Nearly every fitness blog, workout challenge, and Instagram fitspo account gives the overwhelming impression that a happy life is built on toned tummies and small waistlines. But in my experience, gaining weight — and learning how to not worry about my weight at all — is actually what gave me the freedom to be happy. Here’s why:
I learned how to stop caring about things that didn’t really matter.
What I do stand to gain if I whittle my waist down to its high school size 0? Other than shopping for smaller clothes and getting the occasional “OMG UR SO TINY” comment, not much. My life will essentially remain exactly the same if the only thing I’m changing is the number on the scale.
I realized that you don’t always lose your insecurities with your weight.
Girls I considered to be in really good shape still complained about their belly rolls. They still took a million photos before finding the right one. They still avoiding wearing certain clothes because they didn’t feel good in them. It didn’t matter how many pounds they lost if they ignored the bigger issues that were plaguing their self-confidence. Being skinny isn’t a remedy for actual happiness, and it definitely won’t make your insecurities magically disappear.
I figured out depriving yourself of good food kinda sucks.
I was a twig in high school, and when I got up to 125 pounds, I felt like a legit whale. It’s silly to think about it now, but I was so upset at myself for being that size, and there was a time I wanted nothing more than to shrink. I’d try detoxing or some other deprivation diet, only to give up in just a day or two in. After years of being mad at myself for not being able to live off kale and quinoa, I realized that wasn’t the kind of life I wanted.
I found out I was much happier maintaining a balanced diet.
Once I let go of the idea that the only way I’d be skinny/happy is if I learned to love salad as much as I loved lasagna, everything changed. I threw away all the nasty healthy foods I didn’t like and replaced them with healthy foods I already liked. And when I felt the craving for something a little more carb-friendly, I stopped hating myself for it.
I decided it was okay to be a human being.
Sometimes life is hard and the only thing that can make it better is a cheeseburger. Sometimes I’m having a really amazing day, and I want to celebrate it with some fancy wine that’s super high in calories. Sometimes I’m in a rush and all I have time to eat is a granola bar and some pretzels. No matter how much you meal prep, being a person means things are going to get inconvenient. I’ll never be perfect, and that’s perfectly fine.
I encouraged my friends to stop caring so much about their weight.
There was no more “being bad” talk at the dinner table when we wanted to go out for pizza. My friends are beautiful just the way they are, and nobody needs to feel guilty for eating a slice of cheesy goodness.
I stopped feeling the need to impress guys.
More than once, I dated a guy who wanted me to work out more and have some “abs like his.” Thankfully, my laziness made that relationship end real quick, and I realized that I didn’t want to date someone who put pressure on me to look a certain way. And what I found was that ignoring guys who cared only about surface-level stuff made me pay attention to guys who wanted something a little deeper.
I quit telling myself I couldn’t wear certain things.
Gone were days I’d avoid body-con dresses because of the way they hugged my not-so-tight tummy. There were so many things I told myself that I’d wear when I looked my best and lost a few pounds, and once I decided to get out of my own way, I realized how silly I was being.
I ignored the idea that the only way I could show “self-love” was by being healthy 24/7.
Part of my struggle with being okay with not being perfectly healthy was that so many people think loving yourself and eating a salad are the same thing. Self-love really means cutting yourself some slack. It’s understanding that the world puts enough pressure on you; you don’t need to add to the pile.
I loved myself for exactly who I was — even if I didn’t believe it all the time.
There are still days I wake up feeling a little pudgy, and I know I don’t look like a supermodel. But I’ve come to love the way my body looks, and if I’m feeling a little doubtful, I turn on some music, shake it off, and remind myself that life is too short to care so much about how I look.
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