By Jasmine Lane
Something interesting happened today.
I was going through my photos on my phone, like everyone does, and I came across a picture from about 9-10 months ago. I remember taking it and thinking how much I hated it, how disgusting I looked, how fat my face was, etc. You know, the typical body-shaming that women do to themselves.
Well, today was different. I looked at that same picture and thought, “Wow, you don’t look half bad. And your skin is nice. And your smile. And your hair. And your face is on fleek.”
What was different today was that I have grown to love myself.
Anyone who knew me knows that I always struggled to maintain my weight, especially when I was younger. I even resorted to essentially starving myself to maintain my weight, which wasn’t even thin to begin with. I gained about 100 my first two years of college because I got so sick of feeling physically sick from not eating (plus dealing with depression), and I was so busy that I needed energy from food. I wasn’t even eating a lot, or eating poorly. The pounds literally just piled on from eating a regular diet of 2-3 medium portion meals a day. A few serious bouts of severe depression did add significant chunks of weight, but overall it was pretty steady gain.
Over the past two years I’ve been attempting to lose that weight in an attempt to not feel so disgusted. Nothing happened—personal training, nutritionist, etc., but there was no change in my weight or appearance.
Then one day I decided that maybe this was just my body and that this was the size I was going to be. So, I started to buy new clothes (something I hadn’t done for years since gaining weight), new shoes, and basically embraced my body as it was. I started to take care of a different part of my body: my brain.
It also helped that I was in a healthy relationship with my current partner, and he made me feel good about myself too. I never felt like he was waiting for me to lose weight to be attracted to me. Knowing that he loved me as I was helped me to love myself. He loved me for reasons far beyond appearance—although, I am pretty easy on the eyes.
I kept working out and eating relatively healthy because I felt good about my body and myself when I did it. Even though I wasn’t losing any weight, and was killing myself in the gym, I felt and feel good because I have a healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and all that good stuff. I prioritized my health over a number on a scale, so I felt good.
I learned last week that I have a medical condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). One of the symptoms is unregulated insulin and insulin resistance in the body—basically, I couldn’t lose any weight and just kept gaining weight because my body couldn’t regulate what I was eating. It just stored it as fat. If I hadn’t caught this, it could have turned into diabetes—even though my diet is NOT one that should have led to this.
I share this to say that sometimes it’s not all about how you look. If you feel healthy and are happy with your body, then so be it. Sometimes, it’s not just a matter of what you eat, but about what your body is doing behind the scenes. I’m going to continue losing weight because I don’t feel completely healthy now that I learned about the insulin resistance—lowering my weight should help with that (and since I’m shorter, height/weight proportionality is a big thing).
Now that I’ve figured it out, I hope to be able to start losing weight with the help of my doctor and medication to treat the insulin resistance. I’m still going to the gym, eating relatively healthy, and loving my body in the process.
I’m not encouraging obesity by promoting self-love. If someone is 500 pounds, self-confidence is one part but obviously being so severely overweight just really isn’t healthy in the long run due to increased health risks, we all know that. No one should make you feel ashamed for that though. This entire post is about promoting HEALTH and happiness with your body versus adhering to someone else’s standards.
If you are not happy, find the motivation to change your lifestyle. I started going to the gym because I just wanted to be and feel healthy. I wasn’t planning on losing weight—since I couldn’t due to PCOS—I just liked the feeling that a good workout gave me both physically and emotionally.
Accept your body and your spirit as it is. And give yourself permission to be healthy and beautiful and flawless. Whatever that might look like for you.
Jasmine is an (almost) college graduate, Marxist, and radical black feminist from Minneapolis. When she’s not fighting the system, she’s working in education and getting ready to be a high school English teacher.