You can count on children willingly saying what adults don’t say; at least not in the face. “Mom, you have a big belly,” my daughter remarks, beating my stomach like a big drum. She’s right, so am I. “You’re right, I am,” I say neutrally and gently. I especially wonder if she’s already thinking about what big bellies mean by the time she’s three years old. Is she just seeing a bigger belly and nothing more, or is she seeing something else? A smaller or “worse” body than those who have a “smaller” belly?
But what surprises me about my own reaction to it is how unperturbed and untriggered I feel. The truth didn’t hurt. It took me a while to get this right, but body neutrality — the ability to not really care what other people think about my body — is one of the best gifts I’ve ever given myself.
For the past few weeks I’ve been watching videos of people starting to lose weight on social media. Someone at the supermarket assumed they were pregnant. She was “devastated” by this false assumption. They were ashamed to go to the beach this summer. An aircraft extender was required on a recent flight. They watched enviously as they swam in the sea in their shorts and t-shirts. This shame, the opinions of these other people spurred them to take “measures” against their own bodies. They wanted to feel that sense of liberation around them.
The problem is that their shame is not unfounded. Society made these people living in larger bodies feel like shit for a long time. The amount of energy it takes to keep that insecurity, self-loathing, and shame within yourself could power a big city. But turning off the power is a real revelation.
As my colleague Louise McSharry wrote in her own column a few weeks ago, there has been an increase in demand and/or interest in weight loss drugs/injections and bariatric surgery. The fact that Turkish clinics have repeatedly offered her bariatric surgeries only speaks to the continuing social attitude towards larger bodies. Louise notes that she has normal blood pressure, normal joints, and no signs of diabetes, so these offers of high-risk surgery aren’t rooted in a desire to get her back to “good health.” No, it’s mainly about optics. The “before” and “after” pictures on social media.
Bariatric surgery in particular, ostensibly for those who need it for a better quality of life, requires patients to radically overhaul their lifestyle after surgery. And in the back-and-forth between feeling better about what I see in the mirror and the long-term limitations of post-operative life, I know which one I prefer.
The irony is that while weight loss is often driven by aesthetics, “health” and “weight” are talked about so interchangeably that they can’t be separated at this point. It’s possible to live in a larger body and have all the numbers normal and within reach, as I discovered during a recent health check. Those who voice false concerns about your larger physique will mention higher BMIs and increased risks of heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. I don’t really need to tell you, but as individuals you are not as concerned about your possibility of getting diabetes.
Turning off the white noise and finding peace about how you look is a revelation. You can enjoy that feeling of liberation about your body that those who have made significant weight loss journeys have and not lose even a single pound. Because it’s a mind thing, not a treadmill thing.
Facebook recently spat out a memory from 12 years ago where I looked significantly different. I had an hourglass figure and a relatively flat stomach. I was also unhappy, sad after a breakup and probably felt fat that night. I don’t look at the picture longingly and wonder where my waist has gone. Hourglass or not, I wouldn’t want to go back there.
Years ago, I probably would have been devastated too by someone making a comment about my stomach or mistaking me for a pregnant person. And my social media timelines are definitely no stranger to people with the very odd pastime of telling others in no uncertain terms what they look like.
Now I smile to myself when a friend talks about someone, narrowly avoiding a collision with the ‘f’ word with euphemisms like ‘a bit curvy’ or ‘little weight on them’. Everything but the ‘f’ word! Because whatever’s going on in their heads, whatever they think about me or the “plus-sized” person they’re talking about, has nothing to do with me.
Fitting into clothes that are two or three sizes smaller is off my radar right now. I don’t have the personal range to want to appear smaller. I’ve got other things on my mind right now; raise a baby, work, buy a house, money, a new marriage. Paleo and juice fasting isn’t what I’m thinking about right now, and I really don’t feel bad about it.
And I shouldn’t feel bad about it.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/society-has-made-people-living-in-bigger-bodies-feel-like-crap-but-shutting-off-this-shaming-power-is-a-genuine-revelation-42042596.html Society has made people who live in larger bodies feel like shit. But turning off this shameful power is a real revelation