My Body Got More Likes Than Anything Else
I ran a small social experiment on my Instagram followers and this is what happened
I have struggled with my self-confidence and body image my entire life. I’ve written and spoken about this at length before, but I’ve always hated myself and the way I looked. This manifested itself into a lot of disordered eating and my weight fluctuating dangerously low and then dangerously high over the last several years.
My social and separation anxiety was getting so bad when I was a freshman in university that I couldn’t keep any foods down. I would let my friends use my student ID card to use my meals because otherwise, it would have been a waste of money.
Everything made me nauseous and if I did manage to find something that was remotely appetizing, I would throw it up within the hour. I don’t think I was actually trying to lose weight or get skinny, it just kind of happened. And when I realized my anxiety was contributing, something in my brain clicked and I started to avoid foods on purpose.
I lost around 25 lbs in my freshman year and my mom was scared. She saw me withering away (even though according to the BMI scale, I was still considered overweight at 128 lbs) and I told her I didn’t want to be alive.
Thankfully, I started seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist eventually, and things were getting better. I gained a little weight back and I was feeling more like myself again. I even joked about how I couldn’t wait to be fat again because I was the happiest when I was a little bigger at a size 10 as opposed to a size 6.
But after a traumatic experience living with some roommates near the school, I once again suffered some disordered eating. Only this time it was the opposite end of the spectrum. I couldn’t stop eating. Everything tasted good and I wanted all of it. Cookies, Pop-Tarts, Ben & Jerry’s, you name it: It wasn’t long before I weighed 240 lbs. None of my clothes fit anymore; I lived in leggings and sweatshirts and pajama pants. If I had to go in public, I wore my hair down and wore baggy clothes that, in hindsight, just made me feel worse.
I would tell my fiance I was fine, that he loved me and therefore I didn’t care how I looked or how much I weighed. But then I would see pictures of myself. The worst of it was when I saw the video of his proposal to me. I cried watching it, but not of happiness. I was embarrassed and shocked I had let myself get so out of control. I couldn’t believe how I looked and that I had let myself go on feeling so terribly for so long.
Before I go on here, I want anyone reading this to know that you can be healthy and happy and productive at any size. I think as long as you’re being smart and you’re happy with the way you look and feel, and you don’t have any major health issues regarding your weight, then you do you. But I was not happy, I was not healthy, and I had developed bad sleep apnea.
So I finally did something about it and for the last year, I’ve been on a weight loss and maintenance program that has truly changed my mindset and the way I see food. I’ve lost over 50 lbs (gained a few pounds back because of quarantine but I’m not being too hard on myself) in the process by sheer willpower and calorie management. I haven’t exercised much aside from a few weeks of kickboxing classes, but I’m much happier today than I was a year ago. I feel good about how I look, I feel sexy, and I feel good about myself on the inside.
All that being said, I also recently deleted my Facebook. It was important for my mental health but also my self-image. In addition to seeing racism spewed all over my feed, I was seeing my peers jet off on expensive vacations, buy houses, and have babies. I was starting to feel like I wasn’t doing something right; that they were better and prettier and smarter than me to have accomplished so much at the same age as me.
I have not, however, deleted my Instagram. I can’t explain why, but I don’t feel that it has the same exact hold over me like Facebook did. I will probably still delete it someday, but for now, I like to showcase my amateur photography and painting skills to my friends and see pictures of cute dogs.
Well, recently I bought some new bikini tops from Target because although I’ve lost a decent amount of weight, my breasts have just gotten bigger. And my tops from last year don’t fit in more ways than one. I got two tops and a cute romper to wear at home when it was really hot outside and I didn’t feel like putting on pants. I took a few selfies, very much so feeling myself, and started to look through some of my old pictures on Instagram.
“Wow,” I said to my fiance. “Can you believe I used to look like that?” I’m still in disbelief that I look like a completely different person. He just shrugged and said I was working hard and it shows. Still, I decided to do a double post of me in the romper versus a picture of me from early 2019.
The two pictures side-by-side really show a difference in not only my weight but my self-image as well. The way I hold myself, the way I pose my body, even how I kind of cower behind my phone for a selfie in the older picture show how far I’ve come. Something happened that I wasn’t quite expecting.
I average around 20 likes per photo, but likes and comments have never been something I cared much about. I just wanted to post pictures. So when two hours after posting that photo set I had over 80 likes, I was floored. Not only that, but I had thirteen comments from my friends and peers saying how great I looked and how hard I’ve worked to get this far.
I found myself feeling…validated. Like, yeah they’re right, I have worked so hard and I do look so good. But that wasn’t why I posted the photos. I shared them because I wanted the memory for myself, not for the compliments. I wanted to show my friends that are also actively trying to lose weight that it is possible. But then the showering of praise threw me off course.
So I decided to see what would happen if I posted another set of photos in a similar way. A photo from today with a similar photo from the past year; would I get the same showering of love?
Surprise, I did. Besides my engagement and graduation photos, these two pictures are my most liked posts on my Instagram with 87 likes and 77 likes respectively. Not as many comments, but still positively received. Some of my friends saying “So proud of you!” and “You did THAT!” Again, not going to say no to a lovely compliment, but it got me wondering why I wasn’t getting that same praise on my photos of my paintings or photography.
I have a privatized Instagram account so everyone that follows me is someone that I know and have approved. Why were they heavily liking my weight loss progress but not my artistic endeavors? Why weren’t they commenting on my published writing, congratulating me for those accomplishments?
I still don’t know what the answer is, and I’m not sure if it’s important to me and my purpose. No matter what kind of feedback I get or social media presence I have, I’m still going to post the pictures that I want to post for no other purpose besides I want to.