Ever since I was about 8 years old, I have been bigger than most girls or women my age. As an adult, I am still larger than most women. As a teen I really struggled with this, because society’s idea of beauty didn’t align with how I looked. When I was about 13, I lost a lot of weight (unknown to most people, I even developed an eating disorder, but thankfully it was short lived, and I overcame it before it became too detrimental to my health) and I was discouraged to find that even at a very healthy body mass for me I was still larger than most of my classmates, and even most adult women. I lost weight until a doctor told me I should really stop, and I still weighed over 200 pounds. A weight which for many people seems huge. I was so frustrated with my body. At my thinnest, I am a size 14. Which in many brands is a plus size.
Ok, plus sizes rant… Some stores have plus sizes all the way on the other side of the store from regular sizes (as though being fat is contagious or something? I don’t think I have infected anyone yet, and been this way most of my life… just saying).
Being plus sized in today’s society, especially as a young woman, is frustrating. So when you see a girl walking down the street and her boobs are busting out of her top, or her short shorts are a bit too short to cover all of her voluptuous booty, or her tummy is sticking out of her shirt a bit, don’t judge. Cut her some slack. She is trying her best not to look like a grandma. And it’s difficult to do. Society comments a lot on the beauty of small women, but not a lot on the beauty of larger ones. Society critiques big girls a lot. Just look at the cover of any gossip magazine at the checkout counter of any grocery store. There will be a headline about so and so gaining 40 pounds, or a blown-up picture of some poor unsuspecting celebrity’s butt cellulite. It’s cruel. And ridiculous. Fat is not synonymous with ugly. I personally think that a bit of body fat makes most people more attractive; it’s in the eye of the beholder. Some of us don’t want to see every rib, and every vein. They are inside for a reason. But that’s just me. I don’t think that pouchy tummies and soft thighs are unattractive. Many healthy people have them. It’s fine if that’s not your thing. But it’s not automatically ugly, or gross, or unhealthy, either. Men who look like bodybuilders aren’t my thing. But that doesn’t make them ugly. Lots of women like that look. Lots of men like bigger women. It’s the same thing.
There is a generation of young people growing up bigger than our parents. Many of my peers, and people younger than me are wrestling with a weight problem. I would like to make a plea to everyone out there who has kids, or who will have kids in the future:
First: please learn how to eat in a way that doesn’t tell your body to store fat. Learn the basics of nutrition, and feed yourself and your children healthy, wholesome food. Get active. Exercise every day and get your kids involved too. Let’s not raise a whole generation of obese people, please. Obesity is a real health issue which I have battled. I am not currently labeled as such, but 40+ pounds ago, I was. I have been there. Don’t take your kids there.
There are a lot of us that are always going to be bigger though. In spite of a healthy lifestyle, being active and eating healthy, some of us do not have it in our genetics to be thin, or small. For the parents of these kids, specifically young ladies, I would also make a plea:
Dads: I don’t care if you see your daughter as sexually attractive or not (honestly I hope you don’t), but I promise you there is going to be a young man who does. And if she has been told by her dad that she is valuable, and beautiful, she is going to expect him to treat her the way you want him to. But if she has been told that she isn’t beautiful, and she doesn’t think she is valuable, she is going to settle for somebody you won’t like. She is going to be seeking approval and acceptance in the wrong place. She is going to pay a price for that which you will hate. Please don’t give your daughters a daddy complex. Accept them, approve of them and love them with all their rolls and insecurities. Please find something about them you find beautiful, and tell them truthfully how pretty and special they are. Every person is. It’s not a lie. If you can’t see it in her then you are the one with the issue.
Moms: model self-confidence for your daughters please. If you feel ashamed of your squishy tummy, she is going to think she should be ashamed of hers, too. If you refuse to wear shorts because you have cellulite, she is going to be worrying if her thighs are too flabby also. If you are confident and comfortable in your skin, and you learn to love your body in spite of all its variety and flaws, it will help your daughter develop her own self confidence. It’s ok to dress for your body type: I am not asking all moms to go buy and wear a bikini. But don’t be ashamed of your body, either. Don’t feel like you have to be completely covered around your daughter all the time, and don’t make disparaging comments about how much you dislike your body. That body is the same one who is helping you breathe, and walk, and talk, and who brought your amazing children into this world. Don’t hate it. Don’t allow your inner voice of self-critique become an outward voice of critique that affects your daughter’s self-image too. Better yet, don’t allow it to affect yours, either. Tell it to shut up. You have better things to worry about.
I am not asking everyone to embrace being overweight as a good thing. I am not asking for it to be encouraged. I am just asking that the bullying, the belittling, and the disapproval be stopped. I am asking that every young woman be allowed to grow up with an understanding that she is uniquely beautiful, and not be made to feel as though approval or acceptance or value are hinged on being a ‘proper’ weight. I am asking that we as a society take strides simultaneously towards good health and body acceptance wherever we are at. I think that if we can work on this, it would be a tremendous change for the good of the young people in our lives.