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 in 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.
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.
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.