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More To Love

{RECIPE} Harvest Home Fries: Honey Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes

Rachel Estapa

Harvest Home Fries_Main

Harvest Home Fries_MainI love fall flavors and colors. And I also love home fries :) This is a simple, delish dish I whipped up and is perfect for a Sunday brunch or evening dinner side-dish.




What you need:

  • 2 cups sweet potato (chopped into 1'' cubes)
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 cup mushroom, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt/pepper (used sparingly throughout cooking, season to your taste)
  • Total prep-time: 5 mins
  • Total cook time 20 minutes

Harvest HomeFries_Collage

Heat up a medium-size skillet over medium heat. Chop up your veggies while the skillet heats up. Add the olive oil to the heated pan, then garlic - let that begin to brown (not burn!) then add onion. Add a dash of salt here and let the mixture cook until onions become translucent (about 2-3 mins).

Add your chopped sweet potatoes (add some ground black pepper if you like), give it a good mix and then cover. Let cook covered for 10 minutes (this is so the sweet potatoes can steam).

After 10 minutes, stir the mixture so the other side can brown. Add in your chopped mushrooms (add a little oil if you want). Cover for another 7-10 mins until sweet potatoes are tender.

Once done, mix in the cinnamon, honey & cranberries. Let sit for 2 minutes to soak in the flavor.

You're ready to serve & enjoy!!

Send me a photo if you make this dish, would love to see it.




{MY CURVY LIFE} From Rant to Romance: Craigslist Helped Me Find True Love

Rachel Estapa


{This is the fourth article in a new series running through October titled “My Curvy Life” featuring body-positive guest bloggers sharing personal stories on body image, daily life and various plus-size perspectives. To submit your work to the series, read my blog requirements here}

Rant"I was tired of feeling like I had to apologize for my size, like I had to accept whatever little crumbs were thrown my way."

For most of my life, I struggled to understand how other, “normal” people were able to make things happen so effortlessly - especially when it came to romantic relationships, which were Greek to me.  As the girl who was always “a good friend” and never “a girlfriend” to the guys I crushed on, there was clearly some missing piece to the puzzle.

So I poured all that energy into food, which was the only thing that seemed to love me back.

By the time I turned 25, I weighed over 280lbs and had been on exactly three dates my entire life – one of which was my senior prom…to which I took a freshman.

Finally, one night, a friend of a friend asked an innocent question which changed my life:

“When do you think you’ll start dating?”

I was shocked. At first I thought she was making fun of me – that old knee-jerk reaction resulting from too many years of too many bullies. I realized she was sincere, though, and all I could manage was a shrug and a grin.

Inside, I was in turmoil. If that girl didn’t think I was some sort of monster – the way I saw myself – maybe I wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe it was all in my head.

That little idea took root and grew, though, even as I tried to shut it out.

After getting my courage up, I put an ad out on a dating site. I got replies, but mostly from some pretty sketchy guys. I went on a few dates, but they were all awkward and never went any further.

Finally one day I lost it. I was sick of getting messages from cute, interesting guys who liked my headshot, then taking the time to craft a clever email and attach a full-length shot…to which I’d get no further reply. I got their message loud and clear.

I was tired of feeling like I had to apologize for my size, like I had to accept whatever little crumbs were thrown my way.

So I went where people go when something inside them has snapped at they’re at the end of their rope.

I went to Craigslist.

I swear I only went to post a rant, because I was really that ticked off! I went on a tirade that included the fact that I can quote The Godfather, love watching football, know most hit oldies by heart, am an amazing cook and voracious reader…and that I also happen to wear a size 14/16, and anyone who has a problem with that should move on and not waste my time.

To my surprise, I got a ton of replies to that rant, one of which in particular gave me a reason to pause and re-read. He could spell! Used correct grammar! And didn’t include a photo of his genitals…He was really hitting all the high points, kids.

But more than that…there was something else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I knew that if nothing else, we’d be really good friends.

September 19th was our fifth wedding anniversary.

Looking back at the pain I went through, I know now that I needed to figure out that I was worth more than I ever gave myself credit for.

I needed to step outside my comfort zone – because at first I kept coming up with reasons why it wouldn’t work between us. I know now that even though I hated my lonely life…it was all I had ever known. It was comfortable.

I needed to learn to accept love. It’s no easy task when you’ve spent so much time thinking you’re unlovable. Even if it’s what you long for more than anything else, you might push it away if you don’t believe you deserve it.

I needed to love myself. I spent so long assuming that someone else would give me the love I wasn’t giving myself – but it doesn’t work that way. I used to think it was corny, the idea of self-love. Now I know that it’s crucial.

I wouldn’t recommend that everyone go to Craigslist to find love…but I do recommend taking a chance.

Especially on yourself.


JenniferJennifer Bardall believes that anyone’s life can take off – but first you have to fall in love with yourself. You can find her at her website, Honor Yourself Now, as well as on her Facebook page and on Twitter.

My Open Letter To #FatShamingWeek

Rachel Estapa

Permission - FatShamingWeek

Permission - FatShamingWeek I'm breaking my wedding-related vacation to write this post because you all need to be aware of something going on in the body-positive and fat-acceptance movement.

Please do not click any out-going links until after you've read the whole piece, k? 

Fat Shaming Week is in full swing, initiated by a website called Return Of Kings run by a notably misogynistic author known as Roosh. Across social media, mainly Twitter, the hashtag #FatShamingWeek has been launching attacks on overweight women and men in an attempt to insult, demoralized and counter the efforts of the plus-size, fat acceptance, body-positive community.

I wanted to chime in with my opinion of this social experiment and help others better understand what is really going on here.

The body-positive, self-acceptance movement we've been seeing grow the past 5 years is here to stay. More and more women, men, communities and media outlets are beginning to expand their understanding and definition of what beauty, health and happiness is. Companies are seeing the value and profits in marketing to plus-size bodies. Communities are emphasizing health over weight; happiness over measurement.

We have a LONG way to go -- but the seeds of social body acceptance are taking root. (Pause right here to think about what you've done to usher this in and congratulate yourself.)

And then there is the inevitable back-lash. This is normal when any social movement moves beyond the tipping point in a culture towards one of more universal acceptance. We have seen this play out in history countless times with race, gender, sexuality, ect.

Now it's body-positive's time to "level-up" in a sense. It's not an easy path, but the fact that #FatShamingWeek is even a thing means only ONE thing: people actually LIKE the movement so much, it's scaring the shit out of other people whose world-view cannot accept it.

And that is all #FatShamingWeek is -- a temper tantrum from someone who wants the world to be only as they see it. 

And you know what? Bring it on. 

Some people are crying hate-speech, but I've understood freedom of speech this way: everyone has a right to say, think, feel, believe whatever they want -- but no where in our social fabric, our Constitution or humanity does it say we're obligated to listen to you.

A VERY small sliver of people are saying these hateful things, but it still needs to be addressed. Many positive voices have done so by hijacking the hashtag itself, turning it into a platform to share the message of love, peace and body-kindness.

And that's amazing!

But no, don't shut this conversation down because it's helping many people explore a topic that is bubbling up in our society -- this can only help more individuals, families and communities better understand what is going on and reach their own informed conclusions.

If you choose to spew vile, hateful speech and thoughts into the world, you eventually receive the return of that. Maybe not today, not tomorrow -- but someday, that catches up with you.

And I believe that people are inclined towards the good, the better angels of our nature, because no matter how grotesque a person is, even they know deep down whether what they are doing is causing them pain or not.

The resistance to change is fear and living in fear affects everything it touches - ignoring this is denial, and we all know how uncomfortable denial is -- that goes for everyone.

But the cost that this hateful speech might have on other people's perception of self, the collateral damage done, that's what is unfortunate. Which is why I'm writing this post because Fat Shaming Week is not about insult as its intention was.

Fat Shaming Week is about courage to stand up and say "You don't have permission to make me hate myself." 

I laughed at the posts, their ridiculous titles and Tweets because it made me realize how fantastic all my personal efforts, all your personal efforts, towards greater love and self-respect has been.

Fantastic enough that someone felt the need to devote an entire week of their life to focusing energy on our movement in the naive attempt to stop it.

That isn't shame, that's power. Congratulations, my fat, curvy, plus-size warriors. 

{My Curvy Life} Being a Plus Size Triathlete

Rachel Estapa


{This is the third article in a new series running through October titled “My Curvy Life” featuring body-positive guest bloggers sharing personal stories on body image, daily life and various plus-size perspectives. To submit your work to the series, read my blog requirements here}

Athlete"I've changed a lot since then, not because I was trying to lose weight, but because I loved myself enough to try and be healthier - both inside and out."

My name is Kristina Blake, and many of you know me as The Contrary Athlete. I have had a love / hate relationship with my size for most of my life. A couple of years back; I was at my heaviest, and as a result, had no self-esteem. I was over 350lbs, and don’t know the whys or hows, but somewhere along the way I had let myself go.

I knew I had to start doing something, and it needed to be a full lifestyle change. I also knew that if I was going to take my life back, it needed to be for the right reasons and not just about weight loss this time around. I needed to learn how to love and believe in myself again.

My first big decision was to STOP being a slave to the scale.

We have never gotten along in the past, so why not change things up and ignore that for a while? Instead of a diet, I wanted to find something challenging that would get me off the couch, keep me busy, and allow me to have some fun.

I mentioned this to some friends who suggested I join a local triathlon training program. It took quite a bit of coaxing, but I decided to give it a try.

For those of you not familiar with a triathlon, it requires you to swim, bike, and run. Talk about going outside of my comfort zone! Above and beyond the time commitment, I knew this was not going to be an easy task. The right types of clothes were not always readily available in my size, and my bra had to be special ordered. I needed to find a bike that could safely hold my almost 350lb frame, and get fit for proper shoes. I would also have to get comfortable appearing in public in a swimsuit! It was not always the most pleasant adventure, but I kept pushing through and remained positive.

Finishing that first race was the most exhilarating feeling I could ever possibly describe.

It outweighed any negative experiences I had throughout the training process. I knew I had done something for myself. It wasn’t because someone told me I ‘had’ to do it, but because I ‘wanted’ to do it, and finally found the courage to say ‘I can!’ It took awhile, but I finally realized that I was the only one holding myself back.

Since then I’ve gone on to do several other races, and I’m constantly reaching for bigger and better things. I’ve stopped subscribing to the notion that you have to be a certain size to be able to enjoy life.

I just want to be FIT, and be HAPPY. Weight loss just happens to be a wonderful side effect of an active lifestyle. You don’t have to let a scale rule your life. Put yourself out there; try something new, and learn to love yourself one little step at a time.


KristinaKristina Blake of The Contrary Athlete  is a 30 something female learning the ins and outs of an active lifestyle. She enjoys motivating others through her own experiences. Originally from Philadelphia, she now resides in Charlotte. When not training, she enjoys reading, singing, and playing cards with friends. 

Connect with Kristina:

How I Kept It Real At a Fancy Harvard Dinner Party

Rachel Estapa

contageousRecently, I was invited to a private dinner at Harvard with a very distinguished diplomat. It was an extended invitation from my previous life, from when I was very involved with an up and coming nonprofit full of high-achievers. And I used to be one too…..

The dinner guests were very successful in their fields, mainly politics, military and private sectors.

Yet here I was, not in politics, not in policy.

Here I was, a woman who writes about what it’s like to be overweight and be madly in love with myself and life. 

As the table went around with introductions full of the lauds so many were heart beat was fast.

I was nervous because I felt like I didn’t fit in, not with the group, but with my own insecurity of How will I introduce myself? 

Should I say I work at Harvard? That I used to work for Senator Kennedy? That I was a former co-director of the sponsoring program? Should I list off all the impressive things I’ve done? Do I mention being featured many times in Huffington Post??

But then I remembered a line from a personal development program I'm currently taking with Tara Mohr called "Playing Big" were she talks about the difference between achievement & authentic.

In short, achievement-mind urges us to do, say, be things we think others will be really impressed by. Authentic-mind puts more stock into what's important to expressing our deeper self, independent of the praise or criticism we'll receive.

A fancy dinner party with a room full of high-achievers is a perfect test to either walk my talk about being authentic, or try to fit in with the crowd.

So now it was my turn and I took a big breath and said my name and the following:

I write and speak and think about body acceptance because I want to help women who have felt marginalized in society to feel like they belong. I believe happy people create happy societies and this is my way of doing that. 

And it felt really great to be real, be honest because the next 45 minutes of conversation with those seated next to me began with "Wow, your work sounds so refreshing!" and we talked about philosophy, about self-actualization and true meaning in life. Not just our credentials.

I could have listed off acclaim to “fit in” but I didn’t  - that would have been achievement. I went the authentic route, shared myself and people responded in kind.

And all the while I felt like myself without compromise or judgement.

That’s worth it. Always worth it.

{My Curvy Life} Want A Loving Relationship? Start Here!

Rachel Estapa

Fall in love first

{This is the second article in a new series running through October titled “My Curvy Life” featuring body-positive guest bloggers sharing personal stories on body image, daily life and various  plus-size perspectives. To submit your work to the series, read my blog requirements here} Fall in love firstThe key to a loving relationship? Loving Yourself By Dionna Humphrey

I started to write this after a particularly challenging week (let’s be honest, challenging SUMMER) for my dating life. To say I was disheartened would be an understatement; I felt down and out for the count. Not because I felt as though I’m not worth finding a fulfilling, loving relationship, but that for some men, THEY think plus size women don’t deserve to find a fulfilling, loving relationship and treat women accordingly.

And you know the saddest part about that? Many plus size women have come to accept and believe that.

I’ve got news for you—that couldn’t be further from the truth. And here’s why: you ARE beautiful. You ARE smart. YOU ARE fun, engaging, vivacious—all the things these little dings to our self-esteem attempt to contradict.

If I would’ve read or written this article 10 years ago I might not have believed it. Because so many plus size women are conditioned not to. Everywhere we look, we are being told we are less than. We can’t shop in the stores because retailers would rather have us hiding at home behind our computers, we can’t indulge I the occasional treat without wondering if someone is judging us the way they might not our skinny friends, and we can’t find a decent partner who will see all the beautiful qualities inside and out that we possess, whether we’re a size 8 or a size 18. It’s no wonder we’re confused!

A funny thing happened when I began my journey to love myself, love my body, love my hair—love all of me: I no longer defined myself by others, including my relationships and dating experiences. I no longer said to myself, this guy is no good, but there may not be anyone else so I’ll stick it out. I no longer thought, this guy is going out with me because he thinks big girls are easy so I should give up the goods before I’m ready.

When you are ready to accept and believe that there’s nothing wrong with you and who you are, you are truly ready for love.

But being ready is only part of it; maintaining this body/mind positive attitude is a long time commitment. We all have those days, particularly when we have these moments that have the potential to knock us off our game.

But another amazing thing happens when you come into your own and learn to define your own destiny: it becomes easier to bounce back from these moments. And eventually, they are a thing of the past. Instead of looking at a bad date or relationship and accepting the blame, you know that this person cannot truly appreciation what a magnificent person you really are because you know and live in the truth that you are.

Dating can be fun, and when you find someone with whom you have a connection with, it can be amazing. The one thing you have to remember is, it’s possible. It’s possible to find love at any size. Nobody is perfect, and your potential partner won’t be either. But when we let go of all the baggage of body shaming, of questioning who we are and what we have to give and what we deserve, we CAN and WILL find love. And if you’re not ready, that’s also ok! While you’re assessing/re-assessing whether or not you’re in a place to date and find love, take this time to begin your journey of loving yourself. It can be a long one, it can be a painful one, and it can be one that will change your life for the better.

I’m still on my journey, and every lesson, setback, etc. is an opportunity to continue to learn and grow and love who I am. I just turned 39 and I am better than ever. And to say that—and believe that—is worth everything to me. Trust me, it will be to you too.



Dionna Humphrey is the owner of Body Conscious Beauty, a style consulting business serving clients in the Washington, DC area and beyond. She’s also a contributing editor to the online publication, All Things Fashion DC as their plus size contributor. You can engage with Dionna/Body Conscious Beauty on any of the following social media platforms:

Website: Facebook: Twitter: @StylebyDionna

Guest Blog Series "My Curvy Life" - Can Fat Women Have Career Success?

Rachel Estapa

{Now through the end of October, I will present a series titled "My Curvy Life" featuring body-positive guest bloggers sharing personal stories on body image, daily life and various  plus-size perspectives. To submit your work to the series, read my blog requirements here}

FatCareerFinding Your Career Happy Place – What’s Your Body Got To Do With It? By Amanda Sartori

I love grand ideas! Even more, I love carving out a plan on how I’m going to make that grand idea happen. It’s passion, drive, and really, I can’t get enough! When it comes to my career, these ideas appear in so many ways. Some are fulfilled on the daily, but others take time. Currently, I’m at an interesting point in my life. I’m seeking out new experiences and learning more about what makes me tick. My grand ideas today are different from what they were three years ago, and that is okay with me.

As I began to think about this, I decided to picture my career happy place – that is, the height of my career. What I pictured was, in part quite comfortable and a reflection of me currently, it was also shocking. Having just returned from a bike ride, I was sitting on my porch overlooking a river that runs through my backyard and reading the news of the day on my laptop while sipping on my favorite tea.

The shocking part of this picture was - I wasn't fat. On some level, I felt removed from my picture.

After ruling out mind control and alien invasion (no disrespect, ET), I began to reflect on my vision of my career happy place. Can fat women have career success?  My answer to this question was, of course! There is nothing stopping me. Except there was, there is, and that is myself. I’ve sometimes caught myself thinking “If I weren't fat, I would have gotten that job!” or “If I were thin, that interview would have gone ten times better”. I know that these thoughts aren’t a positive influence on my career path, but it’s also so important to think through them.

Determined as I am to latch onto my next grand idea, part of that is knowing and believing that no matter my size, my career can flourish. I began to see my missing link…ownership. To me, that’s knowing and believing that my body is so valuable in every aspect of my life, including my career. I want to see myself, a fat woman, in that picture. That is part of believing that I can fulfill my next grand idea. Seeing myself there is owning my path.

So how do I get there?

Get Involved! Of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve had in my career thus far, has been involvement in employee-led networks. Heck, I even co-founded one! As I engage with others and form relationships, I’m more open and confident in pursuing opportunities within my organization. I see the relationships that I make as a support, of people rooting me on. Fat girl can’t get the job? Yeah right! More like, she’s got her own personal cheering section!

Seek Out Mentorship Whether formally or informally, speaking to someone with whom you feel comfortable to share grand ideas and how to get there can be so beneficial. Talk about a great way to build your career confidence! Often, your mentor will point out things that you did not realize. It may even blow you away! Remember, mentorship doesn’t have to be one-on-one. Try tailoring your media intake to favor like-minded people who you find inspirational. Pro-tip: the fat positive blog-o-sphere is full of amazing and passionate ladies!

Understand Your Self-Confidence There’s a link between my self-confidence and my body – I can’t deny this. When I feel good about my body, I get a self-confidence boost. Feeling good about myself throughout the day allows me to delve into my career. What are some ways that I positively influence my self-confidence? I read brilliant articles from across the body positive community for connection and to learn. I peruse plus size fashion blogs for wardrobe inspiration. And most importantly, I listen to and I honor my body!

My next grand idea is going to be something completely new to me – and this fat woman is ready to own it!

What are your grand ideas? How do you build body confidence in the workplace? Connect with me on Twitter (@amandasartori_), I’d love to hear from you!

ASartori.PhotoAmanda Sartori is a fat positive advocate and budding body image blogger. After her days at the office you can find her on the Rideau Canal bike path, drinking tea, or dreaming up her next adventure. Give her a shout on Twitter (@amandasartori_). 


I'm teaching a "Learn To Accept And Love Your Body" class in Boston -- come!

Rachel Estapa

BCAE class

BCAE classThe "Learn To Accept And Love Your Body" class is on Wednesday, September 18 from 6:00p- 8:00p. To secure your spot, please register here -->BCAE I will be teaching a class titled "Learn to Accept And Love Your Body" at the very well-known Boston Center for Adult Education this fall and I invite those in the Boston area (and beyond!) to register for the class, come learn about Health At Every Size basics and discover great strategies and ideas to help you redefine your own body relationship. You'll also get a chance to share your thoughts, experience and wisdom around body acceptance and health. Oh, and meet ME! :)

Share this opportunity with others by simply clicking here to Tweet it out or post on Facebook, tagging my page too (but LIKE it first!)

And one more thing....let me know if you're coming, k?

X! Rachel

3 Simple Ways To Feel Instantly Gorgeous

Rachel Estapa


Image Credit: Curvy Models Rock Being overweight in our society isn't easy and rarely do we seen in the media someone with a plus-size body who is the center of attention. While I believe this trend is changing in our body-favor, we've a long way to go.

But that doesn't mean you cannot take steps today towards feeling drop-dead gorgeous at any size!

Here are three really fun and simple steps you can do starting now to help you appreciate and sparkle in your curvy, lovely body.


Smile more :)

The quickest and most reliable way to make someone else notice you is to beam that pretty smile of yours. When we see people smile, we automatically feel attracted to that person, thinking “They seem happy, I want to be where they are!” One of the most common complements I receive is how I always smile at people and that I seem so cheery.

Physiologically, smiling raises your levels of dopamine which is the happy chemical, and happy chemicals in your body lead to actually FEELING happier! No matter your size, a smile fits everyone.

Get fitted for the perfect bra

I recently got fitted for a bra for my upcoming wedding at INTIMACY Boston, and let me tell you – nothing has made me feel MORE in love with my curves than enjoying how a great bra flatters my figure.

Something so intimate and personal really makes a difference when you take the time to find the right fit. Search out shops that cater to your size, make an appointment and see what happens. Not only will your figure look more flattering, you’ll feel sexy and confident too.

Follow body-positive content online

I got Tumblr just so I could follow all the adorable plus-size fashion pages on there. It’s very empowering to see other women who share my body-type flaunting their fashions, figures and beauty. It’s great counter-medicine to how mainstream society presents women.

A few of my favorite fashion pages are Fuller Figure, Fuller Bust, Curvy Is The New Black and  Fuck Yeah Chubby Fashion! You can even submit your own photo to them – how’s about THAT for feeling sexy!

It’s also really important to read stories and insights from people that support your body, lifestyle and create a safe space for positive interaction and education regarding weight and health. I hope my own page is a resource for that, but one amazing page to follow is This Is Not a Diet – It’s Your Life, so check it out.

Write your OWN Rules

These are just a few of the bazillion ways to ditch the “I’m not good enough in my body” mentality that is so prevalent in our society. I’d love to hear YOUR own tips on what you do to help feel gorgeous, so share them in the comments below!

Join the "I'm Hot!" Curvy Summer Photo-Project!

Rachel Estapa

Rachel - I'm Hot.

Rachel - I'm Hot.Last May, I ran the “I’m Proud Of My Size” photo-project and had 30 gorgeous, confident and curvy women share their images and sizes, declaring that their body is nothing short of perfect for them. With summer now in full swing, I want to take this same challenge to the next level in a fun, exciting way.

From Monday, July 21 –  July 31, the “I’m Hot!” photo-project is an opportunity for you lovely, curvy ladies to show off your favorite summer photos and style! You can submit a photo of yourself in a summer dress, shorts, tank top, swimsuit, workout gear– whatever makes YOU feel sexy and hot this summer!


This is a chance to share your curves, style, happy self AND help to inspire other women to be more confident in their skin. Being fashionable and comfy is especially tricky in the summer months, when showing more skin might bring up body-insecurities. But know this: each photo shared is a spark of inspiration and call to action for another woman to appreciate her body.

The Guidelines:

  1. Email me a full-body photo of you looking fabulously happy in your favorite summer outfit and I'll add an individualized "I'm Hot!" graphic and then post it on my Facebook page.  My email = and put "I'm Hot Submission" in the subject and make sure to include your name and one sentence about yourself that you’d like to be shared in the photo’s post.
  2. Then go to my Facebook Page & LIKE IT (if you don't already) so I can give you credit in the photo.
  3. If you're on Twitter,  follow me + include your @handle in your email & I'll tweet it out to you w/ the hashtag #ImHot
  4. SHARE IT! Once your photo is up, go out and share it and include a link back to this post so other people can participate.

It’s simple, fun and a great way to show off your style and help encourage others to feel more confident in their body too.

Can’t wait to see your photos!

XO Rachel

PS --> By sending in your photo, you're allowing me to share it, post it & have it become inspiration for other women (and men!) to love their bodies. Case in point, you're not going to legally call foul if you willingly send in a photo!

How To Feel Amazing In Your Curvy, Naked Body

Rachel Estapa

Big girl

Image Credit: Sockie This post might make some cringe and revolt – and that’s fine because a special message needs to be heard more often today: Your body isn't gross or vile; it’s simply different from someone else’s. And times that by close to seven billion. {CLICK HERE TO TWEET THIS OUT}

But that fact doesn't matter if YOU don’t believe your body is worthy of staring at naked in your mirror, overcome with judgments about what your size means. Unfortunately, many women avoid engaging in the one moment in life that actually verifies you exist at all – making contact with your own image staring back at you.

I remember the first time I stared intensely into my own eyes. I was 16 and for whatever reason, I tried it. I stared right into my big brown eyes for ten whole minutes and by minute three, I was crying. I was crying because I realized I never once gave a damn to look at myself this closely. And I was crying because I thought I was pretty. Me! The chubby girl teased by the neighborhood boys had the audacity to think she was pretty...

…and beautiful, gorgeous and awesome.

One of the exercises I assign to clients who are uncomfortable in their skin is to do the mirror-stare at whatever level they want. To this day, I've yet to hear a client tell me they didn't feel  something. And it’s the feeling of something that matters, because in that moment of self-awareness lies the key to moving past whatever garbage you've been hanging on to all these years.

In your gaze lies everything you hate AND love about yourself. But when you do it while naked, it’s even more intense and compelling.

If you have the courage to face yourself nude, you will experience who you are unfiltered. You see the bumps, the curves, the folds, the creases, the hair, the moles, the dimples, the soft spots. And that’s just your skin.

When you look at your body naked, and I mean REALLY look at it, your mind floods with images and connections as to what you deem your worth and value to be. This judgement-filled deluge is what occupies your mind each moment, directing your behaviors and unconsciously guides your life.

If you’re fat and have chalked up all your issues in life stemming from weight, this experiment is one of the most terrifying and healing things you’ll ever do. So if you want to overcome hating your body, you have to be willing to meet it where it is – right in this moment, exposed, raw and real.

But with all pain, transformation is close behind -- the more you stare and consciously deal with all the negativity that comes up, something remarkable occurs - you start to actually like what you see. You begin to appreciate when your tummy-rolls wiggle during a good laugh; that your thighs rubbing together when you walk isn't a sin; that the sags under your arms are not a good enough reason not to wear a cute, summery sleeveless shirt. You start to understand that your body is a body, like anybody, varied and unique unto its owner.

This compassionate experience matters because your body houses something fantastic – someone who is a light of joy in another’s life; someone who has talents and skills that make others feel in awe of; someone who has seen the world and has a millions stories, and with those same eyes, deserves to tell their own story about who is behind them.

You and everyone else living is a flawed, fragile and unbelievably intricate example of life. Recognize and be humbled by this and soon enough, amazement sets in.

Build Your Confidence in 3 Easy Steps

Rachel Estapa


SassyConfidence isn't something you either have or you don't. Everyone has confidence in something, including your weight and appearance. It's only non-visible when other stuff is blocking your natural confidence from coming out. I think a lot about what it takes to feel more confident and I've landed on this: confidence isn't a place, it's a mode of transportation. {CLICK HERE TO TWEET THIS GEM OUT!}

What I mean by that is confidence is always paired with something else. Confidence in your smarts, confidence in your cooking ability, or confidence in how you view your body. See? We've been short-changing and thinking about confidence all wrong.

To be MORE confident you have to look beyond the word and get to the root of what you want to feel proud of.

I'll make it simple for you -- these are proven fast-track methods I used to bolster my confidence around my appearance.

1. Visualize what feeling confident would actually look like. Remember that awesome thing you did perfectly as a kid that kept you entertained for hours and hours? Well your adult self is CRAVING for your imagination to make a comeback and forecasting confidence is a perfect opportunity. It's really as simple as closing your eyes, taking a breath and conjuring up in your mind the most confident feeling around your body you can muster. Seeing it unfold in your brain changes the wiring of your head and actually makes you believe is happening now.

Whenever I feel lumpy-dumpy I do this: I envision waltzing into a crowded room in my fabulous outfit and everyone stopping, turning and being like "Rachel is here and she's killin' it!!" It works. Try it.

2. Quit thinking people give a damn. Sooo much "lack of confidence" stems from what we think other people are thinking about us. And unless you're running for public office (and even THEY know 50% is going to hate them) stop caring so damn much about what you think others could be thinking. Your brain, time and energy is limited and precious, so use it on something that actually contributes to the quality of your life.

How do you stop caring about the hypothetical? You lump people into two camps -- those who get you (who love you regardless) and those who just don't get you (and you probably don't even like them anyway) and let that camp go.

Feels good to not care, right?

3. Have a  back-up plan. Someday  you're going to feel like shit and that is OK. It's the  reason we all have savings accounts and an extra toilet paper roll --- things just sometimes run out. With your confidence, it's the same way.

A few years ago I put together a sheet titled "When you feel like crap..." and it was a list of all the awesome pump-me-ups I've come up with over the years. So when I feel down and can't shake it, I pull it out and read what my higher, more inspired self knows.

Having a plan of action for the inevitable actually reduces the changes you're going to need it! I haven't pulled out that piece of paper in over 3 years,  but when the day comes that I just feel like curling up into a ball I'll know where to find it.

So yeah, confidence doesn't really matter -- it's what the confidence allows you to do, which is BE YOUR SELF.

Tips? Tricks? Thoughts? Pop 'em in the comments below!

[Image source "borrowed" from here]

{VIDEO} How to become a plus-size runner in 3 steps

Rachel Estapa


RunningI'm lovin' this video thing! I'm all about breaking down the roadblocks that many plus-size women put up for themselves as to why they cannot do a certain something. And one that I hear time and time again is "I really want to run but I'm too big to run" and I just wanna say NOT TRUE!!

You may be bigger than some runners out there, but that doesn't mean you're not capable of doing it AND enjoying it!

So in this video I break down an intro to plus-size running into three steps, tailored to those who want to become runners. It's time to stop letting your size dictate what activities you can/cannot do. {CLICK HERE TO TWEET IT OUT!}

Are YOU a curvy-runner? How did you get into it? What advice do you have for other women curious about starting some form of routine?

{VIDEO} What I do when I'm feeling insecure with my body

Rachel Estapa

Rachel Ohuiginn_Headshot_Coaching3

I created a short video (and my first one ever!) taking on a very common experience for plus-size women: How do you handle feeling insecure in your body? It's something we all experience now and then, and all the body-loving coaches are no exception. In this video I share with you three things I do to boost my confidence and wanted to offer them to you too.  [CLICK HERE TO TWEET IT OUT!]

Thoughts? Tips? How do YOU work through feeling insecure in your body? Share your comments below - I'd love to hear them!



My natural approach to managing PCOS

Rachel Estapa

PCOS Naturally

PCOS NaturallyAfter I wrote this letter in response to a reader titled “I have PCOS and feel embarrassed by my body,” I’ve received lots of questions about how I’ve naturally reversed my own symptoms of poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). For those who aren’t aware of this syndrome, PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that has a wide-range of symptoms, but the most common are irregular/missing periods, infertility, weight gain/difficulty losing weight, insulin resistance and other physical side effects. PCOS affects 1 out of 10 women and many choose to go on medications to balance their hormones, get pregnant or to lose weight. Others, like me, choose to treat it naturally.

I’ve had PCOS since I first got my period at 13. It was never regular and in one summer, I gained 30+ pounds seemingly overnight. It was so embarrassing and I didn’t understand what was going on. I even remember telling my mom one day that I had gone a long time without a period and if that was normal.

“You better not be pregnant!”

“No, mom…I’d have already had the baby by now..”

By age 16, I was on birth control because that was the only way doctors thought to treat it. Despite every attempt at dieting to lose the weight gained, nothing stuck for too long. However, in my early twenties I had a massive ovarian tumor (not linked to PCOS) that was rupturing one of my ovaries. They removed it, did more tests, and I was officially diagnosed with PCOS.

In my case, my diagnoses came by connecting the dots of irregular periods (when not on the pill); difficulty losing weight despite following a diet/exercise plan; constant pelvic pain and cysts on my ovaries, and hormonally, increased levels of testosterone & DHEA as well as sensitivity to a large amount of gluten.

All hallmarks of PCOS.

Living with PCOS feels like an attack on your womanhood, because the defining characteristic of being female, your ovaries, ability to have kids as well as your appearance, is well, not working like it should.

The changes

Last winter, I experienced a very bizarre type of migraine called “hemiplegic migraine” which is terrifying not only to watch, but to experience because it resembles a stroke. Due to that, I had to be taken off ALL medications, including the pill, which was how I was treating my PCOS then. I thought this was a great opportunity to treat PCOS more naturally because I was getting sick and tired of having weird medical things occur, and doctors suggesting medication.

The message was clear: It's time to manage my health more proactively and naturally – not reactionary.

So here is what I’ve done in one years’ time to manage holistically my PCOS and reverses the symptoms:

I changed my mindset I swapped PCOS as being something I suffered from to something I have and am managing well. That simple shift changed everything because now I was back in command of the quality of living. Rather than blame my body, I accepted that this is just the way it’s wired and my actions ought to support how my body naturally is. I also researched the heck outta the syndrome for a long time, and began paying more attention to my own body's needs, rather than a prescriptive approach.

I threw out my scale Ok, I actually have it tucked in the closet (hubby likes to weigh himself) but I have not stepped on the scale in nearly a year and I’ve never felt better about my body, appearance and how my clothing fits. The scale-dependent worth was causing WAY more pain than good, and over 50% of women with PCOS are also overweight, so the scale becoming a measure of success is a double-edge sword -  having PCOS also makes it 2x harder to lose weight than a women without the condition.

I’ve learned to listen to my body's signals of well-being than the scales numbers. If I feel bloated, I know what to do to relieve it. If I feel lighter, fresher, then I can slip into a skirt that hugs my curves more. I don’t let the scale define how I’m going to feel about my body.

I changed my diet – a little because PCOS affects your metabolism too, I knew there were some small changes I could make to help my body feel better. When I eat bread, I spring for the good stuff, like artisan or my local bakery. When I want chocolate, again, I got for the fancy stuff and not the cheap stuff. I also ramped up more veggies/fruits overall and cut down on proceeded products simply because I wanted to eat more cleanly and freshly. I cook my own meals nearly every day and have soda once in a blue moon.

You might be thinking “Oh sure, I don’t have the $$ to spring for fancy-pants bread and organic” but you know what’s fascinating? My grocery budget didn’t change at all; in fact, I have MORE money to spend on quality products by making simple changes to my diet.

My diet is about balance and sanity – there is nothing that is off-limits to me because I make a choice with eat bite I take “Will this make my body feel energized or sluggish?”

I got smarter about fitness I’ve always been active, and in my post “My #1 secret to plus-size running” you can see how I gave-up the nonsense belief that if I ran, I needed to run a marathon or sprint the whole time. I now get regular exercise 3-4 times a week for at least 45 mins through running, walking or yoga. It’s awesome.

I don’t sweat to lose weight, I do it because I love it and so does my body. And the rewards of greater vitality, stamina and looking adorable in my workout gear make it all worth it.

The results? In one year, my period has returned to my “normal” (which is about every 6 weeks); my testosterone is back to the levels of a woman without PCOS, and my DHEA levels and cholesterol have dropped too.  My hemiplegic headaches are few and far between now. My skin is glowing and the most common appearance-based compliment I receive these days about my body is I’m looking “radiant”; I can now run a 5K without gasping for breath; I enjoy wearing stylish clothing and simply FEEL good in my own skin.

My weight is exactly the same as last year. Some of you reading this might stop now, thinking “screw that, I want to LOSE THIS WEIGHT” and I’ll ask – why, because you think you need to look thinner in order to declare victory over PCOS? Sometimes doctors are quick to assume that losing 10% of your weight will treat PCOS, but in my case, that’s not true. I cannot say what is true for YOU but the idea of “just lose weight to fix your problems” isn’t always the only, or most empowering, approach.

The biggest result though is accepting that PCOS doesn’t have to rule my life; that if I make conscious and very simple lifestyle choices, I not only feel better, my body harmonizes. The next big venture in PCOS will be family planning, but I feel confident that I’m doing everything now in my ability to ensure a healthy, happy body and that is all I’m ever required to do – be happy about the choices I make for my body.

Have PCOS? How are you treating it? Need some support?

Have a personal story, advice or perspective on what’s working/not working for you? Share in the comments below or email them to me at

I also share a few articles on my Facebook page on the subject, so like it and keep in touch. Here are a few other great resources if you have PCOS and would like to build a support team:

Yes, big girls can do intense workouts!

Rachel Estapa


Bootcampbound On Sunday, May 19, I attended the Wellness By The Water Retreat, a day-long fitness & wellness urban-escape hosted by two inspiring wellness coaches in the Boston area. We got our sweat on, our health on, our nutrition on, and our fun on.

The day was split up between a sampling of various exercise genres and wellness services. We did boot camp, Pure Barre, Pilates, tai-chi, and yoga. I tried acupuncture & reiki and even this funky green-juice that I’ll never try again : )

It was an excellent way to explore various exercises and wellness practices, but most important, it always feels great to treat yourself kindly in the health/wellness area.

No surprise, I was the largest girl at the retreat but not for one moment did I feel “left out” – not by the people, not by the activities, not by anything. I belonged there as much as the next woman because I value how fitness & wellness enhances the quality of my life.

But I want talk about something I didn’t expect – how my body was totally capable and able to do intense workouts. I felt muscles being charged up that I didn’t even know I had, and was endlessly impressed that I was keeping up, rocking the squats, doing push-ups --- all with a smile on my face.

Sure, I was so sore that I booked myself a massage two days later, but that physical feeling of vitality is amazing and refreshing. Fitness is part physical ability, but more mental integrity.

I think many women of size believe their body is just too big to try a boot camp class or experiment with yoga. Well, lemme tell you – that’s not only bad for your thinking, it’s bad to deprive your body of feeling so powerful and strong, no matter your size.

I thought I would HATE a boot camp type class, but now I’m researching ones in my area because it offered something unique – the experience to feel strong, powerful, graceful and happy that my body, this body, keeps amazing the hell outta me.

<3 Rachel

Reader Q&A: I have PCOS and feel embarrassed of my body

Rachel Estapa

Love in the tub

I received this deeply personal and touching question in my inbox and wanted to share my response here, because I know many other women will be able to relate. Dear Rachel,

I’m having a hard time accepting my look and size. I’ve been crying, am angry and unhappy with all this, but at the same time my doctor is telling me my body is healthy, just my hormones are messed up. I have PCOS [poly-cystic ovarian syndrome] and have experienced many of the painful symptoms of that condition, including three miscarriages.  My family and friends keep giving me advice regarding what to be careful of for eating and how to lose weight. But I know my weight is not from my eating – it’s my body. I have a hard time knowing what to wear that will make me feel beautiful - I now wear gym clothes most of the time. I have two beautiful boys, but I am very embarrassed with myself. How can I overcome these feelings? 

Sincerely, Embarrassed with my body

Love in the tubDear Embarrassed --  Firstly, a big hug & thank you for writing to me. I know firsthand what it's like to feel utterly frustrated, confused, hurt, and embarrassed by your own body.

Please know this – neither you nor your body is broken. Your body just requires more thought & attention to keep it harmonious and you have been doing a wonderful job despite a challenging health condition.  I cannot fathom how heartbreaking it was to lose three of your children to miscarriage,  something unfortunately very common to women with poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). But you never stopped trying and your two lovely children are testament to your passion to have a family & be an amazing woman. I admire that.

Like you, I too have PCOS and it took me years to accept that my body wasn't going to be like other women's bodies. My weight is related to PCOS also and it was so aggravating to try to force my body to be a different way, but never see results.  But a year ago, I chose to go off all medication for my PCOS and try the natural approach. One year later, all my hormones are back in balance & my PCOS symptoms have reversed. PCOS is very real but treatable -- the first step is learning how to listen to what YOUR body needs and is telling you. We’re a lot wiser than we think :)

Regarding weight -- everyone in your family who is giving you advice on weight-loss is doing so because they love you, but trust me -- it can also feel like you're letting THEM down too. But your health & body is very personal and if you feel that you're doing all you're capable of, then that's something to be happy with.  It might be helpful to have some lines to say to them, like “I know you’re concerned about my weight, but I feel good and enjoy doing what I can, and I really like it when I know I have your trust and support for all the great things I am already doing for my health”

But let's talk about the embarrassment part - the feeling that your body is betraying you, that you have to hide & shun it - that belief is within your head and it's time to let your heart lead how you want to live your life. Leading with your heart first will help you feel more in-tune with your body because you're listening to what it needs and wants. You won't continue to feel like all you can wear are gym clothes because you'll appreciate just how amazing your body already is and YES it's possible to wear gorgeous outfits & feel sexy no matter your size!

You begin to move past feelings of embarrassment when you let go of the idea that you need to be someone different in order to feel beautiful. It starts by saying to yourself that while you have more health issues to take care of than other women, you’re totally capable of taking care of your body, and in doing so, you will reflect that love in how you treat, dress & think of yourself.

It starts with believing there is another way to live - a way that doesn't have you feeling like a trapped spirit inside a broken machine.

All of us who have struggled with weight & health issues are longing for the same thing -- to feel at home within our own skin. But the beautiful part about feeling at home within our own bodies is it just takes a little step of ownership and faith that this piece of flesh has been entrusted into your care, just as your beautiful boys have. You deserve to take pride in your home, your body, because this is the only little plot of space we’re given to both create life & share it with others.

<3 Rachel

Join the "I'm proud of my size" photo-project!

Rachel Estapa

Last night something awesome happened after I posted this photo:


I saw another blogger do this on her photos, so I wanted to try it for myself. I then invited other women to send me their image & dress-size, and I made graphics for their photo and shared it on my Curvy Girl Facebook page. 

The participation was AWESOME! So many likes, new friends & compliments all round -- it was a lot of fun and truly touched my heart. I want to keep this going so...

I'm inviting YOU to send me your sexy self because I'm declaring that May is "I'm proud of my size!" month! (Click to Tweet this out!)

The Simple Steps --

  1. Email me a full-body photo of you looking fabulously happy, I'll add the graphics and then post it on my Facebook page. My email = and put "I'm proud of my size" in the subject and make sure to add your dress size too.
  2. Then go to my Facebook Page & LIKE IT so I can give you credits in the photo.
  3. If you're on Twitter, follow me + include your @handle in your email & I'll tweet it out to you w/ the hashtag #SizeProud

Inspiration is contagious and it feels SO awesome to shout from the rooftops that you're proud to be who you are. Can't wait to see them all!




PS --> By sending in your photo, you're allowing me to share it, post it & have it become inspiration for other women (and men!) to love their bodies. Case in point, you're not going to legally call foul if you willingly send in a photo!

Someone always bursting your bubble?

Rachel Estapa


burst-your-bubbleSometimes I get little thoughts that pop suddenly into my mind and last night while getting on the train, one hit -- enjoy :) Be wary of those who always try to burst your bubble, because they foolishly believe that in trying to diminish your happiness they might have a shot at finding their own.

My weight-story made Huffington Post!

Rachel Estapa

Rachel Ohuiginn_Headshot_Coaching3

Rachel Ohuiginn_Headshot_Coaching3I was recently featured in the amazing Huffington Post, which is often called "the front page of the Internet." You can check out the story here -> The Repairer  How I learned being overweight doesn't mean I'm broken. 

It still amazes (and humbles) me that even a year ago, I never would have imaged writing about my own struggles with weight and body-image so openly, let alone have my story reach thousands of people.

Today, I help women just  like you feel better about your body, your worth, while putting an end the cycle of body-shame that has kept you unhappy for waaaay too long.

Please share my story with your friends and loved ones...the feedback has been outstanding and I hope it inspires many more people to accept, love and share who they already are.

<3 Rachel