Note: This article appeared in it’s entirety on Essence.com
Let’s just start with the obvious here: Yes, I am overweight. I’m not talking 15 or 20 vanity pounds; I am, without a doubt, obese. I have struggled with weight since I was a teenager and it is still a daily challenge for me. And, with all of the success I’ve had in most every arena of my life, it’s the one area where I have yet to find a winning solution. I am officially part of the obesity epidemic that plagues America.
Why is she so fat? It’s a question I’m sure many of you have asked yourself about me. I’ve certainly heard the question enough times over the years. Now, I could give you a long drawn out story about all the health issues and personal challenges that have contributed to my problem but all of that would sound like excuses, and I make none of those. I will say that food is my coping mechanism and I have needed to cope with a lot.
Allow me a moment to set the record straight. I’m not writing this article because I need support, empathy or advice. Rest assured that I’m not trying to change anyone else’s perspective. I am also not interested in any quick weight loss ideas nor am I open to suggestions on an exercise regimen. It’s not because I don’t have an interest in reducing my size. The real reason is that although you can see my weight, you don’t know my journey and that makes you unqualified to counsel me.
There’s a reason that I’ve chosen to write this post today: America is a fat-prejudiced country, especially when it comes to women. It has become acceptable to mercilessly bully and shame those of us who are laden with extra pounds. We are a society full of double standards that touts second chances for substance abusers yet condemn food addicts. A person’s worth in the eyes of many is tied to the size of their waistline. Excuse me while I roll my big brown eyes and call bull on that one.
As I have become more visible in the public eye, I have found myself on the receiving end of more nasty comments, cyber-bullying and all-out mean personal attacks than I could have ever imagined – all because I’m not framed in a picture-perfect body. It seems that many folks have their specific idea of what beauty, success or fame look like and apparently none of those are suppose to be super-sized. Enter me, the fluffy female who didn’t get the memo that happiness doesn’t come in plus sizes. (Note to self: Thank my Mama for hiding that note!)
The idea that I should not be successful, find love or become famous simply because I’m fat just pisses me off. I wonder how many other obese women actually buy into the foolish notion that fat equals unworthy. I flat out refuse to subscribe to this flawed philosophy and I am praying that I’m not alone.
I recently got an email from a woman who asked me why I wasn’t a better role model to our young girls. She wrote, ”
You are teaching them that it’s ok to be obese!” Apparently she felt that my message of self-acceptance meant that I didn’t promote self-improvement. To clarify, I replied, “I am not teaching young women that obesity is ok, but I am teaching them that success in spite of obesity is.”
I’m not asking you to embrace fat-ism, I’m simply saying accept people where they are, support them on their journey to become and don’t discount them because they haven’t arrived yet.
Truthfully, I support being healthy, and if that means losing weight, then that’s what should be done. But don’t assume that because I haven’t lost weight that I’m not trying or I don’t want to. Don’t assume that I am lazy or undisciplined simply because you don’t see results. Yes, I wear the visible signs of my failures all over my body, but haven’t we all failed a time or two – even those of us who don’t carry the visible signs?
I learned long ago that a scale cannot measure self worth and self-acceptance comes in all sizes. (Wait, I think I need to tweet that one.) I would like to share this sentiment with women of all shapes and sizes: Self acceptance is about loving yourself without judgments even while you are still conquering your challenges.
And, as for obesity shaming, know this: I won’t be shamed into silence or insulted into submission. And, I won’t be bullied into believing that I am less or deserve less than what I chose for myself.
Jai Stone – The Emotional Nudist
Jai is a socialpreneur, author, syndicated blogger, follow her on Twitter @JaiStone.
UPDATES & TESTIMONIALS:
Jai, I am learning so much from you about real compassion. The more I observe the energy of women willing to risk expression and remove the facades, the more optimistic I become about the future of this earth that I’m leaving to my daughters. Thank YOU for showing me my own judgments, my own tendencies to judge weight as self-worth, and to be a resource for you as you make new choices, without apology, and with plenty of commitment. – Akilah Richards, Lifestyle Coach at the Life Design Agency
Response Post by Akilah Richards – The Mirror and the Motive
Jai, I’ve been on both sides of the fence and I often speak to how I was treated at 324 versus how I’m treated at 160. Unlike you, accepted others opinions of me and let it destroy my self-worth. I only WISH I would have had the courage to deal with it in the manner that you do – thank you for being you no matter what. Keep shining! – Camille A.
I love this and thanks for sharing. I’ve been SO full for months now on this topic and grateful to Jai for bursting the bubble to start the conversation about this. As an obese adult who doesn’t view herself and greatness by her obesity I KNOW what Jai is feeling and even those emotions and thoughts that are challenging to put into words. Women like Jai see the world differently in a way others with baggage cannot see. The journey to weight loss in any way IS simple. But it’s HER simple, not the worlds simple. I get that and thank you Jai for post. Jai is a champion. – Katrina M. Harrell, Business Liberation Strategist