A few years ago I worked in a hotel and there were more than 50 people working in the same area. Every so often I would hear my colleagues talking about someone they’d named “pork belly” and I thought it was just a name for a dish or something. Little did I know I was the one named pork belly.

For three years I worked in that five-star hotel, where the chefs prepared the most delicious meals, and I used to eat from all the dishes a chef would make for the day. I loved food. My favourite was always dessert time. I enjoyed pudding a lot.

THE SAD TRUTH

One day the head chef called me and asked me if I knew my nickname. I replied, “No, I don’t have a nickname.” He then said, “You are the pork belly”, and told me everyone calls me like that because I eat too much and was ugly with a big body.

READ MORE: Tumi Morake and 6 other local celebs who have been body shamed for their weight

I couldn’t believe it and to this day when I think about it, I still feel shocked. That was an embarrassing name for me and it made me feel so bad. I lost my self-confidence.

I disliked standing in front of the mirror because I could see the pork belly now. I couldn’t see anything else when I looked at my body.

THE SILVER LINING

But there was an upside. The criticism made me a better person. I now eat better and I’ve lost a lot of weight. It wasn’t nice of them to call me names and create a nickname based on my weight, but I used that experience for the better.

That’s a lesson I’ve taken with me everywhere since then. We all have nicknames we do not know. It takes a strong person to face the people who gave them a bad name like pork belly. Let them call us names. Women, whether you have big or small bodies, you are all beautiful souls.

READ MORE: Lucia Mthiyane on how she dropped 2 dress sizes by cutting out meat

Never let a bad name given to you by other people destroy you. You are more than your body, you are more than your skin, you are more than what they see in you. And one day, they will also see what others see.

But, in the meantime, society needs to encourage other people to eat healthily rather than calling them cruel names.

Name-calling doesn’t help and might instead drive the person towards eating even more in search of comfort. Be kind, that’s all we ask.

*Not her real name