It Figures is Yahoo Life's body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Meghan Trainor was just 19 years old when she found mainstream success with her hit song, "All About That Bass." Now, as a 28-year-old wife and mother, the pop star says she's finally practicing the self-love that she preached about in the 2014 hit.
"I wrote those songs almost in a… not a joke, but in a way like, 'Well, no one's gonna hear this,' like, 'No one's gonna cut this song,' 'This will never play on the radio,’ like laughing, giggling, while writing 'All About That Bass,'" she tells Yahoo Life. "Literally I went to work that day and thought, like, 'well, no one's gonna hear this song.' But it just showed that the world was ready."
While the bop wasn't Trainor's first success as a songwriter, it put her on the map as a singer and performer in her own right — something that she thought she'd never accomplish merely because of her looks.
"Growing up in the '90s and 2000s, there were a lot of beautiful pop stars that were all 'skinty,' you know, like, very small. So that for sure crushed my dreams when I was in high school, and I was like, ‘Well, I don't look like those pop stars do so I guess I'll be a songwriter, and I'll be behind the scenes,'" she recalls.
As it turns out, singing about not being a size two "silicone Barbie doll" ended up being what set her apart and brought her recognition.
"Luckily, everything worked out. But I really tried to push my whole career in one direction because of that, which makes me sad now," she explains. "Being different does work and can help and then I noticed that that song saved a lot of people's mentality."
The song was praised for its positive message about body image before those kinds of candid conversations happened in mainstream media. And while it impacted and uplifted listeners who felt validated by Trainor's lyrics, the lyricist herself needed that same inspiration.
"There was a lot of bad self-talk in my household," she says of her childhood. "My mom is very hard on herself and my dad is like a jokester, but not in a good way. If he's trying to give you advice on something, he'll kind of pick on you and that's his way of like, helping you. But it's traumatic. I took him to therapy back in the day so he knows."
She recalls a specific instance where her dad would question something she was wearing, saying, "You're not going to wear those pants, right? You look fat." She says that he had no intention of hurting her with his words, "but he didn't know that as a young teen girl, I'm gonna remember that for the rest of my life. ... I'm trying to rewire my brain so that my future daughter and son don't think like that as well."
Trainor learned just how much words really mean from those experiences and made sure to be mindful with her own. As she met fans who felt their lives were changed by her songs, she connected to those sentiments.
"A lot of parents would come in the meet and greet lines and say, 'My kid you're about to meet behind me, he didn't want to go to school, he was depressed, didn't want to keep living and your song came out, and now he's so happy.' I would make sure to hug them extra tight and say, 'I'm so glad you're here,'" Trainor says. "I looked at them and was like, 'Oh, I know exactly what that feels like and I can't believe that my three minute song got you out of that.'"
Being aware of that impact at just 19 years old could be overwhelming. For Trainor, however, it helped her to identify her "superpower" as she calls it.
"It's a gift. It's not like a responsibility, as if it's exhausting," she says. "I just know that with each album, I want something to mean something and I want it to help others now that I know that I have a superpower."
That mission had evolved with her latest album Takin' It Back as it was Trainor's first time approaching her songwriting as a new mom. While she had a lot of new love in her life, she felt a bit lackluster herself.
"It was how I felt after the C-section. I was like, I'm lost. I feel like I lost my power. I can't look at myself right now. I'm struggling more than ever. And I need my husband and people who love me to remind me that I'm awesome because I don't feel awesome," she says of writing the album's earliest song titled "Remind Me." "I say it now in sessions like, 'We need a big Meghan Trainor love myself anthem.' But it started sad, this album."
Trainor worked with her therapist to start to rebuild her confidence, specially when it came to her body and how much it had changed through pregnancy and childbirth.
"My therapist was like, 'You need to stand in the mirror naked for five minutes a day and stare at your body,' which is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. By the third day, though, I started to like what I see and start believing it," she says. "You start really looking at yourself and being like, it's crazy that I could make a human being, like I made eyelashes."
She then looked for more beauty and motivation in what was otherwise a difficult experience.
"I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant so I was literally dieting while pregnant, which sucked. But it was really fascinating to watch my blood sugar, so I learned all this fascinating science," she explains. "Then after my baby came out, I was like, 'I want to live forever.' ... I was like if I can get through a C-section, I can do anything. And I just changed everything about my life. I was like, nothing scares me anymore."
Trainor detailed a routine of 5:00 a.m. walks, followed by a 45-minute workout that she did all before going to set while filming an upcoming season of Australian Idol. "We did the 75 Hard challenge and it was a crazy mental challenge," she says. "I lost 60 pounds the healthy way, which is like one pound a week and it took a long time and I was motivated by my son and my family was helping me and I've just changed so many things about my life that I like barely get sick anymore, I’m happier, I'm confident and just starting to take care of me."
She says her evolved lifestyle and perspective has also made her a better parent to her one-year-old son, Riley, who she shares with husband Daryl Sabara. "It's like when you're on the airplane and they make you put your oxygen tank on you and then your kid," she says. "I just picture that in life, like I need to take care of myself so I can take care of my kid."
Her relationship with her audience is much the same with songs like "Made You Look" as she reveals that the lyrics aren't coming from a completely healed place, but rather an attempt to lift herself up before she releases it and uplifts others.
"I was in the shower naked, dancin', and I was writing the chorus, and I was like, I could wear all these fancy clothes that they put me in, but even when I'm like my grungiest and naked, like running to the shower, my husband's like, 'Oh, my God, you're so hot.' So I was like, I want to feel like what you believe. So I started to put that in a song," she says. "As much as I'm [writing those lyrics] for [fans], it's also a selfish way for me to relate to strangers out there so I know that I'm not alone."
While Trainor acknowledges that she's come a long way from her "All About That Bass" days, sharing that her younger self would "hug me and say, 'Wow, girl, you did it,'" she also finds joy in the fact that she's no where near the end of her journey with the self-love that she so often sings about.
"My best friend tells me that I write stuff that everyone feels but never admits out loud and that's what I've been trying to continue to do. And now that I'm a mom, there's like a whole new lane of emotions that are flooding me," she says. "I cannot wait to be 30 some day because I think I'll be literally thriving."
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