Several years ago, I posted a meme on FaceBook that said something like, “Real Women Have Curves.” A couple of friends of mine reach out at told me how hurtful that post was to them. You see, they have the exact opposite issue that I have, they are underweight. My friends have tried to gain weight, but are unable for many reasons. It is simple to say, “Well, it isn’t the same thing.” Well, yes and no.
It is different in the sense that the stigma of being fat is more shameful. (And feel free to correct me if you think differently, I know you will.) Society sees fat as a moral failing. It doesn’t acknowledge the myriad of medical conditions or medications that cause weight gain. Western culture also negates the fact the eating in many ways is a coping mechanism for survivors of trauma, especially rape survivors. Fat is armor against those who may hurt you again. You become invisible, overlooked, and often negated. Fat is safe. And fat is a pejorative term. Imagine being a survivor of trauma and hearing how your coping mechanism is wrong and an epidemic? It is crushing. Isolating. And only lowers someone’s already low self-worth. Fat is equated with being stupid, lazy, slovenly, and ugly.
Now, we have all heard the phrase, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” Thin is the ideal. The diet industry thrives on the idea that we need to be small. But you can be too thin. The veneration of “thin” is dangerous. The unrealistic images of the ideal woman promoted in the media distort the thinking of adolescents and carries into adulthood. First, it encourages some perilous eating disorders to be thin. Preadolescent girls are dieting because they don’t want to be fat. Some girls develop anorexia or become bulimic–just to be thin. Thin becomes equated with beauty, health, and success. Second, you have no idea how someone sees herself. I know some very fit and beautiful people who tell me how much they hate their bodies. You don’t know what their life experiences were that blind them from their beauty. They may be noticed, but they don’t see it.
A friend of mine posted this meme. And I reminded her about how she reached out to me several years ago. We had a heartful conversation about weight defining a woman. I was struck by how many cruel comments she gets and how her experience parallels mine in many ways. Let me share some examples.
- Eat a cheeseburger/Skip a meal.
- Eat high protein to gain weight/Don’t eat carbs to lose weight. (Don’t ask me how both being high protein and low carb will do the opposite thing.)
- Buying clothes in the Girl’s section/Buying clothes in the Woman’s section.
She has so many more examples where she was negated as a person because she didn’t fit the mold. I think the most tragic is when she was a part of a Body Positivity photo exhibit. She overheard someone say that her picture didn’t belong there. It did, and it does. Her experience is valid, it is just different. The comments cut just as deep.
Body positivity is for everyone. No-one has the right to tell you what you should or should not eat. Your weight is no-one’s business but yours–unless you are like me and just put it out there. No one has the right to say what you should or should not wear. No one should put down someone to feel better about themselves. We need to lift each other up and support each other–no matter your body size.
Wishing you peace and good health.
LLC & Hazel