x59 (beauty comes in all shapes and sizes)

I am 5’ 9”, and I weigh 160 lbs.

I am surprisingly OK with this.

Initially while I was thinking of sharing this with people, I thought that a simple Facebook status update would suffice. But I soon realized that I had more to say on the topic than Facebook would allow. I think that’s because I was reading an article that was a guest post on the blog of a former Sassy magazine writer (I never read Sassy, but from my understanding it was a feminist magazine geared toward teen fans of indie and rock music). The author was talking about the culture of fat in Hollywood, and started listing all the different tricks that Hollywood starlets use to curb their eating. I found the article largely triggering, and began pining for the “good ol’ days”, wherein my weight really mattered to me and curtailing my food intake was a major part of my life. “I could be skinny,” I thought. “I could be beautiful.”

A few days later, my attitude toward those statements is a resounding fuck that shit. When I started dating my fiancée almost a year ago, I was around 145 lbs and between a size 6 and an 8. I currently wear jeans that are a size 12. My weight fluctuates frequently and aside from my eating disordered behavior as a teen, I’ve never actually tried dieting or put extended effort into keeping my weight consistent. At this height, the most I’ve weighed is 175 lbs, and the least I’ve weighed is 127 lbs – as you can see, that’s a pretty big discrepancy. I think one of the reasons that I’m so comfortable at my current weight is that when I’m stressed or sick, my weight tends to plummet (hence my low point being 127 lbs), and so it’s good to be on the heavier side of average to act as a buffer. There are days where I miss being a size 6 and feel like I’m less beautiful because I’m not, and that’s unfortunately something that’s common in this culture. I frequently see Facebook status posts about friends and family members discussing their plans to lose weight, their goal being a 6 or a 4 – what are considered the “ideal” for women, while the average is actually closer to a 12.

My fiancée has told me that she did not notice my weight gain. I should note that five times a week, I either take a 45 minute walk or spend 45 minutes on a recumbent bike, and two to three times a week I spend 30 minutes doing yoga, so it is possible that I’ve gained muscle mass – although I don’t think I look particularly toned. I’m vegan, and I stick to what’s called a “whole foods diet” – this does not mean that I shop at the (very expensive) Whole Foods grocery store on a regular basis, but rather that my diet consists of actual food that has not been overly processed (with the exception of grains – I do eat pasta and bread, and I’m working on cutting back on that) – so lots of beans, rice, vegetables, etcetera. I feel like I lead a healthful lifestyle, and I feel that my build and height are sufficient enough to carry my weight. I’m happy at the weight I am and I don’t feel the need to shed pounds. I even had one of those (rare, fleeting, but incredibly exciting) moments where I looked in the mirror the other day and thought, “Damn, self,  you look good!”

I think it’s important to create a new cultural narrative in which we’re comfortable talking about our bodies with specific numbers, rather than the usual “never ask a lady how much she weighs” bullshit that creates body shaming. Now, don’t get me wrong – I understand that this can be difficult, particularly for a lot of the women out there who are considered overweight or obese. While I am larger than the standard ideal of beauty in the US and while I have been on the “overweight” scale before (at 175 I had a BMI of 25, which is considered overweight; my PCP at the time told me that while she didn’t think I should gain any more weight I was fine where I was and didn’t need to lose any), I’ve never experienced the degree of body shaming that many larger women have. It’s incredibly disheartening that I have friends who work in the beauty industry who say that they get passed over for photography opportunities because of their larger stature. I’d like to see the fear mongering behind admitting to a certain number dissipate and a pride of a healthful lifestyle – which is attainable at many sizes – take center stage. Let’s admit what is triggering to us so that we can create a culture wherein healthy ways to lose weight are emphasized over tips and tricks, instead of a culture where women who are a size 8 or 10 or 12 (and who are healthy) are forced into smaller sizes and a smaller way of thinking that dictates an ideal of beauty that needs to be made more accessible. Beauty really does come in all shapes and sizes, folks, so we’d do well to focus on healthy living instead of skinny living.

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