If you’re a plus size gal struggling with excess weight and a negative body image, you’re not alone. And help is on the way. As part of the growing “Self Acceptance-Love Your Body” movement to encourage women to expand their definition of beauty, feel better about themselves and embrace their bodies, there has been a flood of media attention aimed at empowering women. Lifetime’s reality TV show, “How to Look Good Naked” hosted by Carson Kressley focuses on helping women rediscover their confidence and find self love by giving them the tools to improve their negative and distorted body images.
Kelly Park’s SOS Cry for Help, “I hate my body.”
After gaining 90 pounds post pregnancy, newly married mom, Kelly Park had lost the spark in her marriage. Once filled with body confidence, Kelly’s changing shape caused her to question her beauty, sense of worth and sex appeal. Assuming that her body revolted her husband, John, she stopped having sex with him and for the next five years they slept in separate beds. Kelly inspires other women by sharing her story of how she learned to love and appreciate her curvier, heavier mommy body after being on the show, “How to Look Good Naked.”
Hi Kelly. This is fabulous. I’m so excited to get a chance to speak with you. I think that you’re an amazing role model for women.
Aw. Thank you so much.
Please tell me a bit about what your life was like before you had the baby.
I was always kind of small boned. I had small breasts and a small body and I got married, fell in love with this incredible person and he accepted me for everything I was and was not. Then I had a baby, And the baby weight never went away. Suddenly from out of nowhere these feelings popped up. I became filled with self doubt, self loathing, feelings of ugliness, non sexiness, I was thinking of myself as a horrible person because I was so invisible. I wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t worthy. My clothes didn’t fit and food was my friend and I went through all these different things that I thought that I would never experience in my life, because I had such high self esteem and it lasted for years.
What were some of the things that you were thinking after you had the baby?
I used to think, “Well I’m just a momma.” I can’t be sexy. I can’t wear beautiful underwear and do they even make underwear in my size? I just didn’t understand anything and there was no intimacy in our marriage for a very, very, very difficult, very long time. It was tragic when I look back. I gave a lot of energy to my daughter, which was great, but there was never any room or any time left over for my husband and that’s how I wanted it to be. That was my perfect world, cause then by the time 11:00 rolls around, I’m tired, and there was always an excuse, always.
And then there would be times when my husband would want to get sweet with me, he would want to touch me and I’d say, “Well I don’t see what you see. I don’t see why you would want to do that with me. I just don’t see it. I don’t have a little tiny waist. You know. I don’t wear a size 2. I had large breasts and a round tummy and I didn’t find myself sexy at all. There was nothing remotely in my mind sexy or approachable at all about me.
And it was a downward spiral. I was scared. I was scared of losing him. I was scared of being in a situation like my mom with a baby and being divorced and being a single mom, but it just wasn’t enough for me to change. I wasn’t scared to the point where I needed to change. I knew something was wrong and something didn’t feel right about my feelings but I didn’t know how to approach them. I didn’t talk to other women about it. We didn’t discuss it really in my family. It was just, that’s just Kelly.
So I just got bigger and bigger and food became my, even better friend. I started to shy away from my family and my friends, the people I love and care about. I hid behind large clothes. It was bad. I would never. I mean never, never purchase any clothes unless something ripped, or something caught on fire. It would have to be a total necessity, not like Wow, look at that color. That’s gorgeous. It was never like that and I started to shop in the maternity ward of Macy’s and different department stores because it was easy. It was one size. It was a large or Xtra large and I put it on and that was it. I didn’t have to make a fuss, or anything. I would also satisfy his needs by telling him I bought some clothes. He’d say, “Oh, you bought something new.” And he would never say, “Kel, what are you doing. These are maternity clothes. He would just accept it.
As thought that was a step forward.
Kelly: Right. Yeah.
Did you ever tell your husband how you felt about your body?
Whenever we would go to bed, or lay down with each other, or just talk, I would say, “God, I need some new clothes. And he would say, “Well, why don’t you just go out and buy some new clothes. Why don’t you go out and shop? And I would say, “I can’t buy new clothes. I can’t shop. Look at me. Who am I going to shop for? It would take me three weeks to shop for something that will fit me. So he would constantly encourage and I would bat it down. He would encourage and I’d bat it down. It was constantly like that.
What inspired you to nominate yourself to be on the show, “How to Look Good Naked?”
Around the time that my daughter, Sydney was 5, she started to watch television and movies and began asking questions about body image and about bodies, accepting and loving. She remembered a lot of things that I didn’t think that she would, asking me, “Mommy, why don’t you wear dresses? Why don’t you dress up? Why don’t you celebrate yourself? And I’m teaching her all this stuff about celebrate yourself and love who you are and it’s completely opposite, it’s like the Wizard of Oz where I was the big Oz behind this wall and I’m this little person…
Pay no attention to that little man behind the curtain…
Exactly. That’s exactly what I lived. And then she started to question me, “Why don’t you celebrate yourself, Mom? Why don’t you take a look at who you are and what you’re doing? And it hit me that all this time, I was giving her all this stuff with words but she was looking at me and questioning “What are you talking about?” I mean we got into a little argument. I’m like Sid well, you have to accept who you are and love yourself and she said, “Mom, You sit around and you’re frumpy, and you sit and you don’t love yourself. You don’t wear any makeup, you’re in converse sneakers all day, you’re wearing maternity clothes, who are you talking to? So she looked at me and told me, “Mom, you’re not loving yourself.”
So Sidney was really getting to some cold hard truths that you weren’t willing to face. But how did you and John go from being newlywed sweethearts to being more like room mates sleeping in separate beds?
Room mates. I would call it. We were room mates. There was respect and love, but there was no intimacy. And I mean none.
So was Sidney seeing any evidence of that?
Yeah. I slept in the bed with her for four years.
It sounds like she really got to see that Mom was not walking the walk.
Yup. I slept in the bed with her every night. That was my way of escaping what I was feeling, escaping the truth. When I finally left her bed. She’s like, “Where are you going? I said, “I’m going back to my life.”
Once you were on the show, what would you say was the most significant event that changed your distorted perception of your body?
I faced my greatest fear while standing with Carson in front of a mirror and an entire camera crew wearing just my bra and panties. But I trusted him because I’ve seen him on the show previously and I knew that if I could get through this, the rest of the journey wouldn’t be so hard. I was shaking and sweating because I just couldn’t believe that I was standing there acknowledging all this stuff that I had to talk about. He encouraged me to recognize and appreciate my body for its beauty, and that was the first time that I began to see myself differently.
Kelly, please talk a bit more about the time that Carson put you in a group of women wearing only their bra and panties and asked you to figure out where you fit in terms of size in the group. I was blown away when you chose a woman whose body was actually 2 sizes bigger than yours. What did you learn from that experience?
That was amazing. Because we women just don’t realize how our perceptions are different until you see it right in front of you. I was astonished and appalled at the same time because my perception was incorrect and she was a beautiful woman. She was stunning. She held her head up high. She had this huge round belly. Her skin was a little thicker then mine. I just kept looking at her and I really believed that she looked like me, and that she was my mirror image. I was shocked to see that she was bigger then me. She was holding her head up and happy. It was amazing.
How did that affect you?
I remember coming home the first day and I just got in the shower and cried for an hour. It’s just like an onion peeled, layers started to come off and it was a mixture of “What have I been doing all this time, and am I crazy, and why am I on this show? And the fear and it was crazy. I can not believe that I abused myself that way. I sometimes look back, I have the tape and I pop it in I watch little pieces and say, “Wow, I didn’t have sex with my husband, cause I thought I was ugly.
What do you do differently now?
I put lipstick on. I make sure to put out my clothes the night before. I take my time and I dress myself slowly. I bend over and put on a bra. Thanks to Susan Nethero, the Bra Whisperer associated with the show, I learned how to properly put on a bra. Now I kiss my husband. I flirt with him. I let my daughter see me putting on real stockings, like when you roll them up with the garters. I embrace my woman. I swish when I walk down the street. I move my hips. I look in the rearview mirrors of peoples cars. There are so many numerous things that I do differently. I tell other women when they don’t have the right bra on, I tell them, if I see them in pain and I make friends with people that used to be me. I think one of the biggest things is I pass it on and that is what keeps me going. That is what keeps me encouraged and enlightened. It is just wonderful. I love myself.
How has your relationship with your husband, John changed?
I just can’t believe that throughout all those years he stayed with me. He never cheated on me. He embraced every stage, as I look back now, I didn’t know that that was love. I just didn’t know that was what he was doing. He is such a wonderful husband and I have such an amazing marriage. I’m just so grateful and thankful.
And how has your relationship with your daughter, Sydney changed from the experience?
Before I went on the show she was so confused and didn’t really understand how I felt about my body. We didn’t talk about stuff like that. I just always told her that she should love herself. We never really talked about body issues like that. So, when she saw me going through this, she was kind of stunned and silent at first. I remember it was the third day, it was a Wednesday, she came to me and she said “Mom, I hear you crying in the shower a lot. What are you crying for”? And I told her “I am letting go of my old things. I am looking at my body again.” And she said, “Wow, you know, I always thought your body was beautiful and we never really talked about it. Will my body turn into this? Will I have large thighs too”? I’m so glad we’re talking now. I’ve learned that the key is communication and she is completely open, expressing herself and talking about the kids at her school that that are starting to go through these body things and anorexia. We talk about it now. We have such a different relationship now.
Do you feel that the changes you made will last?
I was absolutely at the edge. I was at the brink, completely ready for some sort of change. Because I could no longer deal with what I was looking at, and I knew that I couldn’t just get rid of this body, I was ready for some sort of explosion to happen in my life. I knew my body was not going to change over night. and I wasn’t willing to go on a diet. The bottom line is that I’ve got this body now, and it’s mine and I wear Double E bras that are beautiful and gorgeous and I take time with myself now, and I lotion my skin and I accept and love myself and I encourage other women to do the same. This is what it is, man. This is a gift and this is a blessing, and I’m just blown away by the whole experience.
The truth is I was so tired of feeling so sad all the time. I think that I was just really ready for change. During the whole five days, it wasn’t just me behind the camera with Carson. It was me talking to the crew members. It was me talking to the executive producers and other women that have gone through the same thing. It was me talking to Carson off the set. It was a constant reassurance that I was okay and I was worthy and valuable. It really hit me and I know that for some of the women on the show, a few of them have gone back to their ways. But it’s different for me. It lasted for me because I am happy. I feel, I don’t ever want to feel that way again. I don’t want to go back to that again. I have embraced who I am now. Yes I am a size 14. Yes, I wear FF bra and that is who I am now. My mind is just totally made up and ready for this journey. The journey did not stop after the show. It really started after the show.
Kelly, what’s up next for you?
I’m so excited to be able to take the experience that I’ve had and put this into an opportunity to teach young girls and women and empower them to recognize the importance of loving their bodies exactly as they are. Since I’ve done a lot of improv acting and some stand up comedy, I’ve decided to take my story and do a show to help people to build their self esteem so that they can learn how to love themselves more by laughing about all the stuff that I went through. I think the road is wide open for me because I’m a gal on a mission.
What advice would you give to other women struggling with their own bad feelings about their bodies?
Before I became pregnant and my body went through so many changes, I used to always listen to a little voice inside of me. She sounds like all of the women who have gone before me and I love her very much. And now I listen. Now I listen. But right after I had my daughter, I noticed that the voice was weakening and sometimes it was a battle. That little voice would scream out and I would push it down and I would ignore it. But when she finally came back, it came back like a whisper. It wasn’t a scream. So I had to listen really close and now I pride myself on that.
But something moved me and I listen to her often and she tells me, “You know what? Do something nice for your husband today. You know what? Go buy those sexy panties. You know what, Kelly. Go on and get your hair done, girl. Now I’m a great listener because of all this. Sometimes the gifts come in really tiny, really quiet little voices. You know?
You got to find that place in you to let that little tiny seed grow, cause it’s just there and it’s waiting. And talk about it, communicate with people. Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Help comes in many different forms, but you’ve got to open your mouth. You’ve got to be willing to receive the help that you get. It comes in a lot of different ways, not in a diet pill. It might come from a girlfriend who says, “My God, I’m going through the same thing.”
For you, it came from your little girl. It came from Sidney.
Andrea, Kelly (in unison): Out of the mouths of babes
Kelly: It came from a child, so I’m living proof. It came from my child. So I learned to just take it easy. Don’t be hard on yourself and please don’t waste any more time. You have no more time. You were given a gift and that gift is life. You have to do it. You have to do it. You have to do it. Just take it easy. Don’t be so hard on yourself and please don’t waste any more time. You have no more time. You were given a gift and that gift is life. You have to do it. You have to do it. You have to do it.
What did you learn that has helped you to keep that little voice in you singing loud and proud?
Every morning I get up, no matter what, if I’m feeling good, or feeling bad, and I go into the mirror and I explain how beautiful I am, how strong, how worthy, how wonderful and how courageous, and I get that voice back over and over again every day. Speak for me, voice. Let me hear that birdie in my head again. Every day I get up and I promise myself, and I promised Carson that every day I would get up and do that. And I thought it was corny at first but I thought, “That doesn’t work.” And it does. And that voice keeps coming back and it starts my day, like I’m putting fresh oil in the car.
And then on those days when I’m feeling schlumpy, my voice says, You know what? This is what life is. You’ve lived long enough to know. You know how to deal with this. You’re strong enough, girl. Keep on keeping on. Something positive from this will happen. Just keep on keeping on. Don’t even sweat it.
Wow! What a great place to close the interview. Keep on keeping on, Kelly, girl, and don’t even sweat it.
Kelly: That’s right.