Success stories regarding weight management typically involve people dropping unwanted poundage in search of trimmer versions of themselves. Trina Hall’s story goes the opposite direction. The 34-year-old yoga teacher decided to gain weight on purpose, 40 lbs. in fact, to better understand what life was like as a larger person.

Hall was admittedly petite before her weight gain journey. At 5-foot-5-inches and 130 lbs., the Dallas-area yogi says that she first made the decision to put on the pounds when she found a friend, crying, saying she didn’t want to be known as the “fat yoga teacher.” This prompted Hall to explore where beauty truly lies. “It's more important who you are on the inside,” Hall told U.S. News & World Report. “And then I discovered way more than what I had set out to.”

The First Gluttonous Step

Hall’s mission began with curiosity as its backbone. She wondered whether teaching yoga as an overweight person would affect her self-image, whether her students would see her differently. She wrote on her blog that testing the limits of her insecurities only came once she found out she had any; before the journey, she saw herself as a healthy individual, in both body and mind. Her belief had always been that the term “fat” was a tool to injure. “I’m not at war,” she wrote.

“I thought this would be an experiment in empowering people to love their bodies and not try to fit society’s mold,” she wrote. “Instead, reality of my latent insecurities came like a football team’s kicker being put in as the center (my identity was pummeled).”

She suddenly became uncomfortably aware of how often she’d catch herself glancing at a mirror. Looking good in spandex became a necessity; when she became too self-conscious, she wore loose-fitting dresses to teach her classes. She grew increasingly guilty of the foods she ate.

“The stories I made up about what people thought of me were changing and I was emotionally affected. Suddenly, my self-worth was proving to be connected to how good I looked wearing spandex – something I completely denied giving a shit about before this experiment—,” she wrote, “and that pissed me off.”

Hall met her greatest weaknesses emotionally. Her size made her feel unlovable. Before the experiment, she was consoling her friend — who had battled a lifetime of eating disorders — reassuring her she only saw a trim and beautiful person, despite any perceived physical flaws. Now, Hall was beginning to doubt her own advice.

“I learned that I was – and still am – very judgmental about physical appearance,” she told U.S. News & World Report. “I was afraid of dying alone – I noticed that was a thought coming into my mind. I'm single, and the thought kept coming in, ‘You're going to die alone. You're going to die alone.’”

Mental Health And Mexican Food

Through a steady diet of “anything and everything and all amounts of food that I desired or wanted,” Hall climbed to over 170 lbs. at her peak. For her height, the weight put Hall’s body mass index (BMI) at 29, just on the cusp of obesity. The unrestricted diet took its toll on Hall’s mental health. Vast quantities of food, a lot of which was Mexican, she said, became less of a fuel source and more of a leisurely activity. “I was turning it into eating for the sake of eating, and I definitely felt like I shouldn't be doing that. You know, it's bad to eat a bar of chocolate every day.”

Suddenly, the passive Hall had transformed into a machine of self-defeat. She became her own worst enemy. The “war” she vowed not to engage had begun.

“There was a war going on inside of me and neither side was winning,” she wrote. But then a curious thing happened. Hall realized that the struggles she was enduring were self-inflicted. Her own psyche had turned against her, but the power to reorient its course was still in her control. Self-image was still a matter of the self, she reasoned.

“Once I unraveled the fears and self-assaulting language as irrational, they no longer had power over me and I began to relax into my newfound ‘goods,’” she said.

Hall has since come to terms with her self-image. She has resumed her healthy diet, where food is fuel, not recreation. The reactions she has received from people online has been mixed, she says, and she has done her best to stay neutral in spite of both the negative and the positive. “If I don't want to absorb the negativity, I can't become attached to the positivity either,” she said. Ultimately, the reactions belong to those who experience them.

“Nietzsche says the thing separating men from gods is the belly. May we all expand our bellies to digest our fears and empower our minds to think,” she wrote. “May we all understand that we all want to be loved for who we are… however we are in the moment. And may we all find love and not die alone, from potato chip asphyxiation.”