IN OTHER WORDS | Are You Going to Eat That?

ice cream

I have been fat-shamed by my parents, my grandmothers, boyfriends, colleagues, strangers, and even Weight Watcher’s Group LeadersAll of these people were wrong. At the time, I felt I wrong. I internalized their words and their looks. I believed I was ugly, unlovable, fat, and gross.

Here’s the deal: No one changes because you shame them. No one. Especially a child. And if they do, it’s temporary. It’s out of pain. It’s bullying.

The first time I was asked “are you going to eat that?” I was young, maybe seven. I felt judgment before the words. The looks. The awareness of every bite, every second helping. It was a reason to sneak food. And I did.

Food, my body, my weight, exercise. I obsessed. I was never severely overweight, maybe ten pounds or not at all.  I have been underweight. I’d fluctuate a lot. As a young adult on international business trips, I’d fear weight gain, starve, and come home a shell, jeans sagging at my hips. Later, after decades of obsession, pregnancies, chronic illness, thyroid disease and medication weight gain, I’ve been thirty pounds “overweight,” by which I mean heavier than my personal ideal weight. Not my “suggested weight based on my height.” At that, I’d be skeletal. The heaviest I was post pregnancy.

By the way, you who rolled your eyes at medication weight gain? It’s real. I stopped my medication and lost twenty pounds. And, I almost lost myself in depression. I went back on the medication, regained my emotional health and eight pounds in a month. I’ll take the eight pounds.

I have lost weight, consciously, practicing moderation, portion control, and exercise. But this is not about weight loss. Ingrained, I still felt there was something wrong with my body. Finding a voice against that was the answer.

The first time I found my voice, I was in my twenties. I was thin then, although I didn’t think so at the time. See, we, and you know who you are when I say “we,” measure our memories by body size. I was in good shape, exercised regularly, and bingeing was mostly under control. But I did only have indulgences that smack of an eating disorder. I didn’t allow real down-and-dirty indulgences. I didn’t eat normally, without judgment or consequences.

My indulgence was almost an obsession. I saved myself for Skinny Delights, a deli with glorious soft ice cream air pump machines. Dispensers of delicious indulgence. What would be the flavor of the day? I was a regular. And, I’d always order a large. There was a lot of air in that giant swirl, but the bigger the better for an eater like me, especially back then. Skinny Delights, I loved you.

And then, I was fat-shamed. Or food-shamed. And I spoke up.

My boyfriend and I sat by the window. I was about to dig in. A man and his wife sat at the table next to us. He looked at me, and as I brought the cone to my lips he made eye contact and said:

“Wow. That is huge. Are you really going to eat that?”

And everything sunk. Sunk through the linoleum, through the concrete and into the sewage system below the street.

I wanted to die. I wanted to throw the cone away. I didn’t think I could eat it. My boyfriend said “let it go.” I thought, I can’t let this go. This is not let go-able. I tried eating. I tried ignoring him. I sat, I thought, I was humiliated. And then I got angry.

I found my voice.

“Excuse me,” I tried to get his attention. “Sir, excuse me.” He looked up. “That comment you made before, about my ice cream? That was none of your business.”

“Oh, I was joking. Come on, I mean it was so big.”

“Right,” I said, “It doesn’t matter. We don’t know each other; you don’t get to comment on what I eat.”

He stammered, said he was joking, again, looked in shock. I had found my voice. I had stood up to my shamer. He apologized, I think.

I didn’t care. I got my appetite back. That was a good cone.

Comments

  1. More often than not people do not think of what another might feel like after a comment, even an unintentional slight.

    The main thing is that you get your healthy self-confidence and find the healthy body balance for you.

    Regards,
    Clifford Mitchem
    Advocare Distributor
    Nutrition + Fitness = Health
    http://www.AdvoCare.com/13087657

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    • Thank you for your comment. I agree, people don’t usually think about what comments like that might feel like, or, they are projecting their own issues when they say something. I was not obese, never have been. Had I been, it would have been a highly inappropriate thing to say, and he probably wouldn’t have said it. But, I was fragile emotionally about my body image, that’s why I said something. I don’t know if I reached that man. It was twenty years ago. Awareness about these issues was much lower. But, for me, as you said, it was about self-confidence and body image/awareness. Thank you again for reading my blog.
      Jenny

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  2. love this. LOVE THIS.

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  3. Jenny, I found you on BlogHer and I’ve followed you now. My goodness, it’s like you took the words right out of my mouth. I’ve been avoiding writing a post similar to this for a long time, mostly out of fear, and I want so deeply to thank you for writing this. I’ve reblogged it on my own blog (thisblogisepic.wordpress.com), and just… thank you!

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  4. I love this piece. I have been struggling as a ‘recovered’ eating disorder person for years. I’m not in the total insanity of it anymore and haven’t been for years (no real binging, no purging at all), but I still feel fat all the time, I think about my body all the time and I feel like a piece of shit almost all the time. It’s awful, I fight it but I just can’t seem to drag myself out of the nasty sludge. And no one is shaming me- just good old me. Damn it all, it’s hard to recover from this shit! Thanks for being brave and sharing.

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    • Thanks for commenting. It is a hard road. I have a post coming out on The Change Blog in January you might like and then a few on Lipstick & Politics in my Be My Guest of 2014 post. This year is the very first time I have ever talked about it on my blog. Huge step for me to just be real about it. It has helped. But, we are here, Alison too, to support each other, every freaking day. Right? Anytime. It’s a pact.

      Like

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