Women’s insecurities are a multi-trillion dollar business that is continued and compounded by fat shaming. Most of the time, people doing the fat shaming think we are trying to help. We tell fat people, lose the weight and you will be happy. Lose the weight and you will be healthy. What we are really telling them is, lose the weight and you will be normal.
Lindy West came up with a radical idea to confront this perspective: Maybe all body types can be normal and correct. She is the author of Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, and she was recently a guest on “This American Life,” a well-known podcast with Ira Glass. She spoke of her own experience with being publicly fat-shamed by her boss, Dan Savage. He never attacked her personally, but she said it sure felt like it. She viewed his stance, through his books, online blogs and magazines, on obese people was that they are in the way, they are awful to look at, and they are costing our health care system too much money.
This has been the narrative in this country for decades. There is always a new fad or diet to consume your life. Lindy spoke to this. She said she always felt as a person who was fat that as long as you are trying not to be fat, it is acceptable. She lived her whole life that way. Trying to be something she was not, and waiting for the miraculous day when it wouldn’t be so anymore. And then, she had a break through. What if, instead of spending her life wishing away a problem that was so clearly there, (she mentioned how she was constantly in fear of knocking things down or breaking a chair in public) she decided to embrace and accept the body she was in?
This is so empowering and necessary. And something I try to implement in my life on a daily basis. While I am not “classically fat,” nor obese by any stretch of the imagination, I do have fat. I don’t know many people that don’t. This article is for everyone who is ashamed of the body they walk around in each day. I’m here to tell you to stop it! Begin to stop letting your fears about what other people think of you destroy your happiness. Most people could not care less if you are fat or not. We are the ones, each individually, who are allowing the beauty and diet industries to continue to disempower us.
My sister Sarah, who lost over 120 pounds —with actual diet and exercise— is a testament to the reality of the fat situation. Ever since we were kids, I marveled at her confidence, especially as a fat person. It was something I never had, even when I was sickly underweight. She proves to me every day that the two are not necessarily mutually inclusive.
Sarah was always the bigger-boned sister. She weighed over 200 pounds most of her adolescent and teenage life. She was not proud of it, but she never shrank at an opportunity to socialize, and never let the fact that she was bigger stop her from having a multitude of friends and feeling comfortable in her own skin.
Then, in 2008, she was dating a guy who was big and sloppy and a mess of a human being. He would emotionally abuse her and teared her down into a person I did not recognize, both physically and internally. She began eating more and staying in more to block out the pain. She stopped being the social butterfly we all knew and loved. This went on for years.
Naturally, when I thought of writing this article, she came to the forefront of my mind, and luckily, she was more than happy to talk about her experience. The first question I asked was, “Have you ever been fat shamed?”
No; was her immediate reply. This week, I am, again proud of my city of good neighbors. While I am sure it happens, bullying and hate crimes are relatively unheard of in Buffalo. She was always the literal big sister, and it never bothered her. Until one day, it did. Here she is; my amazing older sister.
Sarah: “Once I fit the 24 size pants, I was thinking, ‘they don’t make bigger sized pants than this in the store!’
That was a big wake-up call to me. I don’t want to have someone to make my pants.
It scared me to think of how my life would turn out if I continued to eat, like I would eat half a package of macaroni and cheese as often as possible.
That’s the thing. I didn’t realize those little things could cause so much weight gain. I had no idea about the effects of it. I loved candy, chocolate, cake… haha… ice cream; anything I could get my hands on.
You know, after I lost the weight, I still look at myself as that same huge person. Like I know I’m not, but I do.
I had my friend Michelle interview me about the same topic. It doesn’t scare me. I don’t mind looking at my old pictures. Some people don’t want to look at them ever again. But it shows me that I’m not the same. It reminds me I’m not the same person. It shows me the amount of progress I’ve made.”
I recalled us, her family, being the only ones really saying anything to her when she was gaining a lot of weight. It definitely came from a concerned place, but the words did not always come out in the most polite way, even when said with love. I asked her about that experience.
Sarah: “When Babci (our grandmother) would grab my stomach and tell me ‘You gotta lose this.’ That really bothered me.”
“It really did stick in my head, like will I ever be able to? Will I be fat forever?
But I thought that I would just always be fat and it was in my genetics and that stuck in my mind. But, it was just that I never tried.”
That was the beginning of her weight loss journey. It has been nothing short of a remarkable transformation. I watched her skip the cookies and carbs on every holiday. I saw her meal prep and eat salmon with vegetables and be content. I am so proud of my sister’s efforts at the gym and the change in her outlook on life and herself. She is back to being the outgoing, helpful, giving person she always wanted to be.
For her, it had to be something she took on for herself. But that is just for her because of the events that led up to becoming severely overweight. Everyone has their own story, body type and genetics they have no control over. Also, now that she is smaller than she was before she gained the weight, she is more self-conscious than ever before. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It is a daily struggle for her to continue on this different lifestyle, as well as coming to terms with her body now that it has undergone such a transformation. She was not ashamed of an inch of her body in the past. She would always point out how sexy she looked in each outfit she wore. Now, she is worried about her sagging skin, and what people can see in each outfit.
Sarah is currently looking into an abdominoplasty (a tummy tuck) and is trying to scrape together the money for arm skin surgery as well. Her body’s skin is the very last thing she needs to be worrying about right now. Our mother has stage 4 breast cancer, she is moving into my mother’s house to fix it up for the future, she is engaged to be married, and is going through school while working a full-time job. And all I want to say to her is, why isn’t the amazing feat you accomplished enough?
And I could say that to all the people reading this as well. When will your efforts be good enough? And whose standards are you holding yourself to? Self-improvement is a vital part of life. It gives us hope and something to look forward to. But when it is all we are focusing on and putting our money into, can we stop? Can we realize that beauty most definitely comes from within? Our bodies will not be remembered at our funerals, (unless we are so big we break the coffin, and let’s definitely hope against that) but our souls and our hearts will. When we are content with ourselves, people do not look to our cellulite or our sagging skin, they look into our eyes and are warmed by our spirit. No cream or shake or workout plan can give that to you.