Dedicated to all the strong women in my life
There is something particularly alluring about the beginning of a new year that makes everyone think they will do things they never actually do. I know from experience. I still curse like a sailor. I still weigh over 150 pounds. I still live in my oversized hoodie and sweatpants despite owning cuter clothing. I still rarely wear makeup even though my makeup game is on point. And yet, when analyzing my past resolutions, what I recognize is not a goal to strive for, but rather me succumbing to society’s bullshit.
Why do I feel the need to be skinnier when I am already a healthy weight? Why do other women around me feel the need to make their resolution to get a romantic partner? Why do we feel the need to wear body conforming clothing instead of what’s comfortable? A new year signals a fresh start, a time to strive for growth yet instead of choosing goals that make us happier, we choose goals that make us feel like we are more physically desirable.
As a woman, I am part of a gender that has been historically objectified so much that it has become internalized. I remember the first time I weighed myself at Emory and saw that I was 156 pounds, I cried. I remember taking my hands and squishing all of the fat on my stomach, wishing I could cut it off. In that moment, it didn’t matter that I was 5’8 and that I lift weights so the new weight was muscle mass. It didn’t matter that to everyone else around me, I was beautiful and had a great figure.
I felt like the ugliest person in the world yet deep inside me, I knew this was wrong. In high school, I had strong women figures I looked up to and they taught me that my value lies in who I am, not in society’s sexually objectifying construction of female value.
And yet, every time I looked in a mirror, I heard the words of the women in my family. I remember one time I was walking down the hallway and my mom told me I looked like I was pregnant. A week earlier, I had been told by a nutritionist that I was under eating at a daily intake of 500 calories and that I needed to eat more. When I left for college, my Abuela didn’t wish me well. She told me to lose some weight. When I came back for fall break, the first thing my mom told me wasn’t that she missed me but that she was proud of me because I looked skinnier.
What my mom doesn’t know is that when I heard those words and remembered that weight of 156 on the scale, I wanted to stop eating. I realized what was happening so I started forcing myself to go to the cafeteria three times a day. I would pick out a healthy meal but as I ate it, I would feel this self-loathing in my chest. I knew in my mind that I was doing the right thing by eating yet I couldn’t stop feeling like a failure.
I reached out to my close friends at Emory for help, but they were busy with classes and they couldn’t keep up. I fought it for a month and a half but eventually, I just stopped eating. I figured out that I could eat half a bowl of cereal a day and still have enough energy to finish my homework. I did this until my weight was finally down to 150, and then 149, and then 148. I was still exercising. I did two martial arts classes a week. I was running 3 miles every Tuesday and Thursday after I did weights for two hours. I went down four jeans sizes and no one around me noticed.
I didn’t look like someone who starved themselves. I still had a small belly. I have a full hourglass figure and as my friends say, my butt is big enough for four people. When you think of someone who starves themselves, you think of a super skinny woman with hollowed out eyes and bones jutting out of her skin. No one pictures women like me, who look healthy and have a chest and a butt. They don’t expect the starving woman to be curvy. Instead, they applaud you for losing weight. They compliment you on your work ethic, on your new body. People would tell me I looked hot.
Learning to love and accept my body was hard when everyone around me seemed to love me more for hating it. It wasn’t until December of my fall semester that I started eating again. It was hard. I would make myself stay in the cafeteria until I ate a full meal. Sometimes, that meant staying there pretty much all day, but I did it. I did it because one day when I looked in the mirror, I said fuck you to all the people who found my value in my waistline. I realized that anyone whose love of me was proportional to how skinny I was didn’t love me at all. But mostly, I realized that I didn’t want to be like this anymore. I started eating because I love myself more than I want to be skinny and more than any sexist, outdated misconception of women could tell me not to.
I realized that I needed to put myself first, so I did. I stopped weighing myself on a scale. I started eating three times a day. I started striking up conversations with strangers and sometimes, we’d have great conversations. Other times, it would be awkward, and that was okay. I started doing the things that make me happy. I went to the Atlanta Botanical Garden with one of my close friends. I read cheesy romance books in my bed with a bag of Oreos. I watched hilarious youtube videos with one of my other close friends. I started telling myself, “I love you,” before I go to sleep. I started performing my poetry. I started being my own best friend, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
So for new years, my resolution isn’t to get skinny, or get a romantic partner, or any of that. In fact, I don’t have a resolution, because being loving towards myself isn’t just for January 1st. Learning to love my body is hard, and it’s not something I do once a year. It’s something I have and continue to work on every day. Instead, for new years, I want to thank all the strong women in my life for reminding me that I’m wonderful just the way I am and that society’s sexist views can go fuck themselves. I want everyone out there who struggles with self-hate whether it be anorexia like me or something else to know that you're not alone. You are never alone, so keep fighting. Keep going. I promise you will get through this.