Being fat, overweight, obese, large, heavy – whatever you want to call it – is a strange thing. I’ve been overweight since my late teens (despite doctors telling me from the age of 14 that I was fat – which I wasn’t). I used to be ashamed of the bits of me which were larger than “normal” and was always striving to get into clothes that were the next size down from the ones that I really should have been buying, sucking in my breath to do up the last button on my jeans.
Peer pressure is nothing new. It was alive and well in the 1970s. I always used to refer to myself as heavy, large boned or slightly overweight. Anything but fat. Everyone (except the doctor and my mother) used to tell me that I was fine, wasn’t overweight, didn’t need to lose anything, etc., etc., but I never believed them. Unfortunately. Looking back at pictures of myself in those days, I have to agree with Baz Luhrman:
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth
Until they’ve faded but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back
At photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked
You are not as fat as you imagine
Seriously – does this look fat to anyone? I thought I was huge at the time 😦
My own self negativity followed me for years and the internal dialogue was firmly entrenched. It is said that for every negative comment a parent utters, it requires 1,000 positive reinforcements to counteract it. The power of words eh?
I had an ex who told me that a friend of his had been in the same pub as us one night and had asked him: “Who was that whale you were with last night?” Did this young man stand up for me? Or himself? Nope. His response was “oh she was just a friend of mine”. Nice. Thanks. Right enough by then I had chunked up somewhat but not really to the proportions of a cetacean mammal. I was so embarrassed.
It took me until I was in my late 30s to realise that, actually, I was pretty happy with who I was and my size didn’t make any difference to that. At all. Talk about liberation!
My size or weight never kept me from doing things I wanted to do. When travelling by plane, I had to ask for a seatbelt extension as soon as I got on board but that wasn’t a problem for me. I was never a dedicated follower of fashion so the lack of “fashionable” clothing in my size wasn’t going to make me cry over my chocolate cake. I’m sure that my doctors were disappointed that I was around 290 pounds and had no health issues and they had to keep their wagging fingers in check 😉
Even when I decided that I wanted to do something about my crappy level of fitness I never considered my weight to be an obstacle – I just got on with it. I’m not saying it wasn’t difficult and some of my trials and tribulations are in previous blogs Knowing Your Own Body and Is It Just Age? What annoyed me more than anything was my own attitude to the weight starting to creep on when I started to get sick. It was almost as though by shedding some of the excess pounds (which was not by design) I was uncovering a previous version of myself which was still worried about those things.
Nowadays I’m taking things one day at a time. I still have lofty plans to do a 5K run (if you’d ever seen me trying to run, you’d realise how lofty those plans are at the moment!) although I really do have to take account of how my body feels on any chosen day. I still really don’t give a flying wotsit about what anyone may think about me as I’m out and about and doing my best to improve my fitness – all that matters to me is how I’m doing and feeling, knowing that I’m making forward progress and can look myself in the eye and know that I’m doing my best. For me.
Fat, thin, somewhere in between – what I’ve learned is that all that matters is that you’re happy with who you are and where you are. Trying to fulfil other peoples’ expectations is a recipe for disaster – your own are the only ones that matter.
And to go back to Mr L again:
Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own