October 14, 2022

The SOUL Production Part 3: The IDEA EXPERIENCE by Brandi Ortiz

The SOUL Production Part 3: The IDEA EXPERIENCE by Brandi Ortiz

Disclaimer: Part 3 will reflect the feelings and insecurities triggered by attending IDEA. But DON’T worry… there’s a good ending. Let’s get a little RAW & REAL!

We arrived in Las Vegas in late July to attend the 2022 IDEA World Convention. This was certainly not my first time in Vegas. Growing up, I often came along with my mom to attend IDEA. I remember running around the convention center with my sister, Lexi. We would scour the convention floor for samples while our mom worked at one of the booths. But this time was different. This time, I was coming to IDEA to work alongside my mom. This time, Mom was promoting her own business. I couldn’t afford to let her down.

I also came to IDEA with more baggage than my previous visits as a kid. I had a lot more significant insecurities that plagued me since middle school. Back then, I was poked at for being more developed than the other girls in my grade. I was heavier and hairier, so I was constantly called names. I learned to hate myself and my body altogether.

For years, I looked in the mirror and hated what I saw. I had too many layers. My thighs were too thick. I had the beginnings of a double chin. I wanted to be thin like the other girls in my grade, but I didn’t know how to change. Exercise, of course, was an option, but for me, gyms were scary. I only saw the fit and thin folks, and I immediately felt insecure as soon as I stepped inside. I told myself that change was impossible, that I would be forever trapped in this body I hated.

For years, I was ashamed of how I looked and made a fun effort to dress nicely or improve myself. I was scared of attracting attention and would rather hide from the spotlight. I became a very sad, self-conscious shell of my former self. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I approached Mom with these insecurities, and we sought help.

I still struggle with my weight, but I am happier and healthier than ever. That isn’t to say that I do not falter from time to time. I feared going to IDEA would be especially triggering because all I envisioned was toned and fit folks roaming the convention floor. I was genuinely worried I would stand out amongst Mom’s team and embarrass her. I was convinced.

Even today, I struggle with accepting and tending to my body. For instance, I brought along one of my favorite red dresses for the Ruby Red Party to wear for the occasion. I do not often wear dresses or dress-up, for that matter, but I still assumed the dress would fit. However, I was horrified to realize the zipper wouldn’t budge. Those insecurities arose again, and I was mortified. I told Mom; thankfully, she had an extra outfit set aside. Initially, I was worried I wouldn’t fit into it, but I was relieved when it slipped on nicely.

Mom could see the insecurities rising. She hugged me and reminded me that she would be there to help me through these feelings. I could tell she wanted me to feel happy in my skin, and so did I. I desperately wanted to be happy. I desired to be proud of myself, no matter my shape or size.

We did not end up spending the whole night and instead made our brief appearance and then returned to the hotel for a lovely night. Admittedly, I was nervous that the next day was the start of the convention. I still had this mindset of not embarrassing my mom, so I smiled and tried to put on an outgoing front.

After setting up, the convention was opened, and eventually, people came pouring in. To my surprise, there were people of all different shapes, sizes, and ages. Like me, some women and men were thick, thin, and in between. I even found myself talking to the other booth owners and having a decent time. Bit by bit, I felt less self-conscious, and my smile became genuine.

However, some folks did get my blood boiling. For instance, most people appreciated the candy bags that were handed out, but when a woman purposely stopped at the booth, sneered, and said, “Wow, candy at a fitness convention,” I was drawn back to middle school. Kids often poked at me for what I ate at lunch, and I remember feeling ashamed for having a sweet tooth and an appetite.

It didn’t help when one of our booth workers returned from break and said, while she was chowing down on a donut, a woman passed her and said, “Good for you for eating that out in the open.” I gritted my teeth and thought to myself, Seriously? Can no one here eat a damn donut in peace?

I hated this stigma of food floating around the fitness community. That somehow indulging yourself was a sin. It didn’t make sense to me, yet I still took it personally. I felt like it was precisely this mindset associating food with fat that led to me being bullied and learning to be insecure.

I was ashamed to be at the same convention as these women. Even adults were capable of being bullies, and that realization frustrated me. I probably was the maddest out of the entire team. Although I tried to hide it, I could still feel my blood boiling. Despite that, I broke into a smile, greeted any guests that passed by our booth, and eventually, the convention ended.

As expected, IDEA triggered some unpleasant emotions in me. My insecurities resurfaced, but I was reminded of the support system my mom presents. I was reminded of how far I had come since my time in middle school, feeling sorry for myself. Yes, I still feel heavy, and occasionally, I look in the mirror and wish I was someone else, but not to the same degree. I have learned to smile and be confident in presenting myself.

Despite hating make-up and not always loving attention, I have tried making a habit of dressing up more. Not to attract attention but to make myself feel nice every time. I have also tried to lose weight for my health's sake rather than for others’ approval. I’m an adult now, and I don’t want to live my life for the sake of others.

I hope anyone reading this will consider how they think about themselves and their ideas on food. Learn to treat yourself. Take care of yourself, but don’t live telling yourself you have to earn that bit of chocolate. Food is designed to be fuel, and we humans are not designed to look the same. Thick, thin, or in between, I aim to be happy in my skin.


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