourself. Mine does that same thing, watching while I put on lotion as if he’s seeing some ancient ritual. It makes me feel like a goddess. And I can relate to being scared that you’ll lose that view if they’re not around. And then the rapture of realizing it’s just YOU now. Damn, love is magic, isn’t it?

  117. Liz says...

    Absolutely beautiful to read.

  118. akm says...

    beautiful.

  119. Ruth says...

    Love this so much!

  120. Texas Jak says...

    This was a lovely, lovely- lovely essay. Thank you for sharing.

  121. Jess. says...

    Such beautiful writing! It really made me love you and your story. I am so glad you can love you now, too. XOX

  122. this was an incredibly touching tribute to a wondrous body, and to the person who is still learning about it, as well as to the person who sees such value in it. thank you so very much for sharing. (i got a little emotional).

    random thought: am i off in that i thought it weird they hung out in the bedroom the first date, and that’s where they went to talk when he showed up with his incredibly romantic gesture? like, when i’m trying to talk serious, it’s the living room or kitchen, or if something goes south, the front porch with one foot still in the house…

  123. Aislinn says...

    This was beautifully powerful, well-written and so important. We’re told daily whether through social media or subliminal messaging that we should look a certain way to be happier, more beautiful, etc. When you find someone who truly loves you, none of that matters. They love you for you.

  124. Kate Toussaint says...

    This is beautiful. So beautiful. Thank you

  125. Grace says...

    Thanks for writing this. It eloquently sums up the way I’ve felt with my husband. Love liberates!

  126. molly says...

    Beautiful piece Ashley! Really, truly beautiful. Thank you for being so honest.

  127. Lauren says...

    This is a beautiful love story… thank you for sharing :)

  128. Ashley, you and your man are both keepers. What a beautiful essay.

  129. Tam says...

    Thank you for writing this. I have the same situation. When I first started seeing my current boyfriend I tried to hide my body, but he assured me it didn’t matter to him. I told him I was unhappy with my body, so when I get home for the summer he’s agreed to help me train to get the body I want for myself.

  130. Julie says...

    Love. Thank you for this.

  131. Lauren E. says...

    This was beautiful. Body image is so tricky. I am super lucky to be married to a man who can look at me while I’m unshowered, in sweats, with morning breath and say, “You’re so pretty” and make me believe it. But then there are those times when I just don’t really feel good about myself no matter who tells me otherwise. Reading other women’s stories like this is so empowering. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  132. Sharon says...

    As so many others have said, beautiful message and writing. Such a pleasure to read. But also, LOVE all of the CoJ readers and their heartfelt comments. What an amazing community you have brought together Joanna. I feel as though you are making a real impact in this world. Who would have ever thought one women’s blog could do that!? Bless you for getting better each and every week. This blog is such a treat to read.

  133. Kelli says...

    Oh my. What an empowering and beautifully written story. Thanks for sharing!

  134. Rebecca says...

    I love Ashley and this is gorgeous. I have never been so lucky to have a man in my life who makes me feel this way or who praises my body the way Ashley’s guy does. A challenge I face is finding this kind of acceptance and appreciation from within; accepting the loving words from myself that I might more readily accept if they came from someone else.

  135. Lilly says...

    Love this, so much. It’s such a wonder to be with someone who brings out the best in you and respects you, made me think of my partner. It’s so comfortable, and yet such a constant revelation!

  136. Arlene says...

    This is an amazing story. I love that you love yourself. I am still trying to work on that. It is a hard mental battle for a lot of people. After I had my second baby I felt so so ugly. But I had to keep telling myself, I just brought a life into this world, what do you expect your body to look like. I just created someone. I should not be down on myself because I have a belly. Your story makes me very happy. Thank you!

  137. Fiona says...

    This is a GLORIOUS post! I love everything about it! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing!

  138. Andrea says...

    LOVE this! Thanks for sharing!

    Side note, it would also be great to see some plus-sized week of outfits posts, and some clothing brand posts/links that offer extended sizing (I’m sooo sick of Lane Bryant!) We’re told it’s great to love and embrace our bodies as they are, but if you’re size 16+ the lack of clothing resources really contradicts that.

  139. By the middle of the essay, tears fell! These are beautiful words written by an extraordinary writer, whose experience with being a woman trapped inside society’s “expectation web” is one to learn from. Brava!

  140. Suzette says...

    I love this. What a great way to start the week.

  141. Brittany says...

    I love this. It was beautifully written.

  142. Why isn’t it easier to see ourselves as our loved ones see us? What message, and from what source, is overriding all of that adoration?
    I’m happy for Ashley that she has liberated herself from it, and I wish the same for all women, including myself.

  143. Sasha says...

    Loved this!

  144. Christine says...

    Such a moving story. We all should be so lucky to have that kind of love. Thank you for sharing.

  145. Mayoli says...

    thank you so much for sharing, Ashley. your and Kelly’s words were wonderful and felt like a soothing balm. They were a nice reminder to be kind to ourselves and love ourselves. xox