I have a good friend that recently lost weight after going plant-strong. She asked that I not share her name, but is allowing me to share part of her e-mail to me.
“I’m finally at my goal weight, fitting into a size 4, I thought it all was supposed to feel better than this, all of that work, and I still look in the mirror and don’t like what I see. Now people say I’m too thin, or I don’t have enough muscle, my Mother told me that I have too many wrinkles now, I guess where the fat was filling them in? I worked so hard for so long, and I’m still not good enough. When I was overweight, I felt bad, people treated me badly, and now I’m healthy, my weight is not too low, and people still criticize me. I never thought I would have this problem.”
My friend and I talked a long time about this new problem that came up as a result of losing weight. The problem being, will we, no matter what size, ever be happy with what we look like? And will others criticize, put us down no matter what? And finally, what if all of that stopped being such a prominent theme in our life stories?
I started gaining weight when I was about 10, and I gained very rapidly, for reasons they are still unraveling. Before I started gaining weight I don’t ever remember being that aware of my body. Granted I was a kid, so maybe I just didn’t have time to be aware of it. However when I was 10 and started to gain weight I became very aware of my body. Mostly, because other kids started to make fun of me and bully me. Nothing as part of my child-internal dialogue said “feel horrible about the way you look.” However, because of the feedback I started to get at a very young age from the rest of society, I learned very quickly to feel horrible about myself.
I could never figure out why my body and my size offended others the way it did. Why people thought it was ok to call me names, pick on me, in some cases physically hurt me because of my size.
I though it would stop after school, but I’d find out that adults were just as cruel. I’ve been stopped in the street, I’ve been called names to my face, I’ve been asked by completely strangers why I’m so fat. I’ve been turned down by employers, have had looks of disgust from doctors, hair stylists, and store employees.
And all of this lead me to feeling pretty horribly about myself and about my body.
And shouldn’t I? I mean at my highest weight I was 450 pounds or so. Currently, I’m still obese. Shouldn’t I feel horrible? And if I don’t feel bad about the way I look, won’t I just give up on my health?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that fat shaming does not work. It never has. I say in my talks that no one will get healthy out of a sense of shame. Shame is a temporary motivation that does nothing to help us get to where we want to be. I’m not talking about weight loss, I’m talking about just being a healthy person.
Yet, shame is used over and over as a motivator. Just look at the news, or magazines and you will see a world of unrealistic body images, and a world in which not living up to an ideal, photo shopped perfect body just won’t cut it. I’m always shocked and appalled when I read comments on the internet about someones appearance, or how much someone weighs. As someone who was morbidly obese for a long time, and is still very much overweight, I can’t help but think, if people are that cruel to someone else, what are they thinking about me? Mind you MOST people do not know where I’ve come from or what I’ve accomplished. I don’t go around wearing a shirt stating all of my health milestones. And so when I see disparaging remarks made about anyone else’s weight it saddens me. No one knows what that person has been through, how many diets they have tried, how many times they have cried themselves to sleep. And none of us are without fault in the diet department, give me ONE person that has followed a 100% plant-strong diet for their entire life, or even 30+ years. Society has no say in judging, looking down on or deciding that persons self worth.
There is only one person who should determine your self worth, and that is you.
This all brings me to tomorrow. Tomorrow I get on a plane to go to New York for our Plant-Stock event. Meeting new people is always a terrifying experience for me, not just that, but seeing people who I have met before. Since I was a kid, I always wished I could just be thin, before tomorrow. I’d just wake up and it would all be a really bad dream.
The thoughts start racing through my head. What will people think when they see me? What if I look fatter than I did before? What if I pick the wrong outfit? What if on stage I look really bad? What if they use a camera and a video screen and I look even larger? What if people don’t think I deserve to be there? What if people think I haven’t lost enough weight? What if I’m the heaviest person there? What if someone laughs at me or makes fun of me? What if my jeans don’t fit? What if I look really ridiculous working out with everyone?
The thing is, the more I let myself think those things, the worse I feel about myself, the more anxious I become. What ends up happening is that I end up not being in the moment, I end up missing out on a lot of joy and happiness, because I let all of these thoughts and fears creep into my head, like a bad virus, and it keeps spreading.
So I decided something about this trip to New York tomorrow. This time, I’m not going to go through the mental torment I normally put myself through. Because you know what I’ve learned? It didn’t matter when I was 450 pounds, it didn’t matter when I was a kid, or a teenager and it doesn’t matter now. I am the only person responsible for my body, and I’m the only one that matters when it comes to what I think about my body.
I for one am tired of feeling bad about myself, and feeling that I’m less than, because of a size or because of a number on a scale. Because from what I can tell, people of ALL body types find something they don’t like about themselves. Like my friend, who finally reached the size she thought would make her happy, it turned out that getting to a certain size did not prevent her from feeling bad about herself, and it didn’t prevent others from judging her and looking down on her.
I decided that I’m just going to stop feeling bad. I decided I’m going to start living fully in the moment, and not wait for something magical to happen once I hit a certain weight. I’ve wasted so much of my life, waiting to thin. I’ve avoided trips, I’ve not gone to events, I’ve not visited friends and family, all because of how I felt about myself. And where has that got me? Nowhere.
It’s scary, stepping out in the world, when my instinct is to retreat and wait. But perhaps the goal should have never been to wait till I’m thin, perhaps the goal was to see that I’m enough, as is, to live a beautiful life.
I hope you will join me in also living a beautiful life.
(and I hope to see some of you in New York!)