I really am struggling as I sit here, typing this blog entry. I was unsure if I even wanted to write about this topic because it is so personal, and leaves me feeling vulnerable. Yet, I have so many thoughts swirling in my mind and I feel I need to share this because I am sure others out there are struggling.
If there is diet, trust me, I have been on it! I have been overweight since I was a kid. I have always struggled with the famous gain weight/ lose weight YO-YO.
In the process, I lost a lot but I don’t mean the weight. I lost who I was as a person. I lost the love I had for myself; the self-esteem. I replaced it with hateful self-talk and isolation. I talked myself into thinking I was this person who could not go out of the house because I had to lose so much weight.
I only recently shared this with one close friend. She was floored and crying.
You see to the outside world I portray this confident woman. But, inside I felt like I was dying. Who I wanted to be, and what I looked like did not match.
I missed one of my best friend’s weddings because I could not bear to get into a dress and go out in public.
There were so many things I did not attend because I felt people would stare, or say something about my weight.
As I write this it sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it was true. Every word of it!
It is so easy for me to see the beauty in others. I would venture to say, most any women you spoke with, would tell you something she did not like about herself before she told you something great about herself. We are conditioned from an early age to focus on beauty. But, that’s societies construct of beauty. I do not think I have met anyone where I could not see some form of beauty.
If we do not find someone attractive, it does not mean that they are not attractive. Thank God the world consists of so much diversity.
Recently, my friend wrote a post where a man whom she did not know made this comment: “you should really lose weight”. She did not ask his opinion and was not engaged in any conversation. Yet, he felt it was okay in a public space to call her out on her own body. I couldn’t believe anyone would do such a thing. Literally, every response on her post was dismissing her.
It is one of the few “ISMs”, as I like to say, that is acceptable still in our society. Whether we call it FATISM or BEAUTYISM, it is tolerated, applauded and allowed – as if there is a certain way people should look.
Anti –Fat bias as written in Wikipedia: “refers to the prejudicial assumption of personality characteristics of a person being overweight. “
I recently deleted two social media “friends” who put up derogatory memes about people being overweight. I wrote them privately and told them how I felt. Everyone is entitled to post at will, but I do not have to be an audience for that type of discrimination.
I spent years thinking “when I lose that weight I will be worthy of ___________”; fill in any blank. When I lose weight…I will buy that house, I will wear those clothes, I will get in the pictures with my friends/family; I will marry that man, I will have those kids, etc.
I know so many people who live by the “WHEN I…” mentality. We forget to live in the now and enjoy who we are in the present and do whatever it is we love to do.
There is no right time. You can lose that 100 pounds, but inside, you are still the same person. It is a farce; we have to make our own happiness.
I spent YEARS telling my doctors that I barely eat, but I cannot keep this weight off… something must be wrong. Time and again the answer always was “LOSE WEIGHT, you will feel better”.
My hand hurts: “lose weight”.
I have a headache: “lose weight”
My fingernail hurts: “lose weight”
You get my point.
In fact; during the time my doctors kept saying “lose weight”, I was healthy. My lab work was in check and the reasons you would tell someone to lose weight were not an issue for me at all. My doctor would even say to me “If you were not overweight, I would not be telling you to do anything “.
It was the fact that they saw me and had no answers for what was wrong, so they simplified it by saying, “lose weight”.
It is important to be healthy. Before someone decides to jump in and comments something like: “you are healthier if you are at your ideal weight”. I am not advocating to not lose weight. However, weight is not the only factor in determining health.
I know this because it turned out my health issues has nothing to do with my weight. The tests concluded that I had a problem with my liver, a rare brain disorder which caused me to have no metabolism and Hashimoto’s thyroid disease (another weight-loss deterrent). All at once, I felt vindicated and completely distraught. They had missed every sign because they dismissed me due to my weight.
In the process of starting to accept my health issues and who I am, I realized that I had someone so important watching everything I said and did: my daughter.
I started on a journey of positive self-talk, accepting myself for who I am. I try to fill my kids with so much self-esteem that no one could poke a hole in that fierce self-love. It has to come from within; you cannot get it from outside sources.
I am far from being where I need to be in terms of self- acceptance. But, I have taken the first leap in starting that journey: accepting myself and by writing this blog entry. I don’t know where the journey will take me but, I am up for the adventure!
Deborah Levine-Powell is a psychotherapist in New York, where she works with teenage girls who are victims of abuse and trafficking. She is a wife and a mom to a tween and teenager. When she is not working, you can find her engaged in PTA activities, a leader at Girl Scouts, having fun with her friends and family, while serving up hot soulful dishes in the kitchen.