Oh, I have struggled with whether or not I should write this. The truth is, I probably shouldn’t, but I can’t get my brain and my emotions to stop churning it over and over. And in thinking about it, I realized this has probably happened to a lot of women, and it makes me sad. Deeply, deeply sad that still women are judged according to our appearance and not our character, and our appearance seems to be everyone else’s business.
This weekend I was mushroom hunting with my extended family and just happy to be with everyone. My mom brought a friend and in the woods they had a conversation about me, and the huge amount of weight I’ve gained. I guess my mom tried to defend me by saying I worked out and I wasn’t just lazy, but her friend wasn’t convinced. They said a lot of hurtful things about how I look. I guess that would’ve been fine, this conversation of theirs, everyone has their own thoughts…but they had the conversation in front of my eleven year old son. They’d seen him sitting in the car in front of them, windows down, but they just forgot he was there. My son listened, shocked, and came crying to me and asking me if I was fat and was I going to get diabetes. He wanted to know why his Nana was saying such terrible things about how I looked. “How can she do that?” he asked and I didn’t answer him because I didn’t know.
A few weeks ago, my ex sent me a vitriolic email saying that I needed to talk to our primary care physician because I obviously don’t understand healthy eating or nutrition and that I am actively trying to give our kids diabetes with the way that we must eat.
At conferences I attended, I had people approaching me with brainstorming ideas on healthy eating and how I could lose weight.
I didn’t ask for anyone’s help or opinion on my appearance. They offered it to me, complete with a heavy side of judgment. It’s as if my weight gain is some ticket for everyone to express disappointment in me as a person.
I weigh 173 pounds. I’m a size 12/14. This is average for a woman my age. I’m in my mid-forties and have two children. I have a sedentary job. And here’s the thing. I work out. I walk about 30 miles a week (12,000 steps a day). I eat lots of vegetables, lower carbs, healthy protein. I’m learning that as I enter pre-menopause, things are changing. I sometimes talk about lifestyle changes with people, but it’s as I learn that things I used to enjoy make me feel yucky. I don’t talk about diets. I’m not interested in dieting. I’m interested in learning to grow older with my body and to be okay with who I am as a person.
Funny thing is, I tried to lose weight this year…not because I felt bad about myself or was unhappy…but because of how other people have started to treat me. For three months and a few thousand dollars, I met with a personal trainer three times a week. I lost two pounds. But this wasn’t sustainable. I couldn’t afford it, and I couldn’t take off the time in the middle of the workday to work out for an hour and drive the twenty minutes there and back, not when I also needed to take time off to take my son to the therapist’s office, or to meet with my sister who is struggling, or to have yet another meandering conversation with my mother about her health. To lose the weight, I had to give up a glass of wine with dinner, an occasional dessert, and began focusing on everything I ate…and I felt guilty about everything I consumed. Every time I ate I felt like a failure. This is not the way to live.
In fact, the times in my life I’ve been the thinnest…are the times I’ve been the most unhappy. When I lived in New York and felt the kind of loneliness where I thought I could disappear and no one would notice. In my first marriage, where every day I disappeared a little more and was criticized for eating too much, not running enough, or wasting time writing when I should be focused solely on the kids. These were the times I was skinny. And you know what people said to me then? During those times I thought I could leave the planet and no one would care? “Tanya! You look so great! You’re so pretty!”
Looking at me now, you wouldn’t know the amount of stress that I’ve been shouldering this year. You also wouldn’t know that, somehow, I am happy in this body and in my life. I have a wonderful husband and two kids I love with every atom of my being. They help me carry the other things going on.
People don’t see that. They see someone who used to be skinny and has now ‘let herself go’. I haven’t let myself go. My body is changing. And you don’t have the right to comment on my appearance. No one comments on a man’s appearance with the kind of vitriol they use about women.
Here’s the thing: my body is not here for your pleasure. I am not an ornament. And while you may think these comments about my weight are offered from a good place in your heart, they’re not. They’re offered from a place of judgment and cruelty.
When did people lose the ability to filter or be kind to others? When did it become okay to say whatever you want to another human being? Has the Internet and trolling become so accepted that we can now look at someone else and let them know how much prettier they’d be if they could only Photoshop away all their flaws?
When did my body become a flaw?
Last week at school, my son was having a hard day. My son is an old soul, a deep thinker, possibly on the spectrum somewhere and there are days he is very sad. He doesn’t cover it up. He just IS. And a kid pointed at him in the lunch cafeteria and said: “Why don’t you just go kill yourself?”
I couldn’t believe this had happened, and then a part of me thought “Of course. It’s okay now to say whatever cruelty you want to another person.”
That night my son and I walked hand in hand around our beautiful neighborhood, the trees lush and green. He said, “Momma, people just don’t seem to know that words hurt. He hurt me. I feel bruised on the inside.”
“I know, baby,” I said. “Words can be sharp, can’t they?”
Words can cut.
Be aware of your power. Try to use it for good. When you have ugly thoughts about someone, instead of saying them, try to focus on something good. Take control back. Don’t assume that because someone weighs more than you think they should, that they should change. Maybe they don’t want to. Maybe they’re trying hard to but they can’t. Let them come to you if they want to. Otherwise, keep your judgment to yourself.
By writing this, I’m trying to take back control over my life. People can think what they want about me. I have no control over that. But I do have control of how I walk through this life…and I’m trying to do so with tenderness…and sometimes…an occasional sundae.