There once was a time when I was very concerned about the numbers on the scale. If I weighed what I considered my ideal weight, I’d be happy that day; if I weighed ideal weight +1, I’d be disappointed and down. I stopped weighing myself regularly a long time ago. These days, the numbers don’t mean much to me.
There once was a time, much more recently, when I didn’t much like how I looked. It wasn’t anything in particular, just a general uninformed dissatisfaction. A culturally determined not-good-enoughness. A little over three years ago, I started taking nude photos of myself, and really listening to Wolf’s compliments. These days, I’m pretty happy with how I look.
I’ve always been slim so it feels taboo to talk about issues around weight: I’m privileged and have never had to endure criticism the way many people do, but this is something that’s bothering me so I’ve decided to talk about it. Just know that none of this is intended as criticism of anyone else.
My weight has always been pretty stable, and the one time I gained a bit of weight was when I went to Japan to teach English. I was there on my own, had virtually no emotional support, was surrounded by a language I didn’t know (which is surprisingly tiring), and just found the whole thing exhausting.
What I probably needed was to work less, sleep more, and eat less carbs (I had a hell of a time with my blood sugar). What I did when I was tired was to eat the very excellent chocolate almonds I’d discovered. My clothes, which didn’t fit fantastically well to begin with (waistbands at the natural waist are anathema to short-waisted me), became a constant, uncomfortable reminder of an aspect of my physicality that I was not happy with. Buying new clothes wasn’t much of an option because they were designed for slim, boyish hips that I didn’t have. When I returned home, the weight came off without much effort on my part. I was in my 20s.
About two years ago, I was prescribed some medication that caused me to lose some weight. Effort free weight loss? OK! Eventually my metabolism got used to the meds and I gained most if not all of the weight back, but it wasn’t much to begin with and that was fine. I’ve since gone off this prescription.
Then, starting about the beginning of January 2017, I went on anti-depressants. I didn’t notice the weight gain at first because I rarely weighed myself. It’s a known side effect so I wasn’t too surprised or upset, but it kept going up. My weight after Japan was an upper limit that I got to a few times over the years but never exceeded. Until now.
I’m pleased to report that the number on the scale doesn’t make me cry or otherwise ruin my day the way it once would have; in high school I could barely imagine being this weight and I viewed it as a curse of aging. I don’t see a difference in my face, and on the whole I’m still happy enough with how I look overall. So what’s the problem?
I don’t like how I feel. My thighs rub together in a way that they didn’t before.
My breasts feel heavy and have gotten a cup size bigger. Cry me a river, you might say. No, it’s not the end of the world, but I just don’t like it. I prefer having smaller breasts (I’d go so far as to say that’s part of my identity) and generally wear bras that downplay rather than enhance them. My dressy push-up bras are now overflowing, and one soft bra is completely unwearable. I bought a couple of linen shirts in November and they’re now almost indecent; popping shirt buttons is not a problem I’ve ever had before.
My belly has also gotten bigger for a few reasons: the weight gain, bloating caused by the medication on top of that caused by the IBS I appear to have developed about two and a half years ago, and possibly some loss of muscle tone.
I had a routine of exercises, some of which were assigned by a physiotherapist for problems directly or indirectly related to my back, and some “electives” including sit-ups. I quit doing these exercises about three months ago, first because it was very hard to keep them up while I was travelling, and then because my physio wanted to streamline my routine to be more effective and less time-consuming.
So my belly is noticeably softer than it was, which doesn’t exactly delight me, but what bugs me is that my clothes don’t fit. I now have only two pairs of pants that I can stand to wear, and they’re not great and showing signs of wear. I’m also aware of the sensation of extra flesh there; when I bend forward it feels like I’ve got a little cushion strapped to my front and it affects how I move.
This isn’t about whether I conform to Wolf’s preferences, or Jaime’s, or society’s. (In fact, Wolf prefers the way I look now and I’m very glad because that makes it easier for me not to stress too much about it.) But taking into account and accepting the reality of my build, this is about whether I’m satisfied with those aspects of my body that I have some kind of control over. And right now, I’m not satisfied because my body doesn’t feel right.
Prior to my trip three months ago, Jaime would send me instructions for what to wear everyday, but now this feels too difficult emotionally because it makes me even more aware of the clothes that don’t fit.
I am aware that a significant amount of my dissatisfaction stems from poorly fitting clothes and one obvious solution would be to buy new clothes, but I’m going to hold off on that for now. I’ve been off the meds for two months now and I’m hoping that eventually my metabolism will reset on its own. For one thing, it’s summer and easier to be active. I’ve also started doing some of my exercises again, I bought a bike, and I’m eating really well.
But that’s about as much as I’m prepared to do. I’m not going to punish myself by exercising like it’s a job, or counting calories and eating styrofoam and kale. If it turns out that this is my shape now, I guess I’ll deal with it and buy some new clothes. But it is possible to be dissatisfied with one’s body without it being an issue of self-esteem or unreasonable standards.