Every time my mom calls me to ask how I’m surviving in another state and in graduate school (to answer that question: barely) she likes to ask “So have you lost any more weight?” Knowing that I’m on my own and now on a tight budget she likes to “tease” me about weight-loss. Although being the overly self-conscious and yet bitter person that I am, I played along with her anyway and said, “I guess, I mean I put on a shirt the other day and it seemed more loose than usual.” That did the trick and the conversation quickly moved along. Thank goodness.
One Thursday afternoon, those conversations came back to haunt me while I was stuck in traffic on the way to school. Why the hell is my worth based on my body image and weight? I thought. Well, I didn’t really think that single, succinct thought; I was really pondering over all of my lived experiences of being body-shamed for my weight and being compared to my sisters and cousins. I also thought about a more recent experience I had with a college campus counselor a few years back in my undergrad.
After my melancholic and teary-eyed confessions to this counselor, he concluded that the main source of my problems was my confidence, and in order to boost my confidence I had to start getting healthier — a nicely-put version of: you need to lose weight! Me being the naiive and uncontested person that I am (yea, I’m a lot of complicated things), I didn’t hesitate to question him. He was the person in power, the person with the knowledge, the person who spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on a degree so he must know better: this was my rationale.
But why is it that in order to be more confident I have to change my body to appeal to society’s standards of “normal” or acceptance? Why can’t I instead learn to love myself the way that I am, in the body that I currently have, with all of its cons and whatnot? Why is it that when somebody hates their body because of what society has said, we still go on and encourage them to pursue what society wants? Why can’t we instead learn to help each other love the one body that we are already in?
Sure, being unhealthy — or as mainstream culture puts it more bluntly: fat — can be a killer of its own. I’ve heard all of the arguments, no need to remind me. But I have a higher chance of dying in a car accident tomorrow than from having a high BMI. I have a higher chance of dying by suicide (which, as a passively suicidal person, I urge anyone who is suicidal or have suicidal thoughts to please reach out for help*), than from eating what makes me happy. I have a higher chance of being murdered than I do from accepting that I can still love my body now and have a healthy relationship with food in all of its healthy and unhealthy capacities.
Who are we to tell others how to live their lives? Who are we to tell others they won’t be truly happy or confident unless they’re society’s idealization of skinny or muscular? Who are we to judge, because judging others only means we are just as insecure with ourselves in ways that we don’t want to admit.
So mom, please stop asking if I’ve lost weight. And to Society, you can fuck off.
*24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1–800–273–8255
* For the more introverted or socially anxious (like me), here’s a 24/7 crisis text-line (in the US): Text HOME to 741741 https://www.crisistextline.org/texting-in/