Growing up, I was an active girl and I played sports through my elementary years. By the time I was in high school, I was dancing on my high school’s team, in my dance studio’s ballet program, and on their competitive team. I was busy. I was also healthy and thin.

When I went to college in 2011, my eating habits changed. I was no longer eating home cooked meals that were properly portioned and created with health in mind. While my portions were still under control, I was eating out at restaurants way more than I should’ve been, and snacking in my bed way too often. Between freshman and sophomore year, I gained weight. Typical freshman-fifteen stuff, but weight nonetheless.

The summer after sophomore year, I had the amazing privilege of studying abroad in Florence, Italy. I ate pasta and pizza for almost every meal, and if I wasn’t binging on Italian food, I was treating myself to a little piece of “home” with some McDonalds. I was eating a ton. But I was also walking a ton, sometimes up to 8 miles a day. I gained hardly any weight in my whole three months as a student there.

Since returning from Italy two years ago, I have gained almost 40 pounds. My eating habits from Italy carried over into America, but I definitely wasn’t walking 8 miles a day here. However, my last two years of college were also the best two years of my life. I was blissfully happy in my new relationship, living with my best friends, and having the absolute time of my life. Weekends were dedicated to trying new restaurants, ordering pizza and binge watching Netflix, and seeing movies and getting popcorn with extra butter.

When I graduated from college, I was overweight. I still am overweight today, almost 9 months later. I get annoyed an embarrassed in dressing rooms. I get less confident talking to people and interviewing for jobs. I get ashamed when I am around my friends who have the best body of their lives. And, I absolutely am dreading swimsuit season (but, aren’t we all?).

But, in the midst of all of those emotions that I have, there is one emotion that consumes them all: I am unarguably happy.

These extra pounds prove that I have lived. My body is just the suitcase for my heart, and sometimes suitcases can get a little heavy.

I gained weight from obtaining bad eating habits from living in Italy. But, I got to live in Italy.

I gained weight from going out to dinner with my boyfriend almost every night. But, I am in a relationship with a man that loves me and spoils me and wants to take me out almost every night.

I gained weight from eating fast food in between my two different jobs. But, I have TWO different jobs.

I gained weight. But, in the process, I got to live.

Do I want to be healthy? Yes. Do I want to get to where I am comfortable in my own skin again? Of course.

Am I going to worry about whether or not people think I’m skinny enough? Not anymore.

Society tells us that to get anywhere in life, you have to be eye candy. To get the job you want, to get the man you want, or to get enough likes on Instagram. I would encourage women of all ages to not get too caught up in making sure you are “eye candy”, but rather, something else entirely different: soul food. Be a good friend. Be encouraging. Be confident. Be yourself. Be someone that is good for other people’s souls.

Don’t be eye candy, be soul food.


Haylee Lewis

I recently graduated from Harding University and am now back living in Kansas City, Missouri. I work as a museum educator- I give tours to kids and let them touch 100 year old is the coolest job ever! When I am not at a museum or in a classroom, I am probably day-dreaming about owning my own bakery, cheering on my Kansas City Royals (World Series Champs!!), or playing cards with my hilarious family. I am a firm believer in the Good News, good people, and good food. If you want to see more pictures of me, my man, and my basset hound, follow me on Instagram: @caribouleww.