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Monday, March 7, 2011

The Woman In The Mirror

All large women have a “thin” woman living inside them. She’s the perfect “us”, the woman we all want to be. A lot of us picture her as a supermodel, a cheerleader, or a successful businesswoman. Her hair is always perfect, her makeup and outfits are to die for, and naturally, she has the perfect mate and 2.4 kids.

This is how a lot of us imagine true happiness and success. However, unless you have a truly confident, stable, self-accepting image of yourself, it doesn’t matter how much weight you lose. If you’re unhappy and self-hating as a large woman, you will be unhappy and self-hating as a thin woman. Losing weight is not going to change that.

I’m speaking from personal experience. About a dozen years ago, I decided I had finally had enough of being a large woman. It’s not like I hadn’t been on diets before, of course. But this time, I was extremely determined. I vowed that this would be the last diet I would ever be on, because this would be the one that would finally work, for good. So I enrolled in a diet program that was basically just an extreme starvation diet – “medically supervised”, but let's call it what it was, a starvation diet – and it was very effective, at first. In just a little over 6 months, I had lost more than 100 pounds, and I was looking better than I had ever looked in my life.

At first, it was very exhilarating. I went on shopping benders, squandering practically ever penny I made on the cute clothes I had been denied as a large woman. It was rewarding looking in the mirror and seeing myself in those skinny duds. But I could never seem to get rid of a nagging, ever-present feeling of uneasiness … a feeling that the person I was looking at in the mirror was an imposter. It just did NOT feel like me. I realized that even though the weight was off, I still felt the same way inside: self-hating, insecure, and afraid.

Pretty soon, the feelings of uneasiness became overwhelming and the only way I could deal with them was to return to my favourite addiction, food. This started a cycle of yo-yoing back and forth for several months, until finally the diet center, a truly disgusting money-making mill, kicked me off the program for not sticking to the diet. It didn’t take long to gain the weight back after that.

I spent a lot of time wondering why losing the weight hadn’t made me feel any different. Despite the huge weight loss, I still felt isolated, different, and deficient inside. Rather than making it easier for me to deal with people, it only made it more difficult, because more people were paying more attention to me. I’ve always hated feeling scrutinized, so you can imagine how uncomfortable it felt to be looked at all the time. Women were particularly nasty to me. I could feel the jealousy of the women I worked with at the time surround me as they watched my body shrink, and even though they smiled and said I looked great, they didn’t fool me for a second. I knew they resented it.

The strangest thing, though, were the conflicted emotions I felt as people congratulated me on my weight loss. I’m sure some of them meant it sincerely, and were genuinely happy for me. But I felt strangely resentful at the “compliments” of some others. When people would say things like, “Wow, you look fantastic now!” I would focus on the word “now” instead of the word “fantastic” and ask myself: So what are they really saying? That I looked horrible before? I realized that the compliments from some people were actually backhanded insults. What they were really saying was that it was a good thing I had finally conformed and decided to look the way they wanted me to look, or look a way that they approved of … and that pissed me off. A LOT.

This began a period of real introspection for me, where I examined my beliefs surrounding weight, the attitudes of people around me, and my own attitude toward myself BECAUSE of them. Now, I’m at the point where I’m proud to say that it’s the woman I am inside who counts, not the reflection in the mirror. This isn’t to say I hate how I look, either: I have come to accept and like my body. Sure, there are parts of it I don’t like … but I’m not going to let those few parts dictate my entire view of myself.

What I like most about myself is me. I have my battle scars, I have my idiosyncrasies, I have my flaws … but rather than being the negatives I always thought they were, I realize they are actually gifts, because they make me who I am. They are part of the total package.

Your history, your pain, and your little quirks are part of your total package as well. Don’t assume that if you simply lose weight, your life will suddenly be perfect. It just does not work that way. Lose weight if you choose to, but always honour who you are inside, no matter what your size. 

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