I gained 40 lbs, and here's what else I gained

I’ve gained 40 pounds in the last two years. I went up two pants sizes, one dress size, and have had to replace majority of my wardrobe. I’ve also received dozens of well intended comments from people who are honestly just trying to be nice. “Oh, but you still look great!” “But you look so strong!” Or my personal favorite. “Really? You can’t even tell!” Don’t get me wrong, have no ill feelings towards anyone for these comments. I totally understand! We have been programmed in our society to see weight gain as “bad” and something to be ashamed of. But here’s the thing - I’m not ashamed of my weight gain. Why not? Because those forty pounds are the result of two years of hard work recovering from my eating disorder. Because they are also the result of supporting a close family member through her own battle with anorexia. Because I’m healthier both mentally and physically than I have been in years. And, because I’ve gained so much more than just weight.

I gained a realization that I am so much more than how much I weigh. I spent half a lifetime basing all of my self worth on the number on the scale. Now, I don’t even own a scale. Instead of spending hours of my time counting calories, tracking my workouts, and researching the latest diet craze, I’m able to focus more on other priorities in life. Like being a kind and caring friend. Like being a supportive partner for my husband. Like being a great mom. Like giving back and volunteering my time helping others. These are the qualities I now take pride in and that make me feel self-fulfilled.

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I gained two weeks of guilt-free vacation memories with my family. We were fortunate enough to spend two weeks in Hawaii for a family vacation this past July. It was the first vacation since childhood that I didn’t worry about the weight I gained on vacation. Even though I was in a bathing suit every single day, I ate ALL the food, and didn’t obsess about exercising to burn it off. Yes, I hiked, snorkeled, and paddle-boarded, but not to earn my dinner. I did it because it was FUN! And some days I opted to just lay on the beach and read my book. At the end of the vacation, instead of beating myself up because my shorts felt tight, I threw on my stretchy yoga pants and wished we could stay another week.

I gained more empathy for people in larger bodies. Weight does not equal health, yet most people assume they can judge someone’s health simply based on how much space they take up in this world. Larger people are regularly fat shamed by their doctors, co-workers, friends, family, and society as a whole. It is nothing more than shameless bullying, and it needs to stop.

I gained the confirmation that my husband truly loves me at any size. Not that I ever really doubted it. I’ve known from the start that he loves me unconditionally - it’s one of the reasons why I married him. But it’s nice to know that he finds me just as sexy with my new body - and maybe even more so!!!

Speaking of sexy - I gained CURVES! I mean, I’m no Kardashian, but it’s nice to have some boobs and booty for the first time in many years! ;-)

And most importantly, I gained a more realistic body size to model for my daughters. Our girls are inundated with ridiculous and often unattainable beauty standards in every direction they turn. The size of the average model is still a size 0-2, while 68% of American women wear a size 14 or above. And still, magazine covers are photoshopped to increase bust size, reduce waist and hip size, and remove any and all blemishes. Even pictures of “real” people on social media are often taken from the “ideal” slimming angle and use filters that erase all flaws and imperfections. I now take pride in the fact that when my girls look at me they see an example of a real women, complete with belly rolls, cellulite, and thick thighs. AND they see me still wearing a bikini and ROCKING it.