This story is part of Health's # RealLifeStrong series, celebrating women who represent strength, resilience and grace.
Jessie Diaz has always liked to dance. However, she never knew how much she would love inspiring other women to dance until she founded her Curves with Moves Dance Company. Diaz & # 39; s goal for every class she teaches: getting women to see the power in dance and their own bodies through affirmations and good, old-fashioned endorphins. Here she explains her journey to self-acceptance.
How did your dance career begin?
I have always been a dancer, but when I was 1
How did you react?
I was not even a big girl back then. I just went through puberty and built things like breasts and a butt. But I thought if my teacher suggests it, she has to do my best in the heart. I started skipping meals, and one day I fainted. When I told my mother what was going on, she was so angry that she drove me into the studio and scolded everyone and shouted, "Nobody tells my daughter to lose weight! My daughter is beautiful! "She pulled me out of the dance – I thought she was ruining my life.
Did you completely give up dancing?
Until college, yes, after that it had a stigma on my mind." During the freshman week, I was on one Party on which the dance crew performed I danced around and they asked me to come to the crew.
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Did it feel different at the time?  In college, my love of dance has been rediscovered in a different light, not in what your body looked like, but in what it could do, but I was not thrilled with it. I actually hid from him, even though I loved the dance, I did not feel 100% comfortable in my body.
When did that change?
Physical positivity is a journey . It is not something where negativity just ends, and suddenly you feel completely confident. But when I was pregnant I had a really great pregnancy, I really did not gain much and my doctor was very proud of me. But my delivery was so painful and so complicated that I spent a week in the hospital with my child afterwards. And the next month was very hard for my body and I just felt beaten. I really hated my body. I felt like it had stopped.
How did you manage that?
I had blogged a bit after college, all in fashion, dance and a bit more plus size. My husband encouraged me to blog again while spending some time on maternity leave. So I started posting old dance imagery and videos, and I got feedback from people who say, "It's great to see an oversized dancer, you rock him."
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At first I felt defensive, as if people thought I could not do the stuff because of my size, and then I started to see the reactions of the people who said, "I wish I could dance like you! "From straight women as well as oversized women. I realized that my body makes me dance in a way that feels great, so I should thank my body for having rhythm and allowing me to move as I do.
Since then, a large Instagram fan base has grown. Was that a conscious priority?
There was a point where I decided to dance again. My body felt a little bit better and I thought I could handle it physically, so I just started posting and the more I was involved with the Instagram community, the more I became confident. I was just becoming a lawyer, and I found that there were not many women and men dancing in the large community.
Where did she go now?
I have always taught dance classes, but I never described my lessons as plus-sized or physically positive until last year when I felt there was a need for it. I realized that there were many people who wanted to dance but were afraid of being the outsized girl in the room. So I've created a safe space where women can dance and not feel judged. It became such a phenomenon, and I have so loyal, faithful class members who come to each class and bring friends. My classes are one-third body-positive and two-thirds dance. We start with a conversation and a little exercise, then we dance it out, and then we end up staring into the mirror and saying confirmations and things that really make us great. And someone ends up in the end … sometimes … me.
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Where does your strength come from?
I was always a mature child. I had to grow up a bit faster than normal kids. My mother had almost committed suicide, so I had to learn how to take care of my mother and little sister when I was 13 years old. But with this kind of experience I was able to improve my emotions and learn to be strong for my mother and strong for my sister. But I also come from a number of strong women on the side of my mother and my father. My dad has always told me that I could be what I wanted and never stop dreaming.
How can you improve this power now?
Affirmations are a big deal for me. I write it on my mirror. I just turned 31, so my quote was, "31 will be your year!". Instead of thinking, "Oh my god, I'm getting older." I prefer to think, "This is an amazing, phenomenal year for you." Turn some things we put in a negative light and use them as a turning point for positives.
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