You would think being overweight wouldn’t be so hard with this obesity epidemic raging on. The Center For Disease Control estimates that 36.5 percent of adults in the US have obesity and that 70.7 percent of adults are either obese or overweight. But the truth of the matter is that being overweight is an entirely lonely experience. Rarely do friends and family members realize the extent of pain that’s endured on any given day.
I have been ashamed of my body since I was 9 years old. So I’m a 30-year veteran of this self-loathing that has gone unchecked during this last decade of my child-bearing and child-rearing era. I’ve never been thin, but as I’ve fluctuated between being “normal” on the BMI and “obese,” it has been nothing short of life-altering. Everyone has their weaknesses and battles, but it’s immensely more laborious when you’re overweight because your biggest failure is laid up in front of everyone to witness the second you’re in sight. As with anything else, being overweight is a highly individualized experience, and I’m sharing my own version of it with an attempt to cultivate compassion and mercy from within.
Fat for me is going to parties and not meeting any new people because rarely does a stranger want to strike up a conversation with someone who is wobbling on the cusp of obesity. Fat is watching people Snapchat and Instagram pictures with one another but never with you. Fat is the skinny girl telling you to wear bright red lipstick and you agreeably nodding along because how do you tell a size-two person that all you’re trying to do is divert attention from yourself and disappear? Fat is also cringing visibly when a picture of you is taken because you don’t want to be the person that’s captured in the image, the girl who is obviously trying so hard to hide her offending body behind others. Fat is spending 90 minutes getting ready to go somewhere and never getting complimented, no matter how hard you try. Fat is also staring at yourself in the mirror of a store’s dressing room, teary-eyed and crushed because in this room you are always 9 years old and struggling to fit in. Fat is trying not to grimace when a petite friend casually mentions she’s getting huge, as you try not to stare at your own thighs in silent comparison.
Fat is binding all your insecurities and feelings of self-worth into how your body looks and never wanting to leave the house or be seen again.
Fat is binding all your insecurities and feelings of self-worth into how your body looks and never wanting to leave the house or be seen again. Fat is the cashier at the grocery store who won’t make eye contact with you but was super chatty with the customer before. Fat is trying so hard to be easy and likable because you’re terrified of being “found out” by people who are kind enough not to see your weight. None of these things have to be related to your weight, but in my reality, they are. Everything is.
Body shaming is an interesting thing because no one can make you feel ashamed if you have expunged the feeling from within yourself. But so often I find the crux of most women’s shame comes from their body image, so I know I’m not battling anything extraordinary. And yet it’s an extraordinary feeling when you get washed away in a surge of shame, and there is no escaping the belief that everything in life should be blamed on your weight. That is the control that I have given away. That is the shame that I have cultivated for myself.
So though there are many things daily that can continue to foster this shame, I have to go back toward compassion and mercy. These are generous gifts that I give away so easily but am deficient in providing for myself. I work to govern these thoughts and feelings, allowing mercy for my strengths and compassion for my weaknesses. The shame diminishes a bit more each day as I nurture gratitude for my incredibly capable body that deserves all the kindness in the world.