Don't Mourn Your Pants by Gretta
For years, I was in a strenuous relationship with my favorite pants. We were always on the verge of “almost-too-tight.” I endured the discomfort of wearing them, sucking in my stomach and ignoring the pressing of the waistband into my back, because they were just so cute and they went with everything. It was hard to find a pair of pants that stylistically flexible, despite their inflexibility on my skin.
A month ago, while wrapping up my first year of college, I finally dumped those pants in my dorm’s donation bin. As they tumbled down the shoot, they confirmed the uncomfortable reality I had been trying to ignore for months: my pants no longer fit. I had put on the freshman fifteen, and I had the stretch marks and cellulite to prove it.
This weight gain is typical for young adults, especially in college. There’s a reason the term was coined, after all. But I don’t often hear about the psychological effects of it, especially for people, like me, who have a history of eating disorders.
Instead of focusing on losing weight to feel better about ourselves, I want to change the narrative of weight gain to accept the changes and celebrate our bodies no matter what, and I want to help those with a history of EDs learn to protect themselves from relapse.
In high school, I injured my spine and had to wear a back brace, which severely limited my ability to be physically active. During this time, only a year after my first battle with an ED, I gained ten pounds. This may not sound like much, but for me, each pound was a noticeable, painful reminder of my lack of “control” over my own body.
This was my first confrontation with rapid weight gain, and it’s a fairly common one. Injuries, depression, the college buffet—these are just a few of the many reasons people’s bodies change rapidly in ways often seeming out of their control. Social media and advertisements often promote a virtually impossible lifestyle that in turn causes us to feel disgusted by new love handles or looser arms.
After years of battling both ED’s and spine complications causing weight gain, I am still working to rewrite my idea of self-worth apart from my appearance. In the process, I have discovered some helpful ways to care for myself, physically and mentally, as I learn to navigate the new—but NOT any less deserving, powerful, or beautiful—me.
Below are a list of suggestions for anyone who has gained weight—whether through an injury, the freshman fifteen, or just because—and wants to process it in a healthy way, rather than be embarrassed by weight gain, as society often implies we should be. To preface, some of these suggestions may not be right for you. This is not a prescription. Rather, it is a list of helpful actions that worked for me. If something clicks with you, try it. If not, that’s totally okay.
Make small changes—like drinking more water and serving one more vegetable for dinner—if it helps you, but try not to punish yourself through restrictive diets, and don’t feel as if a diet change is necessary to change your mentality on weight gain.
Explore your new you. As weird as this sounds, looking at and feeling my stretch marks helped me embrace them. Ignoring them, I realized, instilled in me a type of shame, as if avoiding them was necessary so other people would, too—but why? Why should it be something I hide and refuse to accept? For me, exploring these marks normalized them.
Use social media to boost your mentality about weight rather than harm it. I wrote an article about this on GLO Hub, but I’ll reiterate here: craft your feed to erase body toxicity and enhance body positivity. Unfollow any accounts—like fitness inspo accounts—that leave you anxious or set unrealistic ideas of how your body should look. Instead, actively seek out accounts that promote self-love for bodies of every shape and size.
If you like to post candids and selfies, then don’t stop just because you think you look different on camera than you did a year ago. Take those pictures. Take lots of pictures. Be unapologetic about it. Love yourself, and don’t stop because you’re scared more cellulite might be visible. Human bodies are art, as are photos, and combining the two can help you see yourself as art, too.
Don’t give up on your passion for fashion. This was a big one for me—I had to get rid of a lot of pants, and because fashion is a huge method of self-expression for me, I felt that my shrinking closet limited who I was. However, fashion is made for everyone, regardless of what Victoria’s Secret wants you to believe. Do some research and follow some body-positive fashion accounts, and they’ll help teach how to make your closet work for you and hype yourself up exactly as you are.
These next few suggestions are ones intended specifically for those with an ED history, although of course anyone who thinks these will help them should pursue it.
Pay close attention to your eating, speaking, and exercise habits, as they can be indicative of potential relapse and your mental health. This doesn’t mean to obsess or over-analyze yourself, but be conscious about how you speak about your weight and if your eating and exercise habits change. If you feel like you’re reverting back to ED habits, it may be time for you to reach out.
While therapy is not accessible or financially feasible for many, if it is an option for you, I highly recommend it. Seeking out a professional can give you a support system and safe space to have conversations about weight, and they can provide next steps and assistance with whatever you need.
However, therapy is not the only way to seek help. You can also talk to someone you trust and feel comfortable with, especially if they already know about your ED history. Whether that be a close friend, a parent, a teacher or mentor, letting someone know about your conflict with weight gain gives you a safe outlet to work through things, allows you support, and notifies someone to watch out for you if you’re concerned about relapse.
Journal. Journaling is a great way to work through your thoughts, especially if you’re uncomfortable talking about your weight and body image out loud. It’s (basically) free, super therapeutic, and aesthetic af.
If you’re scared of relapse and feel like you have nowhere else to turn, call the National Eating Disorder Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. While NEDA’s hours are mainly during the weekdays, there are 24/7 helplines you can call, like The United Way’s number at 2-1-1, which can help with information and referrals about ED treatment. You can also text the Crisis Text Line at 741741 and they will connect you to trained volunteers to discuss confidential advice, support, and referrals.
We live in a society that still often castigates stretch marks, cellulite, love handles, and loose skin, making it difficult for some to view weight gain as a normal process. If you’re healthy and happy at the weight you’re at, regardless of what it is, that’s awesome—keep doing what you’re doing.
For anyone who struggles, however, with their weight gain, I hope this article was helpful in giving you steps to reshape how you view your body. Because no one should get the freshman fifteen and feel like they somehow failed. No one should see their stretch marks and feel inherently lesser because of them. And no one should feel ashamed about donating a pair of pants.