Why I am Self Conscious of my Belly

VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL AQUÍ

May 26, 2018

I need to stop talking to this friend of mine. He can be really invasive. And I like that. It’s nice when someone wants to get to know you better. It’s even nicer when they want to know about the ugly, damaged parts of you too. It means they want to understand you. They care about you enough to want to know more than just the good things about you. So, I welcome probing questions from friends. I take it as an honor to be asked.

He thought I would be upset with him for asking. But he asked anyway. He asked, “why are you self conscious of your belly?”. “Because I have gigantic scar”, I should have said. But this wasn’t the first time he’d asked. No point shrugging his question off. I gave my typical answer first about societal pressures to be thin and beautiful. He asked for more. So I thought a bit more about it. In my mind, I usually stop at the society reason. I think it’s more than enough reason to be unsatisfied with my body. But it wasn’t enough for him.

After a few moments, I pull a slimy, repressed memory from its hiding place. It wasn’t even terribly hidden. Imagine a ratty stuffed animal poking it’s ears out from behind a dingy pillow in a corner of a room.  When I was young, I was skinny and beautiful. I was even popular in school, imagine that! Everybody loved me. Or so, that’s the way my mother tells this story. Though she just uses the word pretty (not skinny) to describe me back then.

However, the fact remains that once I was not skinny, I began to dress myself in slouchy too-big shirts and muck colored clothes to hide my outwardly growing body. This is when my mother would reminisce. She’d say it with a yearning as she tried to motivate me to do something about my appearance. What she refused to understand is that I would not dress any nicer unless I was comfortable in my body. And to be comfortable in my body, I believed I needed to lose weight.

My dad isn’t completely devoid of involvement either. He used to tease my brother for being overweight when I was young and thin. I saw that and partook. I still feel bad about it, though I understand that I was only mirroring the behavior around me. That’s when I learned that fat isn’t favorable. I also learned through the media, through T.V. shows and books, that fat people get bullied. I was only attempted to be bullied on once. Because of my freckles, someone called me a cheetah in second grade or so. I smiled real big and thanked the kid who made this clever observation. I used to love running around and my dad affectionately called me cheetah. And I’m so glad for the coincidence. No one ever tried to bully me again.

…Well, there’s the guy that would spit at me on the bus in middle school, but he was just weird. It wasn’t personal. Thanks Dad, for sparing me the cycle of bullying. In my later years I reflected back on the cheetah moment and some helpful tips on T.V. and books that recommended laughing in the face of bullies. The sources said bullies seek a reaction. You don’t give it to them and they won’t want to mess with you. You won’t be fun for them. Somehow, this worked.

What I mean by this long, rambley post is that I learned at a young age, through various sources that thin=success. It equals happiness. My mom would talk about her weight regretfully. Say my dad prefers thin people. As if the T.V. screens weren’t screaming this preference of thinness loud enough at me. At the same time she and countless others sang me praises when I did lose weight in high school (only to gain it back the summer before college). So, it became something to resent, my belly. It became a sign of my failures. What is keeping me from success. Because it’s much easier to think “all I have to do is lose this weight and then my life will fall into place” than the reality, which is that life is multifaceted.

If I want to be successful, I have to go to the dentist, continue learning everyday, brush my hair, spend time with friends, and a billion other things than just diet and exercise. There are so many parts to life. While it is important to health, why should weight loss be (ironically) such a huge part? It’s usually my first item on goals I want to accomplish. It’s not that I don’t know how to lose weight. I practically have a Bachelor’s degree in that. (My Bachelor’s is in Nutritional Sciences and Dietetics.) There’s other personal factors in the way, like the fact that I put thinness on the pedestal of success. If it’s so important, it’s also very intimidating to work on.

I don’t know what is best: working on the underlying issues or the problem itself. I am medically obese. I know, doesn’t help my credibility to admit that. Who believes fat people? They’re just lazy bums. (<– A half joke.) I don’t know if I should work on changing the way I think or pushing forward and adopting a healthier lifestyle. I’m afraid that by focusing on my thoughts I’ll only come to accept what can actually be adverse to my health (mainly being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle).

Obesity is a precursor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes and puts you at higher risk for certain cancers like breast cancer. I don’t want to be comfortable in my excessive weight. But, I also fear changing my life to a healthier one where I am within the normal parameters of weight for me and am physically active. I fear looking successful, but still being broken in my beliefs. I don’t want to change my outside if my inside doesn’t change too.

So, I am at an impasse. The solution, as I see it, is to work on both my faulty beliefs that thinness equals success and on my unhealthy habits like not exercising. If only it were that easy. Thank you. I sincerely thank you Richard for asking that invasive question. By answering you I find the answers to my indecision. I’ve been stuck in this place of wanting to do something about my weight and not wanting to do anything without knowing why for years. I see now that it is a matter of opposing factors (my perception of thinness, what it means to me, and the reality of weight as a factor in correlation to health).

Now I just have to convince myself to start. Maybe I’ll go on a run and then compliment myself for taking the initiative. After all, progress (not thinness) is success.

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