“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.” – Mark Twain
Large. That is the word now written in my clothes inner label. For the first time in my adulthood, it is large instead of small or medium and it has been scary. I still cannot believe how much weight I have gained. Sometimes I feel like an inflating balloon, literally. If you see me for the first time, you would say I am exaggerating. If you have known me for a while, you would say I am exaggerating. My normal body weight range, according to the body mass index (BMI), should be between 110 to 140 pounds. Being 5’4’’, my current 162 pounds are considered overweight. OVER-FUCKING-WEIGHT. I have had to repeat that words several times in my head to assimilate it. Since I am aware that I am writing this from a thin privileged person’s perspective, I want to focus on the internal battles fought on behalf of eating disorders and body image issues.
Me at 32. Me at 162.
For approximately 20 years, I’ve had body image/appearance related insecurities and an unhealthy relationship with food. It all started in primary school when I was bullied because of my unibrow, hairy legs and big boobs. It continued on middle school when flirting was a thing among boy and girls my age and I was still thinking about playing kid’s games. My friends got the attention though their looks and charisma, while I did it through being the class clown and pretending having an eating disorder that didn’t existed (this includes faking being bulimic and fainting during pep rallies and sleepovers). It all got better with time and, fortunately, never became bulimic, but my insecurities about my appearance persisted.
I had nobody to tell me that I was beautiful and worthy and that I didn’t need to act silly to get attention. I didn’t know that I could ask for help or advice. Maybe I was pretending that nothing was happening. Or maybe I was just clueless about teenage life. I’ll never know. I was so focused on the fact that I wasn’t attractive to the boys as my friends were, that I forgot that I could be awesome in my own kind of way regardless the way I looked. But maybe I didn’t forget, maybe I was just too ignorant to know. Maybe it was the lack of a good example to look up to (at least on this matter).
As an adult I kept comparing my body to other women’s. I kept measuring my worth based on my attractiveness (or the lack of it). There were periods when I felt pretty (or at least okay) and confident about the way I looked. But then it disappeared. I don’t know when and why. After that glorious period, body image issues kept coming in waves. Although, at some point, I acknowledged that I was pretty (at least in my own opinion), the insecurities were always there; sometimes on the surface, sometimes down below. But always there.
When adulthood responsibilities kicked in, I started having unhealthy eating habits that resulted in weight gain, then loss, then gain again, which perpetuated my body image related issues. It wasn’t anymore about being plain ugly or having an awful taste in fashion or being uncool. It was about the (fluctuating) weight. While I (finally) considered myself pretty, I felt fat. And this is the battle that I have been fighting for the last few years. I have a body that is incongruent to the kind of body that I learned to see as beautiful.
After my 30th birthday I started reading about self love, acceptance and body positivity. I wanted to love myself at any size. I wanted to stop hating and punishing myself for the weight I’ve gained. I wanted to enjoy food. I tried hard to make myself belief that I am worthy no matter how much I weight. And while I indeed believe this to be true, I still look at slim bodies with jealousy, wishing deep inside that my body was like one of those. I’ve tried tons of diets, exercise (which I hate with every fiber of my body) and even recently read about intuitive eating. But I always go back to wanting to look slim. When I think about eating healthy, I want to believe that I want to do it for the sake of health, but deep inside I know I want to do it because of the way my body might look if I adopt that kind of lifestyle. I know that being slim wont change my life, it wont erase my depression or my anxiety, but somehow I feel that it will make me a little bit happier and confident.
At some point of all this learning (and unlearning) I made myself believe that in order to love myself at any weight, I needed to embrace and keep my overweight because trying to go back to my healthy weight would make me a fraud or a hypocrite. In this long journey of self acceptance, I would like to offer a truce to the part of me that wants to embrace the 162 pounds and the part of me that wants to eat healthy, exercise (at least to be agile again, to have more energy and less fatigue) and get back to 135. I would like to feel that it is possible and okay to want to be slim, and at the same time to be aware that I am worthy at any weight.
Me at 31. Me at 132.
I have been so hard to myself at wanting to change a mindset that has been with me through 32 years. I grew up learning that slim bodies are beautiful and I’ve always wanted to have one. When you believe something for so long, when you want something for so long, it’s just hard to suddenly accept the opposite. It doesn’t mean that my current weight makes me less pretty or less worthy. It doesn’t mean that I’ll be depressed or feel bad while I lose the weight or if I gain a couple of pounds. It means that I will love myself fiercely no matter what I see in the mirror. It means that I’ll be proud of myself no matter if it’s “small” or if it’s “large” what’s written on my clothing labels. It means that I’ll celebrate myself no matter what other people want to see when they look at me.
The hard job here will be avoiding to go back to the mentality that my worth and happiness are measured by what I (and other people) perceive as beautiful and acceptable. It’ll be hard to fight the messages that there’s something wrong with my body or my appearance when it doesn’t comply with beauty standards. When those messages pay a visit, I will try to be kind to myself, to be grateful for this body and the things it can do, to remember with pride how far I’ve come, especially during dark times.
After all, life is meant to be lived at large.