For four years, I managed a website called “100 Pounds in 1 Year.” Rolls off the tongue, right? When I started, I had hoped those 100 pounds would roll off just as easily. However, while my mind focused on weight loss, my heart went rummaging around its dusty corners of lost and found feelings. There was a lot more there than just wanting to lose weight. I found some wrinkled confidence, a few smelly and slightly stained expectations, and a barely used sense of accomplishment. I ached to reclaim those lost parts of me. I thought I would have to lose all 100 pounds before I could feel that good again. Turns out, I didn’t have to.

Within that first year, I lost 60. Now I could hike, bike, and find cute clothes in my size again. I still wanted to lose the other 40. The the more I enjoyed moving, however, the less I wanted to get on the scale only to see that needle barely budge. It just wouldn’t go down! After a while, I began to wonder, “Is this the weight my body wants to be at?” But I really, really liked the way “100 Pounds in 1 Year” sounded. There’s lots of promise embedded in that phrase. I could hold onto that, or, what if a deeper hope — a well of acceptance, an even juicier satisfaction which I’d never known before – could be mine? I decided to find out.

My first step was letting go of my ideal self who was 100 pounds lighter. I had loved her for so long. She shined like the sun in my day dreams. Leaving her felt scary. Would self-acceptance shine as bright? I leaned into a murky limbo. I groped around for new ways to see myself. I still wanted to feel good in my skin, so denying my size wasn’t an honest option. Nor was becoming defensive. Defending my size would have me fighting judgments that weren’t even real. I wanted connection (not a different form of disconnection). What to do when acceptance diligently waits, needing nothing from me but to believe in it? I had hope that loving myself might be enough, but I was trying to figure it all out before getting there. Turns out, I didn’t need to.

I found solid ground. But not in flawless ideas and not all at once. I got there in teeny-tiny, super-practical steps.

The first came after I started dressing up again. I bought a new bra and actually wore it. I did my hair and makeup in the morning. I reorganized my closet into favorite outfits. Then, one day, I had this thought, “Girl, you’re a large person, You ain’t foolin’ anybody. People see you. You’re already taking up space, so START TAKING UP SPACE! Inhabit it. Live large in it. So I did. I stopped squeezing my frame into small chairs at the office. I just found a bigger chair. No more tugging at the front of my shirt to blanket my belly. Instead, I sat with my poochy power source out like a goddess. I have curves like Jesus has religion. I got girth. Claiming that space felt honest. It felt legit. And, because of that, I started being true to myself.

Clarity. Hope. Confidence. I carried these PLUS that extra 40 pounds. Soon, I came across a community of people doing the same. They go by the moniker #BodyPositive or “BoPo” for short. They heft their authority with pics of belly rolls in bikinis, mermaid thighs atop high heels, and smiles – always smiles. They find peace with their bodies without making war first. I had found my people.

They willingly offer what I need: more pictures of big, active people (And that doesn’t mean trainers yelling at large people to drop ten more to win the weekly weigh in.) We need new images because, when people don’t see themselves in main stream media, it’s just too easy to fill the void with self-hate. The BoPo movement fills that void with real people who celebrate their size. I wanted to fill that void with something better, too, so I started writing about being active at any size. Soon, “100 Pounds in 1 Year” became “1 Less Chick on the Couch.”

Along with articles, I also post pictures of myself. Me doing yoga, me biking up a mountain, and, yes, me on the couch. It hasn’t been easy, but sharing pics reminds me to inhabit my fullness. For the longest time, I walked around like a floating head all up in my intellect and ignoring anything below the neck. I avoided reminders of my girth. Now, I showcase it. I post my pics with faith that readers see me with kind eyes. They see my smile before my double-chin. They spot my sass before my belly rolls. I’m learning to see what they see.

I know people like to say, “Beauty is only skin deep.” But I prefer the Italian phrase, “Chesento sulla mia pelle.” It means, “I feel that on my skin.”

That’s what I want to feel. So good — so deep — that it radiates from my core and all the way out through my skin. Sometimes I do feel like that. Some days I don’t. I try my best to abide in that love. No matter how it looks, I’ll always be “1 Less Chick on the Couch.”

Shelby Humphreys lives in Missoula, Mt where she writes about being active at any size. Follow her on Facebook or Instagram.