When I was in high school, I was classified as one of the skinny girls.  I was right on the verge of being underweight.  Most people thought I did not eat enough, but those who knew me knew very well that I had a very big appetite.  In fact, I took two lunch boxes to school; something that was not common for a 12th grader to do.  I was mostly my teachers’ favorite student so I was even allowed to eat while class was in session. Needless to say, you rarely saw me without food in my mouth.

What was interesting was that my peers ate less than me yet had problems with their weights.  They would either fluctuate or gain weight more easily while I ate and ate but did not gain a single kilogram.  I was enjoying this bliss throughout my first year of college but then, all of a sudden I went one size up.  I did not understand what happened but I knew that I had to change my entire wardrobe.  I kept steady at that weight for the next two years, then went one size up again.  It was like my body was taking the stairs on its path to weight gain, three kilos at a time.  The most significant change however, came since the Coronavirus charade started.  I have gained over seven kilos in the past seven months, meaning there are significant and noticeable changes on my body.

Understanding body changes

It can be hard to accept changes to our bodies…especially when we are living in an age where we are bombarded with seemingly happy, fit individuals on social media and TV.  We obsess over the curves and bumps on our bodies, try to cover it up with baggy clothes or go on extreme diets only to bounce back to our old eating habits.  Rarely do we work to accept and love who we are down to the flaps on our bellies.  What is worse is the body war is a double-edged sword where by women are frowned upon if they are too skinny.  And so the pursuit of the perfectly balanced body continuous with this gym membership and that meal plan.

The reality is we are fighting against nature itself.  Women generally tend to gain more weight as we age.  One study found that women between the ages of 35-49 had an 82.6% of prevalence of obesity while women of ages 15-24 had 36.7% prevalence.  Why does this happen?  Well, our metabolism slows down as we age.  That, coupled with our lifestyle changes and eating habits, all make it easy to take on some extra kilos and hard to take them off.

But wait…there is a silver-lining in this.

In the book The Better Half: On the Genetic Superiority of Women, Dr. Sharon Moalem explains how the extra fat in our bodies can actually come in pretty handy in extreme situations.  Like all other animals, we store the excess food we consume as fat in our bodies.  When there is no food available, we consume this stored fat in order to survive.  On average, women have up to 40% more fat than men of the same height and weight.  This extra fat in one’s body, combined with other genetic factors, increase the amount of time we survive during harsh conditions as compared to men.  Because men have more muscle weight, it takes them more energy to carry out simple tasks.  They have a higher metabolic rate than we do; hence, while they are using up their energy at a faster rate, we are silently storing it in our arsenal, safe for our disposal if and when the time comes.

So should we just let it run its course?

In her book What I Know For Sure, Oprah Winfrey said, “I think of all the years I\’ve wasted hating myself fat, wanting myself thin.  Feeling guilty about every croissant, then giving up carbs, then fasting, then dieting, then worrying when I wasn\’t dieting, then eating everything I wanted until the next diet (on Monday or after the holidays or the next big event).  Wasted time, abhorring the thought of trying on clothes, wondering what was going to fit, what number the scale would say.  All that energy I could have spent loving what is.”

We can waste our time hating how we look and going on pointless diets only to go back where we started.  Or we can each start by accepting our body for what it is and loving ourselves unconditionally.  Once we have gained that unwavering level of self-acceptance, we can work on being healthy.  Because once we accept it, it will not be a forced change but rather a choice to a healthier life.  I have no problem with my extra weight.  I do have a problem with breathing heavily after going up a steep hill or a flight of stairs.  So I exercise to build my cardio strength, I lift to maintain my body strength, I do yoga to relax.  When I shifted my reasons from “losing weight” to “being healthy,” exercising became more enjoyable and easier to keep up.  What I know for sure is that putting self-love and self-acceptance at the core changed everything for the better.

 

Written by: Hellina Hailu