Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Don't They Know How Gross They Look?"

I wrote a post about my glorious body once. You can read it here.

In thinking about that post, I have been reading all kinds of things lately. People have praised and criticized Princess Kate (the Duchess of Cambridge --you know, the wife of Prince William and mother of the future King) for looking like she just gave birth after she just gave birth. I've read about the new popular business of body-wrapping, which is helping (once again) shame women into trying to look different than they do. I see photos of people bemoaning their post-pregnancy states or complaints about gaining weight (pregnant or not).

And then something happened. While swimming with my toddler at the Parent/Tot swimming lessons class, I forgot I was overweight (obese?) for a minute. I was happy and smiling, and my son was enjoying the water for a change. But then somebody looked at me. I saw in their face the same familiar look I gave others. I read their feelings in a split second.

I remembered.

I remembered what it was like to be thin. I remembered what it was like to work hard to keep my body at a premium weight and energy-level. I remembered what it was like to be complimented on my body, to be called beautiful, to feel stunning and gorgeous and... I remembered how I judged people. I looked at them in the same way I was looked at.

(Taken April of 2008)

I would look at overweight or obese people and think horrible things. "Don't they know how gross they look? Don't they know they are killing themselves by being this big? Don't they know it would only take a little hard work and adjustment to look like me?" I was incredibly aware of who was fat and who was thin. I noticed it all the time.

And you know what? The media tells me it's okay. It's okay to discriminate against fat people. It's okay to treat them like dirt. After all, isn't shaming just another way of convincing women to become healthy? Isn't that a GOOD thing? The fat people just need more self-control! The fat people just need help to get thin! Fat = ugly in our culture. Fat = less than. It's just another form of bigotry.

One time (and this story, dear reader, just paints the picture of how horrible I was) I was in a store in a nearby city by my hometown. I was perusing items and a woman who worked there approached me and tried to talk with me. She was incredibly overweight and I was annoyed (not because she was overweight, but because she was trying to sell me stuff). I couldn't figure out why she kept talking to me and I finally was able to break away. My sister told me in the car: "Didn't you recognize her? You went to high school with her!" And instead of feeling sad, I said something really classy like: "Well, what did she expect? She's gained so much weight, I didn't recognize her!"

That has haunted me to this day. Oh, how I wish I could go back and slap my silly face.

Because this morning, as I walked back to the car with my wet-from-swimming-lessons brood (including myself), I looked in the rear view mirror at my eyes. And I realized something: I know nothing about people, and I have so much to learn about why people are the way they are.

That obese woman? The overweight one? That is me, now. That is my struggle (has been for years). I am gorgeous. I am beautiful inside and out. I have an amazing body that has done amazing things. Have you seen my eyes? They are really cool! But I'm obese. That is the only thing that seems to matter to some people. So, let's ask me the questions.


(Photos taken this morning, 8/13/13)

Do I know how gross I look? Only when people assume I am gross. Only when society dictates the parameters of what is beauty based on the bottom line of whatever product they are touting that day. I claim I don't care what society says, but I won't wear shirts that show my upper arms, anymore. I'm embarrassed by my bat wings. So, yes. I do know how gross I appear to a superficial, judgmental, horrible society that has been duped into believing what businesses and magazines and movies have taught them to think.

Do I know I'm killing myself by being this big? Yep. More than you know. I'm VERY aware of what health problems I'm having to endure every day because of my weight. My feet hurt, my asthma is worse, my depression is in the toilet. I'm incredibly aware. I've read The China Study and I was a green smoothie aficionado. I know exactly what to eat and how to eat it and what could cure me right this instance. I do. I know how important it is for me to become healthier for my kids, and I'm aware that my weight does have something to do with it.

Do I know that it will only take a little adjustment and hard work to look how I used to? Nope. That one is a lie. Let me tell you what I "do," dear reader. I walk every weekday in the mornings for nearly 4 miles. I drink water (I don't drink soda or sports drinks or anything else) all day long. I don't snack on chips or chocolate. I buy healthy, organic, good foods. I get enough sleep. I had my thyroid and blood tested and everything was perfect (except for a lack of Vit D, for which I have fixed). My reality? I have a mental illness I struggle with, I have six tiny people who rely on me every single day. I have a husband who travels a lot. I can't afford a sitter for regular things --why in the world would I hire one so I can exercise more? I'm also in my mid-30's after having had seven pregnancies. My metabolism is shot. My biggest hurdle is food portions, but I'm working on it.

(Pregnant with #6)

I know that if I lost weight I would have more energy. I know that I would probably finally get pregnant again. I know that my clothes would be easier to buy and wear, and I know that I would be more confident.

But would I also be more unfeeling? Would I be just as rude and assumptive, judgmental and harsh as I was before?

I can see some people explaining that it serves me right. That this is my comeuppance. It does have a whole, Gwenyth-Paltrow-didn't-understand-until-she-had-a-fat-suit-on smack to it. Sadly, however, my "thin stage of judgement" occurred after having been overweight (just not this overweight), so you'd think I would have understood, eh?

Unlike a comeuppance, though, I honestly think Heavenly Father puts us in situations that help us to see our own weaknesses and sins so that we can have a change of heart. So we can learn and grow for the better. When that person looked at me at the pool and I remembered all of these things, I realized that I've been given an opportunity to learn more charity.

So, I have shifted my goals. Instead of focusing on negative self-talk about my body, these will be my goals, dear reader:

1. I will not limit myself based on how I think I will be perceived. I will swim with my kids. I will climb mountains (even though I will sound like I'm dying). I will wear pretty clothes and go dancing with my husband. I will go to social events and talk to people and be myself. I will ignore the idiots of society that assume I shouldn't have a glorious life simply because I have extra pounds on my frame.

(Brief video of me ice blocking last month)

2. I will not judge a woman's character based on her weight. I will not judge a woman's character based on her hair color, her choice of wardrobe, her make-up (or lack thereof), nor any other thing about her body.

3. I will remember that I don't know the whole story. I don't know why people are the way they are, all I need to know is that people need to be loved, understood, and given a chance.

Here's to the overweight and obese people in my life. You are beautiful. You are loved. Don't let society and judgments stop you from living the life you want to live. Just go and live it!

I'll join you.


Emily said...

This whole post kind of made me sad. I had a similar thought to the one you shared about forgetting you were overweight at the pool recently. Now we both know I'm not overweight, but I still am self-conscious about my thighs. When we were swimming in Logan a couple weeks ago I was trying to walk so they wouldn't jiggle all over, then I was like, forget that! I'm going to go have some fun on these water slides! I decided I didn't care if people looked at my jiggly, cottage-cheesey legs. Well, I did care, and I continued to think about it, but I decided to have fun anyway as I wasn't really the one looking at them! So, I understand your thought, just maybe not to the depth that you feel it. It really is so sad that we're so obsessed with our images. Can't we just enjoy?

Also, way to go on your food and exercise routine. That's awesome.

Anonymous said...

This is an awesome post, Cheryl. I'd like to share it with other people.

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

Your words so often speak to my heart and address my own worries...this post included. Thank you Cheryl. And I love you. :)

Amanda D said...

Great post. I needed to read this one today.

Julie said...

Great thoughts. Good health is always something to strive for, but it sounds like you are doing just that! Portion control is my nemesis, too.