Voice in Recovery (www.voiceinrecovery.com) is sponsoring a national blog carnival to raise awareness about weight stigma. Bloggers were invited to post about several topics related to weight stigma over the next couple of months and share the posts with the site. This month’s topic is “What does weight stigma mean to me?”
A few years ago I was competing in triathlons. With each passing season, my body shrank, becoming leaner and stronger. I could swim, bike and run for hours – and did. But, instead of loving and appreciating my body for the awesomeness it was capable of or celebrating my athletic accomplishments, my only concern was wearing smaller and smaller clothes and fitting into a certain size jeans.
So, what happened when an injury put my triathlon career on extended hiatus? The numbers on the scale and the numbers on my clothing crept upward. And I felt like a failure. A miserable, embarrassed failure.
The truth is, I wasn’t a failure at all. I had – and have – many accomplishments to be proud of in my life. But my weight was all that mattered. It was all I could see. And when you’re in “that” place, you project it onto anyone else you perceive to have a weight problem – your loved ones, your co-workers, any random person you see on the street. If I’m a miserable failure and embarrassed about my weight, then you and you and you must be miserable failures, as well. Stigmatizing someone for his or her weight, I think, is really about the person standing in judgment. At least, that was the case with me.
After a enough time passed to allow me some perspective and to, uh, get over myself, I finally got it: the numbers on a scale do not define me. The size of my clothing does not determine my success, or failure, as a human being. I alone do that.
And once you know this for yourself, you have to know it for everyone you love or work with or randomly encounter on the street.
Just so we’re clear, I don’t pretend to be beyond obsessing about my weight. But I prefer to use my time and energy on more positive pursuits. Like educating women that pantyhose are the devil’s work. They are.