It’s taken me a couple of weeks to write this post. I needed to make sure I was writing from my heart and not from a place of anger and frustration. Honestly, I have struggled with weight since I was in middle school. There are many factors that have played into this over the years. Some of it has been what others have said and/ or done, others have been my own choices, both positive and negative.
A few weeks back I had two encounters within a week that left me angry and in tears. The first happened in a local grocery store. A lady approached me and started to share about a weight loss program she had created and the new store she was opening on the north side of town. Sounds harmless; right? Wrong! In her spiel she told me how she lost 93 lbs on her program and she could help me “lose weight as well.” Y’all my 8 year old daughter was standing beside me through the whole thing. I was angry, embarrassed and wanted the aisle to open up and swallow me whole. Whether she intended to or not, she fat shamed me in front of my daughter and sent her the wrong message. Her words also went against the language we use as far as health and fitness go in our home. I will also say she lost a potential customer.
The second incident happened in a private, health FB page I belong to. In a post a lady bragged about how she judges people based on what’s in their buggies. She also openly admitted to judging those she passed in the grocery store, along with fighting the desire to have “honest” conversations with parents with “fat/ obese kids.” The thing that made my stomach churn more than it already was is that so many other women agreed with her. They felt she should speak up and if maybe they all spoke up, then they could in turn save the world from fat people. It was horrifying. It was a moment I couldn’t respond. I had many responses I could have typed, but I kept scrolling.
One incident was directed towards me and the other wasn’t, but both still reduced me to tear. Y’all, I am NOT a crier. It has to be bad for the tears to come. The tears partly came out of anger at their words, both spoken and typed. The other tears fell as a result of a huge wave of shame that rolled over me.
I know what I need to do. I know what to eat. I know how much exercise I need. I have a minor in Human Performance. (In some colleges/ universities this is the same as Exercise Science). I also spent 9 years working in the recreation and fitness field before starting seminary. Oh yeah, the whole my body being a temple thing didn’t help any of this. Christians are experts at the whole guilt thing. Wish I could say I was kidding, but I’m not.
Total transparency here. At my heaviest, while pregnant with my youngest, I was pushing 200. At my smallest, I was in the low to mid 120’s. Most of my adult life I have fluctuated between the 2 numbers. The cycle goes like this: Exercise, eat right, maintain for a few months to a year or so. Slowly start to let diet and exercise go. Throw diet and exercise out the window, eat all of the things and send the “skinny” clothes to Goodwill. Get frustrated and start over. I know I can’t be the only one who falls into this cycle.
There were times when I was at my heaviest I was good with being “the fat girl.” I know how to play this role. I know what’s expected. Then when I’ve lost the weight and can wear what I call “cute clothes” I love looking at pictures of myself and feel proud that I am no longer the “fat girl” in the group. It’s fun to be the “cute one.” It’s fun to have people comment on how wonderful you look.
This is what one of my seminary professors would call “stinkin’ thinkin’.” How much of what society says plays into this particular tape in our head? How many times do we pick up magazines and see what is expected of women? Most of the women’s, fitness and running magazines show women with 6 pack abs and cut arms. Their thighs don’t touch. They are considered beautiful. There are so many diets, exercise routines, pills and shakes to choose from that should make this whole healthy and skinny thing easy. I’m here to tell you it’s anything but. All of our bodies are different. What works for one person may not work for another person. This fact can add to our frustration. As I look at all of the media around me and options and opinions it’s no wonder eating disorders are so rampant and starting earlier and earlier in our kids.
When I look at what it means to truly be healthy and comfortable in your own skin, it’s not about a number on a scale. It’s not about the number on the tag of your clothes. It’s about being able to go about your daily life and not being winded by tasks. It’s about being able to chase your kids around the backyard or the park and not feel like you’re going to need someone to hand you an oxygen mask. It’s about being able to sit through a sermon on your body being a temple without praying the Lord will look at all of the other good things in your life and letting this one thing slide. It’s being able to go out to eat with your husband or your friends and not worry others are judging you because of what you ordered. It’s about being confident to go buy new jeans or a dress without having a meltdown in the dressing room. (We all get a pass on swim suit shopping because that’s a whole other monster). It’s about being able to look in the mirror and be content with who you are.
The crazy thing is I can give you the whole paragraph above, but I can’t tell you how to get there. I’d be a multimillionaire if I could. We all have different backgrounds. We all have different issues we’ve overcome or are working to overcome. Our hurts and hangups are different. I don’t have any of the answers. The only thing I can tell you is to be kind to others. Don’t judge their appearances because you have no idea what they may be walking. Watch what you say in the presence of your daughters, nieces and other special little girls in your life. Don’t teach them the same unhealthy thought patterns you have. Most of all be kind to yourself. Seek and ask for help when needed. Find an accountability partner if possible. While this will sound like the correct Christian thing to say, pray the Lord will help you in this area. We can’t do it in our own strength. While they are health issues the lead to issues with weight, many times it boils down to an issue in our own hearts. Only HE can deliver and redeem whatever that issue may be.
In the meantime, I’m here whether you need an ear to listen or an invitation to come join me in the gym. We can do this together.
2 thoughts on “Body Image and Expectations”
I love this post! I am so passionate about this same topic! I am so sorry you had those encounters. Unfortunately, most people in our society do not understand why those actions are hurtful. Our society has lost sight of health being so much more important than a number on the scale! My mission is to raise my daughter in a home that teaches her that her worth is not attached to her appearance. It sounds like you are looking to do the same thing, I’m glad I came across your post. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
I feel your pain and anger. There’s so many anti-bullying programs out there for children I almost think that some adults should take a step back and look at their own actions, bullying isn’t just for the young and adults need to be reminded of that. The fact that anyone said anything to you is heartbreaking. You’re a beautiful soul in and out, remember that always!