On Trying Not to Hate My Body

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Trigger warning: This post discusses weight, including my complex feelings about my own weight gain. Read at your own risk, please, especially if you, too, struggle with your weight & may be triggered by reading about my recent issues.

The only word for what has happened to my body in the past year is "ballooned." My body has ballooned. I have ballooned. I have gained about 30 lbs. in just over a year, & I'm not sure I'm done.

I haven't started eating worse. If anything, I've started eating better, cooking from home more often & making healthier choices when I go out or order in. I rarely drink anymore. And for once in my life, I actually can't remember the last time I binged. 

But it hasn't made a difference. Not since March 2021, when I first got COVID-19, & my body became a roller coaster both inside & out. Since then, it's been one diagnosis after another after another, things I don't yet feel fully comfortable speaking about aloud. I know I don't need to make excuses for my body, yet I feel like my body owes me an explanation. 

"Obesity is a disease," they say, but no one talks about how some diseases, maybe especially this one, are simply incurable. They're not diseases with quick fixes, or even with slow fixes. You manage them; you treat them; you maintain them with medication & lifestyle choices. You simply learn to exist with them for the long term. For a lifetime. 

But other diseases don't cause people to judge you, to question your character, to dub you unattractive & assume you lazy. Other diseases don't result in online slurs & not-so-sly real-life glances of disgust. Other diseases don't come with social stigma, with becoming utterly consumed by the way your body is perceived & judged. 

And so my first reaction to what has happened to my own body is shame. 

I am embarrassed. I can't stop wondering what other people think when they see me, what they whisper to one another or to themselves, even if they don't mean to; even if they'd never say it aloud. I have driven myself to tears thinking about what other people are thinking about me, both loved ones & strangers alike.

Nothing feels right. Nothing fits right. I don't recognize myself in photos & videos. I am shocked when I catch a glimpse of myself in mirrors; I try not to look because I haven't yet learned how to reconcile how I look with who I am. And I can't stop wondering whether other people can. 

Who am I to the world in this new version of my body? Who am I to myself? And will it always feel like this? Is this just me now?

It has always been easy for me to be body-positive... for everyone except myself. I watch the Instagram Reels of fat influencers & plus-sized models & other everyday women who are my size & larger. I see them in real life, dressed in outfits I would never consider & living happy, lovely, out-loud lives. I think they're beautiful. I love their style. I look at them & tell myself, "I wouldn't mind being fat if I looked like that." 

But I can't seem to come to terms with looking like me. With being whatever kind of fat I am. I can't seem to find the love & admiration for myself that I so easily feel toward others. The comparison game, it seems, is savage & endless.

As I inch closer to 40, I am struggling, too, with age, trying to age with grace, not to look back on the past with a sense of longing. I just want to be comfortable being myself; isn't that what we were promised as we grew older? For a few years, self-love seemed like it was within my grasp, almost in reach — & now, yet again, it feels so very far away.

I don't feel like me. Or maybe I don't know who I am. I can't stop thinking about this line from Bret Easton Ellis's Rules of Attraction: "I no longer know who I am, & I feel like the ghost of a total stranger."  

Maybe we don't have to change just because our bodies do. But then again, how can we not? 

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