The moment the first lockdown happened, I quickly started gaining weight.
Lots of take-out, the lack of exercise in a global pandemic, and living in a bubble of happiness with my newfound love all contributed to the change my body was going through.
The first time I noticed I was gaining weight, it caught me by surprise. I’ve always been very skinny, and just before lockdown, I was at about 54 kilograms (I’m 169 centimeters tall) and I was in one of the skinniest periods of my life. Gaining a considerable amount of weight felt like something very vague, an abstract idea of a situation I would never find myself in.
Until my skin started stretching to accommodate all the new layers of fat.
Was I shocked to find my body getting bigger and bigger? Yes.
Was I terrified? Disappointed? Sad? By no means. I absolutely loved it.
I loved that my boobs grew one whole size bigger, I loved that my butt was so big and soft, I loved feeling energized every morning because I was eating enough calories to get me through the day.
I loved that the curvier I got, the more in touch with my own womanhood I felt. I embraced my new curves, the stretch marks that were proof my body was getting me through a global pandemic, the inner confidence and absolute contentment I felt every day as I interacted with only my boyfriend and our flatmate.
My partner loved me and wanted me no matter what size I was, and over many months of lockdown, I realized I loved myself too — even when I went from 54 to 77 kilograms in under 6 months (which is by no means healthy, but it’s what happened).
I was thriving creatively, professionally, I was making immense growth with regard to my mental health and close relationships, and I was truly happy for the first time in years. Gaining weight was a side effect I cherished.
Then I left my happy bubble and ventured out of quarantine. And everything changed.
“You're so fat!”
The moment I came to visit my family in Czechia and my dad saw how much weight I’d gained, he said what could roughly translate to, “You’ve yeasted up! I’m really horrified, you’re so fat!” He proceeded to quickly call his girlfriend to inform her of how fat I had gotten.
Uhm. Thanks, dad. Thanks a lot.
Honestly, I’d never thought I would ever have such bad body-image issues as I did during this time. The more people I met up with, the less confidence I had left. Every single time I was supposed to meet an old friend, all I could think about was how shocked they’d be at seeing my body has changed.
And they were shocked. Some more visibly than others. One of the main beauty standards in Czechia is that you have to be extremely skinny to be considered beautiful — something I used to be my whole life and constantly received compliments for.
There were no compliments now. Only silence and careful hints.
I gained 23 kilograms and I was no longer seen as beautiful.
How Love Turns into Resentment
It’s easy to advocate for body positivity when your own weight is exactly what society accepts. My weight has fluctuated throughout my life, however, it always stayed within the confines of ‘skinny’, and so I never had to worry about what society thought of me.
The moment I gained weight, it felt as if my place in society collapsed on itself. No matter how hard I tried to deny it, it felt like I was respected less simply on the basis of how big my bottom was.
Suddenly, I was judged for eating chocolate. Suddenly, I was told to exercise more. Suddenly, my ‘beauty value’ was reduced to having a lot of fat on my bones. And suddenly… I didn’t love my new body anymore.
Love quickly turned into resentment, which quickly turned into hate.
I fasted, I counted calories, I felt too self-conscious to go jogging outside, I exchanged food for coffee, I exercised because I wanted my body to be slimmer, not healthier. I examined my tummy in the mirror every single day. I cried when I couldn’t fit into XL jeans (I was chubby, not extremely overweight, so how come I couldn’t even fit into the biggest pair of jeans I found?! We really need to start making bigger clothes).
I hated how I looked in every outfit. It was even worse without clothes on, though.
It got to the point when I seriously considered vomiting all the food I ate into the toilet bowl. I never did it because I hate throwing up too much, but it was around that time when the alarm bells started ringing.
No matter how much my boyfriend complimented me, it was never enough. Society decided I was fat therefore less worthy, and I went along with it. Even when I started losing weight and wasn’t seen as ‘overweight’ by most people anymore, my mind was still stuck in that horrible self-hate mindset.
It took months to get to a place where I didn’t hate my body anymore. I’m at 71 kilograms now, 3 kilograms ‘overweight’ according to BMI, and I’m learning to love my body again.
Don’t Let Anybody Bring You Down
Society’s standards of female beauty change with each generation. What doesn’t change, though, is the fact that your body is not a trend. It’s an incredible work of art that keeps you alive every single day.
I let others dictate how I should feel about my own body, and it got me to one of the lowest points in my entire life. The fact that I adored how I looked until others told me I should be ashamed says it all.
It’s our society that’s wrong. Not your body.
Our bodies got us through a year-long pandemic, multiple lockdowns, and months of isolation and loneliness. They stretched or shrunk in order to accommodate us, to keep us alive in times of a global crisis.
I’ve never been fatter in my entire life than I was during the pandemic. I’ve also never felt as energized and motivated upon waking up in the morning. I’m not saying being extremely overweight is healthy — but being a chubby or a big woman is far from unhealthy, and it’s important to realize that.
What’s more, weighing more than some other people doesn’t make you less worthy. It doesn’t make them morally superior. In many cases — such as mine — it doesn’t even necessarily make them healthier.
I didn’t gain weight in a healthy way, and that’s a fact. But I’m sure as hell not going to lose it through even unhealthier means just to appeal to society’s standards.
Let’s appreciate what our bodies have done for us during Covid-19 times. Let’s celebrate how they’ve changed and how we’ve grown as the people who live inside them.
I’ve always been for body positivity. But I’ve also always been skinny in the most accepted way. This time is different. This time, I’m approaching body positivity from a vulnerable position. This time, I’m learning to love my own body, a body that goes against the impossible standards of beauty our society has imposed on us.
And this time, I’m saying this to myself as much as you: No matter what size you are, you are beautiful. Don’t let anybody bring you down. Life is too short to waste it on hating your stretch marks when you can just as well love them.
Your body is a reminder of what a strong person you are. It loves you. So let’s try and love it back.