By Beth Donovan, ~INDYGIRL
Sometimes people who feel uncomfortable with their weight or those who have more than 100 pounds to lose feel embarrassed to exercise or sometimes find it hard to even go out in public. It is indeed difficult to combat the negativity that people might express because of someone’s weight. We’ve all seen the talk shows and experiments where a celebrity or their assistant puts on a “fat suit” and is treated differently, usually poorly, in everyday situations. We who are overweight cannot just take off the “fat suit” and need to know how to love our bodies the way they are now, despite what others might say or do.
I used to be a firm believer that overweight negated being pretty. I was told that I had such a pretty face and such a great personality, if I would only lose weight. Be it kindergarten or college, the popular crowd usually judged me on looks. I stuck with a crowd of eclectics until I finally found a niche, being the smart, odd girl who hung around with other smart, odd people. Having found a source of support, also known as friends, I began to grow and see myself through their eyes. Soon I found that I had other things I liked about my personality besides being smart. Odd wasn’t the word for what I was anymore, I was original, funny, spontaneous… and my list grew. As it did, I stopped hanging around the people who judged me or made me feel bad about myself.
As I began to like myself more, I played more with my hair and my clothes and makeup. I needed a style that was more of statement about myself. It felt almost artistic bringing the inner me to the outside. Oddly enough, I find that when I’m dressed in my favorite clothes and am made up, I eat less. I think that’s because you act how you feel. If I feel beautiful and am having a thin day, my actions follow suit.
Soon I found myself wanting to go to a gym and so I signed up, nervously. I’ve had several gym memberships in my lifetime, and the ones that were most successful and comfortable for me were run out of hospitals. They take things from a health approach, rather than a body competition approach. It’s also common to find larger people in that type of program, so it can be less intimidating. There are usually heart rate monitors and health professionals on staff in case of any health issues or fears.
One day as I was working out on the elliptical trainer at around 350 pounds, I noticed in the mirror ahead of me that the girl had some well defined shoulders. That was an epiphany! I was proud of something on my body. Soon I noticed the firming of my hips and the power I felt from strength training. These things made me feel beautiful.
I became disabled at the age of 36. I had a good pity party and weighed up to 460 pounds, while lying in bed eating, wishing the pain would go away. Long gone are the days of working out in gyms, but I do my physical therapy at home. Now I notice the hardness of my biceps and the fact that I can even feel my hamstrings. I see more definition in my calves and when I don’t see these things, I pull out my old pictures. My old pictures of me at 460 pounds give me a reality check of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.
These things I find to like about myself, to embrace, are the very things that give me strength to go out into the cold world and face people who might not understand me and be cruel. I used to try to live up to everyone else’s standard of success. Now I have my own. Reaching my goals and succeeding at my desires makes the negative people of my world less powerful.
Another rule I have for myself is that I no longer people please. If I don’t want to go to an event or an occasion because I know there will be people there who are unkind toward my weight or my goals, I don’t go. There is no sense in stressing out over something that should be fun. I make alternative plans that don’t include negative people.
While I can’t say what will work for everyone, I can tell you that I have grown from hating, literally loathing my body, to accepting it and finding things I love about it. I’ve also come from being afraid to let anyone see me to being able to go to a water park in a bathing suit.
What are some things that you love about yourself? How would you redefine success?
Here is a poem I wrote back in 2001. I hope you enjoy it.
Waiting for some miracle, while eating chips at night,
Surfing all the channels for the diet that’s finally right,
All these years of damage; I’ve starved, but gained a lot,
Certainly not in the fitness department; I was a total flop!
I was told the same old rules, I’m sure you know by heart,
I’ll repeat them anyway so this poem can start:
Big girls should never go to proms or have weddings in big sizes,
Wear a lot of rust and black because it slenderizes.
Never eat in front of people, you’ll look like a pig!
Keep you mouth shut, Baby, you shouldn't be loud and big.
Well, thank you for the great advice I hear all night and day.
Now pardon me if I take my life and go the other way.
Big girls should go wherever they want wearing shorts or wedding gear,
We should speak what’s on our minds, we have the right to share,
Take your life and live right now, not waiting until when…
You get one chance to go around--don’t let them steal your wind!
Stop the wishful thinking, just live and you’ll get better,
Never miss a day at the beach dressed for summer weather.
How long has it been since you felt the breeze of summer on your legs?
Not been ashamed of wearing shorts or eating ice cream with the kids?
Skipped through your yard on a sunny day or went on woodsy walk?
Don’t let those people get you down, who cares if they start to talk?
The time is now--Go evolve, knowing the journey never ends,
Enjoy the twists and turns you take, thanking God for every win!
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