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From Our Readers: "I Gained Weight After High School and Everyone Couldn't Stop Talking About It"

Don't let other people's negative comments make you love yourself any less.
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It was just harmless teasing at first. They didn't know how "extra rice" comments got me down in the dumps. They didn't know that I envied all the girls who could wear "free size" clothes while I immediately headed to the plus size section. They didn't know how badly I criticized my own clothes, and beyond that, my appearance in general.

The people I went to high school with knew I was not "on the lighter side" of the weighing scale. But because of the stress of senior year and the college applications taking their toll on me, I started skipping breakfast and eating at irregular intervals.

I lost weight. I couldn't be more happy about it. Who doesn't want to be thin without all the workout, right? It felt like I was coming out of my shell. For a while there, I gained some confidence—wearing clothes that fit better would do that to you.

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But then high school ended and along with college came a slightly bigger allowance and, well, new friends to hang out with. One favorite way to hang out? By finding snacks around campus. The few minutes between classes were spent with a burger in hand or even a serving of fries at the nearest fast food joint. I was hungry, so I ate. I was bored, so I ate. I was stressed, so I ate. A friend was hungry, bored, or stressed, so we ate.

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There was always a reason to spend money on food. And then, eventually, a reason to buy new clothes. Because the ones I had were starting to feel just a little tighter. Again. I was back to ballooning—and I cried about it. A lot.

When I lost weight, I thought I was finally getting a chance to look my best. Then I gained all the weight back, and it felt like karma was trying to prove a point. Believe me, when you're struggling with maintaining your grades, the last thing you want is to receive comments about how you were "not taking care of yourself."

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Believe me, when you're struggling with maintaining your grades, the last thing you want is to receive comments about how you were "not taking care of yourself."

"You've already lost weight, why did you let yourself gain it all back?" As if it were that easy. It gets worse because no matter how often they see me, they would make the same comments over and over again. The confidence I gained? All gone. Replaced by a cringe every time I would catch a glimpse of how I looked in the mirror.

But amidst all this, I learned one thing: I will hear all the wrong things at the wrong time, but it's up to me to deal with them. It's up to me to love my own body. Because everyone else will find flaws in it. I shouldn't join them. I owed that to myself.

So I just smiled, kept silent about their comments, or quipped witty responses when I was in a good mood. The phrase "if you ignore it, it will go away," suddenly had a new meaning to me. I ignored their comments about my weight gain and they eventually grew tired of it. I spoke up when the stubborn few refused to back down. I threw the term "body positivity" around, educating them instead of letting them undo the progress I was making when it came to loving myself.

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And I found something else to focus on: empowering others.

Instead of being part of the cycle, I chose to tell other girls that they looked good. I realized that a small comment about my muffin top got me down, but an equally random statement about how I looked less sickly made up for it. I did that for others, and seeing their face light up made me feel even better than when I got the compliment myself. Words really do have that kind of power. We just have to choose our words carefully.

It was just harmless teasing from others, but I learned a lot from it. I learned to see the beauty in myself and in others, and it did come in all sizes and shapes.

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If you know me, and know me well, I am not the biggest fan of idyllic lifestyles. With a Type A personality, I act immediately upon whatever challenge that needs to be addressed. I actually enjoy keeping my mind preoccupied: doing university work in my favourite cafe then running errands around town, grocery shopping here, updating my accounts there, photocopying documents on the way down the street - all just in time before having a glass of champagne at the bar with my friends come evening.

And so, you could imagine my bewilderment when the next challenge to be faced was an extensive self-quarantine protocol. I didn’t know what to do when my greatest responsibility in this situation was to do nothing at all. My first few attempts to combat my consternation were very much rooted in distraction and imagination. My distractions involved conducting research, writing songs, calling family and friends, filming videos, and eating chocolate! My imaginations and fantasies were centred on travelling, shopping, even clubbing (which I rarely do) for when they find a cure to COVID-19. I did anything and everything that could be considered constructive in order to pass the time, mainly hoping I could just undertake the basic human necessities to survive - that is, eat and sleep the day through - until the next day comes, until the world is closer to becoming a better place, until quarantine ends, until my flight follows through, until I see my family and friends again.

Days in self-isolation and suspended flights turned to weeks and turned to months. By the third extension here in Spain where I study Fashion Business, I had to tell myself this shall be my new normal now, that I was blessed to be healthy, that I was tired of merely existing and missed what it was like to actually live - even if just within four walls. Little by little, I began to find significance in the simple occurrences of the day: the soft glare of the rising sun beaming golden streaks through my bedroom window upon waking up, the fragrance of freshly washed bed sheets that I had painstakingly hung to fit a relatively small clothes rack without crumpling them, the crunch and tanginess of warm toasted bread topped with raspberry marmalade, the buzzing sound of a phone call from home just waiting to be answered, to the caress of a fuzzy sweater to keep warm at night. I realised, “What pleasures to be enjoyed in the pause of slow living!” Through this continued pause, which I loathed at first, I began to appreciate each moment of the day rather than wish it would pass more swiftly, moments I had overlooked so often before the lockdown. I started to find that the challenge of self-isolation was never to pause both the regular routines of life as well as the positive emotions that came with these - as initially, I thought it meant to pause all happiness, so as to withstand a time of endurance in hopes for a better tomorrow, much like a form of delaying gratification. Life is just too fragile these days to delay gratification any further.

Life has paused, but it has not stopped. Believe that like any punctuation mark in a sentence, the pause will provide the right timing of things to take place. Till then, let us not waste our time waiting. Instead, we could be in the moment, seek substance in simplicity (that is, in what we already have), And enjoy the pleasure in pause. “Practice the Pause. When in doubt, pause. When angry, pause. When tired, pause. When stressed, pause. And when you pause, pray.”

They say time heals all wounds, but it has been ages - is heartbreak exempted?

I have forgotten when was the last time we shared a smile - the last time when I saw the glow in your eyes and the last time when you whispered an I love you to me. I have forgotten when, but here I am - writing to you again.

I do not know if you will read this or you will just add this one to my proses and poems that you left unread, but you see, I am still hoping. I am mailing the pain of us to the gods out there - hoping they can take the pain away. I should have gotten over you, but instead of forgetting and accepting our ending, I am writing about us in tissue sheets, carving about us on trees, telling about us on the back of my journals, hoping that a thousand or a million write ups about us, can make me forget about what happened.

I am writing, waiting for the point where I can no longer write anymore, for I have none to tell - but when? I have nothing in me anymore, but the memories of us - and no matter how hard I try put those to its own grave, the memories grow back like lilies in the swamp - painful and beautiful at the same time.

No matter how hard I try to silence those and put it at the back of my mind, those ring back, playing like the favorite song we used to listen. They say heartbreaks turn into poetry and that is what happening to us - but poetry should be dulcet and dreamy, why does ours sound like pain and agony? They say time heals all wounds, but it has been ages - is heartbreak exempted? Darling, I guess not.

Anne Luna A day ago
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