A couple months ago, I finally did it – I proudly bought jeans a size larger than what I had been wearing since the beginning of high school. But accepting the seemingly inconsequential reality that I’ve recently gained five pounds has not been easy.

Ellen McGarrity

When I arrived in Ann Arbor three and a half years ago, everyone warned me about the “freshman fifteen.” At first, I was careful to avoid the calorie-rich dorm foods like mashed potatoes and bacon and eggs. And I had exercise covered too — my girlfriends and I would regularly march to the CCRB for an hour of stair-stepping and cycling.

But as my healthy habits inevitably began to slip – thanks to Colliders at Rod’s Diner and late-night Pizza House orders – my waistline remained the same. “You’re one of those lucky girls with a ridiculously high metabolism,” one of my friends reminded me over and over.

I told myself that it was okay to “eat, drink and be merry” now – I would worry about fat when I’m my mother’s age.

Now I’m a senior and I’m wondering when someone’s going to acknowledge that for some, the “senior seven” is a very real concept.

Late September was when I started to notice the difference. Everyone was pulling out their jeans for the first cooler days of fall. I did the same, but I had a hard time even pulling them up to my waist, let alone getting the zipper up. Calm down, I thought. You just have to eat a little bit less for a few days and you’ll be back to normal in no time. But eating less didn’t help. My body seemed to have naturally adjusted to five pounds heavier.

Not that many people have probably noticed this change – but it’s a big deal to me. It’s a big deal to most girls of any size. Five pounds more than what you’re used to actually takes a lot of mental adjustment and acceptance.

I went through a phase of denial — refusing to set aside my old jeans (uncomfortable as they were to wear) and insisting to myself that my body would return to its old weight.

But it’s four months later and the flab’s still here.

And I’ve finally figured that if it’s going to be with me, why not embrace it?

So I made a list of four reasons I’m grateful to have that extra junk in my trunk:

 

1) My cup runneth over

I’m not afraid to admit it — I have bigger boobs. My hips and butt aren’t the only recipients of that extra skin. The bras I have barely fit anymore, but it sure makes me feel a little sexier when I’m naked — and that can’t be bad for my self esteem, right? My t-shirts hug my curves more snugly now and I feel fabulous.

 

2) Buns of steel, my ass!

I don’t have to worry about exercising myself into a Britney Spears workout frenzy because those five pounds of fat I was always trying to ward off are here to stay. I can just chuck those Pilates videos out the window. And that expensive elliptical machine I got for Christmas last year? Yep, it’s sitting in a dark corner of my basement collecting dust.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little bit here. Of course exercise is still important, but my point is that I can exercise for the sake of being healthy as opposed to trying to look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.

 

3) Bring on the turkey

I don’t worry as much about what I eat on holidays anymore. I used to wonder if the Thanksgiving turkey or endless homemade Christmas meals would come back to bite me in the butt — literally — but now I don’t have to obsess over all the calories immediately after a meal. And don’t forget the drinks — I’m a sucker for martinis and margaritas (notoriously rich in calories). I don’t have to resort to vodka tonics or ultra light beers all the time!

 

And finally, perhaps the most valuable lesson of all …

 

4) Abandoning the ridiculous goal of looking like a model

I used to be hooked on all those girly magazines — Cosmo, Glamour, Vogue. I would stare at the models in the pictures and think that really I wasn’t that much shorter or that much heavier than them. Maybe I could look like one if I just exercised more or ate a little bit less. But now that I’ve gained some weight, the unattainable-for-most-girls model standard (average seems to be about 5’10”, 115 pounds!) seems even more unreasonable. You have to be content with whatever curves your body throws at you — otherwise you’ll always be striving for something that’s not you. And really, what’s unique about that?

 

… Okay, that’s being a little too positive, right?

When I wrote this column for the first time over the holiday break, I must have been high on my mother’s Christmas pudding or something. The truth is, for 99 percent of women, the battle with their weight is never concluded. There may be some major triumphs and some crushing defeats, but we are never content. I’ve gained two more pounds since Christmas, and I’m furious about it. I’ve signed up for two aerobics classes at the CCRB this semester and want to start lifting weights. It scares me that I might never be as thin as I was before this school year.

And I know this must sound like complete madness for any boys who may be reading this, but so many girls think like this sometimes — even if they don’t say it out loud. Our society has just put too much emphasis on having the perfect body.

A few weeks ago, I was walking through Nickels Arcade and saw a shirt in the window of some clothing store. It said, “Start a Revolution: Accept Your Body.” And that’s exactly what it would take to stop our country’s weight-obsessed madness.

 

Ellen hopes that no girl aspires to be Paris Hilton thin. She can be reached at emcgarri@umich.edu.

 

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