Today for breakfast, I had a bagel with cream cheese from Dunkin’ Donuts. I had a sandwich for lunch, but I chose fruit salad as a side rather than having a bag of chips. For dinner, I splurged more than usual, and I had a margarita. I know, crazy right? I went to the gym the other day and I swam a mile, alternating between freestyle and backstroke. For all the non-swimmers out there, that was 72 laps in a 25-meter lap pool. I weighed myself yesterday, and I had lost 3 pounds.
Okay. So, right now, pause. Who are you picturing? Am I skinny? Am I tall? What do I look like to you?
Would you be surprised if I told you that I was 5’2”, 238 pounds, and I wear a size 15 pant?
When you read that sentence, did you go back and re-analyze the first paragraph? Did you say to yourself, “wow, a 240 pound girl can swim a mile?” Or, was it more like, “Well, she had a bagel AND a margarita… no wonder she’s fat.”
You’re right. I am fat. I shouldn’t have had a bagel for breakfast, and I definitely could have skipped the margarita. I am proud that I was able to swim a mile, but I know I should have gone more in the last week. The truth is, I hate my body, and I have been trying to lose weight since I was 8.
When I was in 3rd grade, I took the bus to school every day. I had three stops between my house and the group of guys who tortured me. As soon as they got on, they would surround me.
“Stop looking at us, fatty.”
“You are disgusting. Nobody will ever have a crush on you.”
“You should call 1-800-JENNY.”
Nobody stopped them. I shriveled, and each bus ride made me smaller and smaller. I tried sitting up front, but that didn’t work. I moved to the back, but that made it worse. I was trapped.
For the next several years, I wore the same outfit every single day: a baggy sweatshirt, jeans, converse and my hair pulled tightly back from my face. On a school field trip in 7th grade, I had to go back to the hotel early because I got so hot that I couldn’t stand any longer. My teacher told me that if I took off my sweatshirt, I would feel better. I was so afraid of what people would say about my weight that I would have rather passed out in a hotel room alone than take my sweatshirt off in public.
Today, I am still fighting with myself. I question every single thing I put in my mouth. I go to the gym rather than watch TV when I want to have a lazy-day because I consider myself a piece of gelatin attached to the couch if I sit too long. I think about how fat I am at least 3 times per day. The torments of the other 8 year olds still haunt me, and I still believe that nobody will love me because I’m fat. Relatives ask me politely if I’m “doing anything to stay healthy.” Friends give me the pity, “of COURSE you’ll find somebody. You just have to love yourself.” That IS true, and I AM working on that. But, the real truth is, it is harder to find love if you’re fat.
I am not alone in this, and that is a terrifying fact. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, in the United States alone, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some time in their life. That’s bad. But what’s worse? “40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat.”
Let me repeat that. About 50% of girls ages 6-12 are concerned about being fat. The number of women, ages 10-39 years old, diagnosed with bulimia tripled between 1988 and 1993.
Think of the 4 closest women in your life. Would you consider them fat, or overweight? Do you think they should lose some weight? You may not. But, at least two of them think about being too fat. Every. Single. Day.
Where does this come from? Why are we doing this to the women and men we love? How could our society be so cruel?
Fat Amy. Her real name is Rebel Wilson. She is famous for being the “fat funny girl.” Is it okay to laugh at her because she laughs at herself? Amy Schumer was told to lose weight for her new movie. She did, and she looked like the first woman close to my size that I could relate to in a film. Even after she lost weight, she coincidentally played a role that required her to be an alcoholic woman who has sex with lots of men and eats junk food for every meal.
What about Melissa McCarthy? Is it okay to give her a sandwich to use as a sex toy in a movie because she’s fat? I’m fat, and never, not once have I thought about using a sandwich during my most intimate moments. You may laugh, but what you are laughing at is years and years of their pain. It’s not funny.
Who told people that it was okay to judge somebody’s body because of the way it looks? Who told people that it was okay to look at me with disgust when I order a cheeseburger, but smile politely when I order a salad? Who told people that it was okay to tell an eight year old that she needed to try a dieting site?
Body shaming is a cycle of disastrous behavior that needs to end. Yes, I am fat. Yes, I do need to lose weight. But yes, I am trying. Yes, I am going to the gym. Yes, I am eating more salad than burgers. But that is MY decision, nobody else’s. Next time you see somebody who is overweight, tell him or her they’re beautiful. Don’t tell them they’d be “so beautiful if they lost a few pounds.” Don’t tell them that they look like they’ve lost weight. Just tell them they are beautiful, and that you are proud to know them. Say that to yourself every single day, too. Because we are all beautiful, and everybody deserves to hear it. No matter what “size” jeans you wear, or what you had for breakfast.
A bagel does not and will no longer define how beautiful we are.