Losing Weight, Losing a Life: Colombian-American Marie Southard Ospina

Photo Credit: Migg Mag
Photo Credit: Migg Mag

By Re

“Last summer, I lost my sister to suicide. She’d tackled an eating disorder from ages 13 to 28 on and off, and her body image was always sub-zero. There was a lot more that motivated her decision, of course. We didn’t come from a brilliant family life. She’d lost her fiancé in a motorcycle crash. She struggled with prescription drug abuse and I’m sure there is far more I will never know,” said 22-year-old Marie Southard Ospina. “My point with it all is that life’s too short and fleeting to waste your time worrying about not being thin enough, or pretty enough or good enough.”

Though Ospina, too, spent her years plagued by thoughts that she was neither thin nor pretty enough—until her sister’s death, when she made the choice to live the way she wants to live.  “Sometimes it takes something horrifically tragic to make you get your priorities in order, and I just don’t think living up to impossible weight and beauty standards should ever be prioritized. My sister was the closest person to me, especially in my family, and losing her changed everything.”

Ospina is a Colombian-American plus-size blogger and founder of Migg Mag. She said, “The problem isn’t that I’m too fat; it’s people’s reactions to it.” Her weight has been an issue since as long as she can remember. “Part of it is because my family is from Colombia and, in Colombia, there really aren’t that many bigger people—people tend to be smaller,” she explained. While Ospina’s father is American, she grew up primarily with her mother’s side of the family.

“I have a lot of half-siblings. My parents were both married several times before they met, so I have several siblings on my dad’s side…I have an older brother and sister in their 30’s and 40’s, and I didn’t ever get the chance to really know them that well,” she said. Instead, Ospina grew up with two sisters on her father’s side and a brother on her mother’s side, all of whom suffered with body image. “They all did. As an adult, my sisters were both very thin—much, much thinner than me because they never really got out of eating disorders, and out of body image. So they were always quite thin, and tall and blonde. I felt a bit like they were better in a way.”

Though Ospina said her parents never compared her to her siblings, she illustrated her body as conspicuously fuller-figured than those in her life and thus developed an eating disorder young. “I was bigger boned; I was taller; I was fatter than the normal person. It was the whole, you have such a pretty face, if only you were 20, 30 pounds, 50 pound lighter, you’d be so much better. Think of all the things you could do if you just lost the weight. When you grow up hearing that constantly, it stays with you, and you do think you need to fix yourself.”

By the age of 13, Ospina endured an illness that lasted four years, weighing as low as 120 pounds at 5”10. “But I was miserable,” she said. “I still didn’t feel right. People still said [I had] some baby fat to lose. [They] are never satisfied.”

Her mother put her through nutritional counseling with a therapist after recognizing the extremity of her weight loss. But it was not until Ospina moved out of her New Jersey home that she felt revived.

Ospina studied Journalism and Spanish Literature at New York University. She colored the diversity of New York City in detail—women of all sizes in all styles of shape-hugging dresses to over-sized boyfriend jeans—saturating the streets. “People are really quick to belittle fashion and say it’s shallow. It’s not really a profound industry. It’s all about looks. It’s all about money. But I don’t think it is. I think moving to New York really made me realize how much it shows a part of yourself, and how the way you dress really does radiate a bit of your personality and a bit of who you might be as a person.”

It was only then that Ospina first discovered fashion, noting that when she was in high school five years prior, she could not care less of her wardrobe—trends were seldom made in her size.

By her junior year at NYU, Ospina moved to Spain and the Czech Republic, where she was again exposed to another world in the realm of beauty. “I realized that there was more size-acceptance there from the start. One thing I noticed was that if a woman was fuller-figured, she wouldn’t hide her body. She’d wear clothes that everyone else was wearing—tight clothes, body-revealing clothes…And nobody looked at them; nobody made fun of them; it was just fine,” she explained.

“I started going out with my roommates and whenever we’d go out to a club, or a bar, or a restaurant, there were women of all sizes that you just wouldn’t see being that confident in New Jersey or New York—I’d at least never seen anyone that confident to that size in New Jersey or New York. Places are different…and that’s amazing.”

But there was another factor that enthused Ospina’s confidence. “I also met my boyfriend in Spain,” she said. “I met him the second day I was there. We didn’t start dating right away; it was just a happy coincidence that we met that quickly into my study abroad program. He’s been so helpful. I think he is someone who does appreciate the beauty in every size, and he does like women with curves, and I’d never really met too many guys…that had. I don’t want to make it seem like it’s only because of him, and my life changed because of a guy, but it did help, obviously. In correlation with the new atmosphere, and the new vibes of Madrid, it was just the perfect combination.”

In due course, Ospina began Big Beautiful Bold, which just recently became Migg Mag. “I sort of just really discovered plus-size blogging and plus-size spokespeople on cyberspace while I was abroad and while I was kind of becoming more confident, myself, after leaving the States,” she said, describing herself as having a renewed sense of oh it’s okay to be fuller-figured. “I just kind of started Big Beautiful Bold. It started less about fashion and more of giving a voice to plus-sized women and showing that weight and health aren’t necessarily as correlated as people think—to give a voice to bigger women.”

Opsina has become a vehicle of expression, particularly for American women. “I’ve never met an American teen girl, including myself, who didn’t suffer with body image…” she said. “No matter their size—even the girls who I looked at, when I was a chunky teenager, for being the prettiest and thinnest girls. They were miserable, too. They didn’t think that they were the right size either. You always want to be thinner growing up in the States because that is the image we are presented.”

Ospina’s sister is an example that body dysmorphia is not size-exclusive. “It plagues so many girls that are fine, that don’t have anything wrong with them, but are told that they do in one capacity or another.”

International travel unearthed alternative standards of beauty for Ospina. “[I got to] go to the places I want to go instead of staying in a place or following a routine that may’ve not been good for me mentally, psychologically or physically.” For others, she said, “I think we should always take the time to do the things we want to do, and the things that will make us happy, instead of focusing on the petty nonsense.”

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