The girls stood at the finish line and laughed at me.
“Look at her stomach. It jiggles like jello.”
“I can hear her fat screaming for help.”
“Thunder thighs! Ugh. If I had her legs I would never wear shorts.”
My face burned with embarrassment as I pretended I couldn’t hear their taunts. I finished my lap and quickly escaped to the locker room.
I dreaded PE. Every day it was the same. The constant teasing about my weight never got any easier to deal with. I developed strategies for changing out of eyesight, often hiding in the bathroom stall and waiting until the other girls left. I started wearing baggy sweatshirts to school, even on the hottest of days, hoping to hide my body and my shame.
Seventh grade was a hard year for me. A new city. A new school. Three months of homelessness. Bullying. It was the year of the urine-soaked shoes and the lack of toilet paper (read the story here). Food became my comfort. I ate to make myself feel better about life. Cookies and ice cream were my friends when I didn’t have any others. The girls at school made me the target of their teenage angst and I was lonely.
Thirteen year old girls know how to use their words like weapons.
So do thirty year old women. But by this age, the weapons are most often directed at ourselves.
Our society is obsessed with the thin ideal. We are constantly being fed the message that thin equals happy and healthy and smart. Thin is what we should all be striving for. It is the pinnacle of success.
We swallow this message and it fuels a fat phobia.
We are afraid of being fat.
A recent study found that 50% of females between the ages of 18 and 25 would rather be hit by a truck than be fat.
They would rather be HIT BY A TRUCK.
Two thirds of these women would rather be mean or stupid than fat.
Why do we believe fat is the worst thing we could possibly be?
When I was twenty years old I was obese. By the time I was twenty-one I had lost 75 pounds and became a fitness instructor. When I was twenty-four I had a newborn baby in my arms and extra weight on my frame. Over the years my size has fluctuated.
I have been fat. I have been thin. I have been somewhere in between.
As I journeyed through all of my shapes and sizes, I searched for self acceptance. It was hard work. I had to learn how to speak kindly to myself. I realized my worth doesn’t come from the number on the scale or the size of my pants.
It comes from within.
I still struggle with wishing my stomach didn’t jiggle. I still find myself criticizing the size of my butt. I still hear those voices from seventh grade telling me I am fat.
And then I remind myself that I am healthy. I am strong. I am happy.
I try to focus on the voices that matter.
My children telling me they love me.
My husband telling me I am beautiful.
My God telling me I am worthy.
Being a fitness instructor has allowed me the opportunity to meet many people. It is the best part of my job. I love the new friends I make. The relationships we create. The chance to intersect lives with someone I might not have otherwise ever known. I want to help them realize their goals. The number one reason people join a gym is to lose weight. This is okay. It is a valid goal. But it should not be the only goal.
These people, my new friends, come from all backgrounds. All professions. All demographics. I have the great privilege of being entrusted with one hour of their life three times a week. I want to use this hour wisely.
I want to focus on becoming MORE, not on becoming less.
MORE accepting of ourselves and others.
I don’t want them to spend an hour with me as a punishment, but as a reward.
I want to help people focus on their whole person, to become healthy in body and soul.
If I can do this, I have done my job.
I am turning forty this year. It seems a milestone of some sort. A milestone of self acceptance.
My forty year old butt is smaller than my twenty year old butt. It is bigger than my thirty year old butt. It is a happy and healthy butt. I am thankful it is mine.