Society Is Struggling with My Weight

I have taken issue with my body for as long as I can remember. I’ve been thin, I’ve been chubby, I’ve been fat. But I’ve rarely ever felt good enough. Growing up in Southern California beach towns, I have always been aware of the cultural obsession with thinness and “fitness.” Growing up in a family of white people who mostly have naturally slim figures, I have always been aware that my body gains and carries weight in ways that are not “acceptable.” I am no stranger to the feeling of being “the fat friend”, despite the fact that I’ve never actually been plus size. The cultural bubble in which I developed was not made for a body like mine. And yet I’ve always felt like my body was the problem.
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The words have passed my lips many times before: “I’ve struggled with my weight a lot over the years.” But I’m starting to realize that society is struggling with my weight, and in turn making me believe I’m struggling with it too. The fact is, no one knows anyone else’s body journey. By taking one look at a person, so many of us presume to know everything about them. If they are thin, it’s because they are disciplined. They must be so good about what they eat and how much they exercise. They are hot, and they are allowed to wear any clothing they want. If they are fat, it’s because they are weak-willed. They must have no self-control when it comes to eating, and they probably need to exercise more. They are probably insecure about their bodies, and they really shouldn’t wear that outfit.
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The criticism is so painfully biased. When a thin person drinks heavily, takes drugs, or never exercises, the health police don’t even put the sirens on. But the minute a fat person eats a slice of pizza, it’s a whole damn SWAT team invasion. Internet comment sections are teeming with random people who are filled with rage and disgust at the sight of anyone except a model with flat, toned abs consuming junk food.
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People with marginalized bodies who post confident photos of themselves are faced with constant scrutiny.
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“She’s way too old to be wearing clothes like that!”
“Fat girls shouldn’t wear crop tops.”
“Wow, he sure put on some pounds… looks like someone’s given up.”
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Even the positive comments are toxic in their own way, exposing our many fears and insecurities.
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“OMG her body is #goals.”
“I wish my waist was that small. Too bad I’m fat and ugly.”
“I’m trying to lose weight but I’ll never be as tiny as you are!”
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We really think we know everything about one another, but so much goes on behind the image we project. Some of us have eating disorders or chronic illnesses. Some of us are on weight loss journeys, others are on weight gain journeys. Some of us are plus size athletes and yogis, and some of us are thin but not so strong. Some of us are genetically predisposed to be thinner or thicker or to carry our weight in different places. Some of us have diseases or medications that cause weight fluctuations. We are all living in our own bodies, their histories written down on our skin in the form of stretch marks, scars, wrinkles, and cellulite. Our bodies will change as we age, if we bear children, or if we become ill. And all of our bodies exist as they are, unique vessels designed to aid us as we make our mark on this world, so there must not be anything inherently wrong with any one of them.
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My body is not the problem. Your body is not the problem. The struggle is a product of our environment.
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When an uncle “welcomed me to the club” after I lost weight, he showed me that he believes thinness is the ideal everyone desires.
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When the media shames celebrities every time their weight fluctuates, they expose their struggle to humanize bodies that they deem “too fat” or “too skinny.”
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When my grandmother grabbed my waist and asked me how many inches I had lost, I knew she believed I had ended a struggle with my weight.
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When people argue that body positivity promotes obesity, they prove that they feel compelled to body shame others under the guise of health consciousness, rather than just mind their own body and business.
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When some relatives praised my cousin for her thin figure despite the cause being an inability to eat food in a foreign country, they demonstrated their belief that all weight loss is good, no matter the cause.
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When 3 different doctors refused to treat me for my gastrointestinal issues, instead assuming I wasn’t exercising or eating well and opting to lecture me on how I should lose weight, I realized how institutionalized fatphobia can cost people their health.
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Even when I finally got diagnosed with a real physical disorder in need of treatment, that doctor still said, “I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear that you will lose weight as a result of your treatment!”
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The fact is, I do often struggle to be okay with the way my body looks. It’s hard not to fall into the trap of, “I’ll be happier once I’m thinner” and “I can’t do this or that until I lose some weight.” Clearly, the diet culture that pervades our society is difficult to push aside, no matter how angry it makes some of us. But every once in a while, when I feel myself getting pulled back into the toxic cycle, I find someone who reminds me that there are people out there who are rebelling against the culture and rewriting the rules to include all bodies.
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First, it was Megan Crabbe (@bodyposipanda and bodyposipanda.com). Her unapologetic analyses of eating disorders and diet culture on her blog are as inspiring as her carefree dance moves on Instagram.
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Sometimes it’s a random person I walk past, and the confidence they radiate. Sometimes it’s a friend who shares a hearty meal with me without making any comments about being “bad” or needing to watch our figures. Sometimes it’s my closest loved ones opening their minds to the possibility of a world where we respect all bodies and treat every person with dignity no matter how they look.
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Today, it’s Jameela Jamil (@i_weigh and @jameelajamilofficial), whose sharp-witted criticism of the diet industry and flourishing “I Weigh” movement are making me feel empowered enough to write this post. She even takes it a step further, reminding us that we are each the sum of our experiences, values, goals, and good deeds. We are not just numbers on a scale.
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I have always thought of myself as someone who is doomed to “struggle” with weight and body image. But I think it’s all those close-minded, judgmental people I have encountered throughout my life that might be doomed to struggle. The tools to break free from diet culture’s suffocating grasp are out there. I’m choosing to use them to build a better future for all of us.