Disclaimer: This article talks about weight gain that is not directly related to health and medical conditions.
I don’t think it’s a lie to say that the majority of women in my generation have experienced some kind of anxiety about weight gain, starting probably in the very early teens. The first wave of explosion of social media, carrying with it countless images of beautiful women around the world, was an especially hard hit for young impressionable girls who had just reached puberty. For me, at least, the pressure of having to look like those women — to look thin — set in as soon as I became conscious that I was growing taller and heavier (even though I was literally supposed to).
Fortunately, nowadays both the media and its audience have become more accepting of different body types and place more emphasis on body positivity. But amid the “celebration” of authentic bodies, what hasn’t changed is the panic we have towards weight gain. Today, our preoccupation with (women’s) thinness is more insidious, but you can still see it in the asymmetry of meaning we give to “losing weight” and “gaining weight”: the former is still the default goal, to be brought up in every New Year’s Resolution, and capitalized on by advertisers; the latter is usually talked about with fear, disapproval or even disgust (towards others or ourselves), and most advertisers think it needs to be avoided or reversed.
Even body-positive fitness bloggers are always justifying their weight gain by showing you how much better their body looks because they have more muscles. Actually, the fact that I’m even writing this article, teaching you to “come to terms” with it, is proof that weight gain is “undesirable” in the first place; after all, no one has really written an article on “how to come to terms with weight loss”.
But if weight change is a natural physiological response to food and the environment, neither direction of change should be attached with any social or moral significance. It’s time that we bring some balance and neutrality to the entire issue of weight — starting with destigmatizing, and coming to terms with, weight gain. Here are some ways you can do it:
1. Know that weight gain is a natural process of life
Our weight fluctuates throughout adulthood, and that’s just how the human body works. However you label it (I’ve heard terms like “putting on relationship weight”, “freshman weight gain”, “stress weight”, “holiday weight”…), at the core it’s simply a natural process your body goes through as it adapts to changes in the environment.
You are not expected to stay in your “high school body”, just as you aren’t expected to stay in the 3 kg body you had when you were a newborn. Your body will go through changes as you move through different circumstances, and even if you don’t always love those changes, try to acknowledge that they are fascinating tokens of your life stories.
2. Don’t keep weighing yourself
Weighing yourself, as well as constantly checking your body in the mirror, is time-consuming (especially if you feel upset afterwards), worsens your preoccupation with weight, and also rather useless: It’s normal to have weight fluctuations from one day to the next, depending on your food and water intake, sleep, menstrual cycle… That one number on the scale certainly does not capture the entire picture of your well-being.
If you have no professional or medical reason to constantly keep track of your weight, maybe it’s a good idea to tuck that scale away for a while. And this is tried and tested by yours truly — I noticed improvements in my mood when I stopped checking my bodyweight every morning, and I could go about my day without always thinking about gaining or losing weight.
3. Have clothes you feel comfortable and confident in
So you have gained weight and can’t fit into some of your old clothes anymore — congrats, you’re now part of the entire human population! I’m often amused by the fact that we’re so eager to fit into clothes, as if they’re a standard that we should fulfill, instead of making clothes fit us.
Let go of the idea that you need to be able to wear a certain type of outfit, or a certain size (sizes are often inconsistent anyway). Nice dresses and cute jeans are supposed to make you feel good and confident, not acting as physical constraints that leave you extremely uncomfortable or distressed. Your weight shouldn’t dictate what you wear — your physical and mental comfort should.
4. Celebrate your achievements outside the scale
The most important step towards loving yourself, weight gain or not, is to locate your self-worth outside of weight, shape, and any other arbitrary metric you’re holding your body up against. A few years from now, you won’t remember if you gained or lost weight this week, but you will remember the things you did and the memories you made.
Pick out some good qualities you have that have nothing to do with weight. Focus on those qualities, because they’re what will endure and define you as a person, even as your physical appearance changes. Be assured that this world will love you regardless of some weight that you put on, because you’re so much more than a number.
The discourse around body image and weight is changing rather slowly, but it’s changing nonetheless. Equipped with a more advanced knowledge of human biology and health, we’re in a much better position to debunk myths about the body, and change the narrative of demonizing weight gain and idealizing weight loss, which have plagued popular media for decades. We can start by coming to terms with our (or others’) weight gain; hopefully, in time, this natural biological process will no longer be something we need to force ourselves to embrace.