On a social media website this week I saw someone post, “I hate my body. It jiggles.”
The poster tried to LOL the comment away as a joke, but I can’t laugh at that. Reading comments like that makes me unbelievably sad.
I was raised in a house where the word ‘fat’ was thrown about too easily and I grew up uber-conscious of my weight.
In high school I set arbitrary and unhealthy food rules for myself. I became obsessed with the number of fat grams I ate in a day.
At my worst I gave myself a goal of no more than six grams of fat in a 24 hour period.
The number six was not chosen for any health reasons. I really wanted to eat zero fat grams in a day. I just couldn’t figure out how to get down that far without feeling like shit.
If I went over six grams of fat I punished myself with workout videos at home. Sometimes until I almost passed out.
I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know this could be a form of anorexia. I just knew I didn’t want to be ‘fat’.
I left the word ‘fat’ behind when I moved out of my parent’s house (I don’t use it in my house to this day), but I didn’t stop thinking about it.
The first time in my life I truly gained weight was when I was pregnant with my daughter. Gaining fifty pounds was a tough pill to swallow. For nine months I beat myself up every single day for gaining so much weight.
I weighed 200 pounds when I gave birth to her.
After I gave birth I breastfed for a year. That’s when I learned the flip side of being ‘too fat’. I found out what it was like to be ‘too thin’.
I ate like a horse when I breast fed and I still dropped to 135 lbs. For those averse to math, that’s a 65 pound loss. When my daughter turned one I was only four pounds heavier than I’d been in high school.
I’m 5’7”, so 135 doesn’t look like a whole hell of a lot of meat.
People I worked with began commenting on my weight. In retrospect I don’t know why they thought that was okay, and I also don’t know why I allowed it. No one should be commenting on your weight. It’s rude and hurtful, even when it’s sugarcoated with caring.
Every day I heard, “You need to eat, Meghan.” I heard, “You’re too thin.” I even heard, “You look sick.”
Even if it was meant to be concern, the comments hurt. They didn’t see the pantry full of food I kept at my desk. They didn’t see that I ate almost constantly, probably in excess of 3,000 calories a day.
Their comments made me self-conscious in a way I’d never experienced.
I’d heard of being ‘too fat’ of course. That one’s hard to escape.
Every time we turn on the television we’re assaulted by cures for being ‘too fat’. Workout videos and pills and surgeries and, and, and. . .
But being ‘too thin’? Wasn’t that supposed to be better? Was there something wrong with me?
After I finished breastfeeding my weight returned to my normal 145 – 150.
A few years later I had my son, and I worried about gaining 50 pounds with that pregnancy, too.
“The weight never comes off with the second one,” people said.
You’d think I’d have learned to stop listening by now, but no.
I focused on eating better foods while pregnant with my son. I ate more fruits and vegetables, desperate to not to get so big. And this time I didn’t gain 50 lbs.
I gained 45.
Was all that worry and self-hate worth 5 pounds?
I breastfed my son for a year with the same results. I dropped weight like a marathoner on a lettuce diet. And the same comments came again.
For some reason, it’s socially acceptable to criticize women who are deemed ‘too thin’. Let me tell you, it is not acceptable. It only hurts.
You know what all this taught me? It taught me that this is just the way my body works.
I gain 45 – 50 pounds while pregnant and I drop 60 – 65 when I’m breast feeding.
Is this how everyone’s body will work?
So why did I spend so much time comparing myself to what others thought I should look like?
Fast forward from 2008 to today. I see a very different person when I stand naked in front of a mirror today.
I’ve just finished breast cancer treatment. I’ve been through chemo and radiation and a single mastectomy. My hair is growing out but I’m still very aware of how hard it is to be a bald woman in Texas’ big-hair culture.
Do I love what I see in the mirror?
Do I love the short regrowth of hair on my head and my rediscovered eyebrows?
Do I love the 15 pounds of chemo weight that I put on because for six months I could only eat my husband’s barbecue ribs and ice cream without wanting to throw up?
Do I love my mismatched breasts, one sagging and kid ravaged, the other with a six inch scar in place of a nipple that sticks out unnaturally (think ‘bad porn star’) because of the tissue expander inside?
Do I love this wrecked and ravaged and beat to shit body of mine?
You’re fucking-A right I do.
You know why?
Because I’m alive.
I see things I want to fix but make no mistake: I love my body because I love my life.
There is no separating your body and your life. One does not exist without the other.
I hear people say “I could be happy if I lost 10, 15, 20 pounds,” as if a scale determines our self-worth. I just smile and nod, even though I know that won’t make them happy.
I hear people say “I used to be a Medium. I don’t want to buy a Large size top.” As though the tag on their clothing actually means something and isn’t just the fashion industry being a colossal mind fuck.
I hear (and read) people say, “I hate my body. It jiggles.” As though we don’t all have flaws.
Instead of hating our bodies, instead of shaming others, instead of shaming ourselves, how about this:
What if we all took a challenge to love our bodies in whatever state they are in?
Just take a second and picture that. How liberating would that be?
If I can do it with my scars and my mismatched breasts surely you can do it with a jiggle.
Sure you might want to change some things. Some of you want to lose 20 lbs. Some of you want to gain 20 lbs.
I’ve been both of you. I know you think putting on or taking off weight is the key to loving yourself.
The key to loving yourself is between your ears, not some number on a scale.
If you see things about your body that bother you, then work on those things in the healthiest manner possible. Exercise. Eat healthier foods. Stop saying, “I can’t.”
Don’t do these things because you think you’ll find happiness and self-worth at the other end of the scale.
Do these things and make these changes because you love yourself, because you love your life and because you want to keep on living it.
Stop calling each other fat. Stop calling yourself fat. Stop using the word fat.
Just. . . stop.
Life is too damn short to waste your time this way.
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