The real reason people wanted me to lose weight
Growing up, I was a curvy girl. I was never unhealthy, but never a size 2, either. My hips were wide, my thighs big, my legs teased for being “yam” shaped, and I had a stomach I wished would be flat. I felt uncomfortable with my body because I never looked like any of the girls in fashion magazines and was therefore very hard on myself when I looked in the mirror; I always saw things I wanted to improve and rarely felt like I was beautiful.
Humiliatingly, I often overheard loud, rude comments made by strangers about how I looked, too. These comments took a huge toll on my self-esteem. It was hard for me to accept how I looked when I was constantly pressured by people I knew to lose weight. Some people, including my own friends, would even intentionally insult me by calling me “fat.”
I began to feel like being fat was my fault, that it was a personal failure. Eventually, my only goal was to be thin, thinner, thinnest. I started skipping meals, and consumed very little when I did eat. I had previously fasted for the religious reason of being more in tune with my spirituality, but this time I fasted to shed the weight I considered “extra.”
Even when I lost weight, however, I still couldn’t please my critics. The same people who said I was too fat started to tell me I was too skinny. They told me I needed to gain back some weight.
Perhaps some people actually meant well when they kept encouraging me to shed a few pounds and, then again, to gain weight. But I began to wonder: Why was my size, no matter what it was, so concerning to other people? No matter how hard I tried to adjust my body to please others, it was never enough. Additionally, I did well academically — I was always among the top three students in my class — but my intellectual ability was never noticed the way my weight was.
I realized that the issue was never my body at all. The reason why I, and so many other women, are shamed for our shapes isn’t because our bodies are others’ targets, but because women as a whole are. If women were permitted to believe that their value comes from their minds and souls more than their sex appeal, they would become much more difficult to socially and politically control. Our patriarchal society, therefore, reinforces unreasonable, unachievable physical goals for women so that they are constantly made to feel that they fall short of standards set for their value no matter who they are or what they do. Women are body shamed no matter what they look like because when a woman can be made to feel too big, too small, too short, too tall, too thin, too curvy, her value is effectively equated with a subjective idea of attractiveness. And when her value is equated with a subjective idea, that makes her all the more easily manipulated.
In reality, though, women’s value lies in so much more than our bodies. When we worry so much about our physical weight, we forget to think about the potential weight of our own achievements. Women can and should be politicians, scientists, business owners, developers, programmers — the list goes on. None of these contributions to our communities have anything to do with the way we look. The day we realize this for ourselves is the day our lives will change forever.
That being said, it took me a long time (longer than I would like to admit) to finally make up my mind to accept whatever shape my body takes. I finally got down to the root of my body image issues and decided once and for all that I do not care what others think of me and that my size has no bearing on my worth. Being curvy does not make me any less kind, creative, or desirable. It does not make me any less of a woman — or a human being for that matter.
It is time for all women to deal with the impossible standards that eradicate all of our achievements and shower us in self-doubt and loathing. Curvy women deserve more than “acceptance.” It is time for our society to stop evaluating women bodies at all and instead focus on their contributions to society.
More articles by Category: Body image and body standards, Feminism
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