At just 23, UK blogger Michelle Elman is streets ahead than most of us when it comes to body acceptance, and body positivity.
Her young body is scattered with scars that tell a story of a lifetime battling serious illness, that started just before her first birthday. Across her skull are scars from brain surgery, and across her abdomen are long scars from multiple intestinal surgeries that have given her the impression of ‘fat rolls’.
“The deepest cut is the one at the bottom which is the accumulation of 5 surgeries,” says Elman in an earlier post.
“That was created when I was 11 when I had to have an emergency operation. They had screwed up my previous operation and my intestines were leaking into my abdomen. My dad was called and told to fly over instantly, just in case I didn’t make it.”
She says that whenever she looked at her scars, she cried. And despite being grateful for being alive, harboured a deep shame for how she looked.
“I had already had 9 surgeries before that one, but this one couldn’t be hidden. “I’m never going to be beautiful again,”” she wrote in a previous post.
But a picture uploaded to her personal Instagram account two days ago tells a very different story. Elman, posing next to a friend in Norway, is about to jump into a fjord and is posing in just her bra with a wide grin from ear to ear. Her scarred belly is on show, without an ounce of hesitation.
In her post, Elman says that it’s easy to assume from looking at this picture that she’s the ‘fat friend’ in her group, despite being proud of how she looks.
“There’s a stereotype around being the “fat girl” in a friendship group,” she writes.
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“She’s the one who sits on the sidelines and never joins in. She’s the one perpetually single and sits silently while all her friends discuss their love life because god forbid, if she actually finds a boyfriend, she would never be comfortable naked or in the bedroom. She’s the insecure one, the one constantly complaining about her body and talking about diets.”
But this is not how Michelle Elman has chosen to live her life. Instead, she’s calling “bulls**t” on the stereotype.
“Since the age of 11, I have always been the ‘fat’ friend but I have never been THAT girl.”
She says that because of her medical history, she refuses to sit on the sidelines and miss out – a far cry from her difficult teen years coming to terms with her scarring.
“The difference between now and then is that there’s no hesitation, there are no second thoughts and when my friend suggested jumping in the Fjord, I was all “Hell yeah!”,” says Elman.
“Before I would have said yes reluctantly, spent the time hiding as much of my body as possible until the last moment, definitely worn a top and definitely wouldn’t have taken photos, let alone been in them.”
Michelle Elman is a certified life coach for her brand Mindset For Life, and at just 23, is dedicating her life to body positivity and helping other girls who, like herself, have been labelled as the ‘fat girl’ of the group.
“Ultimately, when you are around the right people, you won’t EVER feel like the “fat friend”,” says Elman.
“I don’t look at these pictures and see me as the odd one out. I look at the pictures and see the memories and the three bodies that we had fun in!”
Painful stereotypes such as being the ‘fat friend’ or the ‘quiet friend’ can stick with people for life.
Learning to shake off the label and grow into your own best self is half the battle – but with women such as the gorgeous Michelle Elman to look up to, that’s becoming a little bit more attainable.