Although I was a very health-conscious and athletic teenager, with no regular exercise or parent observing my eating habits, I had a hard time adjusting to adulthood in New York City. After four years of living on my own, I had gained 40 pounds, putting me at 170. Standing at five feet and eight inches, I was officially above the healthy weight range for my height (though the BMI measurement does have its problems).
In my opinion, I carried my weight quite well, but I was used to mean comments about my size nonetheless. It was an easy, go-to insult, especially for ex-boyfriends with sour feelings. When I was 20, I ran into my high school ex at a house party, and during a conversation lull in front of a group of my peers, he asked, “Zoe, what happened to you? You look like you’ve put on 50 pounds.” His thinner-than-me girlfriend looked at him with total surprise and disgust, and the other party attendees encouraged me to hit him. Instead, I left crying. That same year, a previous hookup partner told me I could “be the hottest girl in Brooklyn” if I lost weight. People continuously mistook me for a pregnant woman. Another ex-boyfriend took to the internet, after I ended our relationship, to detail how repulsed he was by the cellulite on my thighs. It never ended.
An ex told me I could 'be the hottest girl in Brooklyn' if I lost weight.
I didn’t want to be thin; I wanted to be strong.
My dad had passed away a few months prior, and exercise was one of the few things that kept my mood up and transformed my grief and sadness into determination and hope for the future. My father’s death also left me feeling incredibly vulnerable — and mortal. I wanted to cheat death by getting as close to perfect health as possible.
Recently, I left New York for Detroit. Where I live in Detroit, there’s no food delivery, and many of my friends are vegan or vegetarian. It’s also much more common to cook your own meals here, and gym memberships are quite affordable. I weighed 145 pounds when I moved, but in no time at all, I dropped down to 130. I had stopped drinking alcohol because alcoholism runs in my family, and I couldn’t justify drinking if I was truly trying to be strong and healthy. Without the extra calories from alcohol, I had unintentionally accelerated my weight loss. Once my weight dipped below 130, I became concerned that I was losing too much, and I turned my attention to weightlifting and adding muscle.
I came across a nude selfie of myself from right before I began to lose weight, and I had an intense sense of longing for my bigger body.
For every time someone told me that I looked good, I wondered if that meant I had looked bad before I lost weight.
Ultimately, I am proud of myself for being so dedicated and conscientious. While I miss my bigger body from time to time, I feel better about how I treat my body now. I know it sounds corny, but now that I’m back at the same weight I was before college, I’m kind of realizing that the grass is always greener on the other side. Men I've hooked up with recently, who knew my body before, have told me they really liked my bigger body and miss it. But it doesn't matter what they think. It only matters what I think.
I realize I should have never lost weight just for the sake of pleasing others. Most importantly, I now know that I love my body at any weight, and never again will I let the opinions of others cloud my self-perception.