I have a secret. Most of my day, even if I’m wearing a smile, I’m fighting an internal battle. Inside my mind, I am berating the clothes I’m wearing, wondering if my double chin is showing and thinking about my weight. I’m assessing if there are rolls underneath my shirt. I’m worried I have a boob bubble sticking out of my bra. I’m hoping no one but me hears my thighs rub. I’m terrified I’m jiggling … anywhere.
It happened just the other day. Someone paid me a compliment and I accepted it as gracefully as I could, which like many women is not well. Then I thought to myself: I don’t deserve that compliment … I’m too fat. The compliment had nothing to do with physical beauty, but I still felt like I didn’t deserve it because I measure my worth by my weight. In my mind when my weight is high … my worth is low.
Feeling Unworthy from a Young Age
I could say I don’t know when it started but that wouldn’t be entirely true. I developed early, so often attention was placed on my breasts before me. I briefly joined a “spirit squad” when I was ten. The other girls were already friends and I was the awkward outsider. They joked about how my butt looked in the short skirt. They told me I was too big to cheer.
Once, as I was driving, a car pulled up next to me. The man inside smiled at me to get my attention and I smiled back, momentarily flattered, until he held up his hands as if he were cupping my breasts and mouthed the words “huge.” I pulled away, feeling awful about myself. Even in a car I couldn’t hide my body.
Today I understand that was not my fault, it had little to do with me. Looking back I know I wasn’t even heavy – just developed. But the damage from those moments, and others like them, remains.
Treating Myself the Way I Treat Others
Logically I know it’s ridiculous. I would never judge another person for being overweight. I would never look at a fellow Mom and think “oh well she’s heavy she must not be nice.” Am I less of a mother because I think I’m fat? Is my contribution to society lower because I carry extra weight from time to time? Of course not.
I teach my daughter the opposite. I focus her foundation of confidence on who she is as an individual, not how she looks. I teach her about health and fitness, that food is fuel and that sometimes we eat for fun but, usually, we eat to sustain. I show her healthy ways to manage her emotions and avoid the idea that ice cream or cake is a “treat” for when we need to “feel better.” Logically, I’ve got it all down.
But inside, emotionally, I’ve only just begun to realize that my lifelong struggle with weight and my own sense of worth are connected. I’ve spent much of my life allowing myself to eat whatever I wanted – usually when no one was looking – because denying myself food was denying myself a sense of worth. Conversely, I’ve used food to punish myself. Over the years I’ve developed a complicated system of guilt and reward, a system even I don’t understand. Feed my needs. Starve my confidence. Every bite of every meal is related to an emotion I’ve either ignored or carried with me.
Just thinking about it exhausts me.
Deciding Where to Go From Here
The question is … why? Is it just another way to be unkind to myself? Is it merely habit? Is it really so hard to feel my own sense value? Is some part of me afraid that, once I’ve lost weight, I will still question my sense of worth? And how important are the answers to those questions?
I suppose, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why at all. Today, I have a choice. I can choose to remain stuck where I am, or I can choose to adopt the same growth mindset I teach my children. I can choose to shed weight for my own health and vibrance. Most importantly, I can choose to shed the ridiculous idea that if I lose weight I will gain worth.
Because I’m already worthy. So are you. I can offer you tips to lose weight. Try them … I know they work. I’ve used them a dozen times myself. But tips to gain worth? To accept that who I am is not forever linked to how much I weigh? I’m working on those. I may not have answers today, but I know what choice I’m making for tomorrow.