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Original Illustration in Canva for Her Campus Media

Why “Glow-Ups” Aren’t Just Physical

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

“Glow ups” have always been a sought after hope for people of all ages around the world. Everyone dreams of that day; they return from an extended break and leave their fellow students or coworkers shook from the change in their physical features or body shape. Some people achieve this through intense exercise and extreme diets, some choose to adopt nearly religious regiments for makeup and skincare, and others choose to dramatically change their hairstyle and personal style. When I started my freshman year of college this semester, like many other people, I emerged having gained a few quarantine pounds due to a schedule consisting entirely of napping, snacking and Netflix.

With some frustration, I viewed Tik Tok after Tik Tok of people my age who had spent the same time I used to catch up on Netflix to get healthy, lose weight and—once again that term—“glow up.” In my mind, these people were happier now. They smiled more, posted videos of them wearing the clothes they wanted, went out more, woke up earlier and they had adopted all of the habits of successful people….because they lost weight. With all of this in mind, I decided to begin embarking on my own journey towards health, happiness and success by starting the journey to shed a few pounds.

During the first few weeks of my new lifestyle, I sought to accomplish everything I had seen other people do to get healthy: waking up early, stretching every day, eating really clean, journaling and changing my mindset to be more optimistic. I tracked my pounds and measurements every day and kept track of how my clothes fit my body, excited to see some major change by the end of the month. Eventually, the end of the month arrived, and after my morning exercise, I got my fitness journal, excited to see how many inches I had lost in the last month in my “problem areas.” 

Original Illustration by Sketchify in Canva

Immediately, I was hit with extreme disappointment. According to my journal, the most I had lost was two centimeters on my waist. Confused and upset, I felt the old mindset returning, and it began to affect my decisions. The next morning I overslept, and in the following days, this continued. Then, I stopped journaling and began to adopt other unhealthy choices, such as binge eating, staying up late and procrastinating on school work. In just one week, I was back where I started and living in a very negative mental space again.

After a few days of this reversion, I began to notice how my body was reacting so much more negatively than before I had changed my lifestyle. My body was hurting, and my stomach felt bloated all the time. Constantly, I was feeling fatigued and would experience extreme headaches. The biggest change, however, was in my mood and my mindset. Before, when I had adopted healthier habits, I had been happy and light-hearted.

I have always struggled with shyness and social awkwardness, yet I found myself talking to new people and even bringing different friend groups together to hang out. People seemed more excited to talk to me, teachers seemed more invested in me and life just seemed to open up, with every moment becoming something to look forward to. Yet, when I reverted back to my old lifestyle, I noticed that these new aspects of life had once again ceased, and it made me realize something I had never thought about before. 

Why do we only think of glow-ups as physical?

Whenever I had thought of what my glow up would produce, it had been everything I had experienced during the month that I changed my habits, but always, in these visions, I was thinner and had already reached my fitness goals. As I continued to consider the question, I realized that during the past month, I had noticed many changes in myself that were not just physical. Sometimes, I think we all associate a certain level of contentment with ourselves and our lives with how we look physically. When our skin is clear, and our waist is snatched, we attract happiness and contentment into our everyday lives and experiences.

Yet the moment we gain a few pounds or spot a pimple, insecurity sneaks up on us in ways we don’t even realize: self-deprecating jokes, binge eating, procrastination, anxiety, body dysmorphia and overall, lower self-esteem. Here’s the thing: glow ups are not and never will be just how your outward appearance looks. Even when you get healthy, your weight will still fluctuate, your skin will still break out and you will have plenty of days where you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. Glow-ups happen when you allow yourself to be happy no matter what you look like or what others think of you.

Glow-ups happen when you eat what you want without guilt or when you choose a beautiful walk in nature over exhausting exercise regimens you hate. Glow-ups happen when you choose to smile instead of frown, or when you go on adventures with your friends that you were saving for when you reach your goal weight. Glow-ups happen when you wake up early in the morning and smile at the sun rising, then cook yourself an AMAZING breakfast. Glow-ups can be made in the simple decision to allow yourself to be happier than you have ever been and stop waiting for people or a scale to say you deserve it. So glow up, sis, and live your best life!

Keziah is a writer for Her Campus. She is majoring in Fashion Design with a minor in Fashion Merchandising. HCXO!
Mary McLean (née Moody) is an avid writer and is the former Editor in Chief of Her Campus at VCU. She wrote diligently for Her Campus at VCU for two years and was the Editor in Chief for three years. You can find her work here! She double majored in Political Science and History at Virginia Commonwealth University and graduated in 2022. She loves her son, Peter, and her cat Sully. You can find her looking at memes all night and chugging Monster in the morning with her husband!