Who is Liza Golden-Bhojwani? I'm just another girl in this world. Born and raised in Texas, I moved to New Jersey at the age of six, before heading to New York at 17 to start my modelling career. I always saw myself becoming a veterinarian because I loved animals. People told my mum that I should model, but an education was always more important. In the end, once I graduated from high school, I ended up enrolling in a local college where I studied nursing. I was paying for my own education, but as time went on, I simply couldn't afford to pay for it with waitressing tips. So, I decided to give modelling a whirl. It really just started as a way to make money and be independent. I didn't take it as seriously as others, girls who'd been groomed from the catwalk since their early teens. When I started out I was pretty oblivious to the nature of modelling, I just figured it had to be glamorous. But I would soon come to find out the reality.
Around 20, I started to become aware of my body. I noticed that my natural form was not like most of the other girls who were modelling. I had a wider waistline and fuller hips. I decided that I needed to change that and obtain that perfect figure so that I could really make something out of this career. It was now or never. I started doing the workouts and diets that all the other girls had been doing all along. Unfortunately, the only diet that ever got me close to a 34" hip was limiting my daily intake of calories to 500 a day. Seeing myself drop nearly 20lbs in just two weeks gave me a rush.
But I was miserable. Full of mood changes. I was constantly on edge and shaky, my face sunk heavily, I had black circles under my eyes. I was so hungry that an almond tasted as good as a fresh buttery croissant. Like all of my diet fads, it didn't last long. I had an incident one night, where I fainted cooking myself one of my "sorry excuse for a meal" meals. I was scared and stopped the diet right then and there. Nothing was worth this much stress to my body.
In a matter of weeks I went from a 34.5" hip measurement to 36.5". You would think by this point I would have learned my lesson and moved on, but I didn't want to give up, I had to try one last time. A few months later I decided to take a healthier more food-filled approach to dieting. I really thought I had found something sustainable and healthy. I had six pack abs for the first time in my life. I was eating a 100% clean, gluten free, paleo diet. I worked out nearly everyday. Somehow I just couldn't manage to get my hips to match the right dimensions. I was obsessive, strict and rigid as hell, but it just wasn't enough. I was so mentally and emotionally exhausted, I couldn't take it anymore. I decided this was the last time I would ever diet in order to reach that measurement.
I moved on from my obsession with having a perfect figure. I was done trying to be something I clearly was not meant to be. I took two years off, and focused on myself for once, not my body. In 2016, it dawned on me that I no longer needed to hide from the world. I realised that I just wanted to be myself. Be who I naturally am, instead of trying to force myself into a shoe that didn't fit, so to speak.
I started sharing photos of myself and my body on Instagram from the moment I decided to stop dieting. I felt inspired to share with whatever followers I had, that sometimes the best body for you is not the same as the one society tells you you need -- but that does not mean it's not beautiful. I am now what is called a plus size model. This can be an offensive label to many people, but at the end of the day, I know my worth. I'm proud and happy to be the size that I am, and I understand how the industry works, so I don't get offended by such things.
Today, nearly three years since I "quit", I feel good about myself, my body, and my life more than ever. Not because gaining weight is the key to happiness, it is not. But, being true to yourself and respecting yourself enough to stop doing something that is degrading you as a person, is. As of right now, I am taking my time to re-establish myself in the industry. It's exciting and a little daunting, you never know what the outcome will be.
In the long run, my hope is to not only work, but also be able to spread my message and the lessons I have gained along the way to as many women out there as I can. In reading people's responses to my story, I have realised that body positivity can touch the lives of many and liberate them from boundaries they have built in their own mind. We are all beautiful and we all deserve to be free and loved at our own size.
Text Liza Golden-Bhojwani