Monday, 11 April 2016

When It Comes To My Weight, Ignorance Is Bliss

This was originally posted on The Olive Fox before the online magazine closed.

A photo of a woman taken from an angle above her. Her arms are outstretched to the camera, her hands crossing, blocking her face from view. The photo is focused on her hands, everything else is blurry.

When I was young teenager, I had some health problems; regular episodes of dizziness, or feeling weak and shaky, like I couldn’t hold up my own body. I was taken to the doctors, and my parents and I were told, after a number of tests, this was because I was underweight due to a fast metabolism. I had always been very, very slim, and now we knew why. With some advice from the paediatrician on my diet and a high calorie supplement to add to liquids, I put on enough weight to get well again. But for my self-esteem, the damage was done.

Underweight. It’s a word that has taunted me since I was 14. It wasn’t an insult from children at school, though I was getting those. It wasn’t something that I could try to brush away, as if it was only said to be mean and hurt my feelings or as if it wasn’t necessarily true. It came from the doctor, it was official. My body was officially not good enough.

Or at least that’s how it felt. I hated my body for years and would avoid looking in the mirror whenever possible. On the very few occasions when it felt like my clothes were tighter than normal, I would be flooded with excitement and rush to the scale. Maybe this time I’d put on some weight. Maybe this time it would be enough and I would be at a healthy weight.

The number would always be too low. Even if it had gone up a little, it was still too low. Still not good enough. You see, when you have a fast metabolism, it’s not a simple case of just eating more to put on weight. Putting on weight is hard, even now. Losing weight is very easy if I don’t eat enough and also potentially dangerous, so I would always make sure I had three meals a day of fair sized portions, plus snacks. But I would always keep the hope that, as I got older, my metabolism might slow down. But no; no matter how much I ate, I still didn’t feel that my body was good enough and the disgust for my body would return with a vengeance. It’s shocking how much importance I put on a number and how that number made me feel.

It took me a really, really long time to get to where I am now… happy with my body. Of course, I have my flaws and there are a few things about my body that bug me but, on the whole, I’m happy and body confident. It started with acceptance: I am slim, I will always be slim, and that isn’t going to change. This is my body, and it’s not going to change. Actively hating my body was only making me unhappy and it was exhausting. So I would stop thinking about it. I wouldn’t allow negative thoughts, I would stop them in their tracks and force myself to think about something else. Most importantly, I stopped weighing myself because it only led to disappointment. I noticed that, as soon as I stopped focusing on the parts of my body I didn’t like, I started noticing those I did and, slowly but surely, I was finding there was more and more about my body that I was actually quite happy with.

Over the past six months, I’ve started putting on weight again – a significant amount more than I used to. It has been enough to warrant buying new, bigger clothes which gave me that old feeling of excitement and the temptation to weigh myself. The thoughts that maybe now my body is finally, finally good enough.

But… it already is.

When I look in the mirror now, I am happy. I like what I see, and I’m wearing clothes I never would have six years ago; figure-hugging clothes or sleeveless tops. I can look at myself and smile, because I look good. I haven’t weighed myself in years because I don’t need the number on the scale; it’s not going to change anything. I’ll still look the same in the mirror when I know that number and my body won’t have drastically changed. I might be at a healthy weight now, I might not, but I don’t need that number to feel good about myself. I am more than that number; I am more than my weight. I don’t let that number rule me anymore.

Because my body is good enough. I am good enough. A number isn’t going to tell me otherwise.

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