I’m a 32-year old woman.
I weigh 360 pounds.
Yes, 360 pounds.
What does that number – 360 pounds – mean to you? What do you think of when you hear it?
If you have already met me and know me, does that affect how you think about me?
How about if you have never met me?
Have you judged me or formed some sort of image of me in the past 15 seconds?
Let me tell you a little about myself.
I am happy, generally healthy, and enjoy my life.
I am surrounded by wonderful family and friends who have gifted me their time, deepest trust, and respect.
I wake up every morning sheltered from the outside, a warm blanket on my skin, a soft pillow beneath my head. I take a breath and oxygen fills my lungs and nourishes the blood rushing through my body. I get out of bed and stand on my own two feet, walk to the kitchen, and prepare myself a breakfast from a cupboard that isn’t empty.
I have a dresser of clothing to choose from to wear to work. Every weekday morning, I go to a job where I am employed full-time and paid a decent wage. My employer offers me retirement, health insurance, subsidized public transportation, and a happy work environment.
I’m truly blessed.
I look in the mirror in the morning and I see beauty. I feel loved, empowered by my own mind. I am interesting and eclectic, assertive and uncomfortable with stagnancy.
How I feel when I look in the mirror is not defined by hashtags or trending news. It is defined by the goals and boundaries I have set for myself. What kind of person am I? How do I treat others? Have I thought of someone other than myself today? Have I accomplished something I desire to achieve? Are there any disharmonies in my life that need to be resolved, such as old grudges, the need to ask forgiveness, or the need to forgive myself? Have I taken time to see beauty in my life around me? Do I feel grateful for what I have? Do I strive to stretch my limits and be a better person each day?
It may sound cliché, but inner beauty and reflection really does affect how your “outer beauty” is perceived. To me, they are two completely separate contradictory categories that don’t integrate with one another very well.
Physical beauty can be looked at in two ways. First, it can be a characteristic completely independent of any other part of oneself. I like to think of this as the way the fashion industry, social media, and commerce in general look at physical beauty. Look at products, goods, and services – we don’t have time to get to know the person in the advertisement. We need a blank canvas, perhaps with a flair of personality, to provide us a general overview of the product so all the focus is on the product. Seeing physical beauty in this way permits people to use their own rating scales and systems of judgement based on how they perceive attractiveness, much the same way we may be attracted to a certain artistic masterpiece or a tropical beach instead of a rainy countryside.
The second way physical beauty can be defined is the way which we are accustomed to seeing it on a daily basis, and that is through the lenses of seeing someone’s inner beauty. When I look in the mirror, sure, I see enlarged pores, blotchy red skin (seriously, isn’t puberty over yet?), and a double chin, but when I reflect on the quality that I make my life, I see so much beyond those simple physical traits. This second way of perceiving physical beauty is how we see our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers, and friends.
With this current #ImNoAngel buzz regarding the plus-sized industry lashing against Victoria’s Secret, I’ve felt that the media isn’t even as in charge of the standard of beauty anymore, but the consumers are. Years ago, the media set it, and we consumers ran with it. It’s in the homes where kids learn behaviors and manners and see examples of kindness and love. It’s in the schools where educators try to harness the environment in a positive way. It’s in the news and how we digest our events on a daily basis. It’s in how we think for ourselves, and how we respond to our fellow human beings. In general, I feel that we social media users have spun completely out of control with every snippet that appears on the internet. We are all so tender and defensive and are desperate to be heard, to be loved, and to feel validated and that our voices matter. This has resulted in many great things! And it has also resulted in many poorly learned behaviors.
As someone who is clinically classified as super obese (a step higher than morbidly obese), I notice these behaviors and judgements rampant on the internet. There isn’t a YouTube video with a slightly chubby person that doesn’t have a comment section infected by arguments about obesity, fat promotion, fat shaming, government paying for the health care of fatties, don’t promote fat, fat isn’t healthy, and on and on. All of a sudden, everyone becomes a physician and nutritionist. Years ago, in response to this I may have wanted to curl up and retreat. But through many years of learning that this is my life to live, I’ve grown to love myself and enjoy life the same way as any thin, tall, short, disabled, athletic, what have you, human being. No one has license to make you feel ugly, unworthy, not permitted to live a fulfilling life just because you’re at the top end or bottom end of the scale, because you were born with a disfiguration, or because of your preferences.
I’ve been obese my entire life. I spent my childhood bullied. While I had a few good friends and people generally liked me, there were always a few turds in the punchbowl. Boys would run up and down the hall like gorillas and yell, “Mmmm ma ma mammoth!” When I’d get on the school bus, kids would move to the window seat and scream in fear that I would “sit on them.” The kids at the end of the street threw my bike in the leech-infested pond and would call me fatty, fatso, and a host of other names. Even in college, guys would drive by and yell “beep…beep…beep” out the window like heavy machinery backing up, or “mooooooo” at me. I never had boyfriends. Of course, as a teenager and kid, you long for acceptance. I would buy presents, peace offerings, to give to my mockers in hopes that they would at least think I’m a nice person. Sadly, it worked, and the teasing mostly stopped. I let those things define me for a long time.
And then one day I decided to live.
I decided to stop letting the ignorant opinions of others define me. Did they know my personal story? Did they know that while other kids brought Little Debbies to school for lunch, I brought homemade beef jerky and fruit rollups, salad (that was in my “I want to be a vegetarian phase”, thanks to JTT), and Herbalife shakes and pills? Did they know that while I was told I was great at volleyball and really wanted to join wrestling, I never joined because I was afraid of wearing spandex in front of them and having them judge me based on my weight?
I started focusing on my positive relationships and the friendships with people who truly loved me and saw me for who I am. This greatly enhanced my confidence and my belief in myself. Only when I allowed someone else to negatively define me did I lose sight and begin to fail at all the beautiful plans I had in my life.
I see beauty in everyone and in every moment, and that isn’t just something fat people say. I feel enriched by having so many different people in my life. I feel elevated and important through the relationships and accomplishments I have, through the lessons and examples I’ve learned.
I started to say “yes!” to opportunity. I tried everything I always wanted to – guitar, French lessons, a crochet group with elderly ladies, pottery classes, “jogging” a 5K, archaeology classes, belly dancing with a performance troupe, and being assertive in making sure the men I liked knew how I felt.
I weigh 360 pounds.
Do I want to lose weight? Yes. Have I before? Yes. Is it hard? Of course! Will I do it again? You bet. Is it a long process? Yes.
Am I healthy? Yes. Aside from PVCs from a magnesium deficiency and recent sleep apnea because of a recent weight gain (and I’ve been told that once I lose about 40 pounds it will go away), I have no health problems. I’m not diabetic. I don’t smell bad. I have lazy days, but I’m not lazy. I can walk, I can wash myself, I can travel, I can work out.
I weigh 360 pounds.
I’ve traveled to 16 countries. I’ve traveled alone and felt free. I’ve traveled with friends and had the time of my life. Many ask me travel tips and advice. Plane seats? Tight. But I compact in my own space and chat with my fellow travelers, looking forward to the destination while enjoying the journey. I’ve met hundreds of people, many with whom I still keep in contact. I travel fearlessly.
I weigh 360 pounds.
I have a college degree. Full-time employment where I am praised for my talents and abilities. I speak two languages fluently and can converse in three more. Music is another language I love. I make beautiful music and am moved by the music of others and of nature. I love to go for walks, do yoga, spin classes, and belly dance.
I weigh 360 pounds.
I’m comfortable being me. I no longer stress over my fat arms or double chin. When it’s hot, I wear tank tops. I like to lay in the sun at the park and read a book, usually blaring music and laughing with friends. I love to cook for others and share a meal. I’m not afraid to eat in front of people. We all need nourishment, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I like lingerie. I enjoy intimacy in my life, all 360 pounds of me.
I weigh 360 pounds.
I’ve dated men at my weight, and at a lower weight. I started being asked out when I started loving myself and living life. I began to attract others when I shared the beautiful nuances of my heart and soul with the outside world. I met, dated, became engaged to, and married my husband at my current weight. And guess what? He’s not a chubby chaser and doesn’t have a fat fetish. He just has a Stephanie fetish. He thinks I’m the greatest.
I weigh 360 pounds.
If you do, too, or if you weigh anything – 65, 90, 180, 220, 600 – let me apologize for the internet. Many people are under the impression that communicating electronically gives them a permit to be a complete ass and to be the all-knowing authority on you, your health, politics, standards of beauty, etc. Everything is subjective and what we want it to be.
I encourage you to want your life to be awesome. To want beautiful, great, interesting things. Don’t let the internet get the best of your beauty. It will tear you down and make you second guess yourself. What has the internet done for you to win your love? Nothing.
Surround yourself with wonderful people. Be yourself. Experiment. Try things you’ve always wanted to try. Talk. Smile. Smile! If someone says something negative about or to you, let it fall away and keep moving forward. Feel sorry for that person, and say a silent prayer that you hope they find happiness.
This movement isn’t about fat versus thin. Let’s cut the crap. All that stuff has marketing products at the root of it. So a company makes clothes for slender women and another makes clothes for heavier women. That’s what they specialize in, and that’s okay. Some women love to wear lingerie and some are totally uncomfortable in it. There are stores for every size. And stop telling slender women to “eat a sandwich” and telling retailers for fat women to “stop promoting unhealthy”…it is all deeper than that. We all need to wear clothes and eat sandwiches.
I weigh 360 pounds. I’m pretty awesome. I’m interesting. I’m beautiful. I’m quirky. And I’ll be all those things if I ever weigh 160 pounds.
This “movement” is about human beings. It’s about putting energy toward positive changes and making a difference. It’s about enjoying life and feeling love and fulfillment and joy.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this movement. What are ways you make a difference on a daily basis? What are some simple pleasures you love to enjoy every day? How do you feel and show love? Comment to let me know your thoughts!