So I started to rant about body image on Twitter earlier and then I thought, maybe I should write about it since it was turning into more than three tweets. Now, I’ve struggled with my weight since sixth-form. Up until the age of sixteen, I had always been skinny- about a size 6. Then one day I was in Miss Selfridge’s and I was in a size 10 dress that wouldn’t zip up. For an impressionable teenage girl, you can imagine the fear I had that I was getting ‘fat’.
This is already recognised as a common problem, for boys and girls alike. They say youth is wasted on the young and so is skinniness.
My mom said that it was my body changing into a ‘woman’. In that instance, that may be true. I unfortunately inherited the wide hips and shoulders, although the rest remained the same and so I was never really ‘fat’ at all. Yet, that fear was always there.
My family from both sides are not traditionally skinny and my own parents have struggled with their weight. There is some deep fear in me that I will become obese and that’s just my destiny because genetics says so. Most of that fear then was probably because of being a teenage girl, atop the usual rhetoric that being skinny is the right and correct way of looking. Who cares if you’re ugly, right? As long as that body is thin.
So, I went to the gym, I always walked home from the train station, I cut down snacks and I maintained my portions, all healthily by the way. There’s nothing wrong with looking at how you’re eating and establishing a healthy diet. This allowed me to remain the same weight I’d always been. In fact, I grew even skinnier once summer came around.
Although I had never been big body-wise up to then, I was never the skinny friend either (still at a size 8). Because I was curvy and my shoulders/hips were wide, I was always conscious that my body wasn’t right in the way it should have been. That whole time I was so sure that I was bigger when most girls were either the same size or bigger.
Having established I was skinny enough, I went to uni with a lot of confidence. I went out a lot and wore tight dresses. Lots of people took me on dates and/or told me I was attractive. People were more inclined to find me pretty because I looked so good, according to them.
Look at pretty, skinny Hannah.
(I did have really good cheekbones in fairness. I never had to smile either because that bone structure just really did it for me…)
But with all stupid decisions, new student finance, and no interfering parents, I piled on at least two stone within first year. When pizza burgers are a thing, who needs good health? I wasn’t completely ‘fat’ in that sense, but there were already a barrage of comments.
“Wow, you’ve never been that big before.”
“Look how much your belly sticks out.”
“Let’s be honest, you are bigger than other girls and you can tell.”
I was still a size 10…
Second year only got worse and I put on even more weight. By the time I was ready to start third year, I was the heaviest I’d ever been. People liked to let me know and if they didn’t, I noticed the difference from earlier years. As previously mentioned, I’d always been skinny, so this change in attitude was blaringly obvious.
I couldn’t go in half of the shops that are ‘fashionable’ and ‘young’. There just weren’t any clothes for my body type. I always wore the same clothes when I went out; I stopped wearing short skirts and stopped shorts altogether. I never wore anything that showed my upper arms at most and I couldn’t wear most crop tops. People noticed and most of the clothes that I wore were limited to all the jeans and baggy t-shirts I had. A difference to the clothes I had specifically bought for first year of uni.
If I went into the shops, I did feel that my presence was confusing to all those skinny, white girls with their equally skinny mothers. Compared to them, I looked a mess and I certainly wasn’t fashionable. If I ate in public, I looked unrealistic for eating healthy but if I ate something unhealthy or with large portions, then that was the reason I was big.
The difference from before was that I literally could shop wherever I wanted, if I had the money. I didn’t have to worry about which shops had my size or type of clothing that worked for me, nor did I feel like I was judged too harshly for what I wore. I mean, I was skinny so it was probably a fashion choice to look that shit. Nor did I ever feel like it mattered how much I ate. I ate two breakfasts then a burger king and papa John’s in one day, but jokes because I was still skinny. Recently, I couldn’t have eaten a burger without people noticing that’s probably why I was the size I was.
My dates dropped to zero and I never even got a second glance or spoken to by anyone. If that’s a correlation then I’ll let you know later.
Eventually, I knew that I was going to have to change something. My weight was piling on rapidly, so I did change my diet and I tried to do more exercise. No doubt I got looks at the gym because I clearly didn’t go there often.
Now, I know I’ll never be as skinny as I once was, neither do I want to be. There’s nothing embarrassing being the size you are if the lifestyle you lead is a healthy one. Yet, the difference in certain situations from when I was that skinny till now is quite clear. This is an acceptance that will always have to come from you, because even with body positivity on the move, people will always allude to the notion that being a lower weight is best.
When I turned up to my mother’s birthday party earlier this year, I had already lost a stone. I turned up in a tight dress with no body syncher, and I was reminded that although I’m already a stone skinnier, it will never be enough.
“I would wear something to pull that fat in.”
“Usually, tight dresses like that require something to pull your belly in.”
“That was a brave choice.”
I never noticed until now, but thank you, Sharon, for letting me know. It never occurred to me that wearing a dress with my belly showing could be so offensive and bizarre to so many people. Especially considering everyone who mentioned it was overweight themselves. I am sorry you’re not confident in your appearance but don’t pass that onto me.
I have lost even more weight since then and as I begin to reduce back to my previous size, I’ve noticed how much easier life is. Not because being skinny makes everything easier, but because there are available clothes for me, I can eat whatever I want, and people comment less on the clothes I’m wearing. I immediately seem to look nicer in everyone’s eyes, so it seems.
The amount of people finding me attractive seems to have picked up again and although I hadn’t been asked on a date since the beginning of last year, that has suddenly changed. Maybe it relates to the fact I was my biggest weight yet during that time, or maybe it was something else. Arguably, it could be anything but there seems to be some correlation there.
Being skinny in that sense is easy, but maintaining it isn’t. Continuing to lead a healthy lifestyle is all you can do and that is the size you will be, whatever it is. Most people who were bothered by me being bigger are people who are overweight. This internalised rhetoric of fat-shaming still runs strong and the faster you dismiss it, to become the best you possible, then the faster you’ll be unashamed of your own image.
Part of being human is being dissatisfied, particularly with your own image, but there’s always power in not allowing yourself to be miserable for the sake of everyone else.