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Weight Loss Didn’t Make Me Feel Beautiful

I had a conversation with a guy on a gay dating app, not too long ago. He said that if I was twenty years younger, he’d consider asking me on a date. I was flattered, and he decided to show me more pictures of him. He then mentioned that he liked my Instagram page, commenting that he found me very handsome, to which I thanked him. He then went completely off track from our original conversation to say “I’m not into fat. That seems to be prevalent, here.” I made sure to put out the vibe that I wasn’t expecting that comment. He then mentioned “240 [pounds] would be too much. Lol.” (Lol? Really, queen?) That was when I went off, telling him I used to weigh 245 pounds, and that I must have been ugly when I was that weight. He said “Doubtful. You have amazing eyes.” But not an amazing body. I told him I already felt ugly at that weight, and him saying those things would have made me feel even worse, to which he said “I’m sorry for what I said. Don’t take it personally.”

Don’t take it personally. Girl, bye.

He apologized more sincerely after that, but given he didn’t do a great job the first time, I disregarded it. Had he been a friend, I’d be more likely to give him the benefit of the doubt, but given he was a stranger on the internet, I thought it best to just not waste my emotional energy on that kind of first impression. It became wildly apparent that he reflected the attitudes that so many people today feel hurt by, and the same attitudes that bullied me into losing weight, in the first place. I wondered how many times he had said that to someone who was still on a journey like mine, who still looks at their body and thinks it needs to change because it doesn’t fit someone else’s standard of beauty.

When I was at my heaviest, from around middle school to my freshman year of university, I don’t remember being generally unhappy. Overall, I was content with my social circles, my purpose, and who I was as a person (aside from my gay awakening making me rethink my entire existence at 12 years old). I was aware that I was a big person, but I never thought of it as bad until people let me know that I needed to lose weight. It was always a simple, harmless trait until people told me it was undesirable. I never thought I could be ugly until people made it abundantly clear that I should feel that way.

Two particular girls in middle school bullied me quite a bit for my weight. One was very Regina George-like in her behavior, and the other one just sat in the background and laughed. I’d compare her to Karen, the ditzy one in Mean Girls, but I think this girl was at least a bit smarter than that. Not smart enough to keep her laughter to herself, though, that’s for sure. One time, the Regina George-like girl asked me if I was going to the next school dance, and I don’t remember how she asked, but she heavily implied that I would only go to eat all of the free food. Her friend laughed. Another time, she told me I needed a man-bra for my moobs. I had enough survival skills in middle school to realize that, after that moment, I should avoid them at all costs.

As if their comments weren’t enough, I once had a stranger during a fair at my middle school tell me that I shouldn’t go on the giant, inflatable slide that he was supervising because of how big I was, implying that I might break it. I scoffed and walked away from him, and only then did he apologize for what he said.

Though the bullying never escalated from there, it made me register future concerns about my weight as “you’re ugly, and you won’t be attractive until you’re skinny.” My parents were never mean about it, but every time they mentioned exercise or eating healthier, it felt the same as when that girl told me to get a bra. Maybe it was still bullying regardless, as no one ever gave me a reason why I should do it for myself. It was always “eat right and exercise so you can lose weight,” but for who? What would it have done for me when I was already content with who I was before all of insults? Sure, it could have been so I could be healthy, as it looked like I was at risk for high blood pressure during high school (which losing the weight seemed to help), but nobody was telling me that, at first. It was never about what was happening on the inside. Losing weight was all about how they saw me. It was never about what I saw in myself.

So naturally, that’s the attitude that carried me through my whole weight loss journey. While it ultimately became my choice to eat healthier and start exercising, I didn’t do it for the right reasons. I did it because I eventually realized that gay men were much worse about big bodies than my bullies were, and I was scared that they would never see past my size. A majority of them seemed to want guys with no signs of fat on their body, and those were the only types of guys that had anything worth offering, to them. I felt like I had to fit the type that they liked, because if I didn’t, I was immediately inferior. I was overweight, and that made it impossible for them to see that I had more to me than 80 pounds of extra fat.

Because of that path I took, my body issues are still alive and well. People look at my 165-pound body and think I must be happy with it because it’s an acceptable weight by society’s standards. People look at it and don’t realize that the amount of anxiety I have about my body now is no different than it was when I was bullied for it (in fact, they may be even worse). There were times during my heavy days when I could still be shirtless without worry. Now, even though I’m at a weight that my bullies would have deemed as acceptable, I refuse to go to events that involve wearing swimsuits because I’m afraid I didn’t lose enough. Those anxieties about it are way worse than the bullies ever were, too, because those anxieties get to play past messages over and over, and then pile on even more ruthless ones. Those anxieties tell me I’m still not skinny enough, and I’ll get self-conscious, thinking that everyone can see the patch of fat on my belly that still won’t go away. Some days are better, like when I get a new outfit that makes me feel good about my appearance, but when it gets bad, it gets really bad. During those times, Beyoncé herself could descend from the heavens and tell me I’m the most beautiful thing (second to her) and I’d still have my doubts.

With the weight of this continuous journey on my shoulders as some jackass on Scruff tells me that “240 is too much,” I felt myself snap. It was like he was looking into the eyes of my middle school self, and confirming the voices that implied I was ugly. Imagine having the nerve to tell someone recovering from those issues “don’t take it personally,” when it has always been personal. I might not be 240 pounds, but I’m scared to death of going back to that weight. Though there is nothing wrong with being overweight, the insecurities about my own body run so deep, that even something as simple as missing a workout makes me feel like my body is inflating all over, again. I feel like I’m going back to the days when people only saw my weight, and used that as a factor to determine that I was worthless. I was not beautiful to them, internally or externally; I was a conglomeration of fat cells over an empty soul.

But I didn’t just snap in a way that gave me the confidence to tell off one guy in particular. This situation came to the conclusion that, if you didn’t think I could be beautiful at 245 pounds, there’s no way you can think I’m beautiful, now. If you looked back at my heavier days and didn’t even want to bother just because I had some extra fat on me, then you don’t deserve my time, now. I may not always feel beautiful, but know damn well that I have always been made of beautiful components, even if people convinced me that fat cells were tainting them. I don’t need someone who would look at the happy fat kid that I was and tell me I was ugly. I don’t need anything more than surface-level interactions with people who believe that only skinny bodies are worth the time of day.

Me in 2010 vs. Me, Today

If you believe that my beauty is conditional to the amount of fat on my body, then my beauty is not for you. My beauty is to be appreciated by those who have always seen it, not to those who only see it, now. You may believe I’m beautiful now, but I’ll refuse to believe it if you think my fat body was ugly. There was nothing about me to deem as ugly when I was 245 pounds, because I was happy, I was healthy, and before people convinced me that my body was disgusting, I was confident.

I believed I was beautiful.