My Plus Size Journey // thoughts on being overweight + dealing with rude people.
Let’s start out by saying I’m not advocating an unhealthy lifestyle. I feel like every time a blogger speaks out about accepting her body exactly how it is, this is like the first thing people bring up. "You shouldn't be advocating an unhealthy lifestyle." "How dare you influence people to be fat." “Um, but what about your health?” As much as these statements are almost true, they are completely off-base. Because you're only asking fat people about these things. Right? People don't walk up to a slim person and say "Excuse me, you shouldn't be advocating such an unhealthy lifestyle. Clearly, you're anorexic." That sounds completely absurd because you can't possibly look at a person and tell if they're healthy or not (unless you're psychic or a doctor). You don't know their story. You don't know how they eat during the day. There is literally no evidence of that on their body. This brings us to my point. Fat people CAN be healthy. You don't know if they're on a health/fitness journey or not. You don't know how much weight they've lost so far. You don't know if they're eating clean or counting calories or spending hours in the gym. BUT EVEN IF THEY AREN'T working toward health and fitness, it is still not your business to tell them how to live their life. Would you walk up to a bodybuilder in the gym and say "I'm sorry, but you're advocating an unhealthy lifestyle. You clearly push yourself too far in the gym, take steroids, and eat nothing but carbs and protein." THAT'S JUST SO CRAZY. You would never do that because you would never assume you know what that person does behind closed doors. So to everyone who has found themselves privately or publicly judging a fat person - stop it. We are humans who deserve respect just like any other human being.
Alright, now let’s go back to the year 2010. We'll dive into my story and hopefully reveal the danger that comes with commenting on a person's weight. I was 14 years old, living with 3 girls in the house, a father who had a love-hate relationship with crash dieting and comfort eating, and a highly competitive best friend. I was also taking a high school class on the psychology of bulimia and other eating disorders - ironic really. I decided that I hated puking more than I hated being fat. So I opted to skip meals, count the calories of my salad, and work out as often and for as long as possible. If my mom couldn’t take me to the gym, I would bum rides from my highly competitive best friend. We actually both struggled with body image, so we would often work out together and push each other to our limits.
It’s sad to look back on my life then. I wish I could go back to that 14-year-old girl and show her how beautiful she was. I wish I could show her how nutrition mattered more than working out all day. I wish I could silence the well-intentioned people who complimented her weight loss - unknowingly enflaming the disorder. I wish I could hold her hand as she battled physically harming herself. All the tears she cried in the shower would have been known. All the stretch marks on her ass and stomach would be counted with love instead of a razor blade. The voices in her head would be hushed. The counted calories would be forgotten. She would be free to read and daydream and write - without the weight of self-hate on her shoulders.
Let’s fast forward to now. I’ve scratched and clawed my way out of my disorders and I’m proud of the woman I am today. It wasn’t like one night I went to sleep hating my body and physically harming myself, to the next morning realizing I was beautiful. (LOL to the people who actually think it’s that simple.) I didn’t actually stop starving myself until I was almost 19. I slowly worked myself back into eating when I was 18, but I emphasize slowly. There were still days were all I ate was guacamole and tortilla chips. I didn’t fully heal from my obsession with working out until I was 18. Lastly, I didn’t actually like my body until I was 22 (last year). This is also the year I weighed in at the heaviest I’ve ever been in my entire life. This year, I’m in love with my body. I can actually say I’m the girl who walks by storefront windows and checks herself out! It’s almost embarrassing to admit if it weren’t for knowing my history. Meghan Trainor sure got it right when she sang, “I thank God every day, that I woke up feelin' this way! I can't help lovin' myself, and I don't need nobody else. If I was you, I'd wanna be me too.”
Unfortunately, it’s not all walking on sunshine and making kissy faces in the mirror. You wouldn’t actually believe the number of people who private message me with "good intentions". I've gotten unsolicited messages about crash diet plans I should follow. I've gotten virtual strangers asking me to try their weight loss supplements. But the worst of all is all the comments (in person and publicly online) I get from extended family members. They LITERALLY make comments about the weight they’ve personally gained while expecting me to say “Oh my god, me too - HATE IT.” One relative even took it so far as to pinch the fat on my waist and say “Oh I’ve gained quite a bit of weight myself.” *gesturing to her own spare tire* “When ya get to be my age everything slows down. I’m not sure what your excuse is!” Then she dared to wink at me - like it was a joke. It's as if everybody just assumes because I'm fatter than I've been in the past, that I automatically hate myself and wish I was skinny when I wake up tomorrow.
I'm sorry but whaaaat? I don't know who they think they are, but I freaking love my body. My curves, my stretch marks, my curly brown hair, my pastel green eyes, my pale skin...my body has carried me through hell and back. My heart beats every moment of every day. My lungs breathe without being forced. My brain holds information, and memories, and love for others. Every inch of who I am is wrapped up in this beautiful package and I am grateful. I am grateful because I could have ended it all so many different times, and yet somehow I still found the strength (2 Samuel 22:33) to carry on.
So I’m sorry... when did I ever give these people permission to make comments about my body? I haven’t even seen these “family members” in years. They know nothing of my battle with eating disorders. They know nothing of my hormonal imbalance, or infertility, or the physical pain I feel every day. (Not because of my weight, but because my body is predisposed to health conditions that I'm currently working to deal with. The weight is actually a result of these conditions, FYI. But does that even matter?)
Let me say it again for the people in the back… it doesn’t matter WHY I’m fat. YOU DON’T GET TO HAVE AN OPINION. Because truth be told, those types of people just want to gossip about me or feel better about themselves or project their own insecurities onto me. Do you wanna know how I know that? It's because anyone who actually cared about my health and well-being wouldn’t be talking about my weight randomly...first of all, they would have a close relationship with me. Someone who I’ve probably already shared my health concerns with. So in this specific case, they would ask questions like “How have you been feeling lately?” or “How is your PCOS?” or “How have yoga and meditation been going for you?” these are all well-meaning, supportive, and comfortable questions to ask a friend that you’ve built a relationship with. But if you haven’t built a relationship with this person where you know these types of questions to ask them, then zip.your.lips proverbial rude person. It is not an option. Forcing a negative opinion down someone’s throat is not only highly offensive, but it’s wrong. Especially if you know nothing about this person’s story.
This ties hand in hand with making comments about weight in any situation. It is not anyone's place to be “sad for them”. It is no one's place to be “concerned for their health”. It is no one's place to “worry about their children”. We do not know why this individual is overweight, we do not know how hard they’ve tried to lose the weight, therefore we do not get to comment to them or about their weight. End of story. We wouldn’t appreciate a stranger making comments about our life when they know nothing about us, right? So why do fat people suddenly have fewer privacy rights than skinny people? It's time to stop playing God.
Okay. I know I got pretty harsh there, but unfortunately, I need people to hear this and allow it to resonate inside of them. Let’s take a minute to say that I adore most of the people who have approached me about my weight. They are good people who didn’t knowingly intend me harm. I also adore most of the people that I’ve heard make ugly comments about other fat people. The problem isn’t in the person, it’s in what they’ve been conditioned to believe is acceptable. Gossip and negative opinions about people have been spread around like they’re no big deal. But I’m here to tell people that they are a big deal. It’s a form of bullying... and if not bullying it is the foundation for teaching someone how to bully. You never know who’s listening. If we refuse to allow these thoughts into our head, then suddenly we’re free to see that person with love - seeing them for their heart, instead of their appearance.
Moral of the story here is that fat people aren’t any less human than a skinny or fit person. In fact, most people are battling their weight because of a pre-existing health condition. They didn’t ask for it like so many think they did. Some people have made poor decisions in regard to food, yes. Please don't think I'm misunderstanding that. But that's none of our business to judge. Those are their life choices, and the judgemental gossip has to stop. So just know that it’s none of your business, and move on with your life.
For the sake of full disclosure: I’m on a health journey of my own. I’m super excited to document my progress and raise awareness of conditions that many people don’t fully understand. But I'm anxious that by openly sharing my health journey, people will take this as an open invitation to cross boundaries and make assumptions about me and the state of my self-esteem. I’m sure as a byproduct of getting balanced I will lose some weight gradually... but that’s just a side effect for me. I’m more concerned with my fertility, autoimmune system, and the strength of my body than the size of my pants. I'm excited to see how my body will change, but I am not expecting a lot. I've been a bigger girl for a lot of my life. Naturally, I am tall and broad and curvy - and I love it. I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not even for all the nasty comments suddenly ending.