Iza Calzado pens powerful piece on body image, struggle towards body love

MANILA, Philippines — Actress Iza Calzado is a prominent voice in discussions of body image and beauty standard. And she took another step forward by writing about her journey to accepting her shape and size today.

In an article for Metro posted June 3, Iza, known for her roles such as sang'gre Amihan in Encantadia and Grace Noble in A Love to Last, wrote about her journey – from her own struggles to becoming an advocate in accepting one's body shape. 

"I may be at the forefront of a movement and encouraging everyone to love their bodies and themselves more, but the truth is that this body love revolution started because I needed healing and still need healing and support, just like most women (and men) out there. Version 2: It’s more for me than it is for you," she said.

The 2017 Yakushi Pearl awardee talked about her parents’ own struggles – her mother had mental health challenges and her father, his "weaknesses." Iza said she believes her parents' own struggles "was a recipe for my obesity."

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Iza Calzado Wintle (@missizacalzado) on Nov 11, 2018 at 7:11am PST

Iza then shared that when she was in 6th grade, she was diagnosed with depression. Food, she said, became her best friend. But it also brought her shame. 

"It was also around this time when I started hearing comments such as 'Sayang, maganda ka sana pero mataba ka (What a waste. You're very pretty but you're fat)'Comments like this reinforced the feeling of not being enough," she said.

In high school, she went through cycles of losing and gaining weight. It was in her senior year, she said, that out of vanity and wanting to be accepted, that she decided to lose the pounds by taking slimming treatments – fat burners, pills, and herbal teas, to name a few. But along with it came unhealthy eating habits.

"I ended up doing stupid things just to get results. I starved myself: From 3 sandwiches a day to a pack of crackers per day with just water. But weekends became binge time after starvation during weekdays. Binging made me feel guilty about the food I ate, which would lead me to forcibly vomit food out."

"Apart from this bulimic behavior, I occasionally turned to fat burners and slimming teas — anything that would make me thinner. Ironically, my first fat burners were prescribed by a doctor when I was young, and with it I took phentermine, an appetite suppressant, which my mom introduced me to. I was weighing myself every day at the school clinic, and every pound lost kept me going, even to the point of fainting. By the end of the school year, I had lost about 70 to 80 pounds and was in a relationship with my dream guy. Life was good. Or so I thought," she said.

But even if she lost all weight, it was not enough for Iza. After her mother died, she was cast in a shampoo commercial. Although she was thin, she was asked to lose more weight. This started her addiction to exercise, she said. 

She then was cast for another role, this time a leading lady role in a TV show on GMA 7. But even with all the weight loss, she felt it was not enough.

In 2002, she said she was removed from the cast of a movie. She was later told that she would be getting another show which would require to show more skin. It was the TV show Darna, which later went to Angel Locsin.

"I was told by television management sometime in 2004 that I was being handpicked to play a female superhero who fights injustice in the most unforgiving outfit: A bikini. We immediately met with doctors trying to figure out a way to 'improve' my body. I still remember having to show my loose skin to our producers (who were all female, praise God!) with mixed feelings: Pride from weight loss and shame from the imperfections.

"I had previously gone through breast enhancement injections, so a tummy tuck and thigh lift were called for this time to address the loose skin. I had surgery for a role, only to be told afterwards that it wasn’t enough; I lost the part. To be honest, it was never even my dream role, but I felt it would give me a chance to make it in the industry—enough to secure a seat in the kingdom of show business. I should have known better. "

The love and hate relationship she had with her body image went on for years along with all the diet fads, slimming clinics, hosting the show The Biggest Loser, telling herself she was not enough. At one point, her now husband Ben Wintle told her to stop comparing herself to other people.

"I was constantly comparing myself to women whose bodies were 'perfect'—smooth, tight, flawless skin—the one thing I could never have. During a beach holiday in Phuket, I kept expressing comments about other women’s bodies positively, and then belittle and talk about my body negatively. On the fifth day, my then boyfriend, now husband Ben, said 'It’s getting tiring, Iza. Nobody cares.'"

"I was so consumed about my body and other people’s bodies that it was affecting the energy of people around me. What was supposed to be fun was slowly turning into a pity party for my body. I think this was the slow and conscious start to pursuing a healthier mindset in the way I viewed my body, myself."

It was her in her mid-30s, she said, that she finally learned to slowly accept who she was. With women like Stacy and Dinah Gutierrez of Plump.ph and Rona Tai talking about their curves and shape size, Iza said she experimented by posting photos of herself without Photoshop or filters. The results were mixed, but it was a start. 

Her decision to become an advocate led her to join She Talks Asia, where she conducts talks on body image. It was also at that point where she was at her heaviest, she said.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Iza Calzado Wintle (@missizacalzado) on Sep 30, 2018 at 3:49am PDT

"My hormones were not balanced, and I felt like I was being tested whether I would walk the talk. Sometimes I won, sometimes I failed. Remember when I said I still struggle with loving myself, particularly my body? The truth is, it’s not always a walk in the park. I don’t wake up every day feeling amazing and being happy with my appearance and my body.

"I look at myself in the mirror and I see my scars and all the imperfections and it sucks. It’s not like I say, 'I love my body' one time and all of my issues magically disappear. They stare right back at me, day in and day out. I don’t even need a basher to remind me of it. I still struggle to keep food in my stomach when I feel like I have eaten too much. I still struggle with overtraining and pushing my body hard to look better and weigh less. All these years, and I still catch myself not feeling good enough."

Although she continues to struggle, Iza said that she tries to be more positive and grateful by writing in her journals, doing meditation, and being thankful.

"Perhaps the journey is far from over, and I have so many things I still need to address within myself to help me become a better version of myself. So I keep my head up and continue marching on, arming myself with selflove, compassion, and acceptance. But today, as I share my story, I can truly tell myself, 'I am enough.' That’s fine for now. Tomorrow, I face another day in this body love revolution." —Rappler.com