Ex-smokers are known to be especially intolerant of people who still smoke, and it would seem that someone who was once obese might develop a similar intolerance for those who are overweight. After all, if you can lose the weight, so can they.
As a formerly chunky person who lost 55 pounds more than 30 years ago, that intolerant someone might be me. But I am changing.
I like to think I understand things, but in actuality I spend much of my time driving around the planet punch-drunk and ignorant trying to figure out how I made it this far on a half-empty tank. If I didn’t like being fat, and you didn’t like being fat, it was an easy run for my money to assume nobody liked being fat. This is why I’m bad at math.
It has occurred to me that maybe it’s not so much about liking or disliking our weight but loving who we are at any precise moment and realizing that we have beauty and worth, regardless of our size or shape. I mean, I knew that intellectually, but emotionally I’ve always thrown my lawn dart at thin. While being on the slender side was and still is my personal bullseye, it was also a standard I set for others. Like I get to be the judge. With a little willpower, this could be you.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with judgment and profoundly annoyed with the beauty and fashion industry, which has pulled an Al Haig and declared itself in charge:
- 10 Things You Should Never Wear
- Clothes That Make You Look Fat and Old
- Hair Mistakes You Must Avoid
Last week I saw a “beauty and aging” feature in an online magazine, and I struck out twice in Hair Mistakes for 100. My bangs are too short for my age, and I have long gray hair. Oops, I forgot to conform.
The pressure to look like everyone else is intense. And it’s such a losing game, because just open your eyes! Considering that we are one species, variations of the human body are nothing less than astounding. It’s a circus out there. A crazy, wonderful circus.
One of the turning points for me was observing a woman at work who is so utterly petite, you can’t imagine that she has normal-sized heart and lungs. I think, what she eats can’t be all that different than what everybody else eats, but it’s like we’re not even cast from the same mold. She was just born that way.
We don’t typically afford the same courtesy to people we define as overweight. We assume something is wrong with them. Unhealthy. They must eat all the time. Enormous quantities. We don’t assume they are born that way.
I’m a strong believer in free will, but it just has to be that some of this stuff is hard-wired. Maybe my unique biological structure made it possible for me to drop the pounds. It doesn’t make me stronger or better. It’s just who I am.
And maybe someone else’s DNA keeps them at a different weight -- small, big or something in between. Or maybe somebody is larger and sure, they want to be smaller but not that bad. Or not right now. They have other things to worry about. They are searching for their own brand of beauty, and they’re searching for self-acceptance -- not the perfect diet.
Plenty will argue that being overweight is unhealthy -- I’ve believed this myself. And I’ve used and defended the description, “Fat and unhealthy.” But I no longer believe the categories are that clean. There are unhealthy fat people, just as there are unhealthy thin people.
The way we look, whatever it is, whether we choose it or not -- it's simply who we are, and it ought to be just fine. I certainly don't want to wake up every day and think, "This isn't good enough." How exhausting. Better to work at tuning out the noise and judgment, assume we are smart, beautiful, healthy and cool and go from there.