“The first time I was shamed in public for eating, I was eight and at a family reunion barbecue in a park,” writes Megan Ixim for Yahoo. “After a long day of playing with the other kids, I ran to the table, eager to see what dishes my cousins had brought, and helped myself to a healthy heaping of arroz con pollo.” She was immediately shamed by her grandmother, who yelled at her, “Who taught you how to eat like that? Eating like that will get you fat, and no one wants that.”

Being fat-shamed like that was traumatizing for Megan. Although she was only a little girl, she was forced to confront the pressures of society and view herself from a critical lens. She was thrust into an uncomfortable situation that changed how she handled herself.

“Fast-forward to the age of 11. I’m in a bathroom stall with my lunch tray, hovering my knees above the toilet to perfectly balance my meal of 2% milk, carrots, and chicken nuggets. My heart is pounding as I keep my ears open to make sure no one walks in. I’m frantic as I put each of the five pieces of chicken into my mouth as quickly as possible. If they don’t see me eating the ‘unhealthy food,’ it doesn’t really count.”

Now, however, Megan earns a living by eating food in front of a camera. And she owns her image and loves herself as she is.

“From a young age, I felt the eyes around me always looking at my larger body and making it impossible to eat a meal without fear of judgment. For many years I carried that shame with me, and eating any food when someone else was present became a difficult task.”

Her life changed a few years ago. She posted a photo to Instagram of her eating a cheeseburger.

“To put it frankly, I look absolutely adorable in this photo, and I’m also eating something that can be deemed quote-unquote unhealthy.”

She said, “In retrospect, that photo was a clear example of a turning point within my own body dysmorphia and relationship with food. I was showing myself to the world not only eating but eating something that I would have hidden away at a younger age. This was me telling the world that not only was I going to eat food that nourishes my body and makes me happy, but also I was done living in shame.”

Megan was able to turn things around for herself by reclaiming her narrative.

“A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that creating work that centered on my body and pleasure and food would be the pinnacle of my career and my success, but here we are,” she wrote. “Creating content that also inspires others to live more openly and outwardly is the greatest joy of my life, and if simply looking glamorous while eating a variety of food allows others to feel more comfortable with themselves, then it is my duty and honor to continue to do so. I hope it inspires you to not only eat but eat well.”

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