When I was eight years old, I went through what my family called “the chubby stage.” I lived in a small town with my mom’s family as neighbors on all sides. One day, while playing with my cousin Jeanie at her house, I overheard a conversation between Jeanie’s mom, my aunt Evelyn and my own mother being held in the kitchen. I admired my aunt so much because she was a nurse! So, her words were always impactful to me. I heard my aunt casually remark to my mother, “It is a good thing Barbara Ann is smart because she will never be pretty.”
I was devastated. Those negative words were repeated 10,000 times in my head in a nanosecond. To this day, that eight-year-old me can still hear them! My aunt meant no malice with her insensitive remark, and I never told her how much the words hurt me. My mother and father listened as I cried out my pain that evening at home. I am eternally grateful for their reassurance and support, which bolstered me through a very rough spot.
Such painful words affect our daily lives. They echo in our heads. Overcoming these negative messages delivered by the media, society, and those we love, trust, respect is not easy. But then, neither is the struggle to manage such a multidimensional, challenging illness.
“Fat shaming” as an unacceptable act has gained increased coverage in the media in recent years. Much of this 180o turn has to do with the announcement by the National Institutes of Health that obesity is considered to be an actual disease. Those who struggle with the disease, at last, have proof of what they have known all along. They are using their voices to stand against fat shaming and others who would put them down and label them as lazy, dumb gluttons, which has resulted in the perception of a negative body image.
A negative body image can lead to health issues, including depression, anxiety, isolation, inactivity and use of food to soothe emotions—all of which compound the problem and result in even lower self-esteem. Overcoming such perception is essential to living the life we deserve at any size and at every stage. Each of us is much more than a number on a scale, a size label in a garment or a calibration on a measuring tape. The mind, heart, talent, personality and skills of each of us are our true gifts to the world and are priceless treasures to be shared. We must use our voices to honor the best in every individual.
As a member of a support group, I share a safe haven where beauty is much more than appearance. My body is the vessel in which I live my life. It carries me through every challenge so that I may share my gifts, talents and strengths. It does not define my self-worth. I honor it for all it does.
Let’s seek out and help others find a realistic path that empowers the difficult journey to live fully and completely. Let’s stay active, forgive ourselves when we stumble, help each other, listen and hear, and build self-confidence. Let’s not forget to be our own best friend in the process. Through our words and actions, let’s always appreciate and accept the uniqueness of each of us as we get better every day.
Let us resolve to stamp out fat shaming.
“May our words be as apples of gold on branches of silver.”
I Care, Barb