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How I Ignored the Fat Shamers and Reclaimed My Joy

How I Ignored the Fat Shamers and Reclaimed My JoyAt 180 pounds and five feet five inches, I have a BMI of 30. That puts me in the overweight category. According to fat shamers, that somehow lowers my worth as a human being.

Up until now, I believed the cruel judgments placed on me by fat shamers. But that ends here. I will no longer accept their unjust criticisms due to their own insecurities. I am a human being, and fat or thin, I deserve respect! 

Growing up in a family of fat shamers

I received many mixed messages as a kid. Often I was indulged with junk food, yet encouraged to lose weight and remain thin. I was told that I was beautiful just as I was, then subjected to hearing judgments about others and their size. It’s no wonder that I struggle with eating disorders.

As a child I was fat shamed by well-meaning, but misinformed family members. I grew up watching my own mother shame herself in front of the mirror for being a “fat pig.” She was nothing close. In my eyes she was beautiful. Sadly, observing her behavior as a child set me up for judging my own self-worth by the size of my body. At 14, my mother and I joined Weight Watchers together at her request. Not exactly the healthiest form of mother-daughter bonding that I can think of.

My mother wasn’t the only family member who had an impact on my weight and body image issues. I have a very painful memory of my grandmother as a fat shamer, as well. When I was 15, I went clothes shopping with my grandma and her sister. We found a beautiful outfit, and her sister stated that it would look wonderful on me with my thin figure. My grandma sharply responded, “She’s not so thin!”  That hurtful comment has caused me deep shame for 24 years.

Those experiences were certainly enough to damage my young, impressionable sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, there are countless other family members, comments, and behaviors that have taken their toll, as well.

Being overweight is not caused by lack of effort

Fat shamers often stereotype overweight people as “lazy” and “weak-willed.” They believe a lack of effort and willpower is to blame for our larger sizes. Eating disorders and weight issues are unique to each individual. Their causes are complex, and their symptoms vary greatly.

I’ve spent the majority of my life putting forth effort to lose weight, exhausting many different methods to achieve this. I attended 12 Step meetings and counseling, tried numerous diet and fasting programs, exercise, and diet pills. I even ran a half marathon (nine months after having my daughter) at 212 pounds. I’ve spent many years at a normal healthy weight, as well as many years overweight.

However, weight and body size aren’t always accurate indicators of good health. Eating disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating, etc.) come from a place of pain. Having an unhealthy relationship with food is a sad, lonely place. Being cruel to people (who are already experiencing deep pain) is a much more accurate indication of personal weakness than being fat.

Shaming people does not motivate change

Contrary to popular belief, shaming people is not an effective method to motivate change. Only compassion can do that. Most chronically overweight people live in a perpetual state of self-induced shame, which usually results in an endless (and unsuccessful) cycle of yo-yo dieting.

Fat shamers often proclaim they are concerned for the health of those who are overweight and obese. I find that hard to believe, since concern for health comes from a place of compassion, not one of judgment and discrimination. Placing shame on others is merely a projection of one’s own internal shame. After all, it’s much easier to project outward the hurt we are not willing to face that is within ourselves.

Self-worth is inherent, not determined

Self-worth as a human being is inherent. It does not fluctuate with the number on the scale, nor is it dependent upon your percentage of body fat. Superficial things such as looks, prosperity, fame, and property do not define a person’s worth. Religion, race, sexual orientation, and the size of one’s body are not reasons to shame or hate others. 

We are all human. We are all different. And we all deserve respect and compassion.

How I Ignored the Fat Shamers and Reclaimed My Joy

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