I grew up labeled as fat. I endured taunts from relatives, neighbors, strangers, and more people in school. It was a hurt I had lived with since I was a little girl. It drove my self-confidence into non-existence because the message was clear: I would not be accepted unless I became stick-thin, my skin lighter, and my hair straighter.
The bullying was terrible, and at seven years old, I decided not to eat anything until I lost weight. I hoped it would stop the teasing and help me belong. Of course, I couldn’t go any further after skipping the second meal and resumed eating after considerable convincing from my mom and an aunt. The latter also one of my worst taunters. (See the irony?)
The teasing continued for years, and I somehow lived up to the label until I decided to change at 12. It gave me fragile self-esteem that’s based only on appearance. So, even though I lost the excess weight, I still felt fat and never wore a sleeveless top. Trying to fit a mold dictated my life, and was made worse by a traumatic relationship (It later translated into other unhealthy choices, but that’s for another post.)
This toxic mindset was so hard wired into my being that I felt pleasantly shocked to find kindness and love from my then-boyfriend and now husband, Mark. Somehow, being genuinely seen past my physical appearance was strange for me.
I only started coming to terms with my body at 30 years old. When I look back at my pictures as a young kid, when everyone told me I was fat, I only saw a normal-looking toddler and even a thin pre-schooler.
Doesn’t this beg the question, “Why do we do this?”
The toxic culture is still present. And I still slip along the journey. In fact, one comment triggered my health-related anxiety recently, one that insisted I gained so much weight when I don’t feel fat at all. If anything, I felt lighter and stronger, having been enjoying my exercises for months already. It caused me to worry so much about stepping on the scale, and seeing my lab test results. But I am glad to be moving past it. Lifting up all my hurts to Jesus.
My husband and I are working towards a kinder culture. And we are starting with our little family with a better mindset toward our bodies.
Some of the things we do are:
1. Keeping in mind that when we eat well and exercise daily, the goal is to keep ourselves healthy. We tell this to our son when he asks why we work out.
2. Exercising for fun and to keep the stress and anxieties away.
3. Not describing people as fat, thin, ugly.
4. Modeling acceptance and confidence to our little boy.
5. Never commenting about weight–there are many body shapes and are ought to be respected. Other’s weight gain is none of our business.
Ultimately, we improve our fitness and build strength so we can serve our family, enjoy each other better and, if the Lord wills, longer.