Allison Bottke is a former plus-size model who became a bestselling author, who took a long time to resolve her two key issues: comfort eating and people pleasing. She’s now the author of the Setting Boundaries series, and has worked hard to establish who she is, what she wants and what she’s willing to give (and not give) to others.I recently spoke to her about her previous life in modelling, and how her newly-discovered personal boundaries have made her happier.
Q: Can you tell me a little about your journey to becoming a plus-size model?
A: For a number of years, I was over 200 pounds and I did have to get to a place where I accepted myself. I was in the right place at the right time when it came to modelling, but when I was over 200 pounds there was only one place for plus size clothes: Lane Bryant. There was a real void for us. But a magazine came out called Big, Beautiful Women and they published for six years. The editor had a real vision for plus-size fashion, and designers started perking up in the mid 80s. Now, plus-size models are pulling in million-dollar contracts, but it wasn’t like that then. I had weight loss surgery about 10 years and I’m now a pretty healthy weight.
Q: It’s interesting that you were a plus-size model, seemingly validated for your size, and then you had weight-loss surgery.
A: I struggled with my weight for a long time. I wanted fashion and style and to be comfortable. I didn’t beat myself up about my weight, but I didn’t feel healthy. When you’re over 200 pounds, it’s hard to get around. I had to alter things to fit or try to dress things up with accessories. I had a level of self-acceptance but I didn’t want elastic waistbands.Also, food really was a drug for me, and I ate for comfort, and I realized that I had a lot of boundary issues. Once I started therapy, I started losing weight – eventually so much that I lost my job as a plus-size model.
Q: How can setting boundaries foster greater happiness?
A: If you don’t know what your “no” and your “yes” is, you can’t be happy. I didn’t know what my boundaries were when I started this work. I was a serial monogamist, and I kept saying yes to everything – to boyfriends I wanted to take care of me and to work I didn’t know I could turn down. I didn’t really think about what I wanted or what I stood for. I wanted peace and happiness and hope, and I was looking for that from other people. But all of those things come from something you establish for yourself.
We’re living in an out-of-control world, and have to actively think about what kind of boundaries we want to set to have enough peace, exercise, quiet time in our lives. If you don’t do that consciously, it just doesn’t happen and it’s important to take care of yourself. You need preventative and restorative boundaries to both prevent us from making bad choices and to restore us when we have gone off track. There are a lot of people who push our buttons, and we need to do the work to figure out what we want and where we stand. Boundaries are simply knowing your “no” and your “yes,” and acting to make sure you take care of yourself.