I was walking in front of two young women undergrads on my way to the gym. Their conversation was personal and painful. Back when my knee worked I would have picked up the pace. Now I can’t. I just had to listen.
I won’t share the whole story because of possible identifiable details but the main theme is familiar to blog readers, body shame and size anxiety
Young woman 1 (YW1) says she went home for the weekend and cried the whole time. It started when her mother bought her new pants.
“I hate it when people buy me clothes. I HATE IT.”
Noted. But why tears? She continues.
“They were a size too big. What does she think I am, a fat cow? I can’t believe she thinks I’m that big.”
Friend asked sensibly what prompted her mother to buy her clothes. So far I’m liking the friend.
Turns out YW1 had messaged home that none of her clothes fit and she’d gained weight eating in the cafeteria even though she went to the gym everyday.
Friend now drops out of my favour when she commiserates. “And your mom thought you wanted to stay big? Who wants that? You need to get back into your regular clothes. Let’s just workout and skip lunch. F*CK your mom.”
On behalf of moms everywhere let me just say she was trying to help! You said none of your clothes fit! She likely carefully looked at labels and bought one size up. Care, concern, detective work. Problem solving is what moms love to do. Over the years, I’ve learned that isn’t always what’s wanted. Sometimes they want you just to listen. That’s a hard lesson to learn.
But also as they both passed me, now heading to the gym with resolution and speed, I couldn’t help but notice how tiny they both were. Single digit sizes for sure. I noted that even though I know it doesn’t make a difference. I’m sorry you’re stressed and crying all weekend about weight gain. University life isn’t easy. Just a few weeks ago I was walking through the residences, knocking on doors and talking to students about the first few weeks of university. It’s part of a program here at U of G called House Calls They knew we were coming so I thought they might not be home. But no, they seemed to appreciate the connection and openly shared some of the problems. Sometimes I helped and sometimes I just listened.
I’m sorry we live in a world where that’s the thing you choose to name and cry about because I’m pretty sure it’s not the only thing going on in your life.
I’m sorry double digit, high end of the straight sizes, me had to hear you calling yourself fat and thinking that one size is up is cow sized.
I reminded myself that all bodies are good bodies and went to look for some cows that make me smile.
5 thoughts on “It’s so very hard, cw: diets, disordered eating, body shame”
This is so sad and so familiar. I remember teenage me having a meltdown in a women’s dress shop (as they called them then) when the size 7 pants didn’t fit and my mother went to get a size 9. It’s painful to think back on it even now. And now, being at the top end of straight sizes (and not for everything), I still feel some of that pain. Well, a lot of that pain. The difference now is that teen me is more open to being consoled in a lot of ways, and by a lot of people. I will hope this for both of them.
Well, the sad thing for this incident, is young woman blaming her mother for making her feel “bad” or “less” / “devalued”. No, since mother was only responding to daughter’s comments with a gift of clothes.
This whole post has me conflicted. On one hand, I agree that we should be more forgiving of ourselves and less worried about our size. On the other hand, I am a “single digit size” (bordering on double digit) and I hate getting dressed everyday. I’ve gained some weight and am not my best self at the moment. Hearing you say that I’m not entitled to my feelings because I’m smaller than you kind of sucks. Although I hate fast runners talking about how slow they are, when I would kill to run those paces.
So back to my original point – I’m conflicted. I have no solutions. I am sorry that you could not escape hearing the conversation – that must be frustrating on many levels.
I didn’t mean to suggest that smaller women are less entitled to body shame. We all have the feelings we have. Rather I meant to draw attention to the fact that it’s often smaller women who suffer the most from size anxiety of the internal sort. Fat women like me get more external abuse and prejudice. And I’m a small fat person. Larger fat people have it worse still. I do think smaller people need to think about what they’re saying when they say someone a size larger than them is a cow. You don’t know who is listening and how that makes them feel.
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