There was a dark corner of my closet I hadn’t dared venture into for a while. It wasn’t the corner with the cringe-worthy junior high diaries or the shoebox of pictures of old exes and crushes and other piles of man trash. It was just an accidentally designated section of clothes I was quite sure no longer fit. No big deal, right?
For instance, there was the cat-print shirt. I hadn't worn it in over a year. I loved this stupid cat-print shirt and looked at it often, but it remained unworn. Why? I wasn’t exactly in denial of the fact that I had gained weight at that point. And when I finally put the shirt on again days ago, I knew it wouldn't fit, and it didn’t. But there was something about this particular shirt, a piece of clothing I loved, that just ripped the neutrality out of the whole concept. It made it bad and sad and shameful — the simple fact that a piece of clothing no longer covered my greatness.
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My body had changed while I let go of rigid eating habits and I was in many ways better for it. But the too-tight shirt was the antithesis of that sentiment. It was the scenario in the infomercial that sold exercise equipment. It was the before picture in the diet pill ads. But in reality, it wasn't.
"You're just a shirt." I actually said this to the shirt.
I looked into the kitty eyes of the kitty faces on the shirt and said it out loud. "You're a shirt that doesn't fit, and I have many that do. So, bye."
Talking to it as if it weren't this concept, this indication of my quality of life, allowed me to take my power back. I wear (or used to wear) the kitty shirt. The kitty shirt does not wear me.
This is the obstacle you face when you are body positive and gaining weight.
I’ve written about the exact opposite, on being on the shrinking end while trying not to let it at all affect my sense of self-worth, entitlement, or even certainty about the state of my body because guess what? Our bodies change, and we are basically powerless over them. So I figured since I fully processed this while unintentionally losing weight, accepting weight gain would be a piece of cake, right?
Oh yeah but...society. Duh.
It’s obviously way easier to accept weight loss because everyone reveres it, even when you loathe the fact that it is celebrated. It doesn’t matter. We as humans all want that acceptance and a pat on the back for a “job well done.” It was hard for me to replace clothes that had become too big for me, for sure. But the instant comfort of seeing a lower number on my dress tags, as bullshit as that is, lessened the sting. And now I don’t have that.
I’ve lost that (again, complete and utter bullshit) comfort but what else have I lost?
Back in February of this year, I took a course called Dare Not to Diet with Glenys Oyston, a registered dietician and nutritionist. This was after leaving a 12-step program that helped me treat my eating disorder but eventually turned me onto “tools” that were toxic and made my eating look a whole lot like dieting.
One of the first exercises was to write down all the reasons why I wanted dieting banished from my life. My food behaviors at that time had me continually second-guessing myself, or as the amazing Virgie Tovar wrote, gaslighting myself every time I felt hunger. I always wanted to be told I was eating “well.” I needed that validation. The guilt around breaking food rules (which I often did because they were really fucking stupid rules that served no purpose) was suffocating and bottomless. These are also things I have lost, to which I say good riddance.
Another thing diet culture teaches us is that the grass is always greener on the skinnier side of our memories.
I’ve now been bigger and smaller than I am now in my adult life. It is always my knee-jerk reaction to think of my thinnest days as my best. And that right there is the most significant lie diet culture has ever whispered into my ear.
I met my husband and married his perfect ass at my biggest. I also danced with friends and rocked a loud and sparkly wardrobe on the reg. There were dark times at my biggest, sure. But I bet dollars to donuts that my thinnest days were even darker. Because while my body was becoming more “acceptable,” I rarely, almost never, stopped looking down the scale. It was always about losing pounds under the guise of recovery and never about being OK right-the-fuck now. I can’t make that mistake again. I refuse.
These are the things I have to remind myself of every time I notice that my body has grown. Constantly dismantling what a suppressive system has taught me from birth is hard work, but accepting it as truth? I’ll gladly do whatever it takes not to swallow that pill again. I won’t be perfect at it. But I’m trying.