Back in middle and high school, I could give you a long list of things about my physical appearance that I would change about myself - my skin, my hair, my face - but I never thought much about my weight. I was 5'7" and hovered between 120 and 130 lbs. I was in marching band, so I was active, but I wasn't exactly in great shape.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college. I experienced a "freshman 15", but not one that is typical of most college students. I actually lost 15 lbs during my first semester thanks to a round of medication and stress from moving away from home. I was way underweight and I had basically no appetite, but I never thought much about it. I ended up gaining that weight back once I was done taking my medication, so I entered into my sophomore around the same weight I had been a large part of my adolescence.
As a 20 year old, there are a lot of things that you don't want to find out. Some people may hear that their GPA is too low, that their roommate is moving out, or that they won't be able to go to graduate school. At 20 years old, I was told that I had a chronic disease. As someone who had never really worried too much about my weight, looking at a list of symptoms for Graves' disease and seeing "weight loss" did not bother me too much. It wasn't until I saw a doctor who explained the treatment I would go through would cause me to have hypothyroidism that I realized I would for the first time in my life be battling my weight. Symptom: "unexplained weight gain." I will have hypothyroidism for the rest of my life.
We live in a culture that praises unrealistic standards of beauty. Everyone knows that. Even though this is common knowledge, I don't think that most people think that they are preoccupied with these standards.
I remember talking to a girl friend of mine a few weeks after I was diagnosed with Graves'. I told her about some of the symptoms I was experiencing and how I desperately needed to have this treatment done. Her response: "Why would you want to get rid of something that causes you to lose weight?"
If that doesn't exemplify our cultural standards of beauty, I don't know what does. To suggest that I should be thankful for a disease that hindered me in every aspect of my life and even changed my personality all because it caused weight loss is ridiculous, but this is exactly what women face now regarding physical beauty.
Since my treatment last January, I've gained over 15 lbs. For the first time in my life, I was unhappy with my weight. I do not keep a scale in my apartment, so I found out about this gained weight not through observation, but through weigh-ins at my endocrinologist. I did not even notice that I had gained weight and it still bothered me (ridiculous, right?). In my mind, I thought I should still weigh between 120 and 130 lbs like I did in high school. Through all of this, I still never thought of myself as "one of those women" who is preoccupied with her weight.
I was studying for a quiz in one of my classes a week ago. The phrase in my notes was simple: "Media causes women to strive to be unnaturally thin." It finally hit me - I was one of those women.
There is nothing wrong with my current weight. I am not fat because I gained a few pounds. I am not fat because I have friends who are more thin than I am. I am not fat because someone told me that "not everyone can be skinny." I am certainly not fat because I no longer weigh 120 lbs. I'm fine just the way I am.
Don't fall victim to society's standards like I did. Weight is just a number.