What Happens After You Lose Weight
I wouldn't say that I was ever fat. I was always just overweight enough that girls would tell me I looked "fine" and guys wouldn't tell me much of anything (because I guess my dazzling intellect and sense of humor wasn't high on their priority list). As a feminist, I always tried to feel proud of my body. I really did want to accept it and love it for what it was. But that was easier said than done.
Last summer I lost about 15 pounds. When I came back to school in the Fall, I was showered with compliments. "How did you do it?" everybody asked. I told some that I hardly even noticed my weight loss and that I had no idea how it happened. I told others I swam a lot and biked everywhere. I didn't tell anybody the truth: that I obsessed over what I ate, counted every calorie in a journal, and exercised five times a week for three months. I'm not entirely sure why I lied. I think it's because as girls we're always supposed to be effortlessly beautiful. We can't admit to trying to become more beautiful because that shatters the mystery around something that's supposed to be unobtainable. My weight loss was supposed to be effortless and even though it was far from that, I played my little role and pretended like it was.
I thought losing weight would make me happier. Even though I should've know better (and maybe even do know better), I guess a part of me really did buy into all that media crap. I thought Skinny Me would feel carefree and happier somehow. I essentially thought the ability to wear a bikini without shame would transform my life.
I was wrong.
What ended up happening was that my attitude towards food and my body hardly changed at all. Sure, I was happy that I looked that much more like the women you see on TV and in movies (although, let's be honest, I still didn't look anything like them). But I still felt constantly worried about what I was eating. I constantly freaked out about gaining the weight back. The way our society is today, it's not even enough to live up to certain beauty expectations. Even when you come close, you still feel like you'll never measure up.
And that was only what was going on internally. Externally, I went from guys either not noticing me at all or, in an instance I'll never forget, being told things like "You'd be really pretty...if you lost weight" to guys straight up harassing me. I thought that if I lost weight, guys would fall in love with me. But what I became the receiving end of definitely couldn't be described as love. Rather I got catcalls, propositions and sometimes even demands - as if guys had some kind of right over my new body, like now that I'm skinny I must be at their sexual will. Honestly, with this as the alternative, I kind of wish I could go back to not being noticed by them at all.
I guess my point is this: I guess I never realized that our society's attitude towards feminine beauty sucks on both ends of the spectrum. I only ever saw it from the perspective of not measuring up, and always thought it was unfair that I was held to such standards, that I couldn't be noticed for my mind but was constantly told I had to be beautiful. But now that I do (by some standard) measure up, I know that that's not much better. That end is full of the same insecurity, with the unwelcome addition of harassment and unfair expectations about who I must be because of how I look.
So to all the girls out there who want to lose weight, who think losing weight is the answer to everything: it's not. Maybe the way society is right now it's unrealistic for me to tell you "be happy with who you are! Being beautiful on the inside is all that matters" and for you to really, truly believe me. But I'm going to say it anyway. Be happy with who you are. Being beautiful on the inside really is all that matters because it seems like no matter what's happening on the outside, women can't win.
This article was originally posted here on the FBomb on February 8, 2012 and is re-posted today in honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Body image and body standards, Feminism, Violence against women
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Gender bias, Sexuality, Sexual harassment, High school, Discrimination, News