Written by Joy from Withoutaspace.com
We all have heard of the Freshman 15. And for those of you all that haven’t, that refers to the weight that you supposedly will gain your first year (or semester) of your undergraduate career. But you know what the sucky part is? No one prepares you for the graduate school 50! And that is the fifty pounds you put on throughout your journey of pursuing an advanced degree.
Maybe I am speaking through personal experience; however, I have a strange suspicion that I am not alone. I have seen the horror stories written on twitter. I have seen the evolution of the pounds slowly adding not just in my pictures, but a few of y’all’s as well.
I am not judging. I mean really, who am I to judge? I had lost twenty pounds before I moved to Iowa to work on my Masters’ degree and then all of a sudden I found out Chipotle delivered for just a small fee and my weight was back—and then some.
Sometimes, I would see these pages of women flawlessly going through graduate school. Hitting the gym regularly. Eating healthy daily. Even eating a breakfast that consisted of something other than dry cereal and coffee.
I was upset and envious. How the entire hell did they have the time? And I know I hear that phrase “you make time for what is important,” but I do not think that this applies to this situation. Because trust me, I found my weight gain and health to be very important but I also found passing my classes was a little higher on the scale (no pun intended).
So now when I look in the mirror, I see a girl with a rounder face and a little bit more around my waist. It makes me very self-conscious. It makes me very depressed, and that does not help because I have been diagnosed with clinical depression. Seeing myself in a bad light has really taken a toll on me.
And to be honest, I do not think that it is even me seeing me in a bad light, but more so the fact that my clothes do not fit. And shopping for clothes and replacing them all is extremely expensive, and I do not have the money for that. I now wear the same 3-4 things every week, so praise God that we have a washer and dryer in our condo. And that is discouraging.
As the semester winds down, I find myself struggling more and more with my anxiety. Anxiety to complete all of my assignments. Anxiety to pass exams. Anxiety to remember to actually eat that day. Anxiety to pay my bills. Y’all get it! Ya’ girl has anxiety! Because of all this other anxiety, I really do not need the extra anxiety of seeing my weight on the scale. I even do not need my sister to call me to be concerned for “my health!” I just really need to finish this semester and take a nap. So I stopped stepping on the scale.
No this does not make everything magically disappear. It does not make me feel 100% better. It doesn’t even make me fit back into the clothes in my closet that I miss. But you know what it has done? It has made me feel less insecure. It has made me understand that I have about thirty-thousand things going on in my life, and I am doing good with just staying afloat. And sometimes that is all you can do.
Taking my feet off the scale released the weight of the pressure that I had applied on myself. It also gave me time to understand that the joy that weighed lighter was not always the happiest Joy. I am not saying I am the happiest right now either, but I know for a fact that during those times I was working out tow-three times a day that I was chasing a standard of beauty that I was never going to get to. My goal now is to just stay the same size until the end of the semester—there are two weeks left.
I also stopped pressuring myself to get to the gym a certain amount of days of the week. I just focused on the times I could go. I also started focusing on just being active in anyway. I started to realize that even vacuuming around my condo is steps that I would not get if I was just behind my desk writing. It also helps that I have a dog and she loves walks. So even if I only walk a mile, I walked. I got my heart rate up. I got the blood flowing.
I know that I am speaking from a very personal place when I say that it is hard to see yourself change physically that you wish did not happen. But I can also say that I am slowly learning that it does not matter I look like as long as I am healthy; and despite a couple of trips to the Emergency Room recently, I am relatively healthy.
Of course the numbers on the paper about my BMI and etc say that I am obese, but I know that is not the truth. I am nowhere near obese. I just weigh more than your average white girl. And that’s partly because I AM NOT WHITE! It is time for all of us to understand that everyone is not built the same and standing on the scale to see where you are in comparison is not healthy.
I know for me, it led to even more depression and sadness. It actually did not even light a fire under my ass to get to the gym, it just made me not want to go because I thought it would not help. I stopped standing on the scale to lift the weight of perfectionism off of my shoulders. It’s not that I do not care about my weight, because I do; however, I know that I am making changes in other ways and my extra pounds do not.
Joy from Withoutaspace.com writes about depression from a black woman’s perspective. She also hosts a podcast to help women with mental health. Learn more about Joy and visit her blog HERE.