Photo: JSMOUSE via Nappy.Co
“Oh, how I wish to be thin. To look better in the clothes that I am in. To be a size two instead of a six. To shop in petite instead of miss.”
That is a portion of a poem that I wrote in high school. During that time, I was the captain of the pom-pon team, on the honor roll, and I was competing in beauty pageants.
My size was everything to me.
As a result, I have been on some form of a diet to lose weight since I was about 13 years old, and this poem reflected my thoughts about my health and weight.
From using diet pills to suppress my appetite, to my brief stint with purging, I over-exercised, counted calories, and drastically reduced my calorie intake (at one point I was only eating 1000 calories a day). I ate a vegan diet for ten years, didn't eat after 8 pm, reduced carbs, tried giving up sugar. The list goes on — all in an attempt to lose weight, to take up less space, to be an acceptable size for a woman in this culture. I have never appreciated the size I was and was always seeking to be smaller. I didn't really think about my actual health as much as I cared about the number on my clothes tag.
As an adult, the way to lose weight among my friends and family has become all about weight loss challenges.
Every January and at the start of every summer, my social media timeline is flooded with weight loss challenges.
"Lose weight to win money!” “Lose weight to earn money!” “Get beach body ready!” “Get your revenge body!”
Although these challenges seem like they would be fun and supportive, what I don't like about them is that their sole focus (just like the diet industry) is on weight as a marker for health. There is an assumption in our culture that fat is automatically unhealthy and thin is automatically healthy.
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We don’t take into account things like genetics and ethnicity. We don't ask how many push-ups a person can do or how fast someone can run. We don't see people’s blood work or stress tests results. We don't know how well people are sleeping or how their mental health is doing. We just see weight and automatically divide people into healthy or unhealthy, good bodies or bad bodies.
Although I am currently at the largest size I've ever been (including when I was pregnant), I am EXHAUSTED, and I am done having my focus be solely on losing weight.
I am done feeling like a bad person because the number on the scale is higher than it was a year ago.
Instead, I have started to focus on my overall health and other types of fitness goals. I started taking pole dancing classes because, as easy as pole dancers make those tricks seem, they are hard. They take more physical strength than I sometimes think I’ll ever have. Pole classes push me to work on my flexibility and balance which is essential because as we get older, people end up breaking hips because they trip and can’t catch their balance or they have lost the mobility in their hips.
These classes have also helped my body-confidence because they focus on strength and progress, not my size. We never talk about shedding weight, but we do shed clothes. There are people of all sizes and ages in each class. They strut around in tight booty shorts and sports bras without a care in the world, and as a result, I have started to focus on and appreciate the things that my body can do and not just how it looks.
I have also started to actively edit the messaging that I receive from my environment about weight. I have intentionally stopped talking to my friends and family about weight, and if it comes up (as it often does) I change the subject or just smile, nod my head, and not contribute to the conversation. I have also actively worked on eliminating the negative self-talk I used to regularly participate in — about not only my body but other women as well. I have edited my social media accounts so that I no longer see accounts that make me feel bad about my body, and I have started following people of all different sizes.
During a recent interview on “Breakfast Club,” singer Lizzo — the beautiful, big, talented singer who is not afraid to wear a thong on stage and twerk — said in response to a comment from the interviewer that she looked good for her size, “I look good at any size." Like Lizzo, my value, health, and beauty are more than my weight. I am amazing at any size.
Today I am focusing on my overall health, not the number on the scale.
I am focusing on deepening my relationships with my friends and family, on taking care of my financial and mental health, on eating great tasting food. And my goals are centered on moving my body daily and pushing it to walk farther, run faster, stretch deeper, on trying new things and seeing new places.
I don't want to compete to take up less space. I want to grow, light up, and affect others positively, which can happen at any size.