This picture was taken in the summer of my freshmen year in college. I had just lost over 100 pounds, fueled by all the bullying and teasing that followed me from childhood into high school. I was taught to be ashamed of my body, remembering how kids would make whale sounds in the classroom or mimic the way they *thought* I ate food. My family members also made stigmatizing comments, telling me that I could never (and should never) be happy in my larger body. The truth was, weight gain was a side effect of antidepressants that I had been taking for years to process trauma that I had gone through as a kid. As it turned out, I ended up graduating high school feeling trapped in both my body AND my brain.

So I lost the weight. Then more weight. Then more. I never overcame my struggles with mental health, but people praised my “success” as I shed weight and eventually got really sick. I was underweight and bulimic. I wasn’t eating more than a couple hundred calories a day and was finding creative ways to get food “out” of me. I thought that the thinner I got, the more I would be accepted and free from tantalizing comments about my size.

I only came to my senses toward the end of college, when I couldn’t make it up a flight of stairs on my way to class because I was so weak from lacking nutrients. My blood work showed that I was deficient in literally everything. So I began my journey (albeit a slow one) to reconcile with my body and seek overall health, not a number on the scale.

I’ve learned a lot since then, and yes – I gained weight back. I’ve actually been on a roller coaster with my weight, and I can’t help but think how different my journey would have been without the persistent effects of weight bias in my life. I still feel pain when I think about my body. It finds me randomly, like when I’m getting dressed in the morning or decide to eat something as small as just a cookie. If I’m being honest, I think I’ll aways feel “less than” because of my weight unless something really shifts in our society – a complete overhaul in the way society talks about and addresses weight.

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