Carmen Rene Shares Her Body Acceptance Journey and Top Tips for Loving Yourself
Carmen was born with primary lymphedema and was later diagnosed with lipedema—two incurable, yet common, chronic conditions that affect fat distribution. After developing a passion for challenging society's strict and unrealistic beauty standards, she decided to make it her job to share her message of self-acceptance and self-love and to help people everywhere understand that they're beautiful, no matter what skin they're in.
Her love for herself is truly contagious, and she'll be spreading the word of self-love even further as a speaker in the Strike Your Empowerment Pose virtual body confidence event held by Shapermint. The free event is on Wednesday, Aug. 10, National Shapewear Day, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET, so register now—and check out Shapermint's sale for up to 70% off through Aug. 11. We got the chance to chat with Carmen all about her body acceptance journey and the event in the interview below.
Sweety High: What inspired you to become an activist with a focus on body acceptance?
Carmen Rene: Like a lot of women, I spent the majority of my life feeling like I wasn't enough, or in some cases too much! Not thin enough, not good enough or worthy enough to simply exist without constant self-criticism.
SH: What is lymphedema? Can you tell us about your journey to accept your condition and your body?
CR: My journey with lymphedema began at age 3 with a diagnosis after complaining about pain in my legs and feet. Lymphedema is a chronic condition causing swelling, typically in the arms or legs due to a damaged lymphatic system. It has been a very long and difficult process to find not only acceptance, but also ways to manage a lesser-known condition with no cure. Growing up with lymphedema was extremely challenging, especially when it came to affecting my confidence and self-esteem. I always knew I was different,t but it took me almost 25 years to figure out that those differences were actually my own superpowers! I finally realized that this condition wasn't going anywhere, so I might as well learn to embrace it and find gratitude daily. I was also diagnosed with lipedema at 32, which actually affects one in 11 women. Lipedema has also caused swelling in my legs and arms and is extremely painful due to the abnormal fat nodules under the skin. Lipedema is also incurable at this time. What most people don't know is that the fat affected by lipedema will never go away on its own, no matter what your lifestyle consists of.
SH: What type of audience do you hope to reach with your content, and what do you hope they learn from it?
CR: My goal is to impact as many women as possible in a positive way. My content is geared toward anyone struggling with body image, mental health or just looking for a bit of positivity. Ideally, I'd love to have a safe space for women to share and communicate without all of the unsolicited comments from men about my body, but I'll gladly take on the inappropriate men and trolls if it means a fellow boss babe takes me on her confidence journey with her. I hope everyone who comes in contact with my page learns that our differences make us beautiful and that we are never alone in our struggles or challenges.
SH: What advice do you have for others to not only accept their bodies, no matter what size and shape, but to also become empowered by them?
CR: Everything we feel about our bodies has been taught to us, good or bad. The positive news is that if we have learned it, we can retrain our brains slowly to re-learn all of the truths about our beautifully unique bodies.
I encourage everyone to start incorporating small daily practices that will eventually become positive habits for our body love journeys. My favorite is daily mirror talk. Every day, stand in the mirror and say something nice about your body, even when it feels hard or you are struggling. The other practice that helped me the most was limiting negative self-talk. Most of us don't even know we are doing it half of the time, but making a real effort to replace negative thoughts about your body with something positive, or nothing at all, will make a huge difference.
SH: Why are some of today's beauty standards so unrealistic and harmful? Why do we go about challenging those standards?
CR: We exist in a society that profits off of our insecurities, fuels toxic diet culture and continues to mislead our youth with photoshop, filters and other dangerous mistruths. All of today's beauty standards are harmful because they are constantly changing and unattainable for the large majority of our population. The best way to challenge those standards is to slowly eliminate them. You are your own standard of beauty—that is it. We can continue to work towards breaking generational cycles of hating our bodies and teaching our youth (often subconsciously) to do the same. We can continue to showcase all bodies in the media, print, etc. so that every young person can see someone who looks like them instead of wishing to look like someone else.
SH: What's the most important lesson you've learned over the course of being an activist and sharing your message with the world?
CR: I have learned so much from this journey and am absolutely still learning every day. Sharing my message has been the most rewarding experience of my life, especially in terms of connecting with so many incredible people online. There is a great amount of strength in being vulnerable and finding your community.
SH: What advice do you have for dealing with negativity and hate, especially online, about the way you look?
CR: Focus on the positive, always. This was a very conscious shift I made in my life about 10 years ago and it certainly applies to the trolls who try to get in my head online. For every nasty comment, there are dozens of positive comments from people who have been impacted in meaningful ways by me being vulnerable or simply being happy in my body. Truthfully, I feel sad for people who take the energy out of their day to write something so cruel about someone else. I would tell anyone struggling with this to keep confusing the world with your confidence until everyone catches up and experiences how amazing it feels for themselves.
SH: How excited are you to be involved with the Strike Your Empowerment Pose event? What perspective do you hope to bring to the table, and what does it mean to you to be working with Shapermint?
CR: I am beyond excited to take part in this panel and share my voice with other amazing individuals. Existing in a fat body with two chronic conditions has given me a unique perspective that I am looking forward to sharing. I am hoping to share that feeling empowered and worthy does not come with a size limit, specific gender, race or abilities. We all deserve to take up space and find what empowerment means to us. Shapermint has created such a unique and amazing space for bodies to feel supported and celebrated and it's an honor to continue to work with them.
SH: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
CR: I am grateful for Shapermint for finding ways to provide comfort as well as empowerment for all bodies. This is your reminder that your body is worth celebrating and loving at every step of your journey. Make daily practices to make long-term changes in how you view your amazing reflection in the mirror and don't waste another day putting off making the memories, wearing the outfit or questioning your worth. You are worthy, loved and beautiful.
For more from our favorite body acceptance advocates, click HERE to read our interview with Lisa Schoenberger on inclusivity in the fashion world.