Guest post by Aspen Stevanovski.
“Wow, you look so skinny in this picture!”
“You look so good!”
“You’ve lost weight!”
“I wish I were that skinny!”
In both of these pictures, I weighed less than 100 pounds. Less than a month before, I’d been raped. I couldn’t eat normally; some days, I was so weak, I couldn’t get out of bed. I could see my ribs and my hips jutting out. I was constantly shaky and light headed. The worst part was, I hadn’t been trying to lose weight.
This was happening without my permission.
Being “skinny” should never be your goal. You should be happy. You should be healthy. (Although health is a bullshit reason to starve yourself, so more on that later.) This means that you need to eat — when you’re hungry, and sometimes when you’re not.
Some people have a hard time losing weight from stress. Some people have a hard time maintaining weight from stress. I fall under the second category. People need to understand that there are different versions of “healthy” for different people.
Only you know that version for yourself.
You also need to recognize the value of yourself, whether you’re trying to gain or lose weight. Weight or health has nothing to do with whether or not you deserve happiness and respect.
Self-love should be completely separate from health — health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances.
Health is a complicated and multi-faceted concept, and it can change at any time. That’s why it’s important that we have the chance to love and appreciate our bodies regardless of health status. (Understand too that the concept of body positivity can be made vastly more complicated by things like chronic illness because of healthism, as well other marginalized identities because of racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and more.)— Ragen Chastain
Here, you can see my back muscles, which means if you saw my hips and/or waist, you’d see more weight there. That’s good. My muscles need that support to stay strong.
See? Little ridges of fat. Also good. Also healthy.
You can see a little bit of “tummy” here. Still good. Healthy. If I were wearing a crop top, you’d see abs. Why? That’s how your body is supposed to work. It’s the same way girls with bigger boobs generally have more areas of fat and/or muscle around their armpits and upper torso- their bodies need it to literally support those boobs.
Different bodies work different ways to support themselves.
This is me feeling MY best. Do you have to work out a lot and go for being all muscles in order to be healthy? Nope! This is just how I feel best. Is it the typical “beauty standard” for today’s females? Hell no. But is it how I feel the most beautiful, healthy, and strong? Hell yes.
The point is don’t stick to a standard that is not healthy for you, and stop making judgments about what is “healthy” or not for someone else.
(Editor’s note: Here’s a little bonus reading if you still think fat = unhealthy.)
It’s fine to want to change your weight in either direction. It’s not fine when you’re doing it for the wrong reasons or at the point of hurting yourself. You don’t have to lose weight. You don’t have to be skinny. If you need to pursue something, pursue happiness.
Don’t let anyone tell you how you “should” look. Don’t let a website or a book or a blog do the same. This includes, “You’re a twig, you need some meat on your bones!” or “You need to lose weight before the summer for those bikinis!”
You are the best judge for you.
Most of all, let people be. If they’re super skinny or super not, super muscly or super not, there’s probably a reason. Even if there’s not, let them be.
Try complimenting someone for their personality traits, or something good they’ve done, or the way their eyes sparkle, or the way they solve problems. That is where true beauty lies.
Everyone is beautiful and contributes to this earth in unique ways. I can assure you, weight or appearance have nothing to do with any of it.
Aspen Stevanovski is a junior at Wake Forest University. She’s a bio/zoology major and a creative writing minor, and her zoology takes her mostly in the directions of predators like cheetahs and lions and wolves. Her creative writing takes her mostly to action or fantasy novels, some of which one day she hope to publish. You can follow her on Instagram at @aspen_marie_stev.