Learning To Love Yourself Through The Thick and Thin: A Journey to Body Positivity
“Are you pregnant?” Vs. “Are you okay?”
“Those things are huge.” Vs. “You need to eat.”
“You’ve put on some weight.” Vs. “You’re so thin”
Whether I gained or lost weight, people felt the need to comment on my body as if it was on display. I’m sorry, but Martina is a person, not a museum that you can point out, pick at, or peruse. I want to address my experience with body shaming and body image as a whole. I have been on both sides of the body shaming spectrum and I can honestly say that they both hurt me the same.
There was a point in time when I began to eat any and everything that my heart desired. I had no regard for diet, exercise, or the damage my overconsumption of food was possibly doing to my body. Before I knew it, I gained 30 pounds and couldn’t figure out how it all happened. I didn’t want to give up my bad diet, so I thought that if I exercised here and there, that I could somehow lose the weight. Throughout this process, my classmates, coworkers, and kin began to notice that I had gained a significant amount of weight. The stares and comments were like darts piercing my heart each time they were thrown my way. I began to feel disgusted with myself and loathed seeing myself without clothes. But the kicker is, I loathed seeing myself in clothes, as well. I felt as if everything was ill-fitting, so the illness of hating my body started to infect my mind and self-esteem. I always loved fashion but found it hard to keep up with the latest trends because I viewed my new body as a restriction instead of a “recent”, or updated, version of me.
I remember attending a college event at a skating rink and someone I considered an associate decided to acknowledge my weight in the most embarrassing way. In front of guests and friends, he belted out “you got fat! What’s wrong you with you? Are you pregnant or something?” As a fake smile formed and tears caused my eyes to swell, I tried to act as if his words did not just stab my deepest insecurity. I went home sad and frozen. Following this incident, I continued to receive inquiries regarding impregnation from close friends, family, and even children. The constant misconception that I was entering into motherhood and the immerse mockery propelled me into purposeful weight loss.
I began my weight loss journey and I was very serious about it. I was the meal prep queen and made sure I carved out time to exercise. I began dropping weight very fast. I lost four pounds within the first week with my trainer and new lifestyle. The weight began shedding and the shame began shedding, until comments begin to infiltrate once again.
During training at my new job, they always offered cookies, brownies, pizza, and everything else that was saturated with things that were not conducive to my diet. I would only eat the fruit or my packed meals for the day. My coworkers began taunting and tormenting me for not eating the delicacies that I viewed detrimental to my new lifestyle.
“Do you ever eat?”
I began to grow tired of that inquiry as if I was running a cross-country race of questions. Yes, I ate, I just chose not to indulge in things that would cause my belly to bulge again. But what’s wrong with that? I didn’t condemn them for eating brownies, so why did they condemn me when I ate bananas? The more fit I became, the more condemnation came, so I had to learn to thicken my skin to withstand the comments I was battling.
“You’re going to disappear.”
This was another unamusing phrase that poorly addressed my weight loss, and initially made me sad. However, I decided to address that phrase from a more positive perspective. In the midst of negativity and harmful comments about my weight, I decided to remove myself from the realms and reach of those people. Essentially, I did “disappear” from the situation in an effort to conserve my positivity, peace, and personal happiness. Each time I encountered a negative comment, I decided to just remove myself from the situation and talk to God about my feelings. This coping mechanism helped me approach body shaming and body image issues in a more productive manner. Each time I experience this, God allows me to learn a valuable lesson instead of allowing it to fester and hinder me.
These are three big takeaways for me:
1. I cannot alter my life to please people.
2. I had deep-rooted insecurities.
3. People were projecting their own insecurities when they spoke negatively about me.
It is interesting to me that I sought to change my body because of the negativity and ended up encountering more negativity when my body changed. This only showed me that I had deep-rooted issues that needed to be addressed. I couldn’t spend the rest of my life attempting to please people with my appearance. I had to realize that my beauty was not defined by society’s standard of beauty. I had to accept the fact that everyone’s negative projections were just a reflection of who they were on the inside and how they felt about themselves. It showed me that they had a character flaw because they found delight in setting fire to my flaws. Through my thick and thin seasons, I had to learn to love me for me. I have to continue to work on seeing myself as the beautiful woman God created me to be and not allow my outward appearance or body shape to harness me. I have to learn to accept God’s word on beauty and push through the negativity.
“It is not fancy hair, gold jewelry, or fine clothes that should make you beautiful. No, your beauty should come from inside you –the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. That beauty will never disappear and it is worth very much to God.” – 1 Peter 3:3 – 4
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