I’m your stereotypical short and fat person. I’m 5’2”, currently a size 22, and currently weighing somewhere around the 17st mark. At my biggest I tipped the scales at almost 20st and was a size 26, and at my smallest I weighed just under 14st and just about squeezed into a size 18. There, the vital statistics. A bunch of numbers that are usually a closely guarded secret because they reveal that I’ve never been thin, I’ve never been what society deems acceptable, and therefore those numbers reflect failure and shame.
And boy have I felt failure and shame:
– I was put on my first diet at the tender age of five years old.
– I received daily jibes and teases from my dad and brother because of the size of my thighs/hips/bum/insert body part of your choice.
– As a teen I had to wear gruesome, stuffy clothes that only your Aunt Mildred would be seen in, because fat people weren’t worthy of nice clothes, and I had the embarrassment of school clothes never going up to my size, because the notion of young fat people was unfathomable
As an adult things haven’t been much better:
– I’ve had people openly treat me as lesser because of my size
– Doctors dismiss everything you say because your fat and that’s the cause of everything. I had a two stone ovarian cyst go unnoticed for TEN YEARS because doctors just saw I was fat, and that was that
– It’s socially acceptable to openly mock me because I am fat and therefore not an actual person
– On a busy bus people have made a beeline to the last available seat next to me and then chosen to stand once they’ve realised it’s next to a fat person
– Not being taken seriously because as a fat person I have no validity or credibility
– Having people frequently tell/remind me that I’m fat, and how bad you are for being so
– Unable to do certain activities (such as skydive) or buy certain items (such as sports equipment – oh the irony) due to weight restrictions
– The embarrassment of stepping on scales only for the scales not to go up to what you weigh
– Being made to feel like a bad mother for being overweight and having a child, as well as there being next to no maternity clothing available in plus sizes (I mean, come on, who’d sleep with a fat person…)
People are so quick to point out if you’re even slightly overweight. Especially mothers. They seem to be the worst culprits at all. And everyone is quick to voice their opinion on just how wrong being overweight is. A lot of people were recently outraged by Jamelia expressing her thoughts that people over a size 20 shouldn’t be able to easily access clothing because we are unhealthy and should be shamed into losing weight. But you know what? She’s as much of a victim as all of us. She is simply a true believer of all that society has engrained in our minds – that being overweight is the embodiment of everything bad and awful in life; it’s the worst thing you can possibly be. That’s what we’ve all been led to believe.
The thing is though, people seem to only focus on weight in relation to physical health. They all seem to completely bypass the fact that forcing the issue of BEING THE RIGHT SIZE has a huge, negative impact on mental health. The consequences of which can be long lasting and devastating.
Few people are fat by choice. For most their fat is a physical representation of every time they’ve been hurt, rejected, felt unloved or felt worthless. Making us feel bad for our size is only going to make us feel bad about ourselves.
For me, this led to developing an eating disorder in childhood. I have Binge Eating Disorder. I’m also an Emotional Eater. Of course, a vast amount of people are still under the impression that such disorders are simply a glorified title and handy excuse to justify being overweight. But let me tell you, Binge Eating Disorder is as dark and harrowing as any other eating disorder. It isn’t overeating, nor is it comfort eating.
Comfort eating is when you’re feeling crap and eating a few of your favourite treats will help make you feel better; Emotional Eating is turning to food as a coping mechanism because food is the ONLY comfort in your life. Emotional Eating can also be eating when you’re happy because food is the only thing you have to turn to, in good times and bad.
In contrast, Binge Eating is eating to fill a vast, emotional void and emptiness, deep within. Binge Eating is where you desperately shovel food in to try to block the pain and fill the emotional void. Binge Eating is where you eat until you can’t move or breath, and then eat some more.
Of course I try not to binge, but trying to eat sensibly and healthily makes me unbearably miserable. I never feel better for it, physically or mentally. It just feels like torture. I can usually last 3-4 months eating right before I crack. I feel trapped and desperate and have to get out. It always reaches the point of choosing between becoming increasingly suicidal or reverting to eating what I like, when I like. So the latter wins out. Yes, food and eating can make me suicidal. That’s how deep my issues surrounding food run. I am a prisoner and slave to food.
I’ve spent my life battling with my weight. Never feeling good enough because the right number never showed on the scales, because I didn’t look right, because I couldn’t fit in normal dress sizes, the look of disappointment and shame in my mother and grandmother’s eyes, the relentless mockery, and that overwhelming belief that if only I was size such and such, everything would be okay. I was going to be thin by 16, then 18, then 21. Now I’m in my 30s and I’m still fat. I never made it; I’ve never been a success in either my family’s or society’s eyes.
I used to think that thin/average size people couldn’t feel any of this, that they didn’t, couldn’t know the miserable existence of being the wrong weight. I thought they had no right to complain about being fat or feeling insecure about their body, when to my eye they look perfect. But society has enforced such extreme, unrealistic expectations, that almost all of us are buckling under the pressure to look right. We’re all insecure, we’re all striving for something that, for the majority of us, is unattainable. It’s affecting all of us, to dangerous degrees, and it needs to change.
Once upon a time, curves used to be admired and accepted, but now we’ve gone to the other extreme. This has led to generations of women hurting and feeling worthless. We have to make EVERY size acceptable and desirable. We need to start seeing people, not sizes.
We as women need to make this change because, unintentionally, we perpetuate the problem every time we compare our figure to someone else’s, or jokingly bitch about how amazing someone else looks. It’s easy to judge someone when you don’t know them, but think about how you view your sister or your best friend – you see THEM, not their size or their looks. We need to try and see past the surface in everyone. Let’s stop labelling, categorising, and judging. Let’s just see open hearts and beautiful souls.
We also all need to think about how we use language relating to body image, weight and size. When we flippantly say things like, “Oh god, I’ve gone up to a size 16”, we’re instantly making people of a size 16 and above feel even worse about who they are and the size they are. A size 16 may be bad TO YOU, but it is NOT bad.
Most importantly, try to love the body you have. It’s YOURS and you’re the only one who has it. Try to appreciate it and find the beauty in it. It’s there, I promise, it’s in all of us. Love it because there’s someone out there desperate, dying, to have what you have naturally. That woman you think has the perfect body? She probably starves herself all day, and cries all night trying to achieve it, and still thinks she’s hideous and fat.
So instead of comparing ourselves to others, wishing we had what someone else has, and analysing everyone else’s body, let’s start complimenting and appreciating.
BE GENEROUS, NOT ENVIOUS.
Tell women they’re beautiful. Tell people you know, tell people you don’t know. Give them a compliment, leave them a note.
We can’t have any more generations growing up hating themselves because of what dress size they are or aren’t. It’s time to start a revolution! Who’s with me?!