Do you want the short answer or the long answer?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is noooooo.
For so long, I have carried around baggage attached to the pounds my hips bear. This baggage is shame, and this shame is for being overweight.
I cannot remember a time in my life where I did not feel the weight of being fat. I know a lot of people don’t like the term “fat.” It’s a word that I am not completely comfortable using, but I think that it is important to press through my awkwardness.
Being overweight is not a sin.
Being fat is not a sin.
If you’re overweight, how does that statement strike you?
Well, it sounds good but I don’t know if she’s right. I’ve done so much to put myself where I am today, and this weight I carry is a result of poor decisions…I don’t know if I can agree with her.
I totally get you.
Let’s think about it another way.
My mom who is the fairest of the fair–red hair, pale skin, freckles galore. She is simply stunning even in her grandmothering years. I inherited her fair skin, not the deliciously tannable skin of the Cuban stock my dad comes from. My skin shows the years I have gone outside without sunscreen. I have freckles (a mark of beauty, in my opinion) and I have sun damage. I have this sun damage because of a number of factors which may not be apparent at first glance. Mostly, though, it’s because I kept forgetting to put sunscreen on as a kid engaged in the limited outdoor sporting activities forced on me by public education.
I have this skin damage and I could have done something to prevent it. Even now, I could buy creams and wear more sun protection. But even though it’s there, I have no feelings of moral failure about it the way I do about being overweight.
What’s the difference?
I can’t speak for other cultures or other times, but I do know that in our American culture, weight has been attached to a kind of morality. If I eat right and exercise, or at least try to do so, I have moral currency to deposit in the Bank of Health. (I’ll lay aside, for the time being, the Bank of Physical Perfection.)
How many times have you heard this line? As long as you’re healthy…as if health is a measure of a person’s self worth.
It’s not about a number on the scale, I have heard.
It’s not about your outward appearance.
It’s not about the size you wear.
It’s about your health.
So if I am overweight and in a bigger size than most stores sell, I don’t get any health bucks. If I carry more padding than is culturally attractive, I don’t get any health bucks.
“Let’s do something about this,” someone might say. “Let’s add some money into your Bank of Health account.”
I can do this in a few ways–actually start working out. That’s like 5 health bucks per workout. I could give up gluten–that’s like a hundred a week. If I want to be healthy and so I am trying and failing–either by missing my workout or by eating healthy all day until I blow it with ice cream after the kids are in bed–I earn one health buck for trying.
That’s what we’ve learned, right? What counts is that I’m trying not to be fat anymore?
But what if I don’t want to try anymore? What if I refuse to play the game where being overweight is equated with being morally inferior?
What if I recognize that no matter how little or how much I weigh, or how well or how poorly I fit into clothing, weight is not a moral issue?
That takes a whole restructuring of how my mind works towards food, exercise, health, and physical appearance.
It means once I convince myself that being overweight is not sinful, I can be content with myself even when I’m not trying to be healthy. No more shame about not trying to get to the gym.
It means that food can be enjoyed, because I’m not basing my eating decisions on how good or how bad a person this apple pie is going to make me. No more shame about eating a tortilla that isn’t ‘carb balanced.’
It means that I can love myself more freely because I have stopped judging every freaking thing I do in relation to how much I weigh or how I look.
It means that I can love the people around me more freely because I have stopped judging myself and so I can stop judging other people for how they look, eat, or move.
To get to this place, I have to stop using language that attaches moral value to food. No more “good food, bad food.” Food is morally neutral.
And that’s a good place to begin.
Hey, ladies. Yes, I’m talking to you.
Have you ever looked at old pictures of yourself and thought, “Why did I think I was fat?”
This whole new Facebook “See your memories” thing has brought it up a lot for me lately.
For example: the picture on top is the second time I ever saw the stud who became my husband, in January 2008. We had met on a blind date in November 2007, and I was struggling with weight-related self-image issues, like I had my whole life.
I have always known I am pretty, but that hasn’t stopped me from thinking, “If I weighed less, I would have more friends…be more confident…accomplish more in the world…”
I truly believed that I would be a better person if I shed the extra poundage I carried then.
I look at that picture now, knowing the happiness and pain that await ‘skinny me’ (the happiness outweighs the pain, but the pain is still there).
The picture on bottom is us last week, 6.5 years of marriage and 3 kids later. I compare my current body to my 2008 body and I catch myself thinking, “If only I could go back to that size…Why did I think I was fat? Look at me now…”
But, no. Wait. Stop right there, mama. Let’s look at the assumptions wrapped up in this line of thinking:
- Weighing less means being a better person. Which I know–at a factual level–isn’t true. But at a gut level, that lie is still there. We have all felt the pressure to continually strive to be a better person, and for me the issue of weight management is in the “be better at” compartment. But my weight has little-to-nothing to do with how good a person I am.
- Weighing less means being more beautiful. Which I kinda know at a factual level isn’t true, but it is definitely a lie that I believe in my gut. So many images of beautiful and thin women bombard my vision. I have to go out of my way to find beauty portrayed in the media in people of bigger size.
- Weighing less means more people will like me. As I type this out, it feels like I am still in high school, with assumptions like this. Surely I know that my friends are not focused on my appearance, right? But I still believe this deep down. And I want to be liked. So I feel pressured to weigh less.
- Weighing less means fewer wounds for me to carry. Now this one might be legitimate. Let’s talk more about this.
Fewer pounds = Fewer Wounds?
I have told myself (and that this message reinforced by movies, tv, music, and social media) that weighing less will mean a healthier, happier, hotter me. Surely a lot of my wounds do come from feeling out of place in a skinny-worshipping world, judging myself by other people’s standards and coming up short. There is a feeling of insignificance and insecurity that plague me with the temptation to believe that I am a lesser person because I am overweight. This is not true.
Even when people eschew the ‘skinny’ language and replace it with ‘healthy’ language, I am still affected. Because I am not focusing on eating healthy and losing weight, I am not on the path to the good life. I carry a lot of shameful feelings because I am still eating wheat, drinking soda, and not scheduling regular exercise. But I’ve been reading some Brené Brown and I know that while shame is a powerful thing, it is not a good thing. I want to be through with the shame of being overweight. And therefore I have to throw my assumptions about being skinny out the window.
So, for some truth:
- I can develop into a better person regardless of how much I weigh. The choices to shape my character, to love myself and others well–these are not dependent on whether I am fat or skinny.
- I am beautiful in my current body. It is true. I am attractive. I am lovely. The gifts and creativity and love and kindness that flow through me make me lovely. I am also pretty.
- People may or may not like me, but I am likable. This has nothing to do with my weight and everything to do with being myself. Some people won’t like me because I am assertive, confident, and truth-speaking. But that has nothing to do with me being fat or skinny.
- People of all sizes and shapes carry wounds, big wounds. If by some chance I do lose weight, I will not be wound-proof. Wounds are inevitable as we walk through this pilgrimage called life. If the wounds I carry are related to being overweight, I can address them and seek healing.
So when I am tempted to long for the days of “skinny me,” as if going back to a certain size could change my life for the better, I remember that life was not all peaches and cream back then. Pain and joy still awaited ‘skinny me’ and they had nothing to do with how much I weighed. My desire to go back to that time is what Sara Groves calls “painting pictures of Egypt.”
I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
The future looks so cold and I want to go back
But the places they used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And that road was closed off to me
While my back was turned…
In 2008, I could not have imagined the challenges and the joys that lay ahead of me. I have grown and learned so much. I have gained so much trust, confidence, love, and weight. But honestly, I would not change it. The journey I have walked has shaped me, and I embrace the shape I’m in because of it.
My body tells my story. It’s a beautiful story and I will not be ashamed of it.
I’ll leave you with one particular song that gives me courage to keep walking forward, leaving shame and regret behind, and embracing who I am now and who God is for me all the time.
Click the picture above or here to watch the music video for “Painting Pictures of Egypt” by Sara Groves.
If it comes to quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
If it comes to quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?