So, over the last year or so I’ve noticed a lot of changes in my body. And I don’t mean like, growing hair in strange places. I mean that I’ve gained some weight. Not a huge amount of weight, but enough that I feel uncomfortable in my own skin (and in most of my jeans). And I’m not going to lie to you, it’s been pretty hard for me to deal with this change in my bod.
Now, I’ve written before about gaining weight, and how it’s troubled me. And a lot of the feelings I discussed in that post are still ringing true. I’m finding it quite hard to manage the feelings that are cropping up with the weight that I’ve gained. So in an effort to move forward, I sat down and thought carefully about why I’m so bothered by a few extra kilos.
While my negative feelings about my body are complicated, there are a few key issues that have bubbled to the surface during my ruminations. The first is the realisation that even though I try hard to be body positive, even though I try not to internalize the messages I’m bombarded with about how thin is better, and how being fat is a terrible thing, I’m still affected by them. Even though I know countless people with a wide array of body shapes and sizes who are all incredibly gorgeous, even though I constantly tell people to be kind to themselves, I still feel the weight of those messages. I still feel like I’ve failed in some way because I’ve gained weight. I still feel less attractive when I notice that my jeans won’t zip or that my belly pokes out more than it used to. I still feel like I should be ashamed of my weight gain. It makes me pretty angry that even though I’ve done my best to resist that negativity and shame, it’s still wormed it’s way into my consciousness.
I’ve also felt frustrated with myself because I keep having this idea that my weight is something that I should control. And that if I’m gaining weight, it’s because I’ve done the wrong thing. I feel ashamed and lazy. I feel mad that I have to manage my depression with drugs that have caused me to gain weight. I feel burdened by my full-time job, which takes up much of my time and energy and makes it much more difficult to eat well and exercise. And I curse my genetics which make it more likely that I’m going to have a rounder figure as I get older. I feel impotent because there are so many factors working against me, and I imagine that I should be able to manage them and keep my figure because that’s what women are “supposed to do”.
I also feel uncomfortable with the way I look. Now, I need to point out that I don’t think that fat=ugly. The reason that I don’t feel comfortable is that I’m not used to the way my body looks now. Even though the shift in my weight hasn’t been dramatic, it’s enough that I feel strange in my own skin. I look in the mirror and it feels weird to see more rounded hips, and a curved tummy and actual boobs. My figure has become more hourglass where it was always fairly up-and-down and very skinny. My clothes fit me differently and hug me too tightly over my new curves. Outfits that used to make me feel confident and sassy now make me feel like a sausage in a too-tight casing. I don’t feel like I look like “me”. It’s so difficult to learn to love a new shape when I’d barely become confident in the one I had.
But I’m doing alright. And there are a few things I’ve been doing that have helped immensely. I’d like to share those things with you, in case you’re also struggling with a body that’s changed.
Talk about it.
Discussing my feelings and insecurities has been extremely helpful. I’m lucky enough to have many people in my life who were kind to me, who listened attentively and empathised. Talking it over with a few of my favourite people helped me to feel so much better. It made me realise that my feelings aren’t unique, that these struggles are something that most people go through. It gave me comfort to know that those special people didn’t think any less of me because I’d gained weight, and still valued me just as much.
Decide what action you want to take (if any)
Let me be absolutely clear: you don’t have to do anything about your weight gain if you don’t want to. I’m the last person who will tell you that you need to go on a diet. But I do think that if your weight gain is causing you pain and grief, then you need to do something. For me, I’ve taken stock of my lifestyle and realised that I could definitely improve my eating habits and exercise routine. I know that I need to plan a more well-rounded diet and move my body more often. At the same time, I know that unless I starve myself and stop taking my medication, I’m never going to get back to my old body. And so as well as taking better care of myself, I’ve decided that I need to work on accepting my body and coming to terms with the changes that have taken place. So whether you want to change up your habits, or look at your emotional patterns, or a bit of both, I think taking some action to get yourself feeling better is a good idea.
Recognise that bodies change
All bodies, particularly female bodies, go through massive changes over the course of a lifetime. And whether those changes are caused by a lifestyle shift, hormones, medication, illness, age, growing a human inside you or some other reason, it can be difficult to manage. As difficult as it is, it’s really important to accept that our bodies alter and shift as time passes. It’s perfectly OK to mourn the shape and size you once were, but I think it’s also a good idea to begin to celebrate some good things about your new shape. For example, I’m trying to feel chuffed about the fact that I finally have boobs, after years of struggling with push-up bras. Find something that you like, celebrate that and build from there.
Get rid of clothes that trigger self hate.
This one has been hard for me, because my clothes are a huge part of my life. I love getting dressed in the morning, and I place a lot of emotional attachment to the items in my wardrobe. For me those skinny jeans aren’t just a couple of denim tubes and a zipper, they have the power to make me feel fierce and sexy. And when those fierce jeans will no longer zip, their power changes….they become a trigger for self loathing. Lately I’ve been taking a long, hard look at my clothes, and I’ve gotten rid of a few things that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wear again. There are some I’m hanging onto because there’s a chance that they’ll fit someday. But the ones that made me feel the shittiest had to go. It’s hard to let go of those items because of the memories attached to them, and because in a way it feels like the end of a part of my life. But sometimes you have to take a deep breath, let them go and then buy some new gear that makes you feel fierce and fabulous.
Do you struggle with your body when it changes? What have you done to make that change easier?