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On Wednesday, the 26-year-old reality star published an personal YouTube video with the caption, "Well, here we go… body image is something that I’ve struggled with since I was a little girl, and will continue to work on for many years to come," and adding trigger warnings.
Long before the Tuscaloosa, Ala., native, who starred on Season 23 of The Bachelor and Season 15 of The Bachelorette, grew into a confident and religious feminist, she felt uncomfortable in her skin. Notably so, as a tween flipping through magazines. "I had a really round face — I still do now — and huge dimples, so everybody would always comment on my little chubby face," she said. "Or, I've always had these, my mom calls them our 'logger legs,' which is probably bad, but that's what she did."
As such, Brown would compare herself to other girls, especially during dance class, where the students would line up in front of a mirror, their "thigh gaps" prominent. "I don't naturally have a thigh gap," she said, "…so I always hated my legs," and admitting, "I wanted to be perfect."
In high school, people described Brown as "pretty" but "curvy or thick," which hurt. And when she entered a swimsuit competition at 16, Brown started her first diet, consisting of fruit, chicken, green beans, salad and boiled eggs, leading to a 15-pound weight loss. "I was so, so hungry," she admitted.
However, after the pageant, Brown began eating normally and re-gained all the weight, starting a "constant yo-yo" eating routine.
As Brown embraced pageant life — she competed in local contests followed by Miss Alabama USA and Miss USA — she eliminated carbs and exercised excessively, gaining and losing weight, all while fighting against her muscular body type. "I'd just mess my metabolism up so bad," she said.
The environment made Brown anxious, and she pinned her pageant losses on her size. When she won Miss Alabama USA in 2018, she was newly heartbroken, which caused weight loss. "I definitely think I struggled with an eating disorder — or, I had disordered eating," she said. And though Brown lacked energy to work out with her personal trainer, she finally developed that thigh gap. "I never thought I'd see the day," she recalled. Still, though Brown reached her goal weight, she was still "miserable."
When Brown appeared on The Bachelor, she was still self-conscious, especially around her "beautiful" cast mates. "Even some of my friends were like, 'Yeah, I remember, all you did was eat candy,'" recalls Brown. "I only ate candy; I wouldn't actually eat the food." Then, as The Bachelorette, Brown gained weight, only to lose it when she and Jed Wyatt, her chosen fiancé on the show, broke up in 2019.
Brown appeared on Season 28 of Dancing with the Stars, and although she and pro partner Alan Bersten won, she admits to "being hard on myself" during taping due to developing muscles through strenuous performances.
Brown's spirit was breaking, all while social media users sent her nasty messages and old photos of herself. "It's always been this constant struggle of worthiness," she said. "When I think back on it all, I wasn't any happier at any time…I didn't have any self-worth." She added, "I've definitely struggled with accepting the way my body is now."
Brown knew she had to "dig deep emotionally" and consider her responsibility to fans. She wondered: "Do I really want to be another girl that does some scary psycho diet," explained away by a faux healthy lifestyle?
No, although Brown admits, "It's a daily struggle for me to pretend like, 'Oh my gosh, I've learned everything...'" However, she does realize that maximizing her potential doesn't mean minimizing her size. As she said, "It just means love myself more, fuel myself more, be a healthier version of Hannah every step of the way."
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