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.
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.
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."
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.
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.