So here’s the thing about that number on the scale that seems to have had most of the female population questioning their entire existence and worth since the dawn of time: IT DOES NOT MATTER.
The first time I was insecure about my weight was in 3rd grade, and we did a science project where everyone in the class had to weigh themselves and document it. I was one of three girls that weighed over 100 lbs., and I was shorter than the other two girls by at least four inches. I didn’t have the knowledge or vocabulary at the time to explain even to myself how it made me feel to be surrounded by girls who were naturally stick-thin and have that number read aloud.
Fast forward a few years to when I was 12 years old. I had already developed far beyond most of my classmates — I had D-cup boobs, what could only be described as thick thighs and a bubble butt, and had gotten my period the previous year. I would be berated by my teachers on dress-down days (my school had uniforms) for wearing leggings or a V-neck, while other girls without as much chest or hips who wore equally revealing clothes sauntered down the hallway unnoticed. My parents policed my closet more than any of my friends’ had theirs, and they (along with other family members) cautioned that I needed to be more aware of what I ate because I was putting on weight rapidly.
I was demonized for my natural body and for natural changes that all pubescent girls experience.
And so, I started to restrict myself.
I didn’t have the knowledge or vocabulary at the time to explain even to myself how it made me feel to be surrounded by girls who were naturally stick-thin and have that number read aloud.
In order to divert the attention away from myself, my body, and my weight, I shrunk myself — both physically and psychologically. I would count my calories, eating less and less over time. It didn’t help when my father hired a personal trainer to keep those aforementioned thick thighs in check. I weighed myself every day, usually twice — once as soon as I woke up and once before bed. However, no matter what, I could never shrink down enough — not fast enough, not enough inches, not enough pounds. And when I input my height and weight in an online BMI calculator, and it came back that I was supposedly overweight, my world collapsed.
Weight was all that mattered.
In order to divert the attention away from myself, my body, and my weight, I shrunk myself — both physically and psychologically.
By the end of my sophomore year of high school, I had lost 40 lbs. over three years. I had the “perfect body” — the tiny waist, the protruding hip bones, toned legs and arms. Yet I was still miserable. But with my overbearing father and gossiping classmates, I was determined to push myself further. Eating less and over-exercising was not enough, so I purged. Once, then twice. Then I began to bring a toothbrush to school to that I could “freshen my breath” after lunch every day. It was a vicious cycle that I thought I was in control of.
It took until I moved away from home — away from the pressures of the community that shaped my mind, that shaped how I viewed myself, and that shaped the way I felt about that image — to realize that none of it mattered. Moving to New York for college gave me a new start. But this isn’t a love letter to NYC; this physical relocation started a psychological evolution for me. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that I decided to love my body, but it took a lot of trial and error. In my journey to self-love, I tried validation through sex, Instagram likes on “glamorous” overly-doctored pictures, and a job where red lipstick and contouring were part of my uniform (and it was an unspoken rule that nobody over a certain size was hired as they didn’t fit the “look”).
As all of these failed attempts at evolving into my “true self” played out, I was gaining weight. Somewhere between school, working full-time, and partying every night with other insecure, image-obsessed girls, I stopped prioritizing my diet and exercise routine. One unhealthy habit had been replaced by others.
I do know that when I started to notice that most of my clothes didn’t fit, I felt stuck. I didn’t have the resources or free time in my schedule that I had in high school to exercise the way I used to, and my job was physically demanding so I had to eat in order to make it through shifts. I know that I made a conscious effort to eat healthier, but with the lifestyle I had been living — heavy drinking, little to no sleep — my metabolism had completely changed. I was still very insecure, but I was exhausted and I was defeated. This wall I had hit happened to coincide with a large push on social media toward body positivity.
I started following people like Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence, who had my body type — they had the thighs, the cellulite, the larger arms — and for the first time, I felt genuinely seen. Something clicked in my mind: it was never ME that was the issue; it was our standard for what was considered beautiful or desirable and how that was represented in all the images we consumed every day. People were finally starting to speak up about and disprove the lie that we had been fed.
Something clicked in my mind: it was never ME that was the issue; it was our standard for what was considered beautiful or desirable and how that was represented in all the images we consumed every day.
However, at the same time, Instagram influencers that I had been following for years were still posting on their stories about fad diets and responding to questions about sizing for a dress or pants with their height and weight — which, in reality, have nothing to do with how an article of clothing fits. Being a curvier girl with (for lack of better words) a passion for fashion, I knew that sizing depended mostly on proportions and distribution of fat and muscle. I had met girls that weighed the same as me and were four dress sizes larger than me.
So one day when I was clicking through Instagram stories and I saw a blogger I love and had always thought of as having a similar, Coke-bottle-esque body type, post her weight and saw that it was less than mine, my first thought was, When did I get so fat? I reeled in my ensuing panic and realized I didn’t know much else about this girl. I had only seen her in pictures on the internet, perfectly lit and angled; I didn’t know her height or body fat percentage. So I decided to message her. I explained to her that posting one’s weight can be triggering to a lot of people, especially girls and young women that suffer with body dysmorphia and disordered eating, and that it actually doesn’t give your followers any indication as to how, let’s say, a pair of jeans or a bikini actually fits.
We had a great conversation, and she ended up removing the story and apologizing, citing that she was genuinely just unaware of how many people eating disorders and body dysmorphia effected.
Everyone has a different journey to self-love and acceptance. I consider myself lucky that I began to see myself represented at a time in my life where I could have had a dire relapse and that completely changed my thinking. For some people, their recovery story is much scarier and took much longer. For some, it may not have been a “full-blown” eating disorder, just a fad diet here and there, and the occasional meltdown in the dressing room at Zara. But none of these paths include equating the number on a scale to your worth in this world or potential in life.