I’ve gotten lumpy during my university career. I saw a picture of myself from my first year on Halloween. I had long hair, big dreams and goddammit I was thin.
Like most students in their early twenties, I gained some extra weight. A study from the Auburn University in Alabama showed that roughly 70 per cent of students reported gaining an average of 12 pounds by graduation. For me, a combination of stress, birth control and being in charge of my own diet has caused at least 15 extra pounds since my first year.
Call this a ‘second puberty’ if you will. And like first puberty, it is an emotional rollercoaster.
The weight I gained doesn’t seem like it is going anywhere any time soon. My hips and boobs and overall bone structure grew and as a result I’m curvier, if you can call it that.
I’m struggling with this change.
Since grade school I’ve always been the tall, lanky girl. I had that classic East-Asian build with a small frame and A-cup breasts with a fun German twist of being at least a head taller than my peers.
Physical changes are gradual. It took me a while to notice my little enlargements but when I did it was all I could see. I literally woke up, looked in the mirror and saw a whole different person staring back at me.
It’s a weird and terrible thing, not being able to identify with your body anymore. Body image was never something I felt like I had to worry about because I’ve always been told I was tall and thin.
I want to be confident with my body but how can I when I don’t recognize the person in the mirror anymore? The image I had of myself was erased and replaced with another person who I am not familiar with. Stretch marks, cellulite and love handles are all I can see.
I’m searching for a reason to explain why I despise my body at the present time. The media, unrealistic beauty expectation, preexisting anxiety, and just being a woman in the western world are theories I’ve been working with. All to no avail.
How do I learn to love my body? Why am I so hard on myself? Do other people struggle with body issues?
The answer to the last question is hell yes. Everybody struggles with body image, some more than others but I can confidently say that every single person has dealt with these issues. As for the first two questions, I am still trying to figure it out and recently I’ve found a way to help answer them.
Talking with you, the student body of Dalhousie, has been a form of counseling over the past few days. Sitting down and asking students about their own body image was weirdly therapeutic.
It was awe-inspiring to speak with so many people who either went through or are going through the same existential body crisis I currently find myself in. Solidarity is a powerful thing.
Body confidence doesn’t come overnight like the apparent weight gain did, it takes time and care and lots of positive self-talk. Have I gained weight? Yup. Am I happy about it? Nope. How do I not let the rapid decline in confidence bog me down? Like the people in the video, try to identify your favorite feature about yourself and, on a bad day look at that part of you and admire the hell out of it.
In the spirit of moving forward, I guess I like my hair.