My closet is really a franchise of my favorite store. There you will find clothes divided by type: jeans, sweaters, dresses and blouses. You will also find clothes organized by size. What size would you like ma’am? I have everything from a 2 to a 12. At some point in my life I’ve been a size 2, size 12 and every size in between. However, my weight struggles have been my little secret. I feel as though I am not allowed to have feelings of insecurity when it comes to my weight. Even making the comment that I am going to the gym to workout is met with angry glares and mumbles of “what are you working out for”. This makes me assume that only someone wishing to lose weight is allowed to workout. What if I actually just want to maintain a balance of clean eating and exercise so I can live a long and healthy life? Who am I kidding? I need to drop a few pounds and the snickers I just ate probably didn’t help, but I really wasn’t going anywhere for a while so it only seemed right! I don’t talk about my weight because the rebuttal is most likely going to be “your so skinny, why would you be worried about your weight, dieting, exercising, blowing money on some quick fix”. The truth is that this weight war crosses all ages and races and sizes of women. As a Black women who was brought up in a predominantly white suburb I am extra confused with whether I should aspire to be like Kristen Stewart, Monique from The Parkers or Monique now. However, I do appreciate whoever made baby doll tops popular even when you aren’t pregnant because this muffin top is real!
I was innocent and carefree for a while but I can remember exactly when this internal battle began. It was a little over a decade ago when I stepped on the yard of where I would spend the next four years educating myself about psychology only to be miseducated about my appearance. “You’re too skinny” felt like a part of the normal greeting people gave me. I was a Black woman in the South and I was too skinny to be attractive to the Black men on campus. However, the freshman 15 became a real experience and by the end of the academic year I was very sexy and was often told so by the cute boys. Unfortunately, I had to return home to the suburbs where people then reminded me how real the freshman 15 was. “You’ve put on some weight” replaced the welcome home I had hoped to receive from people. This created a state of confusion. I crossed one state line and two socioeconomic classes and all of sudden I’m too fat or too skinny. The summer after my freshman year I worked out obsessively to lose the weight that everyone so lovingly drew attention to every time they saw me. Unfortunately, at the end of the summer I had to go back to the same school with the same cute boys and the same welcome they’d given me freshman year. Once again my body was not right.
For a while I realized that it was too hard to please everyone so I am going to work out when I want and eat Blue Bell straight out of the container when I want! I’m just me! My hair changes like the Texas weather. I’m confident whether I’m rocking the curly afro or the shaved Mohawk. My make-up style, if any at all, is gloss with a pop of color and just a hint of eye shadow. I live for jeans and a cute pair of heels nothing shorter than 5 inches. But what size jeans should I wear, the 2 or the 12? At one point in my life I thought I was confident in my body. But that changed when this man who was madly in love with me decided he wanted to marry me. The nightmare of picking a wedding dress took me right back to the ups and downs of freshman year. Who can really get a realistic view of whether this is the perfect dress to marry Mr. Right in if you cannot even try the dress on? When did the sample size become a 4 (which in wedding talk is a 0)? Is that because every bride needs to develop an eating disorder before making her dress fitting appointment? I had dieted and exercised. I even sprung for a little medical cheating. I found the dress I wanted! I felt ready to try on the sample because after all this is the smallest I’ve been since freshman year. I was confident and ready but in actuality I was unprepared for what would be an epic fail! From the back it looked like a hospital gown giving everyone in the salon a nice shot at my backside because the three of us couldn’t get it to zip past the fattest part of my butt. In the front it looked like I should have been holding a warning sign not to stand to close in case of explosion. Then my very sweet sales lady takes my measurements, applauds me on how much weight I’d lost since the last time I’d been in, checks the size chart, and then writes 16 on the order form! Really, 16! Feeling discouraged on one of the most important days leading up to the big day, I did not feel comfortable sharing my hurt with anyone. But that day I realized I was upset for a different reason. It was not as much the size that upset me as it was that I still cared! I went as far as thinking that I would not be the most stunning looking thing in the church on my wedding day (that was a lie though, I looked amazing)! But for the first time I realized why my expression of my weight struggle is regularly harshly received. I am a pretty strong spirited then size 4 with a size 16 wedding dress and I worried for what would this experience do to a not so strong spirited size 16 woman who wanted to feel amazing on the day she said yes to the dress.
Ten years ago when SizeUSA did their study on the size and shape of adult consumers and found that the average American woman is a size 14 I was at that time a size 2. The research hasn’t drastically changed and now that I am closer to the average I still feel just as insecure as I did when the study was first published and I was six sizes smaller than average. I talk often with DR. EW and my BFF about weight and size. None of us are completely satisfied. I remember not too long ago my BFF and I sat and listened to our mothers talk about weight and size. I think we equally felt saddened knowing that our mothers who are both smaller than us and obviously older than us are still having this discussion. So age, size, being “average” or below “average” all seems to leave us feeling the same, unsatisfied with our bodies. Even with the average women being a size 14, when shopping, the Plus Size section is far smaller than the non-average size section. And instead of companies making their consumers feel better about themselves they change the sizes to make the larges mediums and smalls even smaller. I wish more women would look in the mirror and say to themselves “I feel healthy today” instead of “I look skinny today”. Me included!
Today when I go to the gym, right after I finish this snickers, I know that I need to be there. Not because I wore the size 10 pants to work today but because my family has a history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Maybe I’ll never feel comfortable being honest about my weight struggles (as I ironically talk all about it in this public blog) but hopefully I can start to realize that healthy is not a size. Maybe I can constantly keep in mind that I was not any happier far from “average” than I am now that I am closer to “average”.