Everyone has their body-image struggles. Thanks to whatever fashion demon decided that women needed to look like adolescent boys, no woman thinks she’s thin enough. I once worked at a Ballet Summer Intensive where I was surrounded by stunning young women who were strong and beautiful. Most of them were very thin, but all of them were continually worried about their weight. I wish with my whole heart that this only pertained to ballerinas, but it doesn’t. EVERYONE, regardless of how tiny, wants something to be different with their bodies. I appreciate and acknowledge this, but something keeps happening that I would like to bring to the attention of people who are on the thinner side.
I live in Los Angeles. It’s very hard to live in Los Angeles. You are surrounded by the entertainment capital of the world, which means you are surrounded by the most beautiful people in the world and those who are striving to be amongst them. When you live in the Mid-West and you’re 50 pounds overweight, you look a little overweight, but within the realm of normalcy. When you live in the South and you’re 50 pounds overweight, you’re considered thin. When you’re 50 pounds overweight in Los Angeles, you appear 100-120 pounds overweight compared to every single person around you. What makes this harder for me as a person with 65lbs to lose is when people who are 10-15 pounds underweight sip on their dandelion cleanses (yes it’s a real thing and this is not an endorsement) and talk about how they still have 20 pounds to go on their crash diet. I’m not sure I can ever convey how much this hurts me.
Another thing that has always confused me about being overweight is how frequently people give me dieting tips. The truth is that the more you weigh, the more you know about weight-loss. I am overly informed about how to lose weight. I am overly informed, because every day I live with the knowledge that I have been deemed societally unacceptable and on the days that this gets to me, I Google. I Google “How to lose weight,” “Easy healthy recipes,” “Best ab workouts,” and “at-home liposuction, possible?” I know my stuff.
For me, the most Googling happens twice times a year…
First, my birthday. I spend the weeks leading up to my birthday ashamed that I have once again broken my self-pact to be “skinny by my next birthday.” So, in the weeks before the big day, I Google if LapBand accepts my insurance, and how to lose fifty pounds in three weeks. Yet, on the day of my birthday, I feel so down about myself that I say, “oh, screw it,” eat four pieces of cake, and make the same self-pact for the next year.
Second, New Years Eve. I research every diet on the market. I carefully watch the January advertisements for Jenny Craig and Weight Waters and make a Pro’s/Con’s lists of which is better for them. I budget so that I can afford the exorbitant prices of memberships and veggies. I buy heart monitors and workout clothes. I subscribe to Women’s Running and read every article. I buy “Cooking Light,” “Weight Watchers Recipes” and any cookbook with “vegan” in the title. Then three hunger-filled, workout-exhausted weeks into January, I’ve lost 4lbs, and realize that I have 56lbs to go. I discover that the Jenny Craig meals I’ve been eating have less food in them than the Gerber Graduate Lil’ Entrees for toddlers. I panic about how much longer 56lbs worth of Jenny Craig will take. So during week four, I think that the Jenny Craig broccoli might be edible if I just sneak a little cheese onto it, so I do. In week five, I discover that all my vegan sausage is missing is pork, so I add pork. Week six I decide that all my hamburger needs is a bun (and maybe an extra patty). Then finally in week seven, I have the epiphany that I would feel happier if I were not “hangry” 23.5hrs out of every 24hrs in the day and I quit. I abandon Jenny on the side of the road with a suitcase of her own false promises, and leap desperately into the arms of a delectable dessert.
Bottom line: Overweight people know EXACTLY what it takes to lose weight. I appreciate that when someone who is underweight talks about the necessity of their dandelion cleanses or crash diets in front of me, it’s because they are vapidly insecure themselves and not (necessarily) because they think I am the most obese hot air balloon on the market. But that’s what is sounds like. It hurts so much to be the 60lbs+ overweight friend who they tell how much weight they need to lose from their underweight body. If you need to lose 20lbs from your stick figure self, then what are you thinking about me? Everyone has body image issues and struggles, but there is a difference between thinking you are overweight while your BMI says you’re fine/underweight, and having a BMI that actually labels you obese. It’s different socially, physically, and emotionally. So for anyone who would like to help your overweight friends through their struggles without demolishing their self esteem, here’s what you can do. Start with the phrase, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but I believe you’re strong enough to do it.” Don’t try to compare it to your struggles. Please, unless you had to lose 50lbs+ for health reasons and not imagined aesthetics, please don’t compare your difficulties to mine. They are difficulties that are valid, but they are completely different. Please, be a kind thin friend. Be like my friend Bethany.
My friend Bethany is a kind thin friend who I trust to give me recipes/tips, because she makes AMAZING food using nothing but obscure vegetables/ legumes (yes, she can even make lentils taste amazing and she only uses bacon sometimes). She is also studying to be an O.T. so I trust her to give me proper stretches. Lastly, I’ve seen her consume pizza like a twelve-year-old boy, so I know she knows the struggle is real. Therefore, I genuinely believe when she gives me tips that they will a) be good for me b) be out of the belief that I am beautiful now and that healthy living can really suck. Bethany is a fantastic friend and human, she can give me health tips any day.
Kind thin friends are understanding and ask you what they can do to help. Kind thin friends take you on fun new hikes and let you set the pace without making a show of how NOT out of breath they are. Kind thin friends talk to you about how everything else in your life BESIDES your new health plan is going so that you can think about something else for 30 seconds. Kind thin friends NEVER say, “you look great,” but rather remind you that you are kick-ass, strong, smart, and beautiful always. Kind thin friends are amazing, and I am very grateful for mine.
And for those of us who are overweight, we need to be kind to ourselves, and stop Googling. We have to believe that we are stronger than we have decided we are. We have believe that we have more self-control than our Netflix account let’s on. We can do this thing, we are more than we have convinced ourselves we are.
This Weeks Facts: Weight: 210lbs How do you feel?: A bit discouraged. I didn’t exercise as much this week, because I started back to work and things got away from me. I didn’t eat quite as well. AND I drank more alcohol this weekend than I did in the whole of the rest of my twenties. I had nine drinks this weekend! That has never ever happened, so my blood sugar’s a little off. Small Victory: I went line dancing Saturday Night (another something I NEVER do) and the hottest guy at the bar asked me to dance the two-step! Also, Friday night when I wrote “It Won’t Fix It,” I went straight to bed and did not eat any cheese. Biggest Disappointment: I still felt like a cow while line dancing. I am still learning this whole #embraceablenow business. Thing I appreciated about my body this week: I have arms and legs that can two-step (badly)!. Other notes: Line dancing is a crazy sport, and I don’t know how they don’t all have Tarsal Tunnel from all the stomping.