No more prevalent is this issue of “I didn’t want to lose weight, I don’t neeeeed to lose weight. People who want to lose weight have low self-esteem. Why can’t they just stay the way they are?”
In all seriousness… where did this originate? Real talk – where did this originate?
I keep trying to think back to when I was gaining my weight. In 2009, I wrote:
I couldn’t get past that childish mentality that said “I’m already cute, and I’m already happy and successful. I’own need to lose weight to be hot.” I wish I could grab Young Erika by the shoulders, slap her one good time and say, “This ain’t about being hot to a bunch of idiotic teenagers. This is about not having so much fluid in your legs, your blood can’t circulate properly in about 6 years. This is about being healthy and making sure that you’re around long enough to see your babies have babies. This is about developing and maintaining a lifestyle that nurtures and nourishes the best of you. This is about not spending your life trying to prove your value to a society that doesn’t care anyway. It’s about not letting a dysfunctional society succeed in devaluing you in the first place! It’s about believing in the worth you were given at birth, and ensuring that you’re around for as long as possible to make sure that you can put that worth to USE!”
…and I wonder to myself, is this “weight loss is for people with low self-esteem” meme similar to what I was doing? I mean, I was setting out to use myself as some kind of proof that fat people could kick ass and still be, well, fat… but I wasn’t implying that if I lost weight, it was because I didn’t think I was awesome… or was I? I’m too far, mentally, from this ideology to actually look back on it and identify. I don’t even know that I understand that mentality anymore.
Every time someone brings up this “weight loss is for people who think something’s wrong with them” thing, I am reminded of my own question of why it’s about weight loss at all… why isn’t it about health? If you’re dealing with type 2 diabetes, and saying you don’t neeeeeeeeeed to lose weight because that’s for people who think something’s wrong with them.. you’re doing life wrong.
I’m a scribbler. I always have a pen and paper nearby (or at least a mic and recorder), because I’m always scribbling down things I overhear as they apply to life. My desk, unfortunately, serves as proof. There’s crap everywhere. I say all that to say… I have this quote I scribbled down that I have no idea where it came from, but I think it’s poignant:
“To stop doing something means admitting that you acknowledge that it was doing you harm.”
Read that again:
“To stop doing something means admitting that you acknowledge that it was doing you harm.”
So, taking a look at this line people keep feeding me through the lens of this quote… it means that a woman who says “I don’t want to lose weight because I don’t have low self-esteem” is redirecting attention from the real issue… which is the fact that you don’t want to admit to yourself that you are doing something wrong and need to fix it. It means you’d rather talk about the good than reflect upon the bad. That is the real issue – many of us have egos that couldn’t bear knowing that we caused ourselves to put on this weight (or caused ourselves to develop these problems) with something that we are doing to ourselves, and we are truly the only ones that can fix it.
In fact, that might be why quick fix weight loss schemes never lose their hope for us – we don’t want to be tasked with long-standing proof that what we caused ourselves is going to cause us to struggle to fix it. The quicker and easier the solution, the more we hope it works. And if the price is low enough? We might purchase it before the week is out.
It also makes me think back to Mo’Nique. Yesssss… Mo’Nique. She spent most of her career poking fun at skinny women, reframing the conversation to be less about “why I’m so fat” and making it more about “skinny b-tches.” I didn’t embrace that kind of talk then, and I’m certainly troubled by it now. Don’t get me wrong – Mo’ did a LOT as far as helping women accept who they are, but not only did she forget that all women deserve to feel comfy in their own skin (thin or otherwise, my comfort shouldn’t come at the expense of another woman’s comfort) but she also forgot that “deflecting” – the art of “instead of addressing the question, I’ll change the subject” – is a form of insecurity. It’s even an admission of guilt.
Not only can I address my reasoning for losing weight, I can admit that I was doing it wrong and I had to learn. My ability to do both frees me of my own stigmas about weight and wellness – I don’t judge people because I know how hard it is, especially if you don’t have the right information and resources – and it allows me to disconnect my wellness from my weight. Being thin wasn’t the goal. It was being healthy. The weight loss came during the pursuit of wellness.
My definition of self-esteem? “Self-esteem is defined as a confidence and satisfaction in oneself. A person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. If you were a stock on wall street, it’d literally be how much you think you should sell for.” So… saying that I wanted to lose weight means that I’m doing it because I think I’d be worth more? This is a problem?
Losing weight did improve my worth… but let me be clear. I’m not talking about my looks. I’m talking about my increased ability to run, jump, play… my ability levels are what’s in question, here. Not my looks. I was always sexy.
I’m just sayin’.
I brought up Mo’Nique because I remember this article done on her by Kimberly Garrison that just worked my nerves… it’s long been removed from the Internet, but I did find a copy of it here. (I don’t participate on these forums, just googled the article and this was the only version available.):
Posted on Tue, Sep. 29, 2009
Kimberly Garrison: Sizing up Mo’Nique
MO’NIQUE HAS NEVER been one to do things small.
The Baltimore-born comedian built her stage persona around her ample size and diva-esque demeanor. She wrote a book and called it “Skinny Girls Are Evil: Notes of a Big Girl in a Small-Minded World.” But she’s also made big statements in other ways.
“Skinny Girls” made the New York Times best-seller list. The TV series she starred in, “The Parkers,” ran for five years in the early 2000s and won her four NAACP Image Awards for outstanding actress in a comedy series. As one of “The Queens of Comedy,” she had a hit film, tour and Grammy-nominated album.
She’s appeared in numerous movies, mostly comedies. Now her first major role in a serious film is getting Oscar buzz already, though it won’t be in theaters until November.
Even her recent decision to lose weight had an oversized impact. Fans were outraged, complaining she’d betrayed her big and beautiful base.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column defending Mo’Nique’s decision to lose some weight and improve her health that also drew a lot of reader response, much of it negative.
To set the record straight, I figured I’d go directly to the grand diva herself.
Aside from her weight loss, I was also dying to ask her about her upcoming role in Philadelphian Lee Daniels’ movie “Precious,” based on the riveting novel “Push,” by Sapphire. I had heard through the grapevine that Mo’Nique delivers a stellar performance as the abusive mother of the title character.
Q: You should be excited. And you should be excited about this weight loss. How did you feel when your husband suggested that you do a little slim down?
A: I went though so many emotions. I was embarrassed, my feelings were hurt, I was excited, and I’ve never felt love like that before. It was so nonjudgmental: “Baby, that’s too much, and I want you for a lifetime.”
The “that’s too much” was the embarrassing part. The “I want you for a lifetime” was the love.
“If it hurts your feelings right now, that’s not my intention. But I’ve gotta be honest with you,
you’re 40 years old and you’re 262 pounds.
“How are you going to manage that 10 years from now when you’re 50? If you put on a pound a year then you’ll be 272 pounds at 50.”
When I really thought about that, I said, “Oh my God, I want to be here. I want to enjoy my family. I want to meet my grandchildren.” It was a moment for us. But it has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life. And it’s still challenging.
Q: Why is it challenging?
A: Food, baby! I’m a snacker. Chips and things. I like it. I’m not going to lie to you, Kim. I Love food. Me and Doritos, baby!
Q: (Laughter) Yes, I know it’s tough.
A: I still have that battle with myself. Don’t eat this. Eat that. Don’t eat that. Eat this. I still haven’t gotten to that place where I can say, oh no, girl, I don’t want that cake, and just walk away.
A: I’m still not there yet. For me, I had to make that commitment – I had to get a trainer and get into the gym. That’s really what I had to do. So, Monday through Thursday, I try to really eat clean. Friday is pizza night in my house, and I refuse to deprive myself of pizza night with my husband and my children. Saturday and Sunday, I try to take it easy, but I don’t drive myself crazy.
Q: Have you been able to maintain the 40-pound loss?
A: I started at 262, and right now I am at 224. My goal is to get to 200. I step on the scale and say, “This thing is tripping!”
Q: I understand where you’re coming from. I enjoy food and snacking, too. I was raised that way. But as a trainer, I’m going to be honest with you: Eighty to 90 percent of weight loss is what you’re eating. You can exercise until you are blue in the face, but if you eat more than what you exercise [away], you will not see the pounds drop off. You will be a tighter and more toned person if you strength train. But the weight loss is mainly about diet. People hate to hear that truth. But that’s the way it is.
A: Erica, my trainer, tells me that all the time. She’s like, “Mo’Nique . . .?!” And I say, “I know . . . ” It took me almost two years to get here. I’m not trying to lose weight to get into a dress or an outfit. This is a lifestyle change. I think many of us drive ourselves crazy because we give it a deadline. And, as soon as we get to the deadline, we go back to the old habits.
Q: I think your approach is fantastic. It’s a lifestyle. It’s sort of like a dance – two steps forward, one step back. It’s a constant thing. It’s not a destination; it’s a journey. Now some of your fans have taken offense, saying that you have abandoned them. What are your thoughts about that?
A: Well, you know, Kim, my first thoughts were, I can’t believe people are saying that. I’m abandoning them? If you look at me, I’m still a big woman. I’m 224 pounds. In what society is that considered a small woman?
So I say to my sisters that feel like I’m abandoning them, “No, sis, I want us to be here for as long as we can. I would be abandoning you if I continued to gain the weight, and then you hear on the news that Mo’Nique has suffered from a stroke or Mo’Nique has had a heart attack.”
So by no means have I abandoned anyone. I’m saying y’all, let’s be here for the ride. Besides, my head is too damn big to be a skinny woman. That’s not at all where I’m trying to go. It’s just too big!
Don’t be so quick to jump on that negative bandwagon. “Oh she said big is beautiful, now she’s losing weight.” Big is beautiful. But, big healthy. Let’s be big and healthy beautiful people!
Q: (Uproarious laughter) Girl, you are crazy. On a serious note, do you have any health problems?
A: I was borderline with my [blood] pressure. My doctor is just an incredible sister. She would say things like, “Mo’Nique I want you to take a look at yourself, and if you go past here I’m going to have to put you on some medication.”
Q: How did you feel about that?
A: I said, no, I can’t be on medication for the rest of my life. I can’t take a pill every day. I’m not good with that. I said, I don’t want to be a burden to my family for something I could have prevented.
I quote all of that to say… all of you women who are equating weight with self-esteem (or equating losing weight with “admitting America was right… something was wrong with my fat ass”… or equating weight loss with “I refuse to admit something is wrong with me”)…stop it. Stop focusing on weight loss as a goal and focus on health. Your body… and your loved ones… will thank you for it.