It seems like years ago when I would get excited for summer and all that came with it — shorts, crop tops, bathing suits, laying out by the pool/beach. For the past few years, though, it’s been a different experience for me. I’ve wanted to remain covered up and refused to sit out by the pool. I’ve opted for flowy dresses versus the shorts and tops of years past that I always associated with warmer weather. This is the third summer that I’ve hated my body.
My weight gain began my junior year of high school in response to birth control, stress, and increased traveling, and it continued to rise through my senior year when I went on antidepressants and found myself in a comfortable, serious relationship. I’d all but quit my daily regime at the gym and began eating what I liked versus what was healthy. I kind of lost myself in everything.
It continued into college with my freshman year consisting of new restaurants, new food, constant Starbucks, and merely eating to stay awake during all-nighters. I’ve gained over 40 pounds in three years.
And this is the first time I’ve admitted it.
And I’m not happy about that.
Sometimes I find myself scrolling through old pictures, slipping into a depression in which I remind myself of how “beautiful” I was. I was skinny; I had a figure. I could wear whatever I wanted. I was attractive.
But am I no longer attractive?
You see, here’s the thing: I’ve always equated attractiveness to skinniness. Always. From a young age, I noticed how boys liked skinnier girls and, in middle school, that hit hard. It wasn’t until high school that I decided to get “fit” (AKA “skinny”).
I began tracking my calories with an app, I did yoga every day, I went to the gym multiple times a week, one time I was told that I looked “sick” because I was so skinny — and I reveled in that statement. But I still thought I was fat.
And, looking back on that now, I can’t help but think of how stupid I was. At 16 I thought I was ugly, because I was fat, even though I was below my targeted BMI.
It’s not unusual for girls to directly relate “fat” to “ugly.” Our lives are filled with a standard that women should be fit, should be skinny. At 10 years old I was comparing my body to Miley Cyrus’ body, and asking why I wasn’t pretty and skinny like her. From a young age, I understood that skinny meant successful, skinny meant attractive, skinny was all of my childhood role models: Britney Spears, Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez. So my whole life I’ve been kind of conditioned to compare my body to others’ and, when it didn’t compare in my favor, I lost.
So when I started gaining weight, I started hiding myself. I’ve slowly become less social and confident in myself. I wear basically the same clothes every day because I’ve become comfortable with the clothes that hide me…and I now hate clothes shopping, so I have a pretty small wardrobe. I stopped seeing myself as worthy.
But then something amazing happened. I just…accepted it.
After years of moping around and trying to lose the weight that I gained, I’ve just kind of accepted it. I’m working out and eating healthy again, but not necessarily to lose weight…just so I can feel healthy. I’m still having to buy new clothes for the ones I have lost, but at least that means I get a new style. I’m learning to accept myself for who I am and what I look like.
Though it’s still harder to wear a bathing suit in front of people and I prefer to wear less form-fitting clothes, I’ve accepted that I may not be the skinny girl that I used to be. But I’ve also accepted that I’m still beautiful. I’ve been slowly learning that, though society has trained me to link beautiful and skinny together, that’s not how many people see it. (Hell, the only time I’ve ever linked the two together is in relation to myself.) I’ve finally figured out that I don’t have to be stick skinny to be pretty.
Does this mean that I’m going to just throw being healthy out the window, though? No. I still want to maintain a good body weight and I still want to keep my vitals working well, but I now know that skinny doesn’t necessarily mean healthy, as it doesn’t necessarily mean beautiful either.
I just want to be and feel healthy, and that all starts with loving myself as I am now.
So I hope I get to go to the beach this summer so I can wear a bathing suit and remind myself of how beautiful I am.
Photo Courtesy of: Josh Sorenson via Pexels