I’ve been thinking a lot lately about body image and how, in this society, thin is beautiful. Ironically, the larger you are, the more invisible you become. After gaining a ton of weight over the last few years, I have noticed how differently people treat me. Not only is it strangers- men have given me significantly less attention- but also family and friends. Not so much the good friends, but especially family. I understand the concern if, every time you see me, a few months passed, I’m a little bigger. There are health concerns that go along with weight gain, I get it. But the fact that I’m bigger doesn’t give you, or anyone else, a fucking license to stalk my eating habits and jab at me with insults.
I can’t say that I’ve always dealt with weight issues, that I was a fat kid who grew up being teased and tortured. Perhaps this is what makes this “big” experience so curious to me. Throughout high school, I was always on sports teams, lifting weights, and always thin. I was used to a certain standard of receiving compliments on my appearance that continued as long as my thinness did. I read a couple of Margaret Cho’s blogs last night on beauty that really spoke to me. I came across the blog after watching her stand-up show, “Beautiful.” I had noticed that she lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw her, and because I myself would like to lose weight, I decided to google her.
Apparently she lost about 40 pounds by dancing and eating whatever she wanted, just limiting the portions- but this is beside the point. I completely identified with what Cho said:
“So much weird stuff would stay in my brain – the numerous times people asked me if I was pregnant/with child/when I was due/if I had a thyroid problem/if I had ever considered bariatric surgery (seriously). Also – there was so much unsolicited weight loss advice! Bitch I don’t care! Don’t tell me what you do unless I ask you to tell me.”
Exactly. It’s no one’s fucking business to offer their advice if I don’t ask for it. It’s no one’s business to comment on my weight gain or what caused it unless I offer up the info.
My parents worried that I was going to get diabetes and kept pressing me to start exercising more. When I had a graduation party at my parents’ house (receiving my Master’s degree), my dad got mad at me the following day for having a piece of my graduation cake. Oh, how preposterous!!! He told me, “If you keep on eating like this, you’re just going to keep on getting bigger and bigger and BIGGER!” I told him that I regularly didn’t eat cake, and did because it was my graduation party from SDSU. Hello! Of course I was going to indulge. He didn’t believe me and said so. Looking back at this, I’m angry at myself for even thinking that I had to explain my actions to anyone, even my parents. If I’m not asking you for diet or exercise advice, don’t fucking give it. It’s not welcome.
Body image gets into your brain until you value yourself solely based on what other people think of you. This is asinine at best. People are always going to find something wrong with you. Basing your self-worth on what everyone else says is going to lead you down an ominous path of self-loathing. No good can come from this. I’m coming to a point where I’m just going to say a big, fat “fuck you” to everyone who says I’m fat or reminds me of my “better” days when I was thin. I’m tired of feeling unworthy of love or respect simply because my body is noticeably bigger. I can’t reproach myself and thereby expect that disdain to motivate me toward healthiness. While watching an episode of “Big Sexy” the other day, one of the women declared (and I paraphrase), “If you think that all big girls want to be thin, you’re wrong.” Beautiful is what you feel about yourself. Not how someone else labels you.
Returning to Margaret Cho’s blog, she observed the following after her weight loss: “I am overall kind of resentful, like why is it better now, why couldn’t you say nice things to me before? I am not a different person… what is it that makes me so acceptable now?” I am resentful that people have valued me based on my physical appearance, and the stubborn side of me kind of wants to stay voluptuous just to prove to people that I am gorgeous no matter what pant size I wear.
Thinking back, there is a clear pattern of how I have been viewed and treated: When I’ve been thin- in high school, college, and my mid twenties- people constantly complimented me (even on shit that doesn’t have to do with my weight- like my smile, nails, or eyebrows), and guys were always knocking on my door. But when I got into weightlifting and body building, the boys backed off, and family told me my muscles were too big. Even though my body mass index (BMI) registered super low (I had a very small amount of fat on my body), I wasn’t “small” enough. I eventually hurt my back lifting while doing reverse butterflies, pushing my limits a bit too far. I was forced to take a hiatus. Ironically, the more out of shape (and consequently, smaller) I got, people started saying complimenting me again. “You’re getting thin again!” they exclaimed, trying to cheer me on.
Nine years later, we come to the present day. I’ve lost more than twenty pounds since January, but I am still larger than I’d ever been before. Being newly single at the beginning of the year, I was flabbergasted by the lack of interest guys expressed to me. My sense of humor is still the same. I’m still as intelligent, creative, and interesting as I was before. And you know what? I think I’m still just as pretty. Apparently, however, the big boobs and big butt don’t work so well when they’re too big, and especially if they come with a bit of a pot belly. It’s like society is telling women- now, you can have curves, but just make sure they’re attached to a toothpick body. It’s disgusting.
Now comes the tricky part: I do want to lose weight, but I want to lose it for myself. I really do. I want to recognize that I am just as beautiful of a woman now as I would be forty pounds heavier, or forty pounds lighter. Who I am as a person is what matters, and not the number that registers on the scale every time I step on it. I want to feel healthier, freer, and stronger again. Psychologically, I know I have to prepare myself for the changes that will be ahead of me. There will surely be a reversion into the shallow compliments and regained acceptance for “appropriate” body size. As Margaret Cho stated, “When you adhere more to a socially ‘acceptable’ body, there’s something that attracts others more to you.” And this can take some adjustment. Just because your waist is smaller, you will no longer be ostracized in the face of common beauty. It’s unsettling. I am beautiful and acceptable now.