Health & Wellbeing

Body Image: Why I’m “Fat” Sometimes

I’m no stranger to weight gain, weight loss, and that whole drama of size in general.

Also, yes, I understand this is a provocative title, but that’s the vibe I was going for, so…

For me, it’s really important that I feel healthy, and generally good about myself: a certain amount of that comes from my appearance. However superficial, it’s true. I’m not one to wear make up on a regular basis, get beauty treatments or buy high fashion clothes, but I do need to be comfortable with the shape of my body.

This year, while I was in Bahrain, I gained 13kg, and reached my highest ever weight. I just felt like a gross blob of a thing. That is all I’ll say on that matter: no one wants to hear other people moaning about their weight…

I put it down to the abrupt shift from an active lifestyle New Zealand: walking everywhere, going to the gym 3-4 times a week, to a sedentary one in Bahrain: relying on drivers to get anywhere, lack of motivation to get consistent exercise (especially in the 45ºc summer.) It’s interesting, even though we had gym equipment where I was staying, I didn’t use it as frequently as when I had a gym membership externally. Plus, I definitely over-indulged in food I didn’t need to be eating – which is a sure-fire way to pack the pounds on fast.

abbyweight1.jpg
My heaviest this year vs my lightest, age 14 (difference of almost 20kg)

Anyway it’s no fun not fitting your own clothes properly, feeling self-conscious of your appearance, and not seeing any results even after your attempts to undo the gain. I only really started to see a positive shift in my weight once I left Bahrain for my travel OE at the end of June. I was walking again, too preoccupied with sight-seeing to be eating any more than necessary, and the climate was better for going on runs.

After almost 2 months back home in New Zealand, I’m relieved to be 7.6kg down, and in a weight range that is more regular for me. Honestly, the downside of travelling, at least for me, has to be the weight gain that so easily creeps on. Next time I go somewhere I plan to be far more cautious. Fingers crossed my expat fat experience renders next years rumoured freshman fifteen to be false.

In all honesty, I have struggled with my weight since I was a little kid, and all through primary school I felt like it made me stand out a bit, like I was somehow inferior because of it. It was only when I hit puberty that I started to thin down, around 12 years old. The change was really dramatic (as it often is I suppose…) and I found myself more confident socially. This also coincided with me getting my braces off, which is a bit of a big deal too.

abbyweight2.jpg
From top left: age 7, age 9, age 11, age 12

In terms of my teen years, my weight has always fluctuated quite severely corresponding to my mental health. Happy Abby usually has a bit of extra chub, and mentally unwell Abby can teeter on underweight. While I don’t know if this is common in teenage girls, I do know that it is my norm, and not uncommon for anyone who experiences mental illness. Currently though, I am happy to report that I’m feeling good in every way, and I hope to keep it like that.

So to anyone, especially girls, who struggle/have struggled with their body image – I get ya. It can be stressful and all-consuming, but my advice would be: make sure your head is in the right place first. Is your body-related stress justified? Are you fretting about something you can change – or something that actually even needs to change? From there, figure out simple things you can do to make yourself feel happier and more well, for example:

  • going for a walk or jog in the outdoors
  • prepping a yummy and healthy meal
  • joining a sports team/exercise class

Exercise is proven to lift your mood, due to the release of endorphins, and combined with good nutrition, is really important for a healthy mind and body. Of course, everybody knows this: it’s one thing to know it, and another thing to apply it. It doesn’t have to be hard. Most importantly: cultivate that self-love! Once you have it down, you will never want to let it go.

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