Five years ago, Kayla Martin “loathed” her overweight body — but she hit her breaking point when she was body shamed by a flight attendant.
Flying from her home country of New Zealand to Australia for the first time, Martin, now a mom of three, was unaware of the size restrictions for the seat or the seat belt. As they prepared for takeoff, the flight attendant started calling Martin out.
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“Instead of having a quiet word to me about the issue, she raised her voice and spoke down to me,” Martin, 25, tells PEOPLE. “I was on the end of the row closest to the aisle so there was plenty chance to have a quiet word to me, but it ended up turning into a bit of a scene. I was so embarrassed and ashamed of my body. I wanted run and hide.”
⛔⚠️MY FAT SHAMING STORY⚠️⛔ . . #TRANSFORMATIONTUESDAY . . I remember taking the left side pic at AKL airport, ready to fly to Aus. I was so self conscious and had this huge ass jacket on ready to fly to SUNNY QLD of all places. I thought maybe if I covered my body, people wouldn't see what was blatantly obvious. To make matters worse when I went onto the airplane I couldn't fit the seat belt. The airline hostess found it appropriate to announce in the middle of a quiet plane that due to my size, i would need to use the seat belt extension that mums travelling w babies needed and maybe next time I should consider booking 2 seats to accommodate for my size to ensure a more "comfterble" flight for myself and other passengers. The feeling of pure embarrassment and shame is something I'll never forget. I loved myself so little back then that I let that airline hostess treat me that way. I belived I wasn't deserving of the same respect that she was showing the rest of the passengers because in my head, I was worth less than every skinny person on that plane. But as i know now, that was the furtherest thing from the truth and I wish my old self could have seen and known what i do now. The day I started LOVING myself enough to start taking care of ME and nourishing my body was the day I turned a new page. Both my physical and mental health have transformed so much since then and I am so PROUD. The girl on the right side is alot healthier, a whole lot happier and has so much confidence now (maybe a lil too much ?). More importantly she LOVES HERSELF! Don't forget babes, no matter your size or shape, colour or culture, you are worth just as much as everyone else. Love yourself enough to take a stand for yourself and doing things for YOU. The rest will start to fall into place from there. I am a walking testament to that.
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The incident, along with the birth of her daughter later that year, pushed Martin to dedicate herself to a healthier lifestyle.
“I had never seen my body as doing anything positive for me, but here I was with my daughter in my arms — the most perfect human I had ever seen — and that was all thanks to my body!” she says. “From there I started my journey of self love and inner healing, and that’s where I started wanting to nourish my body with what it needed so that my body could be healthy.”
Martin started by cutting out sugar and fast food and limiting her bread intake. She also began exercising regularly, first by walking for 30 minutes a day, and eventually heading to a gym where she would do cardio and weight training three to five times a week.
She keeps track of her weight loss on Instagram, and has steadily lost weight over the last five years, through two more pregnancies. Martin is currently 77 lbs. down, and completely changed her relationship to her body.
“I’m at a point where I wholeheartedly love and appreciate myself and my body,” she says. “I appreciate every bump, lump and stretch mark as they are all a physical testimony to the journey that I have been on.”
And Martin will continue to share that journey (she hopes to continue to get healthier and into a “medically recommended” weight range) on Instagram.
“I’m definitely no Instagram model, but I have fun with it and I appreciate that it resonates with people enough to want to reach out and comment or message me about it,” she says. “The support and love I’ve been shown by those who follow me is mind blowing. I still struggle to wrap my head around it sometimes!”
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