My Experience Going From Plus Size to Straight Size

By Olivea Herrera

One factor of human experience that most people can relate to and that bonds us together is the fact that we are judged by the way we look. That people make assumptions about us before we even utter a word to each other. Feminine-presenting people have different burdens to worry about with this topic than masculine-presenting people. They both are judged in their own ways, but feminine-presenting people are held to certain expectations, and if they don’t reach them, then they are seen as less than. They are expected to be thin and curvy in the right places, have prominent features that accentuate their femininity, all the while performing for the male gaze. The male gaze is the way that men expect women to look and how they view women. Whether it is recognized in society or not, these beliefs are pushed onto feminine-presenting people and are underlying beneath the foundation of most cultures. I am just one example of how these expectations have been pushed onto me.

Ever since I was a kid, my parents always taught me to lead with kindness and not to judge. That people come from all walks of life and to try to understand their perspectives. However, these same things were not always taught to other children. This became very apparent when I began to not look like my peers. The older I got, the more weight I gained. I did not necessarily view this as a bad thing because my parents taught me to love myself for who I am. Be that as it may, I still got an off feeling when I encountered certain social interactions. I was always the biggest girl in my grade and felt as if I was not desirable because I did not look like other girls my age. As I went through puberty, other things about my body started to change, and none of my peers said anything bad about me to my face. That is, until I entered high school.

Upon entering high school, I was already battling the journey of trying to figure out who I was, let alone how others perceived my body. I was once again one of the biggest girls in my grade, and I didn't see many people who looked like me. One of the strongest memories I have of other people treating me differently because of my weight was when a whole group of people pulled a prank on me. A girl told me that this one guy liked me even though he was in a relationship. He pretended to flirt with me, people tried to get me to talk to him all day, and even his girlfriend lied and said they broke up. I realized this was a prank, and people were lying to me when stories of how the couple broke up didn’t add up. The only reason I could think of why they would do this to me is to make a point that it would be ridiculous if anyone were to find me attractive and would want to date me. Of course, this made me hurt and feel sad that people wanted to specifically go out of their way to do something negative towards me. That they found me so laughable that they wanted me to know. I tried to brush it off like it was nothing in front of other people, but what happened to me stayed on my mind that night. Even though my hurt feelings did not last long, I will always remember that experience.   

There are many other stories I have of people negatively mentioning my weight and making fun of me, but what I noticed is that the majority of the comments that were made to my face came from men. From being referenced as “your fat friend” to hearing fake puking noises as I was being walked past, men were never shy to show that they did not like my weight. Despite all of this, I valued my personality more than I did, adhering to societal beauty standards. I figured that I was a better person, so why would I care what they thought of me? While the comments still hurt me, of course, I was surrounded by my family and friends who loved me for who I am, which helped me keep a positive mindset through all of the negativity that came my way. I never tried to lose weight because I didn’t feel the need to, and I didn’t let peer or societal pressure push me into trying to fit a certain type of beauty standard. It just started to happen naturally when I was bored in quarantine because of Covid-19.

The pandemic was a time for people to explore hobbies or other types of lifestyles due to being quarantined. One day, I was bored in my room and thought to myself that it could be fun to try a healthier lifestyle out just to see if anything changed. I was not trying to lose weight but rather experiment. If I lost weight, that was fine, and if not, so be it. The first change to my lifestyle was exercise. The only way that I could get out of the house then was to exercise outside. So, I used the opportunity to go on more bike rides and walks. Not only did this contribute to my weight loss, but it also helped with my mental health. Next was diet. With more time on my hands, I was able to look up recipes and try to cook some new, healthy ones. I lessened my portions and ate better foods, which is the last factor that ultimately made me lose over 80 pounds. Without those 80 pounds, people treated me way differently than they used to. 

After people saw me post-weight loss, the very first thing they would mention would be my weight loss. They would say things like, “You look so good,” “How did you do it?” and “Wow, I didn’t recognize you.” Normally, a person would be happy with those comments and take them as a compliment, but all I was wondering was why they would need to mention my body in the first place. Why would it be the first thing they mentioned? Did they think I looked bad before I lost the weight? Just these interactions alone confirmed my belief that what U.S. society values most is a thin body. 

Those comments were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the differences in how people treated me before and after my weight loss. When I first started dating before my weight loss, I decided to join some dating apps, and I experienced getting matches who only matched with me to insult me. After the weight loss, I have experienced way more romantic attention than I ever did in the past. People complimented me, approached me, and made an effort to be with me—another confirmation that I had more opportunities because I appeared thinner. One of the biggest reliefs that I felt post-weight loss was not having to be so self-aware all the time. I could eat whatever I wanted without fear of being judged, and I didn’t have to try so hard with first impressions because now, people saw me for me rather than for my weight. However, throughout all this change, I never lost who I was.

Pre- and post-weight loss, I saw people at their lowest and learned truths about humanity, proof that society is obsessed with superficial looks and physiques more than substance. But the silver lining through this experience is that I never did this for acceptance from others and I was happy with or without the weight. I know who I am and I value my morals and empathy as a person far more than what other people think of me. Those who love and care about you will stay in your life for you and not how you look. It is important to keep in mind that weight and looks fluctuate throughout life, but genuineness can last forever. 

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