Today on Elle, Taylor Swift shared “30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30,” and one of the things she learned was this:
“I learned to stop hating every ounce of fat on my body. I worked hard to retrain my brain that a little extra weight means curves, shinier hair, and more energy. I think a lot of us push the boundaries of dieting, but taking it too far can be really dangerous. There is no quick fix. I work on accepting my body every day.”
I’m so glad she explicitly wrote about this, because not only have I had to learn the same things with my own, needed, recent weight gain, but over the last few months, seeing that Taylor Swift had gained healthy weight and looked so much better for it really helped me heal my warped view of what healthy bodies looked like and encouraged me in the moments when I doubted that my body had changed for the better. Yes, even though I felt better than I ever had in my life post-weight gain (Swift is 100% right about having “more energy”), I still struggled with the fact that I now had meat on my bones, and especially that I had an actual stomach; I’ve had to repeatedly read articles like this one about the fact that women aren’t exactly made to have washboard abs and remind myself that one of the mantras of the fertility yoga videos I follow is to “let the belly be free” to ward off bad feelings about it. I really have had to “retrain my brain.”
I’m embarrassed and sorry that it took my gaining weight to realize how truly messed up our societal “ideal” for women’s bodies is because I have benefited from and been validated by it. Thin privilege is real, and I’m sure that in my privilege, I perpetuated that ideal and hurt others. I know for sure that I hurt myself, because that ideal blinded me to how unhealthy I was before. There were only a handful of times in the past that anyone even remotely suggested that the fact that I was underweight could be a real problem; mostly, my weight was approved of and endorsed, and I took comfort in my extreme skinniness. I looked the way everyone said you’re supposed to look, so everything was, supposedly, fine, even though now I know that my body’s ability to function was severely compromised.
It is truly sick that women are encouraged to make their bodies work less well in order to look “good,” which I put in quotes because, as I’ve gotten healthier, I’ve found extremely skinny bodies less attractive and more depressing. Watching Friends is kind of painful for me now, because all I can see is that Rachel and Monica are way. too. thin. I think all the time about how insane people a few hundred years ago would find our society now — in the Anne of Green Gables books, for example, the fact that Anne is skinny/scrawny is seen as a liability and a concern, and in The Secret Garden, Mary’s skinniness is associated with being sickly. I’m not saying we should “skinny shame” anyone (there are all sorts of reasons why people can have trouble gaining weight, and also, shaming is just not a great thing to do), but we also shouldn’t act like being underweight is healthy.
I hope someday our society cares enough about women to prioritize their health over men’s sick idea of what looks good, but until then, I’m glad that Taylor Swift is using her platform to speak out against the war on body fat.