Yesterday when was searching for weight loss related cartoons for my post, I cam across one about body image that resonated with me. I knew I wanted to share it with you all.
In a way, this is how I feel sometimes (not all the time, but more lately). I know it’s how a few of you feel as well.
Yet that is pretty much an accurate portrayal of how body image works sometimes. Even though we are lovely people we don’t see it when we look at ourselves in the mirror.
Over the years of reading blogs I’ve notice that a lot of people seemed to think they were fat/ugly long before they were anything close to actually being overweight. They would talk about how they felt fat in high school and hated their bodies even though looking back now they realize they were beautiful and not fat at all. I’ve heard way too many stories about people who wish they had realized back then how great they looked instead of hating their bodies.
For a while I thought this had never happened to me. I thought that I was superior in some way because I never falsely accused my body of looking bad. I thought that I started thinking I was fat because I was actually fat.
But yesterday I looked at pictures and realized I was wrong.
Yesterday while doing some spring cleaning I found pictures of me from middle school, which is when I started to think I was fat. I remember my mom’s comments one summer when I had outgrown all my clothes and need new ones. “Nothing fits?” she asked me sadly. Nope. Nothing fit. Then when I had to go up a size she seemed so sad about it. To my impressionable self that must have meant I was fat. That thought process was only cemented when my brother started teasing me about being fat every day.
When I look at the pictures I realize I was only slightly overweight. It was weight I probably could have dropped if I’d started playing basketball again or doing some other activity. Instead, I believed it. I believed I was fat. I thought it was just who I was. While any normal person could look at those pictures and realize I wasn’t, I thought I was. I’ve believed that for years.
But I wasn’t fat. I wasn’t. I was just setting myself up to be fat. I was setting myself up to have poor self image. My family was the only source I had to listen to because I had just moved to a new town and had no friends. So I believed everything they told me. I believed the implications and the outright accusations – I WAS FAT. That stuck in my head and broke me down until I followed through with the actions that made the fat thicker. It made me bigger. It made my outside body match what I thought I saw in the mirror.
Up until that point in life I had thought I looked cute. I wore dresses and shorts and played outside and even thought I could do anything (even being a model). Then that summer before 7th grade all those things happened and changed what I saw in the mirror. I didn’t see pretty anymore, just fat. I went from seeing a cute girl in the mirror to seeing a pig. Literally, it happened within a few weeks to a month. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this period in my life because it’s when everything changed for me.
After my mind changed and started seeing myself as fat, my actions followed suit. It was a depressing thing to have happen and after that I gained weight continually until my senior year in high school when I weighed between 255 and 260 (at least). What I believed in my head became my reality. I thought I was fat when I looked in the mirror, so I became fat in real life. My outside matched what I thought I saw in the mirror.
I wish this had never happened. I wish that young girls never heard a single bad thing about their bodies from anyone. I wish I wasn’t a cautionary tale of how easy it is to break someone’s self esteem at that age. But I am. So if you have daughters, nieces, friends, tell them good things. Talk to them and help them. Show them that they look wonderful just as they are. Don’t let them hate their bodies. Because they don’t need to grow up hating what they see in the mirror. Because if they do, even years later after working on it for a while it will still be hard to break that thought process. I know, because that’s where I am right now.