A little while ago, I asked the wonderful, amazingly awesome readers of this site who they allow to bring their weight to their attention. Lots of great comments, with a couple of standouts below:
I think people who really have your best intentions at heart are allowed to express their concerns to you about becoming healthier; however, there is a thing called tact! – Chanel
i’d rather not have anyone call me fat except for me. I decide when I need to hit the gym and i decide when and if i am happy with how I look. – Elledub
Honestly, though I may dislike hearing it, I think my family and friends should be allowed to call me fat. I’ll tell you why. As I’ve stated before (maybe not here, but on my blog or Twitter), I didn’t really notice the weight gain. I knew it was creeping up, but I still looked (in my mind) pretty good. When people started making comments, inclusive of a student that had absolutely NO tact whatsoever, I took stock in what they were saying and decided that I needed to do something about it. – Tracy
Honestly, anyone who loves me had better tell me if I’m picking up weight. – Winnie
I wish to God one of my friends or family members had had the courage to tell me I needed to do something about my weight a few years ago. […] Now that most of the excess weight is gone, everyone is all “OMG, you look great”, but I can’t help but to wish someone had remarked on my weight before. But that’s easy to say on the other side of the fence… – Sister Toldja
I think that “other side of the fence” is a big part of this. As I wrote about the conversation between my Mother and my sister, it’s hard for me to think about what my response would’ve been to someone telling me I was gaining too much weight. I mean, I was a snappy chick… quick to rain jokes down upon the head of anyone who was willing to step to me about my weight. I could only imagine what kind of torrential terrible twenties tantrum fit I might’ve thrown had someone told me that I was any less sexy, dope, amazingly gorgeous, downright stunning and perfect than I believed I was in my own head.
And that’s not to say that being overweight means that I couldn’t be sexy, dope, amazingly gorgeous, downright stunning and perfect. It means that since I saw “fat” as a flaw (and let’s face it, most of us do), having someone remind me of a flaw I was diligently ignoring felt like the chink in my armor turning into a hole. And that’s, well… unacceptable.
I think of the countless times my girls tried to get me to hit the gym with them. My best friend, an avid runner, actually offered to walk with me one day. (Do you know how hard it is to get a runner to slow down for your slow behind?) My mother made side salads for dinner, while making sure that the more calorie-heavy parts of the meal were “all gone” by the time I’d go to fix my plate. Apparently, everyone had something to say… but no one was saying it. Meanwhile, I was gaining weight at a rate of about 20lbs a year.
Am I making that gain everyone else’s fault? Nope. It’s my body, my responsibility to learn how to care for it, and care for it properly. However, what kind of climate was I creating where the people around me couldn’t even tell me – in love and in kindness – that something was going on with me? Couldn’t express their concern for me?
Frankly, I ain’t the one. I can’t afford to be the one.
Let’s say that you and your girls are getting ready to hit a major event. Before you all walk out the door, you check each other out to make sure you’re all looking good. Isn’t the expectation that one of them will tell you if you’re the one looking a mess? We expect our friends to tell us if we’re looking a fool before we walk out of our houses, but they can’t tell us we’ve put on too much weight?
Is it the fact that we, as women, tend to be so objectified – everything has to do with sexuality and sexual appeal – that we’ve equated “you’re gaining weight” with “you’re unattractive?” Are we so used to everything being about attraction, that being told we’re packin’ on the pounds must also be about being attractive (or, in this case, less than attractive?) It couldn’t simply be a “Hey… check on your health.” type situation? It has to be about “cute?”
Or is it the fact that everyone’s threshold is different? Southerners have a different definition of “putting on weight” than Northerners. Miami’s definition is different from Houston. Mississippi wouldn’t understand California. An extra ten pounds vs an extra hundred or so. For someone to acknowledge that I’ve put on the pounds, when “put on the pounds” means “ten pounds” to them? I won’t even lie. They just might get the finger.
I think about myself now. I get at least one comment/email/tweet/anonymous whatever a week calling me a “fat bitch.” I usually laugh, but every now and again I raise my eyebrow and wonder… “Once upon a time, I couldn’t get people I love to tell me I was too big. Now, I’ve got strangers telling me I’m fat? What part of the game is that?” 330lb Erika might not’ve had that reaction. 180lb Erika, however… is tickled.
It goes back to that “other side of the fence” note I made earlier. Looking at the person I am today, I can acknowledge that this is the person I needed to be to get to where I am. Allowing the people I love to feel comfortable addressing my flaws might’ve helped me become this person much earlier on in my life. If I keep them close to me because I trust their influence to make me “better,” why exclude health? Why exclude weight? If the people who love me want to offer me solutions, why not be open to them? What do I have to lose?
And let me clarify.. I’m talking about people who love you. The ones invested in you as a person. The ones who are there for you at your worst. They deserve to be able to help make you better, and enjoy you at your best. We can talk about “haters,” but I fully believe they’re not worth talking about. Nor are they worth thinking about. People who mean you no positivity aren’t worth time or brainspace.
No, really. I mean that. So those family members who insist on spitefully bringing up your weight – the ones you know mean you no earthly good, and usually never have any support to offer you beyond “Yo booty gettin’ kinda big” – you can give them a polite “I’ll take that under consideration,” and change the subject… while mentally giving them the finger.
My plea is just that we not shut out the people who we trust to see the worst of us. Don’t prevent them from helping to develop the best in you: the healthy you! I’m talkin’ about those people who – like my friends (who, I’ll have you know, are still my tried and true friends fat or skinny) – are willing to walk through the fire with you, support you and offer you solutions to help you get to where you want to go. Where you need to go.
This journey isn’t one that we can go on alone. You will always need a support system that will giggle with you at your failures, cheer you on through your successes, and help you learn from both. You trust them to have your back, so trust them to tell you about something you might be overlooking… like your weight. If you love them and they love you (and you know it), give them a chance. They very well may have the answers, resources and support you need.
Be happy, but most importantly… be healthy.