Several years ago, when I was very thin, my best friend took me aside and told me I was too thin and should try to eat better and more normally to gain some weight. I pretty much told her to mind her own business and continued my careful diet of salad and lean meat.
Fast forward to now and I look at a picture of me with my family, taken at that time, and see exactly what my friend was talking about. The skinniness that made me happy back then looks sickly and out of place now. What was I thinking back then? How could I reason that the thinness I experienced at that time was normal?
Most people with struggles of some kind say, “I just want to be normal.” If we overeat, we want to eat normally, if we are fat we want to be normal, which means thin to us. If we are depressed or anxious, we wish we had a routine life.
The problem with normalcy is not the regularity itself but the fact that it is subjective. I will go one step further and say that none of us really wants to be normal, we want to be special, we want to stand out -but in a good way. We all have a definition in our heads of what that means and when we don’t reach it, we feel like we have somehow failed.
A few weeks ago, I discovered the work of an artist/photographer who traveled the world taking pictures of people’s reactions to her obese body. She calls her project “Weight Watchers.” In the photos, she poses herself on busy streets, in parks, on beaches and other places people gather. For the most part, she doesn’t smile or attempt to interact with anyone. She just poses or walks.
The looks on the peoples faces appears to show that they are disgusted with the large size of her body. But I think its a little deeper than that. Are they reacting to her or to the fact that she appears out of place? Or the fact that she is posing for a camera on a tripod? Or because she is trying to elicit a reaction? Or eating on a busy street corner? Or appears unkempt?
The point is, no one knows exactly what anyone else is thinking and we all have our own ideas of what is acceptable. Some of the people who appear repulsed are, themselves, overweight. Do they look at themselves the same way when they look in the mirror?
All this got me to thinking about my self perception -how I treat myself and the things I say about myself when I look in the mirror. I used to see a reflection that didn’t jive with what I wanted to see. And why did I even want to see something different than what was being reflected back at me? And how did I change that perception?
Body acceptance is not an easy thing to accomplish, but it is doable. It is not perfect everyday, but I am much happier than when I was striving to be thin. And it doesn’t really matter what my size is. When I was 40 pounds lighter, I still had a desire to be smaller, better, more fit. The reflection I perceived in the mirror came more from my brain than my eyes. Meaning that no matter what we see, our brain has to process it. In this processing, we place a value on what we observe -so the problem is not what is observed, but the meaning we attach to it.
Things that helped me accept my body
1. I purposely look at my body in the mirror each day, taking in all the things that normally would repulse me. I have no thoughts, no judgment, good or bad. This is sort of like desensitization, but it works for me.
2. Buy clothes that fit well. I like my clothes to fit, but not be restrictive. So, no tight clothes, but no baggy clothes either.
3. Begin to appreciate all the things your body can do regardless of its size. It is keeping you alive and functioning. Really get to know the good things your body does on a daily basis.
4. Stop criticizing your body. In fact stop criticizing yourself in any area. We all have things we wish were different or better about ourselves. Just take note of them with no judgment and go on.
5. Just because you don’t feel valuable doesn’t mean you are not valuable. Be honest with yourself. Self pity is not helpful.
Each day I am more accepting and comfortable in my body exactly the way it is. I don’t have to lose weight to love myself and I don’t think of myself as normal or abnormal anymore. I think of myself as me and what I have to offer this world. We all have gifts that are unique to us and that makes us all special…
For article and photos of “Weight Watchers Project” click here.
Bingefree- Start here.
“Why do you want to be normal when you are already so special?”