*A quick disclaimer: While I know that my feelings are valid, I would like to acknowledge my privilege. I am grateful every day to be able-bodied. I also acknowledge that I still fit into the traditional clothing size charts, and that my health hasn’t been impacted by my weight. These are all great gifts. I don’t want to gloss over my physical entitlement, but more to focus on my deep-rooted self esteem issues brought on by a stigmatized society, and the transformation of my body over the last year.
The restrictions of quarantine and the trauma of the pandemic affected everyone’s physical and mental health differently. While some people channeled their stress into peloton rides and meal prep, I was on the other end of the spectrum: I spent the last year and a half expanding. Glued to my couch by terror and state-ordered mandates, I numbed my anxiety with wine, and shoved down my feelings with butter on top. I grew from a size medium to an extra large (I don’t use scales, but I believe it to be in the 20-30 pound range.) In retrospect, I knew it was slowly happening, but I didn’t realize to what extent until things started opening up in the world and I was forced to face the reality that only a single pair of pants still fit.
As the promise of actually seeing people again felt tangible, I started melting down. I could no longer ignore the change in my shape. When I should have felt nothing but excitement to finally see my friends and family, instead I was hyper-focused on fear and shame. I worried people would be horrified at how I’d “let myself go.” I was embarrassed that I hadn’t taken better care of myself. I was supremely conscious of losing some imagined competition in my head – one where there was some kind of winner in all of this. Instead of being grateful for the body that had kept me alive and healthy DURING A DEADLY PANDEMIC, I was filled with contempt for it.
On a particularly low therapy call, sitting on a curb sobbing uncontrollably, I said out loud some of the meanest things I’ve ever thought about myself. Things about how disappointing I was and how ugly I felt. After listing out my copious flaws, I started manically detailing how I needed to change my entire lifestyle to get the weight down. Tons of exercise, calorie counting, whatever it took. I would fit into those vintage Levis again from summer 2018. People would think I looked great and admire how I’d handled the pandemic with such discipline and grace. I would force myself to shrink.
My therapist was quiet for a moment, then said something that stopped my racing mind in it’s tracks: “why would you go through so much painstaking effort to lose weight for someone you don’t seem to like very much?”
Holy shit. I didn’t like myself? This was new information.