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This Body Confidence Coach Is Destroying The "Fat Friend" Stereotype

Pascale Day
By Pascale Day Published on 6 April 2017

Michelle Elman is a body confidence coach but for 21 years she refused to wear a bikini in public. See, Michelle has had 15 surgeries over the course of her life - for a brain tumour, a cyst on the brain, a punctured intestine and hydrocephalus - and her confidence has suffered as a result. She refused to wear a bikini in public for fear of people seeing her scars but at age 15 she had an epiphany.

One step in Michelle's mission to accept and love her body was learning to deal with people's perceptions of those who are bigger than others - or, as Michelle puts it, the "fat friend."

"There's a stereotype around being the "fat girl" in a friendship group," she wrote in a recent body-pose Instagram post. "Since the age of 11, I have always been the "fat" friend. The difference between now and then is that there's no hesitation. There are no second thoughts and when my friend suggested jumping in the Fjord. Before I would have said yes reluctantly, spent the time hiding as much of my body as possible until the last moment... and definitely wouldn't have taken photos, let alone been in them. Now, I'm the one suggesting photos."

There's a stereotype around being the "fat girl" in a friendship group. She's the one who sits on the sidelines and never joins in. She's the one perpetually single and sits silently while all her friends discuss their love life because god forbid, if she actually find a boyfriend, she would never be comfortable naked or in the bedroom. She's the insecure one, the one constantly complaining about her body and talking about diets. I couldn't call bullshit more on this stereotype. Since the age of 11, I have always been the "fat" friend but I have never been THAT girl. Even with all my insecurities around my scars, and my body in general, I was never the girl who sat inside - I refused to because of my pride and ego and my surgeries never let me be the person who missed out on life. The difference between now and then is that there's no hesitation, there are no second thoughts and when my friend suggested jumping in the Fjord, I was all "Hell yeah!". Before I would have said yes reluctantly, spent the time hiding as much of my body as possible until the last moment, definitely worn a top and definitely wouldn't have taken photos, let alone been in them. Now, I'm the one suggesting photos, I was the first to whip off my top and the thought that my body was different wasn't there. The fact that I know many girls, fat or skinny, would miss out on opportunities like this is what fuels my body positivity. Body positivity isn't about being able to take underwear selfies, it's about not letting your underwear or your swimsuit be the reason you aren't taking part. And ultimately when you are around the right people, you won't EVER feel like the "fat friend". I don't look at these pictures and see me as the odd one out. I look at the pictures and see the memories and the three bodies that we had fun in! #ScarredNotScared Swipe for a video of me high pitch screaming as I jump in!

A post shared by Michelle Elman (@mindsetforlifeltd) on Apr 1, 2017 at 11:04am PDT

Michelle hopes to lessen people's reservations about showing their scars in person using the hashtag #scarrednotscared. In her Insta post, she went on to describe how she doesn't want anyone else to feel the way she did about her body.

"The fact that I know many girls, fat or skinny, would miss out on opportunities like this is what fuels my body positivity. Body positivity isn't about being able to take underwear selfies, it's about not letting your underwear or your swimsuit be the reason you aren't taking part."

WHY I AM IN BODY POSITIVITY - I worried more about my head being shaved than a brain surgery - I worried more about the scar that was created in a 12 hour surgery than whether I would survive that surgery - I worried about having a permanent bald patch on my head more than I did about the fact I had a brain tumour - I worried about weight gain when I started eating after 3 months, rather than celebrating the fact that I was recovered enough to let food pass my lips - I worried about my hair falling out from the multiple surgeries more than I worried about the effect of that anaesthesia on my body - I worried about how slow I was running instead of being grateful for my ability to move - I worried more about what people would say about my body than the fact that my body still worked - I worried more about not being treated like a "weirdo" than processing my emotions - I worried if my body would be the deciding factor to not date me than the fact that the person I date must be there to support my illnesses too - I worried more about the stigma of mental and physical illness more than I worried about myself AND MOST OF ALL... I am in body positivity because each sentence above was written in the past tense and that is only possible because of body positivity. My body positivity is intrinsically linked to my hospital experiences. Every serious incident came with superficial worries about the consequence on my appearance. Every day when I should have been thinking about very real life or death situations, I instead worried about what I looked like. It's why I continue to embrace my scars and why they symbolise more than the physical marks on my body. In every sense of the word, I am Scarred Not Scared #scarrednotscared

A post shared by Michelle Elman (@mindsetforlifeltd) on Mar 28, 2017 at 2:50pm PDT

Michelle's post contains two photos and one video of her jumping in a lake in her bra with her friends. The post has had nearly 6,000 likes and plenty of positive comments. "Beautiful inside and out. The world needs more people like you," one user said. "Thank you so much for articulating this! I've felt this for a long time but not been able to clearly express it. Fat isn't a dirty word. We can be fat and beautiful and brave and interesting and confident," said another.

Ultimately, Michelle's message is one of self love and confidence: "No one should have to feel ashamed of their body, whether you have stretch marks or a C-section scar. This summer, let’s stand up and be proud of our scars and what they represent – a story."

Are you empowered by Michelle's story? Let us know @soFeminineUK

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by Pascale Day

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