One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

INSIGHTS

What are YOU Making ‘Fat’ Mean?

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doveImage from Dove.

My friend Carla shared this article on her Facebook page and it sucked me right in.

Here’s a snippet from “Why ‘Love Your Body’ Campaigns Aren’t Working” written by Isabel Foxen Duke

Like an unfortunately large percentage of women in the U.S., I grew up criticizing my body and dieting regularly from a young age. I spent years of my life terrified I would never get “there,” the place where my weight and all perceived rewards of thinness would finally fall into place. Getting thin was the only answer I could think of to most of my problems, and conversely, “being fat” or gaining weight, meant “losing” — it meant never achieving, never being loved, never “having it all.”

I remember seeing body-positive campaigns like Dove’s Real Beauty or Victoria Secret’s Love Your Body — campaigns that encourage women to “love the skin they’re in” — and thinking “that’s nice, but I still wish I was thinner.”

I would see images of “real women” and think to myself, I don’t want to be one. I wanted to get ahead, stand out, be special, and I didn’t see how accepting my body the way it was would get me “there” — the place where my life would begin. I believed my dreams were 20 lbs. away from me, and what seemed like a forced, new ideal of beauty on a billboard didn’t seem to change that.

I could have written that word. for. word.

The article goes on to say the strides in media are great for the younger generations but those who have already been programmed to hate their bodies need to “ ‘unlearn’ the rewards and punishments they experienced around weight as children…

I’ve talked about how my dad planted the seeds of my body-image issues at a young age — click here to read an open letter I wrote to him in haste. 

The unconscious lessons he taught me won’t be undone by seeing “real” woman in billboards or magazines, but I agree with the author, these campaigns are still important. We as a culture need to be exposed to a wide variety of body types and sizes in mainstream media.

My experience with my dad coupled with a constant stream of super skinny model images of the ’80s and ’90s, cemented my body image issues.

Isabel asks in the article: What are YOU making “fat” mean?

My answer is simple: Being fat meant I was unworthy and unattractive. It’s why I was forgettable, unpopular and shy. Fat allowed me to stay safe, hidden and unimportant.

For 8 years I’ve been working on all these feelings in parallel with actually losing the weight I gained in fear I was fat when I really wasn’t. (How many of you look back at photos from high school in disbelief of how skinny you were?) My biggest hurdle has always been self-worth and confidence. Being unlovable and unworthy were always my underlying fear despite being in a supportive relationship.

This is why I think having kids helped me gain the confidence to break the cycle I was in. Giving birth was a life-changing experience for me. I finally felt the unconditional love a child brings into your life. This love taught me to value myself and my body for what it was, giving me the confidence to break the dieting and negative self worth cycles I was in.

I didn’t realize how many feelings this article stirred up in me until I started writing. All I knew after reading it was I had to make this the question of the week:

What are YOU making “fat” mean?

Note: I explored these feelings before specifically in My Core Hurt Eating – A MUST Read for those that Overeat.



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Discussion

There are 16 comments so far.

    carla birnberg

    July 22, 2013

    OK Im laughing as I saw this on YOUR FB page and couldnt click over fast enough—and had no idea youd shouted out to me.

    I wont hijack yer post—but I will say this:

    what you say so eloquently here (My biggest hurdle has always been self-worth and confidence. Being
    unlovable and unworthy were always my underlying fear despite being in a
    supportive relationship.) is my sole hope prayer and focus for my daughter. I just want her to know she’s amazing and enough if nothing ever changes about her. no matter what job she has or how much money she has or how she looks or…..

    Kat

    July 22, 2013

    I love this! Self acceptance is more than just the word ‘fat’ or using that term at all – I know that I’ve always struggled with this and have days where I do feel “fat” from when I’ve weighed more before – after going on a weight loss journey, the hardest part is accepting yourself for all of the hard work you’ve put in despite comparison to the media etc

    Emily Sandford

    July 22, 2013

    Personally, I would see these campaigns of “real women” and always just wish I could be one of them – guess it’s part of having been over 450 pounds – the perspective of “normal” becomes super-skewed. I saw those women as gorgeous and natural – even more so than super thin models. But I wondered (and still struggle with this) if I could ever look even like these “real women” did. I’ve never had a desire to be thin. My goal size has always been a size 14 or 16 in misses, just so I could get out of plus size stores. There are certain levels of acceptable that we all hold for ourselves, and it’s interesting to look at how we see others versus how we see ourselves. I’m desensitized to the word “fat” because I’ve used it as a self descriptor for so long. It is what it is. Fat isn’t bad for me in relation to other terms. Now, you throw in descriptions like “deathfat” and “super obese” or whatever and I roll into a spiral of self hate. Those things to me mean extreme laziness, sloth, gluttony, and lack of self control (even though I know this isn’t the case for me). It’s interesting to think about, for sure.

      Felicity

      July 22, 2013

      Those ads always made me think the same thing…

    Jen

    July 22, 2013

    Invisible. I thought fat would make me invisible. I was really young when boys harassed me and one way to deal with it was to get fat so they would not be interested in m.

    Mehgann

    July 22, 2013

    I laugh when you point out that so many of us were skinny in high school and didn’t even know it. I was JUST having this conversation with a woman I work with today! She was talking about how she has never thought she was pretty. She scoffs at her husband when he compliments her appearance, even. She is not fat, so she never experienced that, but I told her about how I’ve ALWAYS thought I was pretty, but I also always thought I was fat, even when I was skinny. Photographic evidence proves me to be very much incorrect about that, but it stays with me. I have no answers today, just observations.

    Megan

    July 22, 2013

    FAILURE. I make “fat” mean that I am a failure….but not just failing in regards to my health. I am a failure as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter and as an employee.

    Dani Spies

    July 22, 2013

    I too could write this entire POST word for word! Fat always meant not ‘enough’ – not good enough, not pretty, not worthy, blah blah blah… and food was my attempt to symbolically ‘fill up’. Ah… the things I would say to my 16 year old self… if I had just one sentence, it would be, ‘You’re OK! – like, really, really ok!”. xo

    Paula

    July 22, 2013

    It amazes me that there are people who went through the same thing I did as a kid. It is tough to get over it isn’t it? My father would tell me that it is the past & to just get over it. I’m 50 and still feel unworthy. Working on it though. Getting healthy is inside & out. Thanks for sharing the post and open letter.

    Jody R. Goldenfield

    July 22, 2013

    Roni – loved this & it is interesting how we all have different experiences. You wrote: My answer is simple: Being fat meant I was unworthy and unattractive. It’s why I was forgettable, unpopular and shy. Fat allowed me to stay safe, hidden and unimportant. With me I was all up to hidden & not sure why – I tried out for the sports & cheer in junior high & made both – being fat I should say, drill team & cheer in high school – made drill team & cheer was a popularity contest. I was heavy up to junior year… I always felt bad about myself, shy, worthless yet kept doing these things & I don’t know why – they never made me feel better internally but maybe externally. I continue to work on this with my I am Enough campaign at 55 years old…

    Weight Loss Personal Stories

    July 23, 2013

    I should say if we have an empty love tank—which can be traced basically from our childhood—we will really have difficulty loving ourselves genuinely. The good news is our nature is love… this way we can always fill our tanks…we just need to look within ourselves—the answer is there. It has always been there.

    LisaM

    July 23, 2013

    I’m sandwiched between the two extremes of this camp. My mom to this day equates overweight with total failure as a person, in all aspects of life. And she’s not thin, so has hated herself every day for almost 87 years. My heart just breaks for her. She had me imprinted with the same message until I worked to get myself to a better place mentally. I was determined that no child of mine would grow up equating weight with self-worth, and I guess I did maybe too good of a job – my awesome daughter is comfortable with herself to the point she is into fat politics & celebrates her plus-sized frame. But now I worry that her health is going to suffer at some point. Hard to face facts when you’re not yet old enough to experience the negative impacts of too many pounds and too little exercise. She’s a smart gal, so hoping things will work themselves out. In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed everything she has taught me about the other side of what I grew up with!

    Karen Jaffe

    July 23, 2013

    You know, the thing is no matter how much weight we lose, we will never live up to that idealized female form that is paraded in front of us daily in magazines, on television and on the internet. When you see celebrities popping out babies and walking the red carpet with a completely flat stomach the following week, that is something no mortal woman can ever attain. Even in my fifties (dare I say close to 60), I still compare myself to the super glamorous “older” women I see on television who still have the body of a 20 year old and a face to match. I guess my issue is measuring up and feeling like I am still attractive and relevant. It is as much a fat thing as it is an age thing. I am as close to self-acceptance as I will ever get, but there is always that little nagging voice in the back of my head that says, “If you only ate a little less, if you only worked out a little more . . .”

    ajeb1008

    July 23, 2013

    Unworthy, unlovable, failure, never ever good enough, lazy-that’s what fat means to me.
    My mom started all of this for me at a very young age. I wan NOT fat when she started making me weigh myself, naked, in front of her every day starting in junior high. If the scale was up, it was misery-the constant harping that no one would ever want to date me, I would never get married or have kids (the holy grail for my parents). What was almost worse was when the scale was down-never a “good job” only, “well, you still have a long way to go.”
    I know this is the root cause of my never ending issues with food, self esteem, self worth, but I’m not sure how to get over it.
    I’m 45 years old, all of this happened so many years ago-why does it still affect me?
    As for the pictures in high school- I long to be that fit and healthy again. I was so NOT fat, I just wish she could have seen it too.

    Imacrazymomof4

    July 25, 2013

    Fat to me means feeling uncomfortable in my skin and clothes. Not feeling good, no energy and no desire to do the things I know will help make the feeling go away. No, I don’t like it when I feel fat…I’m grateful that I haven’t felt like that in awhile.

    Guest

    August 9, 2013

    If interested, I recently was able to create a video that debunks 6 common myths about getting losing fat… like for example most people don’t realize that you have to actually eat fat in order to lose fat: http://www.wisdom-square.com/how-to-lose-weight-and-belly-fat-fast.html

    Best of Luck! :)