What Putting On Weight Has Taught Me

By modern beauty standards, the perceived 'perfect body' type falls within a very small margin. Fluctuating between too skinny vs not skinny enough, we rarely satisfy our own ideals, let alone anyone else's. Jo Boon talks about fatphobia, skinny privilege, and being confident with our bodies regardless of weight changes.

Most people I know want to lose weight. Most people I know are already a healthy weight. Sad, but true. I hate to include myself in this, but I too am ‘most people.’ Sometimes, I wish I looked more slender and could fit elegantly into dresses designed to hang straight. We are so used to seeing clothing being styled and worn by stick thin women that we begin to assume that that is how they should look. We see clothes as looking their best when they hang off the body, in an elegant ‘I totally just woke up like this’ way. It’s fatphobia and, let’s be honest, most of us are more than a little fatphobic- not least when it comes to ourselves.

I’ve had skinny privilege my whole life; for a long time, I wasn’t even aware of it, which highlights just how privileged I was. At a size eight I’ve always been slender, but healthy looking, so I haven’t come under much criticism for being too skinny. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people will think they have a right to an opinion on your body, and whatever your body shape/size, you will never please everyone. When I was at my most slender, people advised me to put on weight (this advice was often unsolicited). Now, I’ve put on weight- people have advised me to lose it. You’ll never please everyone, and the best thing you can achieve is to get yourself to a point where you don’t want to.

To be clear, when I talk about ‘putting on weight’ what I actually mean is feeling more comfortable in a dress size up now. I’m painfully aware that around half my audience probably just said a mental ‘f*** you’, but please don’t stop reading. I’m aware that I’m still slender, still healthy and still have skinny privilege, but I really have put on weight and it’s taught me a lot about body positivity.

Given that I am still slender by any reasonable definition of the term, it’s surprising how self-conscious I am about having fat all of a sudden. I’ve never had any significant excess fat, on my arms, neck or around my stomach. (Please don’t hate me.) Even putting on a little weight means I have developed fat in these areas. I’m most aware of it around my neck; if I look down too low you can see a definite double chin emerging. That is totally normal but, bizarrely, it doesn’t seem it. I’ve gone from a size 8, meaning I enjoyed maximum skinny privilege and a lack of awareness of these realities, to a size 10 where (even that slight change) means I no longer look like the women staring out at me from magazines and billboards. It’s not the difference between thin and fat. It’s the different between very thin and thin. We’re skating on a knife edge, and only a tiny percentage of bodies make the cut by today’s beauty standards.

I’m twenty-two; it was totally inevitable that I was going to start gaining weight. I’m still perfectly healthy and our weight fluctuates throughout our lives. However, even putting on just a little weight can affect our confidence and sense of self- worth. Going up a dress size has made me realise once again just how ludicrous and unachievable our beauty standards are.