“I once knew this beautiful and talented woman, and one day I finally asked the question I had been thinking:

“What made you so happy in life?”

She stared at me for several minutes and said,

“I was having body image problems before I turned eleven. I was battling with the beginnings of anxiety and soon-to-be depression at the time. There was this little old woman who ran this bookshop and coffee store just down the road. My friends loved to eat there after school, and I would often tag along. I would only get water, or something I knew had barely any sugar or fat. I was already counting calories and watching my weight before I turned thirteen. Anyway, the little old woman watched my friends and I come in day after day. One day she finally called me over to the side of the shop and told me, ‘Love, why don’t you eat?’ I was scared and embarrassed. I said shamefully, ‘Because I don’t feel pretty.’ Her wrinkled eyelids closed for a moment and she said, ‘Let me tell you something, darling. It will guide you through life and help you live it to its fullest. And so she told me this list:

  1. Flaunt your rolls as well are your curves.
  2. Take up whatever space in the world you want, and remember, big doesn’t mean fat, it means more.
  3. Eat whatever you want, because heaven knows you are wonderfully made, darling.
  4. Be vain when you are feeling ugly, or like a misfit.
  5. Never listen to the haters, because they never tell the truth.


The little old lady died after my sixteenth birthday. Her name was Birdie Mae. She was one of my best friends and biggest supporters. Her coffee shop and bookshop closed down and was made into a shoe store. But I never forgot Birdie, because she gave me something better than friendship: She gave me a code to which I have forever lived my life.

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