Like many girls my age, I’ve always struggled with loving my body. From a young age, we watched movies, TV shows and viewed social media posts that objectify women’s bodies and push forward certain body types as the most beautiful ones and all others as not beautiful.
My weight has constantly been on my mind since I entered high school. I was a dedicated basketball player up until my freshman year of high school. I ended up quitting the sport because I wanted to become a bigger part of the theater department at my school. When I told my mom I was quitting, the first thing she said was “You’re going to gain weight if you stop playing sports completely.” That seemingly trivial statement was enough to get me to consider giving up what I was most passionate about. At that point of time in my life, I was still very much concerned with how others would view me, and the prospect of gaining weight used to terrified me. I put these fears on the back burner and went on with Drama and abandoned basketball. As the years passed, I did in fact gain weight due to a lack of intense physical activity. This weight gain unfortunately caused a spike in my insecurity, and every time I had to buy bigger clothes, I would be near tears. My brother, who I’ve turned into my personal photographer, would always grumble because I made him retake my Instagram pictures at least 10 times because I hated how my body looked, and I was always looking for ways to make my thighs seem less noticeable. As a junior, I remember looking back at pictures of myself as a freshman and telling my friends that I had “glowed down” simply because I had gained weight. In reality, many things about my appearance were changing for the better. I was finally starting to embrace my natural hair, and I was beginning growing out of the baby face I had for so long, but because I had gained weight, none of these things mattered to me. I had already classified myself as ugly, and that label stuck with me for quite a while. I would constantly compare myself to my friends and wonder what was wrong with my body.
Towards the end of my senior year, my body started to change yet again. All of a sudden, I started dropping weight with no increase in exercise or change in diet. While I should have been alarmed, I started rejoicing. I felt that my body was finally “acting right,” just in time for my graduation photos. My overall self-confidence had shot up my senior year, and looking back, I’m sure this boost was linked to my weight loss. All of a sudden, I wanted to take pictures everywhere I went and was so excited to put on all my new summer clothes.
The most drastic weight change, however, didn’t occur until my freshman year of college. Since I live only about 5 miles away from UCLA, my parents and I decided that the smallest meal plan (11 swipes a week) would be best for me since I would go home on the weekends. This meal plan, paired with my incredibly busy schedule and the fact that I used to walk about 3+ miles a day caused my biggest weight drop to date. I was constantly exhausted and used my precious swipes on iced coffee to keep me going instead of a well-balanced meal. Pulling all-nighters became a weekly routine, further contributing to my unhealthy lifestyle. Ironically, while my physical health had plummeted, I was the happiest with my body. I had achieved that “skinny” figure that I had always wanted, and I didn’t even have to work for it. I didn’t even care that I was hungry for most of the day, which was incredibly dangerous.
At family gatherings I attended during this time, some of the first comments I would get from relatives would be something along the lines of: “Wow! You lost so much weight; you look so beautiful!” While I know that these comments came from a place of love, they reinforced my mindset that skinny and beautiful were one and the same.
When quarantine hit and I was no longer walking a couple miles a day, I inevitably experienced another weight gain. Paired with the fact that I was suddenly ripped away from the lifestyle I had loved so much, my weight gain once again made me miserable. It definitely didn’t help that all of my social media was filled with people showing off their new fit bodies that they had developed with their extra time in quarantine. I hopped on the Chloe Ting trend about 3 times during quarantine to try to “fix” my body and go back to the body I had just a couple months earlier. Throughout my first workout series, I was so frustrated that I didn’t get the results I wanted and called the whole thing off. My second time around, I started to see results not in my body weight, but in my overall health. I was no longer tired all the time, my alertness had increased and I felt genuinely happy. These new changes made me realize that I started working out for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t necessarily lose weight, but these new positive changes were definitely a success, and they made me happy! It was then that I was finally able to begin to separate my weight from my perceptions of self, and it was incredibly freeing.
Now, almost a year later, though I don’t workout consistently anymore (that wasn’t bound to last long anyway haha) I’m getting better and better at being kinder towards myself. One of the most impactful changes that I made was de-villanizing the word “fat.” I used to fear that word, and I would constantly fat-shame myself- even if I was just bloated after a meal. The word “fat” isn’t an insult, and it should never be used as one. My body weight still fluctuates all the time, but I now embrace it. I’ve come to realize that my weight is just one small part of who I am, and gaining a few pounds doesn’t make me ugly or lessen my worth in any way. It doesn’t change who I am, and therefore it shouldn’t change how I view myself. I’m definitely not perfect; I won’t lie and say that I don’t cringe at photos of myself in high school because of how I looked, but this growth is a process, and I will get to where I want to be in due time. I’m lucky to have friends who constantly uplift me and make me feel beautiful, which has most definitely aided me throughout my journey to body love and self acceptance.
A word of advice: don’t comment on other people’s weight. Even if you mean well, just don’t. You never know what someone is struggling with, and even a compliment of how “skinny” they look can be triggering. It’s like this one Tik Tok I saw: “If it’s not something that they can change in 5 seconds, don’t comment on it.”
Most importantly, surround yourself with people who help you, not hurt you. Your friends should be your sources of joy, encouragement and inspiration-not of negativity! And always remember: all bodies are beautiful, and your weight does not define you! We are all worth so much more than our physical appearances; we are well-rounded, beautiful human beings with brilliant minds and unique talents and traits that make us each uniquely special.