My friend, Malena posted this article over on Facebook & boy oh boy did it ever hit home. I hadn’t thought about this in a while but after reading this article, it opened a flood of memories.
I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life & have been fat-shamed more times than I’d like to admit. I know some of it was well-intentioned, but others were down-right cruel. Here are just a few examples of what I’ve heard:
“You have such a pretty face. It’s a shame you’re so chubby. If you just lost weight, you’d be a real looker” (Or some variation thereof. These are probably the words I heard most often, usually by a complete stranger.)
“Wow, not only do you look like a cow, you chew like one, too!” (Told to me by a fellow student in Jr. High, followed by almost daily tauntings for months of “Elsie, how’d you do it?” which was from a commercial with a cow named Elsie. He didn’t stop until I finally came home crying & my parents called the school principal.)
“He said you’d be the perfect girlfriend, but he would only date you if you lost weight.” (Regarding one of my best male friends, whom I adored & wanted our friendship to be more.)
“Your body is absolutely horrible!” (Told to me by a doctor.)
“How do you expect to find anyone to love you if you don’t lose weight?” (Told to me as a young adult by someone VERY close to me & probably the most hurtful & most damaging.)
Not once did anything anyone ever said inspire me to do anything about my weight. Instead it paralyzed me, made my hatred of myself & my body increase ten-fold, & made me want to simply curl up in a corner & die. I felt like I was worthless, so why even bother.
Trust me, when I was 300 lbs, I knew I was fat. I knew I was unhealthy. I knew what could happen. My self-esteem was so bad that I didn’t think I deserved to be happy, to be loved, to be treated well. I never truly enjoyed going out with my girlfriends because they were always hit on & had lots of boyfriends, but I was just the fat friend. I covered up my feelings & put on a smile & laughed. On the outside I seemed like a happy-go-lucky gal. I don’t think many people really knew how I felt deep down inside & how often I cried myself to sleep.
It took me years & years to work on my self-esteem (it was basically “fake it until you make it”), but the one thing that really made me start to work at losing weight wasn’t something someone said to me. It was the feeling of my discs rupturing in 2006. After experiencing such a debilitating injury & going through months of recovery, I finally knew that I had to get serious about doing something about my weight or else I’d end up in a wheel chair for the rest of my life. It helped that I had an extremely supportive doctor who didn’t judge me by my weight & try to shame me, for which I am extremely thankful. I honestly don’t think I would’ve made the necessary changes if she’d been an asshole like so many other doctors.
I’ve come a long way in the last 7 years, but I know I still have a long way to go. I’m not nearly as fat as I used to be, but I know I’m still fat & I don’t like it. I also know that no matter what I do, I may never be considered a “normal” weight, but at least I know I am the most fit I’ve ever been & am more fit than a lot of thin people. I will keep working at living a healthier life. Right now I’m trying to find the balance between being healthy vs. being obsessive & it’s a struggle. Will I ever find that happy medium?
Every once in a while I still find myself wondering if people are judging what’s in my shopping cart, what I order, or how I look & I hate it. I hate that all those words said to me years ago still resonate in my ears today & that the people who said those words have no idea what a poor effect they had on me. Hopefully as more people read articles like this & posts like mine, they will understand that fat shaming is not the answer.
This hit home for me too. The worst memory I have isn’t fat-shaming in the sense that Lesley writes about, but of being ridiculed for my weight. A few years ago, after running (yes, running) around Rice University, I stopped to take a break in a grassy area when a truck full of college guys slowed down in front of me and started mock-catcalling me. It was obvious that they thought it was soooo funny to pretend to find a fat girl sexy. I felt like shit after that, and even worse for allowing them to make me feel that way.