Today, as I was listening to yesterday's edition of GOOD MORNING AMERICA (I think) on Hulu, I caught an earful about actress Amanda Peet, who is apparently being blasted lately because she has been trying to fight the inevitable cycle of aging with things like makeup, teeth-whitening, and hair color, in an industry that demands impossible and timeless perfection. I find it quite funny that those who earn their livings in Hollywood are criticized for being fake, considering that it really is the Silicone Valley of the world. As I listened to this ridiculous report about yet another "body shaming" outcry, because the beautiful Ms. Peet is attempting to age gracefully without Botox, I started thinking about my own bod, which has gone through quite a bit of changes in the last couple years, both from aging and from my weight-loss efforts.
It is no secret that today's society is full of crybabies, people who seem incapable of tolerating things that humans have been tolerating for centuries. The uprising against "shaming" and "bullying" has me burning far more than 4 calories in eye-rolls daily. There is no shaming in admitting that someone needs to lose weight, because obesity IS unhealthy. There is no bullying in telling someone you love that they could look and feel better if they took off a few lbs., as long as you do it gently and with a loving heart. Back in the old days, people were not so touchy. Back in the old days, we would not celebrate models being overweight anymore than we celebrated those who looked like they were made of toothpicks. Humans have become too sensitive to good advice, taking every warning or loving correction as an insult. On the flipside of that, though, we are also far too critical of each other, often without any love in it.
When I was fat, which was most of my life, starting from the time when I was in my early teens, I heard about it. I changed in the back of the school locker room and was often late to the next class because I was too embarrassed to take of my clothes around the thinner girls. I was the fat grandkid on one side of my family, the one who never played any sports. When I was a counselor at a church camp, I wouldn't dare get in the pool because I was embarrassed to be seen in a swimsuit, even a very modest, very Baptist one-piece; yes, I am terribly aquaphobic, but that was always a great excuse for not donning swimwear. The thing I also noticed, though, is that I wasn't the only one who was made fun of. Other kids were criticized and mocked, insulted and laughed at, for a variety of things. Some were too tall. Some were actually too thin. Some did not do well in school or couldn't play dodgeball very well. Some were socially awkward, some were too shy or too loud, some were from less wealthy areas and didn't have the right name brands on their clothes or shoes. No matter what anyone did, someone would find something to insult about them, because that is the way humans are.
I am not immune to the sting of insults, but as I've grown, I've come to develop a stronger ability to distinguish them from tough love. My Great-Grandma Thomas once said to me when I was a teenager, "You'd feel better if you'd reduce." She's been gone for some time now, but I can still hear her saying that in her very blunt way, and she, herself, was certainly not a small person. When I was a teenager, that remark stung a bit, but as I've grown, I've discovered that there WERE love and truth in it. Great-Grandma was right! I HAVE reduced, and I DO feel better. I am sure Maude Belle is looking down from heaven this very moment, saying, "See? I told you so!" That was a tough-love correction, not an insult, even if it took me many years to realize it.
If you are just starting out on your journey, you have likely felt the sting of insults or those mocking stares. Large people are prone to these. In spite of the ridiculous anti-"body shaming" and anti-"bullying" (not that these are good things, but acting as if they are new or as if humanity will ever fully resolve them is absurd) campaigns, which have become a fad and the stuff of every reality show competition, people are and always will be mean to each other. Fat kids are still made fun of. Bone-thin people are still made fun of. People with stained teeth or gray hair or too many freckles are still made fun of. And here is something you need to know as you're getting smaller: Even when you hit your goal weight, the very people who have encouraged you to hit that finish line might criticize you when you cross it. This has happened to me twice now, both in this self-help campaign and the one I did in 2003. That tough love hurts a little at the outset of your weight-correction journey, but opinions and remarks hurt a lot more when you've worked so hard to reach the endzone, only to find that your cheering section still finds something to boo about your weight or lack thereof. They may not even realize it, but those boo-boos hurt!
A few days ago, when I was talking to my bestie about how discouraged I was that I'd picked up over 7 lbs. in less than two weeks after that fateful, blissful 4/11 goal day, he said to me, "Well, you could stand to pick up a few more lbs. anyway." I realize he was trying to be encouraging and nice, but that set off a fuse of rage in me. My first thought was, "What!? Are you freaking crazy!? I worked since November to take off this last 10 lbs., worked for 831 long days to get to that goal that was so important to me, and you're telling me I should just sit back and be okay with sabotaging that?" When I went to my old church to watch my nephew's Awana Grand Prix race a few days back, a dear friend, one of the sweet church ladies I always make sure to hug, said "You've lost too much. You should stop now." I hold no angst or grudge against either of these wonderful people, and I still adore them and know they really meant no harm, but I cannot even begin to explain how upsetting it is to feel as if I have to defend myself, to defend and explain why I chose 155 lbs. as my goal, with a 153-158-lb. cushion range, because it is certainly not as if I googled, "How can I catch anorexia?" or checked out BECOMING BULIMIC FOR DUMMIES from my local library. I chose that number because I knew from my 2003 effort that it is where I FEEL my best, where my body functions at its best. It has nothing to do with looks for me, though I do admit it's nice to be able to wear more cute things and to merge left at Cato. Not only that, but I also did my research. I know that for my height, my lifestyle, my age, my bone width, and many other factors, 155-ish is where I need to be. I didn't just randomly pick that number out of a hat.
Model Kate Moss, a former flame of Johnny Depp's (I'm jealous, but only if he's Edward Scissorhands, because I've never had a thing for pirates or demon barbers), was famous and infamous for saying that quote that's popped up on countless posters and memes and t-shirts through the years: "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." I beg to differ. Muenster cheese tastes darn good, especially if you sit on the package to warm it for a minutes, so its soft, then nibble the orange edges off, then eat the middle. (Yep, folks, I have some WEIRD food quirks.) Reese's Cups taste good, and sometimes I think they were worth merging right at Cato, to the Size 28Ws. And then there's Coffee, which tastes better than any version of thin, especially when he comes with gifts, all those goodies like hazelnut and chocolate shavings and whipped cream. Not only that, but as great as I always thought skinny would feel, it doesn't feel so great when the same people who remarked on your obesity now remark on your thinness. It is a bit shocking when the people who were cheering you on to the endzone are now there telling you that you've run too far or that you should turn around and go back, even a few yards, after you've sweated and dodged so many brutal tackles and takedowns to get there.
Here is the takeaway for today (and by the way, Chinese takeaway tastes good, too. Man, how I've been wanting some moo goo gai pan, but I know it will just have me moo-mooing again): You must believe that those loved ones who are telling you to lose weight are NOT intentionally shaming or bullying you; they are right about obesity being dangerous to your physical, social, and even mental health. You must also learn, though, that the same loved ones are human; as such, you may hear negativity from them when you reach your goal. Sometimes this is spawned by jealousy, sometimes by real (albeit often unnecessary) concern, and sometimes it is simply a matter of being human. We all hear voices, in our heads and coming from the mouths of others, before, during, and after the quest. Learn to take the good things from those voices, the things that encourage you, and to dismiss the voices that are saying things you simply don't need to take to heart--or to waist. Do your research to determine where you need to be to FEEL your best, and work toward that goal. Ask your doctor (or even some of the BMI and other calculators on Dr. Google) what a healthy weight is for you, and strive for that, no matter what anyone in the bleachers says. If you feel the need to Clairol your hair or use whitening strips along the way, to let your personal Edward Scissorhands give you a rockin' hairstyle, then do so, but do it for you, and use your own judgment, based on what you know is healthy and safe. There ARE things that taste better than skinny feels, but YOUR feels are the most important, and you should get to the weight that makes you FEEL your best, physically and mentally (in other words, I'm NOT telling you to become an anorexic/bulimic, and if you have issues with that, please seek professional help). Somewhere between the Goodyear Blimp and Twiggy, there is an optimum you, and you have every right to be that person, no matter what your great-grandma or your bestie or anyone else has to say about it!