Last week, I cried over my body in front of my boyfriend. We had just been lying on my bed and were transferring to the couch to watch a movie when I noticed the way the sides of myunderwear were pressinginto my love handles, clenching my fat and leaving red marks on my skin.
But I’m not that 17-year-old anymore. Now, I’m a size eight 22-year-old with love handles. So, I cried. I mourned.
Throughout high school, I was known for being “thin” and “pretty.” (You know, because that’s what’s really important.) Remember Formspring, that awful platform that allowedpeople to anonymously tell you how they felt about you? I got flooded with remindersof how thin and pretty I was all the time.
Whenever I struggled with schoolwork or getting a guy to like me, friends and familywere quick to remind me that I’d ultimately be fine because, again, I was “thin and pretty.” I had a sh*ttytime at senior prom (yes, that same senior prom from the photo above) because my high school boyfriend was being an assh*le, but the next day my English teacher told me I “looked like a model,” soI used that as a way to lie to myself that I actually had a great time.
And so, the message became clear: Nothing else matters because you’re thin and pretty.So“thin” and “pretty” became how I definedmyself.
But, as evidenced by what I’m going through right now, it’s a problem when a woman’s worth is defined bysomething assurface-level as weight and beauty.
Asa size four, I felt like I was pretty close to that “ideal” body the media raves about. I felt happy, confident, whole. But now, thanks todiscovering a love of beer in college, moving toNew York City withaccess to thousands of delicious restaurants and no longer having the metabolism of a teenager, I’ve gainedabout 30 pounds. My old clothes don’t fit me anymore. Stylesthat used to look good on me no longer do.And I feel awful about it.
Our society does this a lot: It tellswomen to believethat “You’re beautiful just the way you are!” and then, by that same token, creates beauty standards so unachievable that it becomes impossible to ever actually feel “beautiful.” Itwas easy for me tofeel beautiful at a size four. Butwhat about now? How can I feel beautiful now?
Maybe,to solve this problem, weshould start telling girls they’re literallyanythingbesides beautiful. What about smart? Funny? Clever? What about those descriptors? Do those not count? I know for a fact that I’m those things, too. But “thin” and “pretty” have always takenprecedent.
I WISHpeople hadn’t spent my formative yearstelling me how thin and prettyI am. I WISHI had been knownmore asthe “smart girl” or the “funnygirl” or the “clevergirl.” I wish someone,anyone, had told me there’s more to life than thinness and prettiness.Maybe then so much of how I value myself wouldn’t be tied to my freaking appearance.
And I realize that a size eight is not anywhere near fat (even though we all knowGlamour thinks otherwise). But it’s been difficult for me to accept myself at my new weight. A co-worker recently told me that I’m “busty,” and I was like, What the f*ck? Busty? Since WHEN?On really bad days, I have a hard time looking in the mirror — or hanging with my boyfriend, apparently — without crying.
So what’s thesolution? I already leada balanced, healthy life.I drink lots of water. I eatwhole grains, fruits, vegetables and protein just as frequentlyas all thoseInstagram fitnessstars out there. I don’t love working out, but I go kickboxingwhenever I’m in the mood to break a real sweat, which lately has been two to three times per week. I also have a decently long walk to the subway from my apartment, which I take twice a day.
ShouldI increasemy workouts and drive myself to insanity with a strict diet to try to be a size four again? Is it worth it?I’m not going to lie: Sometimes,I think it is.
Other times, however, I think about the fact that, at 22,I’m living my dream as a writer. I have my own apartment in New York City. I have the most fulfilling friendships I’ve ever had. I’m dating someone I see a real future with. At 22, thereis so much more to my life than what I look like.
But that was also truewhenI was 17. I just wish someonetold me that.