My favorite pair of slouchy jeans, the ones that once needed a belt to stay up on my hips are suddenly tight around new curves. Dresses that used to hang now cling, and short skirts look suddenly suggestive. My leather skinnies don't zip. This is the whitest of white whines, I know. Bear with me.
Over the course of a few months, I've added a few pounds to my small frame by exercising less and staying up all night. That's fine. At its lowest, my weight invited comments from strangers. Mostly numerical guesses. "What do you weigh? 95 pounds?" someone would ask. Other times it was just a muffled "anorexic."
"Julie's just really healthy," friends used to say in my defense -- healthy being a euphemism for daily three mile runs and a diet completely free from indulgence save for alcohol. I've never been a starving skinny girl by any means, but you won't catch me eating birthday cake.
When I look in the mirror, I know the new weight looks better, but that doesn't make getting dressed in the morning any easier. My wardrobe is the product of occasional one-item splurges, big buys that take months to recover from financially. And so I'm not so quick to replace my expensive collection of too-tight clothing.
Instead, I wear what still fits and squeeze into what doesn't, regardless of how it looks. But I don't feel comfortable.
"Can I still wear this to work?" I ask Olivia, tugging at my pleated leather skirt. "Does it look too sexy?" I haven't learned how to dress for this body.
Pants that won't button are a universal call for weight loss; the before image in every late night diet drug informercial and exercise gimmick. Thin people aren't immune to feeling fat. Women of all sizes received the same cultural messages about weight growing up.
“I think most thin women, when they say they feel fat, they do feel fat,” says body image researcher Renee Engeln-Maddox Ph.D, in YouBeauty's Why Thin Women Fat Talk. “Part of it is to recognize that feeling fat comes and goes in different contexts.”
Still, when I try to discuss my size and express discomfort, I'm met with silent, concerned stares. I get that it's annoying and even insensitive for thin women complain about weight gain, but it's coming from the same insecurity that often strikes larger women. So it seems like all women deserve the same degree of understanding. Do you agree?