Last month, after coming back from college, I had my yearly checkup. I had prepared myself to tell my doctor about my being transgender, about vaccines and about my weight. Before stepping on that scale in the doctor’s office, I didn’t weight myself for several months, since before I left for college.
Because I spent most of my childhood and teen years agonizing about my weight and going on countless diets and exercise routines, my weight is a touchy topic. Growing up as a Thai American girl, and especially as the oldest kid, I was under pressure to look and act a certain way. The acting, I nailed down quickly, but the looking part remained a disappointment.
I learned to get used to my parents making comments about my body and how I should lose weight. I joined sports teams to play sports, but also to lose weight. Scrutinizing myself in front of a mirror, grabbing bunches of fat, and picturing myself as a beautiful, skinny person was something I did every day without fail.
While infrequent, trips to Thailand were marked with dread as relatives with good (and less than good) intentions stared me down, looking at how much I gained or lost weight since they last saw me. I simply learned to accept the comments about my eating habits and advice on how to lose weight, but that didn’t make their remarks hurt less.
Fortunately, at sixteen, I decided to stop all this diet and weight loss nonsense and decided to pursue Health at Every Size instead. I rejected dieting and calorie counting. Instead, I tried eating until my body told me it was full. I exercised with a different mindset, because it was good for my body and it gave me energy, instead of because it could help be lose weight. All this helped a lot with my body image issues, and I was able to keep my body hating thoughts to a minimum.
And now, here I was again, in the doctor’s office, facing my judgement in the form of a scale. Most people gained weight after their first year of college, I tried to reassure myself. Besides, why should you care about your weight anyway? I thought you were past that. Still, I hesitated to step on the scale.
When the numbers appeared, I looked at them, at first not registering them in my mind. 192 pounds? I lost over 10 pounds at school? I didn’t know how to feel. As I stepped off the scale, I was reminded of the time I lost 25 pounds at 11 years old only to gain them back a year later. I was reminded of the time I tried to starve myself at 12 years old because nothing else would help me lose weight. And at 15, when I gained 20 pounds in less than a year due to depression.
After all these years of trying to lose weight and failing then giving up, here I was, 10 pounds lighter. My old self would have felt elated, but I tried to blame it on a fluke. It might have been an error on the scale’s part, or just weight fluctuation. It could have been the stress at school. Strangely enough for me, I did not want to lose that weight.
When the doctor congratulated me, I smiled outwardly, but internally, I was conflicted.
I was afraid that if I accepted that I lost that weight, then that old feeling of hating myself and feeling that losing weight for the sake of doing it was a good thing would come back. I was afraid of falling back into old habits, and, really, of wanting to lose weight again. While I tried to convince myself that this was all past me, and that I was fully body positive now, I still had that old part of me that thought if I lost weight, my life would be much better.
While I would like to say that I am free from my baggage, I can’t make that statement. I still feel jealous of conventionally attractive people, I still sometimes think that I would be so much better looking if I were skinnier, and maybe I could even find a romantic partner if I would lose weight. It’s hard to escape feeling inadequate about my size, and even though I do acknowledge that I still hold some privilege over people who are bigger than I am, I don’t like my body a lot much of the time.
Still, even if I cannot shout, “I love and accept myself and my body all the time” from the rooftops, I can say that I’m constantly trying to accept my body for what it is, with or without fat, with or without illness, and with or without scars.