“There’s a huge emotional component to weight loss.”
I have always had a problem with extra weight. And not solely the physical kind.
Let me start off by saying that the first step to feeling confident was, of course, learning to love the skin that I was already in. There are some things about myself that I know that I cannot physically change, and I am aware that that is something I must accept in order to better love myself. My weight, however, is not one of those things that I could not change. And thus, my weight had to go. All of it.
My childhood was steeped in quickness. Fast food, like Macdonald’s & Burger King, were common staples. Other meals, cooked by the loving hands of my mother, were deep-fried in margarine & butter, served with heavy-handed portions to ensure that I realized that I was loved. It was a childhood filled with quick avoidance, with quick excuses generated to get out of gym activities and changing into clothes that made me confront that I was large; a girl with thick thighs, a hanging stomach, and flabby arms. The largeness of my body made the largeness of my personality something I was afraid to show because that would mean that my imperfections were also in full view. My childhood saw a level of discomfort that I couldn’t confront until the Summer before my sophomore year of college.
I hid behind that discomfort because being the “big friend” was an identity for me. I never had to worry about being anything but smart and funny; which took off the pressures of messing with makeup and clothes, and facing the expected social awkwardness because how could a larger girl be pretty or popular anyway? It let me be “unlike other girls” because of how physically unappealing I was, but that identity led to a ton of avoidance & toleration which cultivated into a vicious cycle that would rob me of self-esteem, friendships and overall, my childhood. Being the “big friend” let me avoid putting myself out there and helped me cultivate some elitist & unhealthy ideas about others. And it was a fault of mine for not confronting it earlier.
Fast-forward to college, I still struggled with my physical image. I had developed a self-depreciating sense of humor and an abysmal wardrobe of sweatpants and sweaters that I was willing to swelter in rather than jumping and change myself. I surrounded myself with people who told me what I wanted to hear rather than what I needed to hear.
But that changed when one of my friends started hitting the gym towards the end of my second semester of Freshman year and invited me along. It wasn’t fun at first. I was constantly out of breath, sweaty and disgusting, and most, unfortunately, sore. But because I promised them that I would come along, I continued. And after a month, I was surprised to notice that my clothes no longer fit me in unflattering ways and that I could…
The gym was no longer some horrid dungeon where I was condemned to public embarrassment, but rather a place where I could escape from my overbearing assignments and make new friends. It was a place where I could push myself in a new way and see how much my body could physically take and survive.
It was a place where I would learn moderation.
As the summer rolled in, I did overdo exercising. I developed orthorexia and it was a weird illness to navigate because I wanted to be skinny, it had been something I had wanted for such a long time, but more importantly, as my friend reminded me o our many skype nights, I wanted to be healthy.
I talked with a therapist, I worked through some problems, I lost weight, I moved on.
But, the summer of my sophomore year was not just a journey of physical weight loss but figurative weight loss as well.
Towards the end of the Summer, as I shared my struggles with orthorexia, I found myself in a situation where I had to confront other problems. One of my bigger problems was the realization that is if there was one thing that I had become good at, it was hoarding things. Tangible & otherwise. Mementos, memories, grudges, bad relationships.
Bad relationships, especially.
As a result of my poor self-esteem, I had developed a skill in picking people that I merely tolerated and they just tolerated me. I had a personality that screamed out all my vulnerabilities & my inability to connect with others, which led me to ending up in some unfortunate situations. The biggest unfortunate situation of the Summer was that of me and someone who had been a friend. The short version of the story was that we roomed & worked together over the break and grew apart; the long, she had gotten accustomed to using me for her gains and not taking responsibility for her actions, and I had grown a backbone. She had fallen on hard times and I wanted to help her, but I learned quickly that was a futile effort. I had gotten placed in an empty double for the Summer and agreed to let her stay with me, but when it came down to moving things out or cleaning or even working around someone else’s schedule, all the responsibility fell on me. When we had to switch rooms, she was always unable to help. She would lash out frequently and half-heartedly apologize, always blaming something else. Over the three months, we spent together, I built up an eternity of resentment, something that I let fester into the beginning of the year. Every time I ran into her, I felt my patience grow thinner and thinner. I was angry and unable to articulate it; I felt like if I had criticized her she would spiral, but worse still, not doing so was making me act in similar ways to her.
Until I decided to let it all go. I dedicated the rest of my Summer to just letting go, and as I moved from room to room and interacted with wonderful other individuals over the Summer, I was forced to confront my issue: that I sometimes unable to say no and that is what stands in my way of letting go.
Eventually, she moved out and regretted it. She asked to move back in with me and I finally said no. I had the experience of not having to walk on eggshells anymore, and saying no allowed a certain lightness to sweep over me.
But it wasn’t an easy thing to do. And it wasn’t a quick transformation.
Saying no ended up extending into my relationship with other friends that returned to campus. And the end came for some of those relationships as well, which did not fill me with the same lightness that I had felt over the Summer. Saying no ended up changing some of the relationships I held with family members that left me with horrible pits in my stomach. I found myself confronted with people who scolded me for not being forgiving enough or understanding.
And while I didn’t immediately feel that lightness of loss burdens, there remained that susurration lingering in the back of my mind reminding me that I could do better and that I already was doing significantly better. Teetering on a line of pleasing everyone was not something that I had to do any longer. There was something more that I was becoming, but first I just had to stop, take a step back, listen and I would become. And more importantly, sometimes I would have to stop altogether and just say no. Because in the end, I grew to understand that I cannot change everybody & their situations, but more importantly it is not my job to do so.
But one of the better things that happened to me was my lost of figurative weight; this Summer I ended up reevaluating several of my friendships and cutting off the ones that were weighing me down. When my Freshman year ended, I thought that my stress would end with it. But it didn’t. An acquaintance of mine had been having problems towards the end of the year and I stupidly involved myself. I thought it would be one of my many first steps to better myself and it did to some degree; it forced me to stand up for myself.
But when my summer courses ended, so did some of my relationships.
And so did some of my newfound quirks and routines. Which is not entirely a bad thing.
But what did not end was my determination to better myself, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. Letting go of the weight of expectations and the obligations I forced on myself was one the best things that ever happened to me.