I think I was eleven when I first remember being extremely unhappy with how I looked. Part of it was because the other kids made fun of my naturally hairy arms, only obvious because of my dark hair, and my bushy eyebrows. I was also chubby, only unworried over that because my best friend was heavier than I was. I was used to being picked on for my love of reading, my intelligence, and my general geekiness, but the importance of looking good was something I hadn’t really cared about.
And now it seems to be one of the only things I do care about.
I was overweight in high school, aspiring to be like the emo/scene girls I saw on the Internet who had colorful hair, thick eyeliner, and the skinniest of jeans. I succeeded on the first two counts, but I definitely didn’t look as good in my denim. In 2010 a switch went off in my head, and I tried out this new Paleo thing I’d heard of. I didn’t focus on it, because I had work to do at school, home, and for theater, but I did lose weight. 28lbs to be exact. I went from 160lbs to 132, and I felt fabulous—sexy and healthy.
Then summer came, and by the end of high school I was back to 155, but I didn’t let that bother me (even though I thought—and still think—that I look not so great in my senior prom photos). So college started, I ate unhealthy, but I did exercise multiple times a week and I maintained my weight. Then I met The Captain and it’s been a downhill slump since then.
At first it was because we were eating out a lot and he had an abundant supply of soda, but then I just lost the will to try. I went from 165lbs in April 2013 to 185lbs in September 2013. I tried to diet. Didn’t work. I maintained that weight until August 2014, when I met a nutritionist and then inexplicably gained ten pounds in the months after. I tried to diet again, spiraled back into severely unhealthy habits, and gave up for the nth time.
The Captain and I moved in together and stress, eating out, and a lack of willpower have gifted me with the weight of 210lbs. I am officially obese, both by BMI and muscle tone, and I am not happy with that, but I’m worried. Will I ever be happy with my body?
I’ve spent the last ten years caring about my appearance: what my hair looked like, what I was wearing, my make-up, my weight. I feel like if I’m happy with my hair (growing still, close to the original color), my style (lots of stripes and comfy, fashionable pieces), and my make-up (minimal, for maximum effect) then I need to be unhappy with something, right? And that’s my weight.
I have to wear clothes to hide my stomach, because I officially have a gut and, if I’m bloated, I sometimes look pregnant. I had to go out a buy a new pair of jeans because only one pair I owned fit and I was spending the rest of my time in sweatpants. I’ve officially hit my highest weight and my biggest size—18 in pants, 40D in bras. I’ve lost the ability to feel sexy, because I’m too worried about my stomach, my thighs, and my arm fat. The confidence and easy smiles that I used to be complimented on are wilting because my body image is taking over.
And I want to change, I do. I’ve got a gym membership, but I haven’t used it yet. I’ve got new Nikes, but I mostly wear them to the grocery store. I’ve got love and support from everyone else, but that seems to do nothing. I feel like I’m an old wheelbarrow and I’m stuck in a rut, because I’m fat, I know I’m fat, and I’m afraid that nothing I do will change how I feel about my body.
If I reach that golden number—160, 140, 126—and I look in the mirror and still feel horrible, then what do I do then? What will I do if I see my reflection and I’m… happy? If I’m not a girl wrapped up in her body image, then who am I? If I’m not an insecure mess then what? If I don’t spend all my time wishing I could change, and instead do it and succeed, then what will I wish for?
They say that change is hard, and I know that. They say that the journey and work is worth it at the end, but I can’t predict what I’ll be after a transformation. I mean, there’s loose skin, and stretch marks, and the less-than-ideal not-quite-perfection of a body less-than what it was. What if I’m not a butterfly in the end—what if I’m a moth?
This is what worries me.