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I was skinny when I was young. At my thinnest I was 115 pounds at 5'5", one pound away from being underweight (according to the BMI, which is largely bogus, but you know). It wasn't from a lack of eating. Unlike many young teenage girls, I didn't diet. At one point I even tried to eat more than I wanted to in order to deflect concerns that I might have a problem.
Then, like most everyone, I started gaining weight in college. Now, at age 29, I'm over 200 pounds and what a lot of people would call "fat."
It might be hard to believe if you watch a lot of TV, but this is very normal. In fact, I'm now at the national average for cisgender women as a size 16. It's happened to many of my friends, and though some are naturally thin, others have had to put a lot of effort into staying thin.
College was also when I began learning about the feminist approach to size, the body positive movement, and the idea that fat is not a dirty word. Studying this while gaining weight over the years led to something of a war inside my own head.
I learned that you can be fat and healthy at the same time. I also learned that the messages of a fat-hating society don't stop tapping on your shoulder. I learned that you can switch between feeling like an empowered, self-loving fat goddess and hating your body in a single instant. I learned that fighting for acceptance comes with a constant barrage of self-doubt, wondering if it's true that you only believe in body positive messages as an excuse to be fat.
I learned that I might never reach a point where I stop being tempted by diets. I learned that by age 29, I still have to go back to my memories of my last attempt at dieting, where despite both food deprivation and daily exercise, I could no longer lose weight. I learned that the voice that says "you just weren't trying hard enough" doesn't go away — but it gets a little quieter over time.
I learned that spite against a billion-dollar diet industry could carry me through the worst days.
At the same time, I learned not to judge. I realized that if I did my best and couldn't lose weight, other women might do their best but not be able to shake the social pressure to be thin.
I learned that there are many reasons people might diet, whether to feel better about themselves, feel healthier, or just to try a thing. I learned that it might be none of my business.
I will continue to do what I feel is best for myself. I will continue to eat based on what makes me feel good. I'll keep making fruit smoothies, veggie stir fry, and avoiding too much red meat. I'll keep indulging in pizza, chocolate, and sugary coffee drinks when I feel like it. I'll keep walking the balance of trying to love myself in spite of those who tell me not to.