If you’d told me a year ago that I would be OK with gaining 30 pounds in the next 12 months, I would have laughed at you. On the list of things I definitely didn’t want to happen to me, gaining weight would have been fighting for the top spot, right alongside being banished to a deserted island with Donald J. Trump. After all, it was just last year that I was at the lowest weight I’d been in my adult life. Of course, that was also the lowest point in my life across the board, but I took my lean figure as a sign that I was succeeding in at least one aspect.
In hindsight, I was so very wrong. My weight is not something to be proud of in and of itself. Likewise, my body isn’t a work of art that I must perfect for the consumption of onlookers. Right now, it still feels strange to be OK with my body even though it’s not as lean as it could be (or has been). But if I’ve learned anything by gaining 30 pounds in the year since I began my recovery, it’s that our bodies are pretty damn amazing.
After spending over a decade being body-conscious to the point of compulsively checking my weight, measuring my thighs, and restricting my food, I can say that I have reconciled my relationship with my body: I’ve finally found the beauty in gaining weight.
It can be easy to decide that we want to “win” at weight loss the same way we want to win a trophy or a board game. But much like a gridlocked game of Monopoly, yo-yo diets can just make us feel like we’re playing an interminable match against ourselves. But I’ve learned that health isn’t a game that can be won. Being healthy doesn’t have a finite ending, and while we can achieve specific fitness goals, this competitive perspective isn’t good for us.
I previously thought I could run a couple half-marathons and be content with my accomplishments, but I’ve realized that being healthy is really a proactive, ongoing process. We should always try nourish our bodies, exercise them, and show them love. That said, I sometimes think that I should feel defeated for gaining 30 pounds in a year. But these days, I don’t feel that way at all.
Sure, it would be nice not having to do the Electric Slide to fit into those expensive jeans I purchased last year. (Although let’s be real: Having an excuse to wear leggings 24/7 isn’t the worst thing in the world.) But more than anything, after a decade-long battle to comprehend the futility of being obsessed with the scale, I finally get it: it’s not just the lesson that our bodies aren’t games we play; it’s that our weight (and more importantly, our well-being) isn’t a static number we should be aspiring to. We can lose weight, we can gain weight, and we can maintain weight—and as long as we’re aware of our choices, each of those can be just fine.
Besides the fact that the scale isn’t the most accurate reflection of our fitness level and overall health, our fitness—just like any other aspect of our lives—is going to have peaks and valleys. For me, it’s hard to say whether this past year of gaining weight was actually a peak or a valley from a health-minded perspective. On one hand, yes, it’s fair to say that I justified a little too much Ben & Jerry’s. On the other hand, because of my newfound recovery, I was purposely relaxing on what had become an obsessive relationship with restricting food and working out. So while I gained 30 pounds, I also gained confidence, strength, coping skills, and a whole bunch of great memories.
Our weight (and more importantly, our well-being) isn’t a static number we should be aspiring to.
I’ve come to embrace all that my body can do. My body has carried me through 13.1 grueling miles in the summer heat. My body has stood the test of long days at work and long nights at the gym. My body may one day carry a child and create breast milk. My body might even complete that miraculous cycle more than once.
I know I need to cut back on the moscato while I’m watching Vanderpump Rules and get to the gym more often, but everything in moderation, right? I do plan to (slowly, patiently) shed the 30 pounds I’ve gained over the past year; in fact, I’m already working on it. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 12 months, it’s that our bodies are brilliant—and we don’t need to babysit the scale to see that.