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This article does discuss weight gain and body dysmorphia. It is my opinion that these are important topics to discuss, however, proceed with caution if these are difficult topics for you.

So, my body has had some serious ups and downs. I’ve already spent many words lamenting on just my uterus, but as a whole, my body has fluctuated a lot in recent years. My time here at UCSC has of course been one of self discovery. I find new pieces of information about myself every quarter, and my natural body weight was one of them. 

All throughout high school I was spending 10-20 hours in the dance studio. This kept me slim, yet I was still one of the curviest and tallest girls there. Combined with pressure to lose weight, this environment led me to believe that my size 6 body looked twice that. It goes without saying that I struggle with body dysmorphia.

Then, I quit dancing and went to college! It wasn’t until my second year that I started gaining weight, and at first it started slow. I was putting on Real Woman weight and then relationship weight compounded on top of that. The real crescendo came when COVID-19 reared its ugly head and I started on birth control to regulate my periods.

So, that size 6 body I mentioned earlier gained 30 pounds in that year, and another 20 the next. I’m not going to lie, it was a little traumatizing. Partially because of the deep violet stretch marks that suddenly spider-webbed over my curves, but also because I was confused by what I saw. 

In the mirror I felt like a beautiful pre-raphaelite painting while I felt huge in window reflections and some photos. I looked at myself and saw nearly the same body that could fit into smaller clothes that would no longer button. This meant I was finally the size my body dysmorphia had convinced me that I was in my teenage years. 

Part of this confusion might be because I put on weight pretty evenly onto my already “societally appreciated” hourglass figure. I, however, continued to only have worsening issues with finding clothes that fit me in a flattering way. I came to feel frumpy and obscenely large in anything that didn’t cling to my waist. But, in those flattering clothes I felt even worse because of unabashed objectification. 

Seriously. Only since gaining weight did I notice men staring at me (aka my breasts or hips), completely slack-jawed. And they don’t even get embarrassed when they make eye contact and see the very disgusted look that I send in their direction. 

I got caught in a catch-22: feel fat or feel like an object. 

Only with time and reflection have I been able to move forward from this defeated mindset where I can never win. 

First, gaining weight is normal. It is truly very rare to never in your life experience weight fluctuations. None of us are alone in it, and although weight is a very triggering topic for some, we shouldn’t be afraid to swap stories and find community in this very real thing that occurs in most cases. 

This brings me to: second puberty! Not a real puberty, of course, but this is a term that refers to the body changes that people go through in their early 20s as they become mature adults. See? It even has a name, that’s how normal it is. 

Also, any type of athletic activity is more than likely to instill body-image issues. With your body being put on display for criticism all the time, you can’t really blame yourself if you are mad at the way you look; it’s quite literally not your fault that you have these negative feelings. 

On top of that, media is evil. I’m not joking. It seeps into your brain and builds horrific connections that should never have existed in the first place. Do you think a difference of 50 pounds mattered to my Neanderthal ancestors? No. So don’t let Instagram, TV, movies, comic books, etc. tell you what you should look like because I guarantee you none of those creators remember anything from health and/or biology.

Media also fuels the objectification of women. I feel this very explicitly as a pretty curvy person. It has also fueled my villainization from other women. My frustration, anxiety, and sadness that came with this weight can sometimes be invalidated by other women with similar struggles because my body type is more accepted as attractive in society. I think this is bullshit and just plain mean. 

Nobody has it worse or better, we each have a different experience and that’s okay. If anyone tries to invalidate whatever negative cycle you’re in because of their own insecurities, they’re not someone you should concern yourself with. It’s another story if they are helping you get yourself out of that mindset, but if someone tells you that you’ll never understand what it’s like to gain weight because you look different than them, cut it off!!

To be honest, we shouldn’t even be putting bodies into the categories of good vs. bad or positive vs. negative (I have a personal hatred against body positivity). Body neutrality honors your body for what it can do for you and is understanding and kind towards what it can’t. This way, you can divest your thought process from societal standards as completely as you’re capable. 

Also, nobody cares about your weight. Literally. Multiple people who hadn’t seen me in years didn’t notice that I weighed 50 pounds more. No one is paying attention to you because they’re all dealing with their own lives and/or insecurities. It’s better to go through life making sure that you like yourself rather than someone who is just passing through.

Hi! I'm Alexa, one of the former Campus Coordinators for HerCampus UCSC. I love most old lady things (tea, embroidering, reading, etc.) and I dream of the day that I can retire to a green academia, Victorian home surrounded by cats and a wide array of novels!
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