the freshman thirty & me

Do you guys want to know something fun about me? No? Well I’ll tell you anyway in the spirit of unbridled self disclosure!

I use to be skinny! Like, super duper skinny. I was so small people, that people use to ask me if I had an eating disorder, which, I sort of did but I digress. I had issues with food growing up, I ate when I had to but I didn’t crave interesting food experiences. Of course, I grew up eating a very diverse diet thanks to my amazing Pakistani mother who could cook the most amazing three course meal in an hour. I ate rice and lentils and curries and naan and lots of Pakistani cuisine. I rarely ate out when I was a kid because my mom HATED American food. She thought it was under seasoned (true) and overcooked (also true). So despite being from a household where I grew up with amazing food presented to me every day I stuck to the basics, my parents chalked it up to me being a picky eater and that was not an incorrect assumption. I didn’t love food or have the healthiest relationship, I just ate when I had to and that was that.

I am going somewhere with this, I promise. 

It wasn’t until I got to college that I discovered food and how much I loved it! I discovered Columbian food, Mexican food, Lebanese food and fell in love with the nuanced flavors and spices foreign to my unexperienced tongue. And I ate, and I ate so much and I gained weight. I was not active in college like I was when I was younger, and my metabolism also had slowed down considerably due to alcohol and age and some other factors I’m not at liberty to discuss.

And thus we reach my current conundrum.

I did not gain the freshman fifteen, I gained the freshman thirty.

I loved being considered the skinny, light skin girl because I come from a culture where being those two things is considered highly desirable. You were beautiful, even if you had a scrunched up face and beady eyes, as long as the skin that face was on was light and skinny you were in the clear. It has taken years for me to untangle myself from that mode of thinking and it still isn’t gone. I sometimes have a crisis whenever my skin begins to tan in the summer.

The colorism in Pakistani culture is a long post for another day. So I’ll digress.

I am the biggest I have ever been in my whole life and sometimes I cry because of it. I follow along with the body positive movement, I look at the beautiful women and men who have embraced their forms and for a moment forget my woes and then I go to get dressed for school or work and remember that half of my closet doesn’t fit me anymore because I have gained so much weight.

How do you find positivity in that? 

Every time I go out with my friends I am reminded of how large my form is, I stand at a solid 5’8 and most of my friends stand at 5’4 or below. I have never been graceful in my movement, I have always been clumsy but now those feelings of ungracefulness are heightened, I feel like a large oaf clambering through small spaces, every movement a thud and echo. I duck out of photos, I decline invitations to go out as to avoid the closet debacle.

None of this sounds healthy, because it isn’t.

I went out with my friends last Thursday and was reminded of this feeling. Isn’t it awful how we determine how attractive we are in comparison to how the others around us look?

I live in a college town forty minutes north of Dallas. College, where they tell you everything afterwards is downhill from there. And in the moment I felt that, I had reached my apex (in terms of attractiveness) my sophomore year of college and everything was downhill from there. I was a senior with a large thighs, a double chin and oversized breasts.

In that moment I felt that. I felt unattractive and invisible. I felt like my face was cased in muck and my fat brown skin was leaking over my jeans and to the space beside it.

I stared at my drink more often than not and thought about my days where I had a pixie cut and was as light as a feather. I imagined being that girl again, being skinny and being the envy of those around me.

I vocalized my pain to my friends on the car ride home and the reassured me that my body type was what was considered beautiful for the longest time.

Of course that sparked anger in me. I felt talked down to, I felt like I was being told to shut up, by beautiful thin women and in a way I was. Was that their fault? No, not at all. They were trying to comfort me. It was my fault and the culture I grew up in.

I know right, what a revolutionary I am! Blaming society for my issues with self image and weight. Where is my fucking Nobel Peace Prize?

None of my conclusions are new and nothing I tell you here will bring you any comfort. Unless it does which makes me feel a lot better about pouring out my feelings.

Do you want to know something else about me? This journey, trying to lose weight will not make me feel better about myself at the end of the day. Deep down I know that. It will help a little but this anxiety and anguish about the way I look will not leave, no that is another battle entirely.

I hope to win this battle one day, or at least sign a cease-fire.

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