You are not the first woman who’s wanted to cry while having a difficult time zipping up her pants. You are not the only woman who can barely look at herself in the dressing room mirror, as the fluorescent lights seem to beat down on every surface, every “flaw” of your body.
You are not the only woman who’s wanted to blend right into the wall in a place where you felt surrounded on all sides by people with perfect bodies.
You are not the only woman who’s had a fat day.
What it all boils down to is that a fat day isn’t even really a fat day. You’re not significantly heavier today than you were yesterday. Your body cannot change that much in twenty-four hours. What you’re experiencing is a day in which you’re too tired to fight against the unrealistic standards that have been set for you; you’re too exhausted to believe all of the beautiful messages people are trying to put out into the world to save one another.
“You are good enough.”
“Being skinny will not make you happy.”
“You are so much more than the physical manifestation of your internal being.”
There are so many people out there trying to change things, trying to make a difference, trying to teach people to look inwards. And you love them for it, and you want so badly to believe them, every second of every day.
But sometimes all it takes is one frustrating shopping day. Or one look at a ridiculous clothing ad. Or one cover of a magazine in which a celebrity claims that the twenty pounds she’s lost has changed her life.
And then you’re back to square one, where you can’t help but believe that all you are is an imperfect body that will never measure up to the standards that have been set.
I’ve never had any serious health issues with my weight. I was an active child and gained weight at a relatively normal pace through my teens and twenties. But although I’ve never been morbidly obese or overweight, I have experienced what almost every woman experiences at some point in their life: the desperate desire to lose at least twenty pounds and the unshakable belief that it would fix everything.
Beginning in my teens and continuing into my twenties, like most other women, I went through extreme phases of self-doubt in which every day I thought about how much simpler everything would be if I was skinnier. I distracted myself from feelings of inadequacy or insecurity by imagining a better time – when I was ten, twenty, thirty pounds lighter. If I could do that, if I could lose that weight, if I could become that girl – everything else would fall into place.
Well, I’m skinnier now, mostly by accident. A severe flareup of Crohn’s Disease, something I’ve had for ten years now, forced me to go on a strict diet last summer, and I’ve stayed on it ever since. The diet has helped my happiness in terms of helping me to feel better, allowing me to able to do more, and giving me a sense of peace from knowing that I’m putting good things into my body. But I haven’t found happiness from being thin.
Those feelings of pure joy, self-confidence, utter bliss, self-worth, superiority, accomplishment, and everything else that I thought would come from being skinny did come, for a while. It was fun to try on new clothes, to receive compliments, to not feel completely dreadful about wearing a bathing suit. But eventually those initially addictive feelings faded away, because I got used to the way my body looked and felt.
That’s the thing about chasing things like this – wealth, fame, social status, power, thinness: the results are always exhilarating and exciting, but they never last. They never sustain you. Because like drugs, all they do is give you a high. A high is not real happiness, and it always stops. Usually, pretty quickly at that.
I’m not going to pretend that being thin isn’t a worthwhile payoff for the fact that I can no longer eat cheeseburgers and deep dish pizza. If I have to avoid the cheese curds that my friends are eating at happy hour, at least it means that my pants fit comfortably.
But that’s all that being thin is – it’s convenient. It’s “nice.” It’s “beneficial.” But it is not the same thing as happiness. Contentment. Self-worth.
I’ve come to the realization, finally – after all these years of forgetting to live in the moment because I was too distracted with the idea of a future, skinner me – that being thin doesn’t make everything better. You don’t develop a more solid sense of self. You don’t feel better than other people. Your self-confidence doesn’t become some impenetrable barricade. It just becomes another thing about you, like your eye color or your height. And once you get it, you’re just left wanting more, wanting something else to chase after.
This is not meant to come across as a Poor me, I’m skinny and I want to tell you all about it essay. I just wanted to use a platform in which I can absolutely promise you that being skinny will not change your life. It will not make you happier. It will not fix all of your issues. If you attain it, you will enjoy it for a while. You will feel high and proud and satisfied. And then, you will either gain the weight back or you will get used to the weight. And the void will show back up, begging to be filled by something, anything.
It’s a never-ending game. And magazines and diet pills and clothing lines know that. They keep tricking you into feeling inadequate, because they know that’s the only way to get you to continue spending money on things that you believe will change your life, your mind, your happiness.
You can chase after health – you can treat your body well and put good foods into it and exercise and enjoy the sweet things every once in a while. But you cannot chase after thinness. You cannot run away from fat days or feelings of insecurity or clothing ads with photoshopped thigh gaps. They are never going to go away.
What you can do, instead of running, is to step outside of the race. Acknowledge that these pressures are there. Watch them from a birds’ eye view, know that they are trying to make you feel worthless because they want your money. Their wealth comes from your belief that you are worth just a number on a scale.
The fat days will still come. The days of insecurity will still come, whether you’re a hundred pounds or three hundred pounds. But the minute you understand that chasing preconceived ideas beauty will not bring you happiness, is the minute that these days lose power over you.
You are beautiful. Not because of your weight or your looks or your style. You are beautiful because of the being that lives inside of your skin.
You are worthy.
You have dignity, simply because you exist. Simply because you’re a human being.
You deserve happiness. And you will find it. Not the day you become skinny. But the day that you discover the difference between being high and being truly alive.