The past four years of my life, I have been a size 4-12 and everything in between. It has been something that has been constantly on my mind and something that I was unaccustomed to, being rail thin throughout high school.
Four years ago, I don’t think I genuinely believed that my worth as a human was the same as a man. I believed in equality in a general sort of way, and of course I had always been told I could do whatever I wanted, but I did not sincerely believe it.
As college progressed, I became more confident in my thoughts and actions and realized that I was, indeed, a feminist. I started to take the time to get to know myself and became more comfortable speaking up in front of people or voicing a differing opinion. As my inner confidence grew, it had an inverse relationship with my feelings on my outward appearance. As a freshman, I was comfortable with my weight yet uncomfortable with myself, and after the beginning of sophomore year, the opposite became true.
Growing up, being home alone without parents or siblings was an excuse for me to eat whatever I wanted. I would steal an extra cookie or take the chance to eat a whole bag of chips, without anyone to scold me. I began to look forward to these stolen moments to enjoy crappy food without any judgement. But being in college, you’re always home alone. Those stolen moments are 24/7 and every day seems like a special occasion to splurge.
A disclaimer: I have never suffered from an eating disorder and cannot claim to know the physical and emotional toll that comes with it. That being said, this is a confession that I have never uttered to anyone until now. By my last semester of college, I was throwing up about 4 times a week. I was disgusted with my body and my own lack of self control. I would eat everything I could possibly get my hands on in our kitchen, literally cry in shame, and jam a finger down my throat. I started throwing up more often than not after a night out and became known for it. But the reality was, I was purposefully drinking in excess to throw up and ease some guilt about what I had eaten that day. Needless to say, the calories consumed from the alcohol did not help that conversation. I read an article months later about the difference between an eating disorder and disorder-like symptoms and self-diagnosed myself with the latter.
I tried many, many times to lose the weight I had gained. I was unspeakably ashamed that I had disrespected my body in such a way. Some of the various reasons I used as motivation were: for male attention, to look good at my sister’s wedding, to wear a crop top, to stop people gossiping, and to wear clothes from high school. All of these attempts ended in failure and I began to feel utterly hopeless about ever being thin again. I felt so alone and even though I knew that so many women go through the same thing, I was so afraid to bring it up to any of my friends.
I blamed it on the college environment. And although I’m sure the drinking and pizza didn’t help, I was so frustrated that no one seemed to be gaining weight like I was. But even after I graduated and lived at home, I struggled. I still vomited occasionally and although I worked out a little more often, I did not see any results and nearly resigned myself to failure. But as anyone who knows me can attest, I am a confident woman, sometimes obnoxiously so. And I could not get around the fact that my outside did not match my inside. I felt physically tired and weak all the time, always wanting to lie down. At the end of the summer, I travelled abroad for a month and when I came back, I realized that I did not like one picture of myself from the trip.
I decided to lose weight for myself, not for anyone else. After all, I’m the only one who has to live in my body. I figured I would never reach my goal weight or keep my appetite in check, but I might as well try.
I have heard moms of people from my high school talk about girls “blowing up like balloons at college.” These women are supposed to be role models for their daughters and instead they’re tearing down women half their age, and to what end? It was these little memories that made me not want to tell anyone that I was trying to lose weight. I was afraid that doing so would expose myself to the reality of how much weight I had gained and the inevitable gossip that accompanied it.
I have lost almost 30 pounds in 5 months. What keeps me going is not a dress size or a side comment, but the way I feel about myself. I feel like my physical confidence finally matches the confidence I have had for years and it is a great feeling. I wasn’t going to tell anyone when I reached my goal weight, in shame of admitting how much I had gained. But why on earth would I belittle this accomplishment? This is something I honestly never thought I could do but I effing did it. And now I am even more motivated to make new goals, both physically and professionally.
I know that I cannot be the only person who has had a similar situation, but why are we as women so afraid to start this conversation with one another? Why did I feel like I needed to reduce myself to destroying my body rather than admit to a friend that I was not confident in my looks? Contrary to popular belief, I think there is an ideal body type. It is the healthiest version of yourself, and that’s what everyone should aspire to, not just a flat stomach and skinny arms.
Women are the worst enemies to each other at it has to stop. I admit it, I have found it very difficult to accept and include other women in my life. I have talked shit and manipulated and disregarded others’ feelings. I have blown other women off because they had an “annoying voice” or were “too skinny” or “flirted too much.” And I have to say I am appalled at the frequency I feel this way. I am sure this blog post will not magically fix my bad habits, but I have decided to make a conscious effort to change.
Why did I feel so alone? So many women are insecure, yet we rarely ever bring it up except to search for compliments. Why is it so hard to tell each other that we’re unhappy? We put on a face that we have it all together, trying to outdo one another when it benefits no one. One of the things feminism needs to succeed is authenticity. Gender equality will never become a reality if we’re not honest with our own fears and weaknesses.
We should be encouraging women to be healthy and strong, not just skinny. The benefits of working out should be a solution to physical and mental health issues, not the means to achieve a desired dress size.
I had a great fear of sounding pretentious and being judged while writing this, but clearly I’ve learned not to care too much about what people think. I want to challenge everyone to be more real with each other and start hard conversations. It will be my own personal goal; I am merely inviting anyone who wishes to join the challenge with me.
If you want to read more, I have a short essay that I wrote during one of my moments of loneliness. I felt compelled to write it because I didn’t want anyone to have to write it after me. Both for originality purposes, and for true social change.