I was never very self-conscious about my body until I gained 15 pounds while sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were few occasions when I needed to pull together an outfit nicer than sweats and a T-shirt, but when those moments did arise, my go-to garments didn't feel like they used to. They were a bit snug here, didn't fall as effortlessly there. I had expected the lethargic turn in my daily routine to manifest itself physically, but it wasn't until my clothes told me in a very direct way that I was viscerally aware of how my body had changed.
My body, like everyone else's, had of course been through changes before. I went through the growing pains of middle school and high school, and gained the freshman 15 during college, all of which had taken their toll on my now 5'8" frame. But through all the changes, nothing ever really seemed to stick. I was still the tall, slim girl who wouldn't have curves at all without weekly CrossFit sessions. I griped at my barely developed bosom while the expertly endowed women of my family expatiated on how a day would soon come when I would miss the body I so vehemently lamented.
Well, that day came, and I didn't know what to do. Playing travel volleyball for the entirety of my teens left me with no reason to ever think about my fitness or health. It was built into my lifestyle, and the hustle and bustle of college life closely replaced it as I approached my 20s. So, when the lockdown orders rolled out, I realized how ill equipped I was to care for my physical health. I started doing anything I could think of to lose weight: cut out carbs, cook all my meals, and even run, which I have always been (and still am, mostly) strongly against.
I did all I could to get back to that high-school body that now seemed like a lost treasure. If only I could get back in my old clothes and turn back the biological clock, I could regain some sense of normalcy. The world was already unrecognizable. Did my body have to be as well? After a few weeks of daily workouts and being more intentional about what I was eating, I noticed changes in my body. My thighs were tightening again, and my waist was slowly returning to what it was before. Yet even as I stood in the mirror, poking and prodding, I couldn't imagine how this young woman, now 20, would magically retain the body of a 15 year old.
I've shifted my goal from retaining the figure of a past life to naturally and freely refining one for the life ahead, whatever that may look like.
I couldn't imagine it because it isn't possible, or reasonable for that matter, to match that body to my present life. It was then I realized that I was ascribing my high-school shape to the simplicity of my life then, but both have necessarily changed. That body was made by an existence comprised solely of school, volleyball, occasional outings with friends, and mom's homemade dinners. My body now, though, needs to be equipped for a much different life. It should be built for weekly grocery trips, meeting deadlines, carrying younger cousins during piggy-back rides, working hours a day at a computer, and sometimes eating out when doing all that leaves me too tired to pick up a spatula.
Fifteen pounds gained during freshman year wasn't letting myself go, but retooling my body for dinners with friends and more time spent studying. A high-school body is inextricably tied to and representative of a high-school life, and though I may yearn for that forever 16 body, I assuredly do not want to be 16 forever. As I've continued exploring personal fitness on my own, I've shifted my goal from retaining the figure of a past life to naturally and freely refining one for the life ahead, whatever that may look like.