How do I feel about looking like the actors in movies playing the ugly, undesirable, lazy, or stupid characters? Or seeing a physical representation of myself on the news, with all the faces blurred out, as they discuss an epidemic in our society? Yup, I am a fat person. I really am fat; significantly overweight. One of the first impressions anyone has of me when they see me is my size. My fat morphs my face, and makes my eyes squint when I smile. My stomach is round, making me touch the table when I sit at a restaurant. My arms stick out from my body, even when they are relaxed. There is just no way around it. How does that feel? Honestly, it feels a little dehumanizing.
I wasn’t always this size. I had a chubby phase in elementary school, where I was teased and ostracized. I came to see myself as the fat girl, even though I naturally thinned out in junior high. I suddenly had friends, and was praised for how I looked. I didn’t have weight issues again until college, when I had a boyfriend who could take me out to eat. I slowly gained weight, but didn’t take much notice until it was a significant difference. Disgusted but hopeful, I started counting calories, lost weight, kept it off. I was proud, until I hit a stressful period in life and started gaining again. This cycle has repeated itself again and again for many years.
The thing is, it’s not about the disappointment when the weight loss doesn’t stick, or the frustration when I am back to a bigger size. The exhausting, debilitating, dehumanizing aspect of all of this is that I never feel good enough unless I look a certain way. I can’t feel happy with my body unless I’m thin. If my looks really don’t matter (and this is a tough one, because it sounds so harsh to well-meaning people), why do I suddenly get compliments only when I’ve lost weight? Nobody talks about how great I look in my new jeans I bought because I went up two sizes.
We are told to love and accept ourselves as women for who we are on the inside. How do you do that when you are a category, a statistic, and an eyesore? Most flaws are less obvious. Being fat is impossible to hide when you are literally the biggest person in a group. It is impossible not to notice, and it makes me feel like people don’t see ME. People notice my body first, not my humor, my passion, my interests. Even worse, weight is something fixable. If I ate less, I wouldn’t look like this. It sounds so simple, even to myself.
My wakeup call was when I stopped to think how I would want my daughter to feel about herself if she was overweight. It would just kill me if she avoided pictures, old friends, social functions because she felt embarrassed over how she looked. Why in the world is it then okay for me to feel this way about myself? Why do we women apologize for how we look, but then expect our daughters to love themselves, and not to view their imperfections in one area as the final judgment of their worth?
I don’t think societal standards of beauty are going to change any time soon. I think it has to be ME who changes. I’m so sick of feeling bad. I’m so sick of feeling like there is something wrong with me because I’m overweight. I’m choosing not to care, to whatever extent I can manage it. I will quit apologizing, I will quit feeling embarrassed. Those of any importance won’t care how I look anyway. If I lose weight, it will be for health, not to fit in. Those in the same boat as me, I hope you will join me. Those who can’t relate, I hope you will see ME, not just my weight. To those in society who will still judge, I no longer give you power to make me feel defective. Your opinion never should have mattered to me in the first place.