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Dealing With Body Image Over Spring Break

Over the past few months, I’ve gained a lot of weight. It’s funny that for some reason, writing that sentence feels like divulging a deep, dark secret. Almost like I’m saying something I should be ashamed of, but the thing is, I’m not. I’m not ashamed that my jeans fit a bit tighter, or that I don’t have that space between my thighs. The same reason that I’m not ashamed that my hair is no longer falling out and my vision is no longer blurring every time I stand up too fast. My body is healthy again. I am healthy again.

My anxiety got progressively worse last year and resulted in losing a dramatic amount of weight. This left me severely underweight and unhealthy. Even though my weight loss wasn’t body-image related, gaining it back has certainly challenged my self-esteem. Pants that were once too big no longer fit me and my arms don’t look the same either, so it’s been a struggle to adjust to my new healthy body. While I should be celebrating that I am healthy again, I feel like my weight gain is something to be embarrassed of, and spring break doesn’t do much to help my insecurities.

It’s hard to see snapchats of people in the gym with the caption “getting spring break ready” or others already starting to post photos in their bikinis. I am still trying to learn to love and accept my new body, and watching other people flaunt theirs makes that so much more difficult. But, I also know that I’m not alone. Women everywhere are struggling with weight gain and weight loss in a society that tells them that as long as you fit in that bikini, it doesn’t matter how much your body screams for nutrients. It doesn’t matter if you miss out on birthday dinners and late-night fast food adventures with your friends. Society tells us that what matters is looking good while we lay on a beach somewhere.

Spring break can be a really challenging time for someone’s body image, but even worse for those trying to recover from severe weight loss or eating disorders. Those working towards weight restoration are constantly facing opposing messages telling them that they shouldn’t be gaining any weight. It has become a fad to be the person who only drinks iced coffee and eats one meal a day. If I see another TikTok glorifying this lifestyle, I think I might lose my mind. Most people can scroll past this with a laugh and move on, but as someone who’s physical health was so severely impacted by my weight-loss, this doesn’t make me laugh. Living off iced coffee is not quirky and we need to stop pretending it is.

These messages just get worse around spring break season. Everyone wants that perfect photo for their Instagram, standing in the sand, with wavy beach hair and a cute bikini on. But maybe you aren’t feeling ready for your close up just yet, so what do we do? Do we skip the pasta and the ice cream? Maybe we skip lunch altogether and replace it with shaky hands and extra time in the gym. We are told we should be comfortable in our bodies as long as that body is thin. We are told to wear our confidence like a badge of honor but I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to be insecure. It’s okay to not wear that bikini if it means protecting yourself and your recovery journey. It’s okay not to be there yet. It’s okay to let yourself feel those things.

By allowing myself to feel this way I am working to manage my anxiety. I have told myself that it’s okay if I don’t end up wearing skin tight clothing this spring. It’s not a loss if I don’t want to go out in a bikini. It’s not a setback in my journey toward weight restoration. It is a win that my head feels more clear, my energy is restored, and my mental health is in a stronger place.

This is my message to you if you’re facing similar issues. You have faced the hardest part of dealing with mental health, body image, or eating disorder recovery, and you’ve come so far. I encourage you not to let a culture that values us for the lack of space we take up to beat you now. It can be easy to slip back into old habits, to let your anxiety get the best of you during midterms, or to let your busy schedule cause you to forget to nourish your body. Whether it’s to fit in a bikini for spring break or maybe into a certain dress for a sorority formal, losing weight in an unhealthy way can have detrimental impacts on your health. There have been times where I find myself looking at older pictures and thinking “wow if only I still looked like that”. But then I remember that if I did still look like that, my hair would be thinner, my anxiety would be higher, and my overall health would be poorer. So, from this point on and far past spring break, I will take comfort in knowing that it’s okay to not be 100% confident.