CW: eating disorders
For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with my weight and how I look. In middle school, I was convinced that I was fat and ugly, even though I was well within the healthy weight range for that age. I wore thick black sweaters and jeans on even the hottest summer days to hide my disgusting body from others. I was embarrassed of how I looked. Everytime I sat down, I instinctively looked for the nearest thing I could use to cover my stomach: a book, pillow, sweater, backpack, etc. I felt that my weight made me less than. I didn’t feel worthy.
The summer between my sophomore year and junior year of high school, I started skipping meals. It wasn’t serious at first, just breakfast every now and again. But soon, I started skipping breakfast and lunch, only to barely pick at my dinner. By the end of the summer, I had lost nearly 20 lbs. But I felt terrible. I was exhausted. I was tired all the time. I was terribly unhealthy. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I was dangerously close to developing an eating disorder.
My junior year of high school, I transitioned from glasses to contacts. I started wearing makeup more frequently. I started branching out from t-shirts and jeans. I started to feel pretty. But I still felt fat. I still sucked in my stomach for pictures. I still covered my stomach whenever I sat down. I still hated who I was.
And then, my freshman year of college, I gained nearly 30 lbs. I was no longer walking to school, no longer in marching band, jazz choir, or dutch dance. And, for the first time in forever, I had access to good food. All I could eat. Three meals a day. When I was at my mom’s house, dinner was scarcely prepared. It was usually a fend for yourself meal, which meant I had a bowl of cereal or spaghetti from who knows when that I found in the back of the fridge. At school lunches, students were only allowed a certain amount of food-one entree, one fruit, one side, one drink. I wasn’t used to the abundance, and I was captivated by it. The combination of the better access to food and the lack of physical exercise meant that Kim put on a lot of weight, and fast.
I recognized this as a problem my junior year, and began trying to cut back and practice more self control in the cafeteria. But the damage had already been done. Despite this weight gain, however, I was the most comfortable and confident in my own skin I had ever been. And I would look back at the pictures of myself from middle school and high school and think, “Man, I looked good!” I couldn’t understand how I had thought myself fat, ugly or disgusting at that time. I began to wish I could go back in time and be kinder to myself. Have more confidence in my appearance. Realize that it didn’t and doesn’t define me.
I weigh the most now that I ever have. And you know what? That’s okay. This body isn’t going to stay the same forever. It’s shouldn’t. I’m no longer a teenager. I’m becoming a woman, and my body is changing for this stage of my life. This body has gotten me (and is getting me) through a global pandemic. This body has gotten me through 50hr weeks between three jobs. This body has gotten me through long, three mile walks to work through two feet of snow. This body has kept me alive and healthy for 23 years of my life.
I am not defined by my weight or the way that I look. I am not defined by how others think I should look. As we age, weight fluctuates. It should. Our bodies change. Our bodies grow. Our bodies adapt to all sorts of new situations.
In the past three weeks, I’ve really been struggling with my weight. I’ve noticed I’ve been bloating, and everytime I look in the mirror, my stomach looks wider. My shoulders look broader. My cheeks look rounder. I’ve been struggling to feel pretty or like the way that I look.
It sure is a good thing that my worth doesn’t lie in how I look. I am worthy of love, regardless of how I look. I have value because of my identity in Christ, not because of how much or how little I weigh. I am beautiful because of my kindness, empathy, and joy. I might not feel pretty somedays. And that is okay. I’m not required to be pretty. I don’t have to please anyone with how I look. I do not exist for others. I exist for the Lord. And He says, “It is good.”
Has your body also been changing in the past few years?
Is it fair to expect it to stay the same forever?