When you are overweight not only do you feel that you do not fit in, often you physically just don't fit: in the seats on trains, airplanes at Broadway theaters, and sporting events. I spent many years thinking I was "fat" or obese when I was not. Then I actually became obese.
However, I have not discussed being obese in a thin world. After all, when I am talking about accepting your body size I do not want you to think that I am minimizing the indignities suffered by many people when they are overweight and/or obese in a thin world. As much as society is changing its attitudes toward overweight and obese people, it is clear that it is still a thin person's world.
I know this because of all the daily indignities I had to suffer, even when I was working hard to befriend my body, accept my body size and treat my body and myself with gentleness and kindness. No matter how accepting I was, weighing 266 pounds made little things most people take for granted a challenge, and often an indignity.
Let's start at the beginning of the day. If you take public transit, the average train and bus seats are not made for an overweight person. I would often find myself trying to contort my body to take up less space than my ample-sized body needed. The last thing I wanted to do was to make someone else uncomfortable by sitting in a seat that was too small for me.
Then there are airplane seats, which are certainly not made for overweight people. (In fact, you may remember the commotion over the suggestion that obese people should pay for two seats on an airplane.) Then of course, there are the seats at ballparks and other sporting events -- not to mention the seats at movies and Broadway theaters.
Have you ever had to squeeze into the back of a car with two other people when your body already takes up the room of two people? Booths in restaurants are usually a bad idea because either you cannot fit or your stomach is half resting on the table as you squash your body in. And of course, many amusement park rides are not an option.
Not only do you have to deal with your own discomfort as you try to squeeze your oversized body into these undersized spaces, you also have to deal with the people around you who are clearly annoyed at having to sit next to you -- and by the fact that you simply take up too much physical space in this world. You know the feelings you attribute to them are not in your mind when you hear them sigh or moan as you sit down.
Often, as an obese person you deal with extremely painful rashes and chafing on your inner thighs. Putting on your shoes, putting on pantyhose and shaving your legs are very difficult when you are obese. Life vests don't usually fit (talk about a message about the value of an obese person's life); robes at spas are too small; any boot above ankle high is unlikely to fit around your calf (and this is the day and age, thank God, where there are more clothing and shoe choices for obese or plus-sized people than ever before). These are just a few of the numerous ways that you are given the message that as an overweight or obese person, you just do not fit.
Then there are the messages from society. For example, celebrities who are a size 8 are called obese by the media. How can a size 26 person not be tempted to throw herself under a bus when she hears that? Or at the very least, how can she not believe that she is as big as a bus?
There are assumptions made that overweight (and especially, obese people) want diet advice. Of course, the advice always comes from "well-meaning" and "helpful" people. When I was a size 26, I'll never forget how many people offered unsolicited advice on weight and diet and on what I should and should not eat.
Why? Because nobody could fathom that I no longer hated myself at that weight. Nobody could believe that I was willing to accept my size-26 body. Nobody could understand that I was willing to accept my size if that was the size I was supposed to be without disordered eating. Nobody knew that I felt that my very sanity was on the line, that I needed to give up the insane behaviors of bulimia, anorexia, yo-yo or chronic dieting and weight, body size and food obsession, and that doing so was more important to me than the size of my body.
I remember wanting to share this with people, but most people could not hear it. They assumed that if they believed what I believed that meant that they would be 266 pounds.
They couldn't hear how much healthier I was becoming because they did not see my body weight changing fast enough. They could not see that three steps forward and two steps back still left me one step ahead. People around me were more comfortable believing that I gained weight because I was not on a rigid diet than the truth: Not being on a diet was actually causing me to lose weight. The only thing causing me to gain it back was my emotional eating.
Being overweight and/or obese in a thin world is not easy. Having an eating disorder in a society obsessed with food, weight and body size is not easy.
If you are obese, have you admitted to yourself or anyone else how hard it can be living in an obese body in a thin world? Do you try to protect yourself from the pain by denying the truth that many things are harder and more challenging when you are overweight? Is it possible that even when it feels like it is about your body size it is still really about the fact that our society is still not very good at accepting that people come in different shapes, sizes and colors?
Once you allow yourself to be honest with yourself you can start working though the pain and start accepting the things you cannot change and changing the things you can. You may not be able to change the world's view that you don't deserve to be just as valued as someone who is thinner, but you can change your own view; so that you know that you deserve to be valued and value yourself whatever the size of your body. You are so much more than your body size, and just because the world gives you messages that you do not fit in, that does not mean the world is right.
Have a large-sized day and a large-sized life!
You can by my E-Book on Amazon.com "The Size Of My Life" or a hard copy on my site www.sizeofmylife.com
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.