What would life be like if you stopped listening to who everyone says you “should” be? Have you ever felt like you “should” lose weight? What do you think caused that feeling? How would you feel about your body if you abandoned that “should” list? Do you have goals that make you feel inadequate or bad? What would it look like if you started to follow that little voice inside of you instead of your “should” list? Does your “shoulds” make you feel overwhelmed (i.e. I have SO much weight to lose before I am where I want to be)? How would abandoning your “should” list and getting in touch with what you REALLY want make you feel? Did you resonate with either of my stories? How? What’s YOUR “should” list story?
I was a bit of a late bloomer in many ways. Now, physically, I began puberty right on schedule, but I was in denial. I was able to fit into kids clothes up until probably midway through 7th grade or so. They were probably bordering on being too small, but I was a stick at the time, so it worked.
I stayed slim through eighth grade, and didn’t really start gaining weight until my freshman year of high school. I’m not sure what really caused the weight gain, but I’m sure it was a list of things. I started getting more “into” the internet. After all, Freshman year was when I joined MySpace. I also stopped eating proper meals. Rather than sit alone in the cafeteria, I skipped lunch on most days and spent the period in the library trying to bypass the filters to get onto forbidden websites. If I ever had a little extra cash, I would either buy a package of S’mores poptarts from my school cafeteria, or I would pick up a couple bags of potato chips. I also met my best friend midway through freshman year, and I started eating out more than ever before.
I think my weight really ballooned before I met my best friend, however. I remember having a hard time finding an outfit for the only high school dance. Somewhere between 7th grade and freshman year, I went from an extra large in children’s sizes to an extra large in adult sizes.
But I never really saw myself gaining the weight. I just got fat. I think I became desensitized to the idea of weight gain. Both of my parents have been obese pretty much my entire life. When I was in elementary school, my mom went through short-lived phases of making us get up a few minutes early and “exercising” by holding in our stomachs- as if that would ensure I would have and maintain a flat stomach.
To be perfectly honest, however, even with my mom telling me I needed to lose weight from the age of 14, I never really took that to heart except for one time when I was 17. It was the night of my youth group’s annual Christmas banquet, and I had struggled to find something to wear. Even though I had given dieting a few tries, the only success I ever saw was giving up soda for a couple months at that point.
Ultimately, I decided on a cream colored blouse and a pair of chocolate brown pants. I picked up a pair of pants without trying them on at the moment because, honestly, I thought I had tried them on before. It turns out, there were two brown pants on the same rack. They looked identical, and they were both the same brand. They weren’t however, the same ones. The ones I tried on fit. The ones I took home were too small.
That devastated me, but not as much as my mom beating me up because of it. Less than a year before that, I left high school and finished on my own because I was in a really dark place with depression. I spent the entire year struggling with depression and the effects of that- including self-injury. My mother criticizing my weight just cemented many of the lies I spent my time trying to overcome.
The banquet was on a Sunday night. The following Wednesday, I wrote:
My mom called me fat. Now, I hate eating. I had a salad (lettuce and carrots) with no dressing and I feel stupid for eating it. I don’t want to eat anymore. Even an almost no-calorie salad was probably too much for a fat blimp like me.
Contrary to what that journal entry (and several others over the years) may seem to imply, that is the extent of any anorexia I suffered from. I had occasional thoughts that I wrote down, but I never acted upon them- for longer than 20 minutes.
Other than those few, isolated moments, I’ve never wanted to lose weight for anyone except myself. I was the one who saw myself as overweight, and I wanted to change for me. Nobody told me I should give up soda. I just knew soda had a lot of empty calories, and I never did like diet varieties. Nobody told me I should stop eating artificial sweeteners. I just knew they made me feel sick.
Sure, I did research on different diet programs, ingredients, and food products, but that was to educate myself. I tend to be a bit of a rebel. If someone had told me that I should give up soda without me already considering it, I would probably have increased my intake.
I’ve never cared about measuring up to celebrities. I’ve never been one to buy into the “thin is in” mentality. If I’ve ever had a goal to be thin it isn’t because Hollywood told me to. It’s because I’ve lived it. I wasn’t one of those people that grew up as an overweight child. I was always thin. I don’t want to lose weight because I should do it. I want to lose weight because I know what it’s like to be thinner. I know what it’s like to lose a significant amount of weight- twice.
If there are any “shoulds” I am living by it’s the “I should go back to counting calories.” That’s the only thing I’ve been able to do for more than a week and lose weight- but I also know it makes me miserable. So, should I really do it?