The only person that ever told me I was fat is the person I see in the mirror. Clocking in at 5 foot tall with a petite but proportionate frame, any amount of weight gain is obvious to me. My shapely hips and large breasts slip into a size 2 or a size 4, but what I see in the mirror is not that.
The thing about being a woman is that nobody teaches you what beautiful means, but you can learn by turning on the TV or going to a mall. You watch TV, you read the magazines, you look on Instagram. The women are thin, with very little or no muscles or cellulite or saddlebags or batwings and clothes cascade down their ethereal bodies like they’re still on a rack at the Chanel boutique. Some women, “voluptuous “ ones, are over sexualized and often dressed in tightly fitted clothing to show off their “curves;” catcalling echoes from the depths of the our DVR.
Growing up, I was one of the first girls to… develop. I remember distinctly my first day of middle school when I was so overjoyed that one of the cutest boys in class passed me a note. When I open the note, which was torn from crisp binder paper, scrawled in chicken scratch, read a simple but to the point “I like your boobs.” To a 12-year-old girl who just received her first hand written note in middle school I was perplexed. Should I be excited that the cute boy noticed me, or should I be mortified that the only thing he can think of to say is that he likes my breast? We exchanged screen names. Later, he got expelled for sexually assaulting girls in our class, myself included.
I don’t remember when I started agonizing about my weight or how my clothes fit on my body. I’ve gone on diets that made me crazy: no carbs, no grains, no sugar, no dairy, nothing that taste goods. I’ve done exercise programs, I paid personal trainers half my paycheck, I purchased at-home-DVDs, weights, kettle bells, and exercise bands.
I’m not going to tell you about how much is the most I’ve weighed, but I’ll tell you that I used to skip breakfast and lunch through middle school and high school to “lose weight.” I’ll tell you that I thought I would be happy then. I’ll tell you that I’ve spent hours looking at “fitness models” and “thinspiration,” imagining myself with sculpted abs, slender arms, and a big booty. I’ll tell you that I thought I would be happy then. I’ll tell you that I’ve daydreamed about going on a run in just a sports bra, because that’s #goals. I’ll tell you that I thought I would be happy then. I’ll tell you how many times I’ve broken down in tears after failed attempts in dressing rooms when I couldn’t fit a dress over my childbearing hips. I can tell you that I am not happy.
Several years ago, I embarked on an exercise and diet program that had me doing 50 minutes of sweat drenched high intensity interval training (or HIIT) while eating a steady diet of lean protein and vegetables. I had taken notes from “bikini competitors” I followed on Instagram, with their ground turkey and raw carrot snacks; a plate of steamed broccoli and chicken breast for dinner. If I missed a workout, I would be angry at myself and do double the next day. If I had a “treat,” I would be furious with myself and vow to not treat myself again until I reached my goal of being happy with what I saw in the mirror. I spent 3 months feeling anger and rage. After I completed the program, I was at my thinnest (and strongest) since I had mono in high school, and I still wasn’t happy. Will I ever reach my goal?
Throughout high school and college, most of the attention I received from men, most much older, were sexual advances. No one ever taught me that wasn’t okay. No one ever taught me to raise my voice. No one ever taught me how to say No.
No one ever taught me how to say No to the voice in my head that was learned by the media, perpetuated by my friends, and encouraged by the clothes being sold to my demographic.
This year, I’m teaching myself how to say No.
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