My parents have a picture of me hanging in their office/computer room at home. The picture is of me when I was 17 years old. My girlfriend Lynda and I had them made as Christmas presents for our parents and we did our best to capture our true selves - I'm wearing skin-tight faux-designer jeans, a "disco" scarf and a silly hat that I really loved. Keep in mind this is the early 80's we're talking about here.
I was fat back then. I was teased about my weight. I was teased about my breast size. I got lectures from my mother, my grandparents, my doctor about how I needed to lose weight. I was told how I was destined for a life of health problems if I stayed at that size. When all the other girls had their pick of costumes for the high school musical, I was shoehorned into the only dress that could possibly work for someone of my girth and told not to bend over lest I end up busting out of it. My mother, thinking it would inspire me, shopped only in the "normal" size shops for me. I hated shopping for clothes.
I was a size 14. I probably weighed about 150-160 pounds.
Too many diets to count and 100 pounds later, knowing what I now know about yo-yo dieting, I can't help but look at that picture and wish for a time machine. How I wish I could go back and tell my 17 year old self that size 14 was not HUGE. That dieting was only going to mess up my metabolism for life. That I was not some freak. If only one person had told me that my body was just fine the way it was I might have taken comfort in that voice of reason and not wasted years of hatred and thousands of dollars on programs that promised to make me the "right" size.
And now, 26 years later and knowing much better, I still struggle to accept that dieting is not the answer. Every day I fight to believe that I'm beautiful and okay as I am. Every day I read size acceptance and Healthy At Every Size (HAES) websites and journals hoping to find the motivation to accept myself and to lovingly care for my body, flawed as it is. Every day I battle self-loathing for letting myself "get like this" and try to find peace. Every day I think of my father - a type 2 diabetic who never took care of himself who is now housebound, barely ambulatory, and is dying at the young age of 65 - and berate myself for not doing more to keep myself from heading down that path. Every single day.
The "war on obesity" is giving people righteous permission to hate fat people, to propose legislation to limit the rights of fat people, to make spectacles of fat people on dozens of different "reality" programs designed to shame all of us into getting to that "right" size. I've actually heard people say that there shouldn't be nice clothing for fat people because then there is no incentive for them to lose weight. The world has gone insane.
But today it's just me, my tears and the image of my beautiful 17 year old self. I don't have a time machine but perhaps today isn't too late to begin the process of forgiving myself.