By Elise Wantling
One day, when I was very young, probably 6 or 7, I was drawing at the kitchen table with some crayons. I was furiously working on a self-portrait. I picked out the perfect shade of blue that matched my eyes, made sure my hair went down to my waist (as it did at the time), drew a t-shirt and pants in my favorite colors. I remember looking down at the drawing of a little girl lying in front of me, and something struck me as off. Then I realized the difference between the drawing and myself: she was skinny, and I was not.
My weight has been my biggest insecurity since I was young. I have always resented my flabby stomach and my thick thighs. I have been consciously fighting my body for over a decade now, trying to make myself slim while my body insists on being all curves. It didn’t help that other people enabled me. Like when my fourth-grade teacher, who ran into me in the cafeteria when I was in fifth grade complimented “it looked like I had lost a lot of weight.” I can’t recall the exact words anymore, but at the time they stung, and they weighed on me for years. Or the aunts and uncles who were always quick to give me dieting tips when I saw them on the holidays, or let me know if I had gained or lost a few pounds since I had last seen them. Some of my worst enablers were my friends, who would sit with me and lament about their own bodies. We would plan how we could lose weight and dreamt about how great our lives would be as newer, skinnier people.
I wish I could say one day I woke up and said “no more” and that was it, but that wouldn’t be the complete truth. I have reached high points with my self love a number of times. There have been many times where I have concluded this is just how my body is meant to be and what is truly important to me is being healthy. But I’ve dipped to low points as well, like crying in the fitting room while trying on clothes and vowing that next time I came back to that store, they would fit like they were supposed to. Loving your body is a constant struggle, especially when we exist in a society that is constantly encouraging us to do the opposite.
While no one has found the perfect solution to the problem of negative body image, there are tools out there to help. One such tool is Jameela Jamil’s “I Weigh” campaign. The purpose of her campaign is to push back against the negative things people see in the media and on social media, like advertisements for weight loss products, body negative posts, toxic beauty standards, etc. She encourages people to take unedited photos of themselves and over those photos insert texts saying “I weigh….” And then list the positive, immeasurable things they “weigh”. For example, one could say “I weigh wonderful friendships, fulfilling career, loving partner, bright future”. She then encourages people to post these photos on social media and tag her account @i_weigh so that she can like and share them on her page. She also encourages people to redo their posts when they’re feeling down and need a reminder about why they are worthy and wonderful.
Maybe making a social media post won’t be the final thing to help me end the war I’ve started with my body, but it can at least help me in not feeling so alone while fighting these battles, and it’s a good way to show support for others who are fighting their bodies too. The important thing is to remember, there is so much more to every one of us than the number on the scale.