My weight is at its highest since I was 16 and I am happier than ever

Trigger warning: Calorie counting

Growing up, my weight never bothered me as much, but it created enough controversy for people around me to have an opinion about it.

It took one family trip to France at eight years old filled with endless bread and cheese for me to become the “chubby kid”.

As I got older, adults would condescendingly comment about my chubby cheeks and the clothes that I should avoid wearing because they extenuate my belly.

It was high school, however, that made it worse and all because every teenager’s favourite topic of conversation suddenly started to focus on their weight. That wasn't unexpected in 2013, the same year that hashtags "pro-Ana" and “thinspo” would start trending all over Tumblr, encouraging teenagers to use them as aspirations.

It was almost impossible to escape these ideas that forced you to pick apart at every physical insecurity you had. You would be referred to as an outcast if you didn’t participate in these conversations.

I specifically remember nights where I dreamt that I could take a knife and carve out the excess fat along my arms and stomach because it was much easier than having to suck in my stomach for another day.

This toxic mindset didn’t just end at the school gates, but they followed you into your home, from family friends and guests to online social media posts and so on.

The worst was when it came to medical appointments. The humiliation of being forced to weigh yourself in front of the whole room and have that number exposed out loud only to be told that all your health problems would be solved by losing weight.

I decided to change and in my last year of high school, I joined the gym. I started eating healthy and exercising during the week and lost around 10 kilos before graduation. After that, I was absolutely terrified of ever gaining that weight back, as if it would be the end of the world.

I found myself falling into a hole of obsessive calorie counting. But I wasn’t eating nutritiously, the complete opposite in fact. I was eating one meal a day and balancing the rest by binging on bags of chocolate and crisps at night without ever going over 1,200 calories.

Normal things like consuming fruit juice terrified me and I made everyone around me believe that I hated it because of how sweet it is, but in reality, it was because I knew exactly how many empty calories it had, and I did not want to waste mine on it.

When asked how come I’ve lost all the weight, my go-to excuse was university stress, and nobody ever questioned it. I knew that what I was doing wasn’t healthy, but the risk of stopping it was too big.

It wasn’t until I moved back to my family home in 2019 and my ability to control my food intake vanished. It’s much easier to eat whatever you want when you have all that food available to you, and it took only 6 months for me to gain all that weight back.

At first, it absolutely terrified me, and I was angry with myself for letting it get that far. I started thinking of what fast and effective diets I could use to my advantage, but none of these things worked as I had no desire to commit to them.

What helped was forcing myself to change my mindset and spending a few months focusing on patience, self-love, and building a strong mind and body connection rather than extreme dieting.

I forced myself to analyse my toxic eating habits and unlearn them so that I could stop blaming myself for enjoying food. Instead, I focus on what makes me feel good and what makes me stronger.

Food was no longer allowed to be referred to as a “guilty pleasure” and no longer treated as an enemy. The less I restricted, the less I spent every second of my day thinking about what is going inside my body and more on the experiences of what is happening around me.

I also made a firm decision to refuse to sit around people who only talked about their weight all the time. All that toxic mindset was doing was bringing me back to that old way of thinking, and I didn’t need that in my life.

Now I am at the point in my life where I am at the highest weight since I’ve been a teenager, but I could not care less about that. Or not – I honestly have not weighed myself at all in the past five months for me to know for sure, and I do not care to.

Yes, there are moments where I occasionally slip up and find myself going back to tracking calories as soon as I start exercising. But in these moments, I have to remind myself to be patient and forgiving and continue to be proud of how far I have got.