I never looked at it this way, but I’ve been on a bunch of weird diets, some spanning a few weeks to a few months. I also never looked at it this way, but I think there was a time I was a bit obsessed with how I looked and how much I weighed. I’m happy to say that time has passed, though, which might make it a bit easier to be more honest now.
I was always a skinny kid, but like many an African child in the diaspora, I grew into my hips and chest quite quickly. Because of that, I was never really comfortable in my skin for a long time. I always felt too big or too awkward, even though now I know that wasn’t true. I was — I can’t even remember what size. But I guess what would be considered normal. I’m still considered a normal size, but back then I was slightly on the lower end of normal. However, somehow I’d told myself it wasn’t good enough.
I was never a big eater, but by tenth grade, I had resolved to stop eating rice at night (whaaat) and pretty much stop eating anything of substance during the day (aaaahh). My waist size had dared to go up two (2) whole inches between ninth and tenth grade and I was floored. I now realize this was just puberty, but at the time, I wasn’t hearing that. I went to a Catholic school, so I had to buy new pants, but because the pant sizes went up in twos after you hit 30 inches, I was forced to buy a bigger pant size than I actually needed. Suffice to say, it made me feel like a whale. I was a whale who already had self-esteem issues, so this was clearly not the best time in my life for many reasons. Even now, I don’t regard high school as anything, and this may as well be the reason why. I absolutely abhorred the way I looked.
By twelfth grade, I began to experiment with different exercises, all while still not really eating properly. I drank more water, mainly because I enjoyed it, and ate less and less — but I never really got thinner and it bothered me. I remember idolizing a Japanese rocker (who I still love) when he said he only ate twice a day. Somehow I figured becoming a skinny Asian man would be to my benefit, so I started to only eat twice a day too (in hindsight, I understand why people say you should watch what you show and tell children). I wanted my hips to vanish, especially after I began to receive unwanted (let me say again for the boys in the back who think women give two fucks about their intentions: un-want-ed) attention from boys and men alike. It was all out of my control and I hated it.
I was heavily into all forms of exercise at one point. Workout DVDs were my thing for years. I learned a lot of Latin-inspired dancing from Zumba. I did a lot of kickboxing, also because I wanted to hit things. I did yoga because I found myself spiritually and I also wanted long, lean muscles like all the white yoga ladies had. Most recently, I even joined a gym and forced myself to go because the cool kids were doing it. While these kids were cool, I can comfortably say the most boring people I’ve ever met were gym rats. They can tell you about how much protein to eat after a workout, but that’s really about it.
But the thing I did the most that I hated? Talking to other people about losing weight and exercising. I can’t explain what I found such a turn off about it, but it might have a bit to do with its vapidness. People can be so vain. I will specifically point out female friends, because most of my male friends were keen on bulking up and I couldn’t relate. There’s something so sad to me about getting together with a group of women and just talking about how much you weigh or how much weight you want to lose or how often you work out, etc. We’re more than that — people are multi-dimensional and we women are deep individuals, and we’re more than that. I never felt comfortable talking about that stuff because I felt it reduced me, once again, to just what I looked like. And, like I said, I was re-growing my self-esteem. I never got thinner no matter how I changed my diet or worked out, and I hated contributing to those discussions because it felt like everyone could tell. (I realize now the reason my body didn’t change drastically was because of genetics, and I wish I knew that before. Would’ve saved me so much time!) I didn’t really want to draw more attention to my body, good or bad. I wanted to just exist and continue existing, and then talk about — I don’t know — literally anything else. I can’t build a relationship with people like that. It felt fake. Still does.
Nowadays, I’m truly happy to say I don’t give a fuck. It’s been a long journey, but I’m happy and I’m comfortable with what I look like (granted, I literally have looked the same and weighed about the same for the past 8-ish years, so this is really just a shadow battle). I eat better now that I don’t care as much and I’m not worrying about this or that. I eat smaller portions automatically. I still eat about twice a day, but I’m okay with that. I don’t count calories because lol no. I am happier, somehow healthier, and I’m very, very, very pleased with my looks.
I don’t entertain discussions on dieting or obsessively losing weight anymore, simply because I don’t care. If you’re looking to get healthy and keep death at bay, then good on you and good luck. If you want to be slimmer or more muscular, then good on you and good luck. But I won’t engage. It’s hard for me to do so without internalizing so, really, I’m just selfishly protecting myself. I refuse to revert back to the teenager who’s given up much of her cultural food because it’s fattening. I can’t become the girl who doesn’t wear clothes she likes (and actually look good on her!) because she’s afraid someone will comment on her body, good or bad. I am much, much more than that.