I’ve never really struggled with my weight. I’m one of those obnoxious girls who can stop eating bread and go to the gym and lose 10 lbs. in 6 weeks. When I was younger I was always a bit tall and a bit lanky but not extreme enough to have those adjectives excessively applied to my body type. I developed early and started cheerleading during my tween years and so my weight was just never a problem.
In college I yo-yo’d from time to time but after college, after cheerleading, after my body had, for the most part, stopped growing I rarely thought much about it. That is until now.
As a woman, and more specifically a black woman, I’m well aware of how obsessed people are with my appearance. The pressure to look like Beyonce or Michelle Obama’s arms, is ever present and when I’m not worried about how people are perceiving me mentally and emotionally, the physical perception is a constant. I’ve written before about how my black doesn’t always feel beautiful but lately the color of my skin plays as a background insecurity while my weight has taken center stage.
Now I will state here, before going any deeper, that I’m coming from a huge place of privilege. I can afford to eat healthy, have a monthly gym membership and afford hot yoga classes when I want. I also know that my weight problems pale in comparison to those who have been be struggling with weight their whole lives or those who’s body type can be described as naturally curvy/thick who and will always tend towards being bigger. When you break it down culturally and historically Black and Brown folk are several times more likely to be obese than their counterparts and I am no where near obese. So it is here that I am acknowledging the things I’m about to say about my weight struggles are personal and to pretend otherwise is marginalizing the experience of those with much further to go in their weight-loss journey .
I’ve experienced weight gain like this once before. In 2013, during the darkest days of my depression I must have gained 15- 20 pounds. It was unnoticeable to me but others saw such a difference that even my family wondered if I was pregnant. Looking at pictures now I see it, the pain, the trauma, but no one said anything and I lost the weight after some commitment to my health later that year. But this time is different. This time I can feel the weight creeping on me as my skin stretches and the weight distributes evenly throughout my body. I feel weighed down and the guilt I have about gaining without the same steadfast commitment to losing as I’ve had in the past causes me nothing but sadness and defeatism.
But over the last 6 months I’ve been going through trauma again. Moments of such deep sadness and hostility that eating an entire Dominos pizza is the only thing to bring me comfort. Carbs and more carbs, sugar and more sugar, cravings of nothing but fried and salty food so that every emotion and feeling could be stuffed as deeply as the food I’ve been putting in my body. I know why I’m eating, I know what the matter is, but for the first time in my life I can’t force myself to stop, I can’t flip the light switch and then magically be 5 pounds lighter, it has been a fight and I have to admit I feel like I’m losing it.
Of course no one sees it as much as I probably think they do. Sure my face is a little rounder, and my mid section seems unnoticeable underneath sweaters and drapey shirts that is a common outfit staple here in San Francisco, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Over the fall I would squeeze so tightly into my size 6 jeans that my stomach would feel like a boa constrictor was wrapped around me. I would take them off, hold them against my body and ponder why they looked so small. The widening of my hips, a physiological joke that my body is now in it’s “child-bearing” prime, was something I accepted fairly early on. I parted ways with jeans I knew would never fit my slightly curveier lower half but the truth of my weight gain still remained, hips be damned. It became so painful to put on jeans that I would only dare put them on for dates and networking events, silently suffering the entire time. I finally decided to find more suitable pants, a size up for more comfort but within 6 weeks, as my emotional state continued to crumble, the pants too grew tighter.
Luckily dresses and leggings are also staple fashion statements of the SF #basic life. Pair some boots and a jean jacket or hoodie and I was golden. Every weekend I would tell myself, “Monday is a new day, I’ll start taking better care of myself then” but by Wednesday there I was again, burrito in hand while I tried to keep the never-ending trauma from taking a hold of me. I was happy eating, but the regret and self-loathing that came after was something I had only heard about while watching episodes of my 600 pound life. “I’m not 600 pounds, I still get out, I still can walk the SF hills and run to catch a bus, this isn’t all that bad”, I would think to myself anytime I was getting too down about it. I felt bad for eating, I felt bad for gaining weight, and now I felt bad that I wasn’t accepting myself the way that I was. As a feminist and a millennial I didn’t want to body shame myself and I definitely didn’t want anyone to know I was body shaming myself because that meant I cared about the unfair standards that our society places on woman, which to the people I roll with was way worse than weight gain.
So I was losing all around but not in the way I wanted. I was never excited to go workout and the thought of it made me tired and sleepy. Trying on clothes was a disaster and even though I was starting to feel my own sense of style developing I was simultaneously figuring out what worked well on my new frame and it was not what I had been use to in the past.
After some processing with friends, family, and my support group it became even more apparent that what was happening was that I wasn’t putting on weight, I was putting on trauma. I wasn’t dealing with my emotions and because I wasn’t out of a traumatic situation the trauma stayed on and my resolve to get it off was bound to fail. So I took . different approach, I started telling myself, “I need to heal myself and then the trauma will fall off”. I would tell myself this on the treadmill, on the stair-master, in every yoga pose and ab crunch. I started taking iron so my energy would replenish and drinking probiotics so that if all else failed my guts would take over and flush out any processed crap I was putting into it. I tried to use my upcoming Thailand trip as motivation, working towards that perfect bikini body but every time I changed my focus from healing the trauma to losing the weight I would see no results and my urge to eat would crawl back up.
So I’m taking it one day at a time; balancing between being acceptive of where I am and how I look and actively doing things to make my body happier an aid in the healing process. I’m learning how to love my body while also being at peace that right now when I look in the mirror I see myself differently because it’s still there, it’s still fresh, I can still feel the situation weighing me down. It’s going to be a bit longer before the trauma is off and healed but in the meantime I invested in the right size jeans and I wear them everyday.