Staying mentally fit for the holidays

Every body is a good body

jacklyn
The Spectrum

I’ve lost 40 pounds since my freshman year of college.

This makes every trip home a brouhaha of distant family and friends’ proclamations of “Look how skinny you are!” and “Do you even eat at school?” 

To any person this may seem like a dream, getting compliments about how much better you look now than in high school. But in all reality, the commentary serves as another reminder to watch what I eat around the holidays, because God forbid I gain any of the weight that I worked so hard to lose. 

I started seriously working out after transferring to UB last year. But I didn’t do it to get healthy. I wanted to be skinny.

I thought changing my appearance would make people like me more. I remember constantly thinking to myself, “Who doesn't want to be friends with a skinny person?” 

To me, my social life would be more secure if I looked good enough. I would be able to make friends at UB no problem once I was in shape. Looking back it seems comical, but this mindset was a consequence of my insecurities.

All around me I saw sororities full of girls who looked like models; I even started working at Hollister –– ugh, I know –– where everyone was 6 feet tall and had perfect skin and hair and those damned eyelash extensions. 

Compared to everyone around me, I felt like Mia Thermopolis pre-makeover.

So now, almost two years later, I reached my initial goal, but I still struggle with the same need to be seen as skinny. This isn't because of how I look or physically feel, it's because the mindset that I started this journey in continues to make me feel like I’ll never be good enough.

The problem with losing weight is that no one tells you that it can mess with your self-perception. Physically, I feel better than ever, but mentally it’s still hard to prioritize health over size. 

Despite the fact that I’ve traded in my size 12 jeans for size 4s, I still feel like I’m not good enough. Every time someone calls me skinny, I think of how much skinnier I could be. This alone makes me less healthy than I was 40 pounds ago.

And the jubilation that accompanies going home for the holidays makes this even harder. I started an important life change with the wrong priorities and when the holidays come around, I am constantly reminded of the repercussions.

Congratulating someone on being “skinny” undermines the importance of health and implies that how we look should be our top priority. This feeds into the societal norm that “skinny” is the best thing a person can be.

But 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, according to the National Institute of Health. And although this is an alarming statistic, a person’s body doesn’t necessarily define their mental or physical health and definitely has nothing to do with their character.

I know skinny people who smoke cigarettes and haven’t eaten a vegetable since 2012 and I know fat people who could outrun me any day. Someone’s size does not determine how healthy they are.

Everyone feels the added pressure of weight loss when the holidays come around. We prioritize binge eating for two months and as soon as the new year comes, we’re expected to lace up those running shoes and shed the pounds we were destined to gain. 

But this doesn’t need to be the holiday agenda.

The last two months of the year are jam packed with holidays that are meant to bring people together and serve as a reminder to be grateful. For some, this means praising tedious workout schedules for allowing a month of bingeing. But for others it’s about being thankful amidst the surplus, not despite it.

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to three dinners, so I’ll have my fair share of food and thankfulness. But I’m not going to feel bad about it after. 

For the rest of the year, I’ll eat as much or as little as I’d like and will take each day as a new opportunity to take care of myself. Be it working out, spending time with family or eating Christmas cookies, I’m going to enjoy my holidays unashamedly.

Jacklyn Walters is the asst. news editor and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com

@Jacklyn98