I went skiing earlier this year and as I started pulling my snow pants up, they came to an abrupt halt just above my knee. Uh oh. I did the skinny jean dance and managed to wiggle them up, took a deep breath in and fastened the hook. I was okay to stand so long as I didn’t try to sit in them for too long.
When I was younger I despised shopping and trying on last years clothes was traumatizing because my size was constantly fluctuating. Every year I would need new clothes because I would have gained weight or just grown and it would further solidify the hatred I had for myself.
Safe to say that 13 year old me would have had a meltdown approximately 30 seconds after the incident, remaining in a crappy mood for the rest of the day. Fortunately, 22 year old me actually got a little excited, laughingly texted my boyfriend, and proceeded to have a great time skiing.
Why the self acceptance? Because the pants didn’t not fit me because I was fat, but rather because my body has grown in size. You see, “fat” is not a size or a number on the scale. My size and weight have gone up but I am not fat, fluffy, round, soft around the edges, unfit or chubby.
I lift 5 days a week because I have goals and it is what I love to do. I do cardio when my body tells me I have the energy for it, I am not generally sedentary, I eat a variety of whole foods, I sleep about 7 hours every night, I drink water throughout the day but I also eat treats(… and bagels), actively working to never restrict just for the sake of staying small.
I try to listen to my body and my mind, thus I feed and train it accordingly. If I was doing all of the above and weighed 10 lbs more, I still wouldn’t be fat.
So for me to get upset that a pair of pants doesn’t fit me from a time when I remember beating myself up consistently for not looking “fit” enough honestly makes no sense. I was eating rice cakes instead of bread on days when I felt fat, I was forcing myself to do cardio even when I felt spent, I had food anxiety whenever I ate something out of the ordinary because I didn’t know how many calories or macros were in it and I felt guilty for not having abs up to my standard.
How I define “fat”
Even in the sub-120lbs stage in my life, I had days where I genuinely felt fat. If we’re talking technical definitions, I so very clearly was not fat. However, fat is just a word we use to describe a feeling, it’s really an umbrella term for emotional dissatisfaction and distress.
Fat is not a squishy belly or thick legs or anything larger than a size 6. Fat is a lack of esteem and confidence resulting in an absence of self awareness. It is not taking responsibility of your well being because you feel so indifferent to being well. It is the act of numbing feelings, an inability to forgive, respect and love oneself. You are displacing your dissatisfaction from one area of your life to the way your body looks. A weight problem isn’t a fat problem, a food problem, or an exercise problem, it’s a psychological problem.
Fat holds a heavy negative connotation so we use it every time our life feels like it’s in shambles. When school is stressing you out, you eat a slice of cake to numb your feelings and then feel “fat” afterwards. But when you are having an good time celebrating a loved one’s birthday and eat a slice of cake, you magically don’t feel fat at all. Both cakes are the same, the difference is your perception of the food and your emotions at the time of consumption.
Calling yourself fat also acts as a self fulfilling prophecy. You have established this identity for yourself and you continually self sabotage in order to remain the same. It is a fear of change, instability, insecurity. It is a fear of being lonely, a fear of being your own person. Every time you tell yourself that you are fat, you are really telling yourself: make sure you stay this way because this is who you are.
So why did I gain weight if my nutritional habits seem to be relatively balanced?
Because : structure = function.
I am training to be stronger so my body told my brain, if this girl wants to be lifting this much volume she needs to to pack on a little bit more size and get some more sugar running through her blood. Hunger cues went up naturally, I listened to them, I did not force feed or restrict, I simply ate, I put on weight and proceeded to smash all my strength goals.
My weight hasn’t gone up in over 6 weeks now because my body told my brain: fuel tank is all full, we can work with what we’ve got right now in order to continually smash more strength goals. I continue to eat a large volume of food in order to sustain my energy demands because it is helps me sustain the lifestyle I have chosen. And that’s fine by me.
Similarly how losing weight can help someone release self fulfilling “fat” mentality, gaining weight for me has helped me let go of my need to be perceived as skinny, feminine and love-able. If achieving my goals leaves me less skinny, feminine and love-able by anyone’s standards it means absolutely nothing to me. If my size doesn’t tickle your fancy I likely never wanted it to be tickled anyways because at the end of the day I do not aspire to be “strong for a girl”, just strong.
Trust me when I say gaining weight has been as liberating as losing it, because I have stopped associating gaining weight with becoming more fat. Gaining weight is now giving me greater satisfaction and therefore there is no reason to beat down on myself.
Being healthy really is an act of mindfulness. You don’t need to lose weight or gain weight, but rather spend quality time developing positive body image. It does not happen overnight or in a couple months, it is a constant battle against your own mind and societal expectations. You will succeed and fall numerous times but when you find your freedom you will feel it in every part of your life.