Remember my post a few weeks ago, where I said I wasn’t going to response to the body negative things anymore. I wasn’t going to perpetrate there hatred by shinning light on it? This won’t be the first time I break that rule.
You probably know, but may not, that Oprah has endorsed Weight Watchers in a very big way. Ignoring the fact that she owns 10% of the business, she opened in her video (which arrived on everyone’s feed thanks to the Facebook Sponsored post system) with this statement:
“Inside every overweight woman, is a woman she knows she can be.”
Oprah, arguably the most powerful and successful woman in the world, has put herself out there and say she doesn’t feel happy with herself because she is overweight.
So, why is this causing an uproar? There are probably million of women who feel this way. They want to be healthier, and happier, especially with this time of year when so many of us are looking at ways of self-improvement.
The best way to explain this might be to, again, take you through my personal journey.
My first memories of trying to be active is in elementary school PE. We were running relays. I was not very fast, but I was enjoying myself. At one point, for whatever reason, I fell. The kids laughed, and the teacher brushed it off. It was the first I had ever felt my ankle hurt.
For the rest of my childhood, anytime I would run or walk for an extended period of time on or both of my ankles would begin to throb and seize. All the adults in my life would say the same thing. It’s just growing pains. I felt defective. It was like being told that my body was not made to be active.
I also grew up in a time before body positivity, bully prevention, or what feels like general awareness of child mental health. It’s was acceptable to everyone that I be called fat like it was a nasty thing to be. If a kid spit on me in the playground, I was treated like the bad one and told to play somewhere else. I was chastised when siblings would push my face into a slice of cake I didn’t want to eat while being told I was a pig. When I was told to go kill myself, I was made out as the bad guy because I started making plans.
The lesson I learned was simple: To be “bad” at sports is to be fat. To be fat is to be ugly. To be ugly is to be worthless.
Once I got to middle school, I just began to believe what I was told. I had a gigantic chip on my shoulder. My PE teachers would yell at me when I was laying on the floor trying to understand why my ankles would seize. The kids would laugh. And of course, the ever present taunting.
Once I got to high school I just gave in. I believed that I was a bad student because I was bad a sports. I believed I was a bad person because I was fat. I believed that this meant I was ugly, and worthless, and didn’t deserve to be anything but a “fat slob.”
If you ever wonder why a kid like me would give up things when struggles would come, it’s because when you are told all your life you aren’t worth effort.
It became the reason I allowed people to mistreat me, abuse me, and generally ignore me. It was also why I allowed the adults in my life to tell me it was my fault.
This progressed through my adulthood. I never completed college because I didn’t feel smart enough. I was convinced my co-workers hated me because I was fat and wasn’t pretty. I was sure that my only job in life was to sit on a computer all day, and be a fat slob.
I crash dieted through my early adulthood, losing over 60 pounds twice in my life. It never stuck, because I never learned how to actually take care of my body. The easy fixes the media sold me never fixed the real problem. I was deficient in self worth.
It wasn’t until almost two years ago, a light bulb started to click. I went on a walk with some friends, the whole time apologizing in advance for being slow and fat and ruining their time. I thought they would have to stop for me every few steps so I could catch my breath.
I’m not going to say that we never stopped, but I was not the only one catching my breath.
I walked 3 miles that day.
A few weeks later I saw my first waterfall. And I cried.
I started to realize the basis for everything I ever felt about myself was a lie. Not everyone is a star athlete, but this doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy to work out. Not everyone is stick thin model, but that doesn’t make you unworthy of love. Sure, I was fat but that didn’t mean that I was unworthy of happiness or a fulfilling life.
I realized that being fat is just a descriptor. It is a way of describing someone’s appearance. It has nothing to do with their happiness, their abilities, or what path they should take in life. Being fat isn’t a lifestyle you have to conform to UNTIL you have earned your right to be seen in public.
It’s taken me two years to fully untangle the lies of my early life. I still have people who try to shove them down my throat. But, I think I’m doing okay.
That is why Oprah’s statement is so inflammatory. If someone like Oprah can tell a world that SHE isn’t good enough because she isn’t thin, she is discounting every success she has ever had. She is telling people that the only thing that matters is how you look. Her one statement says until you conform the societal standard of normalcy, you are unworthy of happiness.
Believing that lie kept me unhealthy, scared, and depressed for almost 30 years. It kept me from believing that I could achieve anything. No young person should feel this way. No child should have their self-esteem tied to their appearance. Every person is human. Every person is worthy.
Inside every person is their full potential. But, you don’t need to lose weight to find yourself. Your weight does not dictate who are you, what you are good at, or what you are worthy of being.
As for the ankle pain? Well, after almost 10 years of never feeling it, it came back a month ago. I had been dancing in non-supportive shoes. Almost every day for a week my ankle would seize. I’m 30. Somehow I doubt it’s growing pains.
I’ve always noticed this bone on the side of both my ankles that didn’t seem right, though no physician as ever said anything. After some googling, I believe that I may have Accessory Navicular Syndrome. (I’m lucky the internet gave me something so benign.) It’s on my list of things to mention to my doctor, even though there is nothing to really do with it. But it would unravel one last lie. It’s not that I am bad at sports, or unworthy of being active, I just have an extra piece of awesomeness. If I would have know that when I was kid, my entire world would have been different. One more reason why telling fat kids they suck because they are fat is a bad lie to tell them.
Do I honestly expect my doctor to care? Not really. I’ve never had an adult in my life saying anything other than, “get over it.” The world still believes that the worst thing to be is fat. The world believes that every problem is because of fat. I wonder how many more lives that lie will derail?