In the 7 or so months during which I took a break from my blog, my body experienced a somewhat significant change. Specifically, I’ve put on a little bit of weight. This is the point where I get a little TMI for some, but I intend to talk about it here because I think it is a discussion that should be normalized. I’m talking about birth control, its effects on the body, and how I have learned to appreciate the changes it has brought to my body.
To give a little background, I went on the pill about six years ago in order to control the intense cramps and pelvic pain that I experienced every month leading up to my period. I had gotten to the point where I was better off staying home from work for the day when my cramps were at their worst. I would take 800mg of ibuprofen and try to get through the day as best I could. As if that weren’t enough, I had also begun to experience pelvic pain in the week prior to the cramping. This pain meant that any time my bladder was even slightly full, I had to rush to the bathroom because of the intense pressure. My boss even yelled at me for going to the bathroom too often, but that boss was not a very nice person. In the end, I took my troubles to the gynecologist and she put me on the pill.
For five years, I took the pill every day to keep everything in check. I skipped the period week in each pack so that I was on the pill continuously- having a period still caused me problems. One of the unexpected benefits of being on the pill was that my weight went down, and stayed down. I was at my thinnest and felt pretty good about it. It felt good (and weird) to be called skinny. I had never been skinny before, but I became accustomed to it.
Eventually, I began to identify myself as thin. This means that I became much more fearful of gaining weight. Whereas growing up and in my early twenties I identified as fat, my late twenties and early thirties were closely tied to being thin. Therefore, when my pelvic pain began to resurface despite being on the pill, I was afraid of trying an alternative form of birth control for fear of gaining weight.
In the end, I chose to make a change because I knew my body needed it. I switched to the implant, which is great because it means no more remembering to buy and take pills. But the change in birth control lead to a few more changes in my body. Not only do I have to deal with periods again, but I have gained some weight.
Dealing with this change has not been easy, but I’m learning to choose a more positive perspective. Therefore, instead of referring to my body as having gained weight, I am saying that my body filled out. My breasts are fuller, and my hips are more round. I am softer. I look more womanly, in my opinion.
This change in my body has caused me to think a lot about why my identity and my body are so entwined. Looking back, when I made the gradual change from being obese to being skinny, I had a hard time disassociating myself from what I call “fat girl thoughts.” Despite having lost so much weight, I still felt like an elephant whenever I would walk down an airplane aisle. I was so used to taking up a lot of space that I never adjusted my mindset. It wasn’t just the space I took up, either. I still compared myself to girls who were skinnier than me, never quite feeling that I was truly thin. But still, after several years of being thin, I eventually began to cling to my new thin identity. I was terrified at the thought of gaining weight.
Part of my fear of gaining weight was because I associated weight gain with failure. I was afraid of how other people would view me- that because I could not maintain my weight, I would be viewed as “less than.” I also feared disappointment in myself, for having worked so hard to lose the weight before, only to gain some of it back. It doesn’t help that society rewards weight loss and demonizes weight gain. I received a lot of positive reinforcement for my weight loss and for simply being skinny, but even putting on five pounds, I’ve rarely been told I look good, or, god forbid, even healthier (which I personally think I do).
Ultimately, I choose to embrace the changes that my body is currently experiencing. I am not my body. I am a soul inhabiting a body, and that body will go through countless changes throughout its lifetime. My soul is what matters, and my soul is beautiful. This body of mine is beautiful in its own right, so I will try to show it a bit more grace. Instead of focusing on what I dislike about the weight gain (no longer being able to fit into my favorite clothes), I will focus on the beauty of the change. My breasts have filled out again and my hips are rounder. The softness of my body reflects the softness of my soul (I know that sounds cheesy, but its true). My sensitive nature has manifested itself in this body, and I am absolutely lucky to being living this life in this body.
What I wish to leave my readers with is this: love your body. Treat it well and show it some grace. Fat or thin, you are not your body. Your body is simply a vessel for your soul. I know that it is difficult at times to embrace the body you have, but when you do, you will feel that much more alive.
Rachel Sedaker is a writer whose work can be found on the blog Tossing the Script. Her diverse background ranges from a Bachelor of Arts in French and a minor in Art History to a career spent processing data and crunching numbers. She believes in girl power and her heroine is Scarlet O’Hara. Follow on Twitter and Facebook.
This post originally appeared on Rachel’s blog Tossing the Script and has been republished with her permission.