Weight gain is still such a sensitive, vulnerable aspect of our lives. It’s seen as a negative thing, a promotion of obesity, a reflection of an unhealthy lifestyle, a symbol of greed… And the list goes on. But weight fluctuation is in fact a normal process of human life. Factors such as exam stress, mental illness, relationship issues & fatality can all affect our weight in terms of gain and loss, often causing shame or guilt towards the way that we look. A lot of us have felt the need to hide our belly fat with a cushion, or wear looser clothing, or avoid showing bare skin in front of partners when our jeans start to get a bit tighter.
I certainly know the embarrassment of losing and gaining a lot of weight, altering over the last few years from illness, the gym and the academic stresses I encounter. I used to avoid looking at my reflection altogether when I started to gain back weight; thinking everybody around me was judging the size of my thighs.
It’s no secret that magazines and companies thrive on the need to lose weight. Every fad dietary article you read, every ’14-day detox’ you try, every time you get close to ordering a mess-up-your-own-organs waist-trainer, your mind-set is adding to a subverted way of thinking: that a smaller weight equals a better you.
Unfortunately this twisted way of thinking is a societal norm, and feeds into many of the social expectations and stigmas we stand by. For instance, the need to lose weight for ‘a new you’ each New Years, the maintenance of exercise, or the assumption that women will diet as they get older. Though these things may seem trivial, once you think about it, it’s anything but natural to tell others what to do with their own body.
It’s great to see that celebrities are beginning to speak up about these absurd body ideals and weight stigmas. Anne Hathaway recently challenged the expectations of post-pregnancy weight-loss, stating on her Instagram account that ‘There is no shame in gaining weight during pregnancy […] Bodies change. Bodies grow’. It’s mad that a woman can go through the most natural (and painful) process of creating another human life, only to be criticised for the presence of their swollen belly. At the end of the day, I’d much rather enjoy time with my children than worry about my jean size.
It is definitely time to get over our fear of extra weight. Shaming ourselves for putting on a few pounds, or for gaining weight during eating disorder recovery, or buying clothes which don’t fit as weight-loss ‘motivation’… These are all negative ways of thinking, which will not enhance our self-esteem. It would be great to live in a world which is judgment-free, embracing the different body shapes and types, and promoting self-care rather than self-hatred. What really hit home to me this weekend was the 2016 Olympic gymnasts competing in Rio, who were all extremely fit and healthy, and yet with beautifully different body shapes. Being different is no shameful thing, and having a bit of extra chub won’t hurt you either.
Gaining a little weight is definitely not the end of the world. Although when you first feel that top button getting tighter, or your stomach feeling chubbier, it does feel like a muted-down version of the end of the world. But we have all been there, and we will all continue to go there, with our weight fluctuating with the ebbing and flowing of modern-day life. As long as you get help with any food or exercise obsessions and look after yourself, weight fluctuation is perfectly okay and does not belittle your worth.