The interesting part about being what society deems as beautiful or an ‘acceptable’ body type is that people generally react to you in one of two ways—they either fawn all over you and roll out the red carpet for you, or they hold a secret (or, perhaps, not-so-secret) disdain for who they think you are. But most times your backstory—your truth—doesn’t follow you around on display, so people may judge you based upon their own insecurities and triggers. In my experience, it seems there is never a happy medium in between the attitudes concerning weight and appearance. I have learned to throw up my hands and live my life because I know where I’ve been.
Mind you, I wasn’t always what my peers considered to be ‘beautiful’ or thin. I wasn’t always contained within a ‘celebrated’ package. I grew up with weight and body image issues because food was an acceptable vice in my family. It was ingrained within me to fortify and magnify emotions with food—and I mean lots of it. Oh, you’re happy? Eat. Feeling sad? Eat. Anxious? Bewildered? Depressed? Disappointed? You got it—just eat for God’s sake! This caused me to evolve into the whole of my adult being struggling with weight issues—at least until I handled the emotional baggage of why I overate. Why was it that food never failed to initially fill my voids, only to turn around and sabotage my health and body? It conspired against me to hold onto every single ounce of pain, disappointment, fear, and everything running the gamut of the emotional spectrum.
At my largest, I was 279 pounds, which was literally a doughnut away from wearing a women’s dress size of 24. I was miserable. Now, there exists the argument that weight does not equate to sadness, so as a disclaimer: I can only speak for myself to say that I was uncomfortable carrying all of that extra baggage around. I always felt like I was weighted down by an unhealthy “fat suit”—because my spirit longed to be free. Going into stores and buying clothes off of the racks seemed like an unimaginable feat, yet I still hoped to accomplish it. I desired to be the woman I saw in my mind’s eye—ironically, the woman I have since become. So, let’s fast forward to the current version of me, and everything I’ve learned through living on both ends of the spectrum.
“We are all pieces of the puzzle of humanity, and we all exist in this ecosystem to make this world better in some way. It’s not solely up to the international leaders; we are all international leaders.”
I now have no problem buying clothing in my dress size, and garner attention from men and women in the physical department. But, guess what? It has proven to be both a blessing and a curse. Men are quick to open doors, pay for drinks, and ogle me with the eyes of a hunter. Women often longingly inquire about how it feels to be beautiful, what I did to earn my hourglass shape, who my trainer is. They are frequently shocked when I look up at them sheepishly, like the cat who swallowed the canary. I often think to myself, If you only knew….
I find myself retreating into the painful yet liberating truth that if the person only knew it took years of countless tears, soul-searching, and determination to do the internal and external work in order to value my body as the amazing temple it is. I didn’t have anyone to train me physically, emotionally, or psychologically; I had my faith and belief in myself. What some of the inquiring minds don’t know is that, up until recently, I lost weight mostly because I had to walk everywhere out of necessity. This was because—news flash!—cars are, in fact, a first world luxury, and life’s transitions moved me into financial place of sacrifice. I couldn’t afford a car.
Oddly enough, I know that my weight journey has blessed me; I am able to navigate any social setting I enter into because I understand the dynamic of being both the invisible wallflower and the stunning center of attention. Out of the two worlds, I have learned to strike a balance. My default preference is always to fade into invisibility because that is the shame-free place of comfort for those of us who have felt the stab of being ignored and disrespected. It becomes the easy safety zone where no one sees or hears you—where it’s easier to mask the pain rather than come forth as a real person with feelings. However, it is for a time and season such as this that I feel called to emerge bravely in the skin I’m in—to bring light to the issues of injustice and lack of humanity in regard to outward appearance (including weight, color, differed abilities, etc.). The ugly truth is that my current appearance provides a platform that is only paralleled by money and wealth. And so the responsibility begins.
What do I do with my platform now that I have a listening ear? How do I use my physical advantage to stand respectfully and responsibly to honor myself and hopefully raise the consciousness of the world? I choose to speak to both the judge and the judged. Ahead are five simple yet impactful lessons of empathy I wish to share.
#1 It is unfair to assume that you understand a person or situation until you have walked a mile in his or her shoes. Weight can be added or subtracted at any point in time of one’s life journey (just ask a former athlete), but one’s true content of character, heart, mind, and soul will last throughout the echoes of time. The gifts I possess as a thin but voluptuous woman are the same ones I held at my largest weight. Don’t underestimate me at any size.
#2 Look everyone in the eye, and give them a smile. Everyone. It doesn’t cost you anything to service humanity by respecting the soul of another by looking him or her in their eyes. As the proverb says, a smile can light a thousand suns. It will truly—energetically—serve to brighten another person’s day.
#3 Karma is consistent. You get to choose who you are at all times, so make sure that you treat people well the first time around—because you never know what situation you’ll be in next.
#4 Pain, heartache and sadness are all real experiences for every person—regardless of their appearance. Being treated poorly and made to feel inferior are all real occurrences. Please never devalue or negate anyone’s feelings. Validate everyone in his or her state as you receive them because you’ll never understand what a person truly experiences.
#5 Accept your greatness and do your part to improve the world, no matter where you’re at. Step out of the comfort and security of whatever it is—your weight, your wealth, your privilege—whatever. We are all pieces of the puzzle of humanity, and we all exist in this ecosystem to make this world better in some way. It’s not solely up to the international leaders; we are all international leaders. Step into your mantle of greatness; do your part, and remember to always be nice to everyone—no matter how they look or how you may perceive them—because we are all in this together.