Hi. First off, next to the note spreading aspect of our project, we’ve decided that once a week we’re going to do a blog on subjects that are related to what this project is about. That means that it could be about bullying, or body-image, or feminism or sexism or something that the blogger has experienced in their own life or whatever we can come up with. Every week there’s a blog written by a different person, which will usually be posted on Wednesday.
Today, I’m going to talk a little about myself and society and I do have to say it’s a little intimidating to write this for you all right now as it’s not something that I usually talk about ‘en plain public’.
If you have looked at my picture that I’ve put up on the ‘About’ page, you can probably see that I’m not the skinniest of people. I have never been skinny and I will never will be. No matter how much I exercise or diet or be ‘healthy’, I am for 100% certain that it will never happen. How do I know this? Because I used to be an athlete. From the age of 6 till I was about 15 I was a swimmer. At the high point I had practice 7 times a week. So that was about 14 hours of intense exercise a week. And guess what, I was still considered ‘big’ in comparison to the people who I was competing against.
The first time I remember that I was worrying about weight and how I looked was at the age of 6. Now, I’m no expert but I think that 6 is a tick early to worry about that sort of thing. That was pretty much the starting point.
There are so many examples in my adolescence that I can name where people have ‘advised’ me to lose weight. One of the most horrifying experiences in my life was when my coach wanted to talk to me right in the middle of the pool’s cafeteria. He asked me if I realized that every kilo that I weighed was equal to a bottle of milk. I walked away crying.
After I quit swimming (which is a different story all together) things only got worse for me. Of course, there is the story of the ex-boyfriend who on breaking up with me told me that if I could be really attractive if I lost a bit of weight. An ex co-worker who exclaimed ‘oh! So you didn’t always look like this?!’ when I told her about my swimming. I could go on and on and on. But probably the worst is a story about my GP. She’s been my doctor for years and from probably the age of 13 at almost every visit she would ask about my weight. Sure, she can be worried for health reasons but I would go there for a throat infection and she would end up berating me about my weight. She tested me several times for diabetes II, despite it being negative every time. I remember going there when I was really ill and she asked me how I got there today. I told her that my dad brought me and she ‘subtly’ suggested that going by bike was also ‘a good idea’. It has honestly gotten to the point that I feel hesitant about going to the doctor, only going when it’s absolutely necessary. My mom and I sometimes joke about it, ‘oh you got a broken toe? Gotta lose weight!’ We joke but it’s not really funny.
But the point that I’m trying to make with this post is the pressure that girls and boys are under to look skinny. Not healthy, not pretty, skinny. Because ‘fat’ does not automatically mean that you’re unhealthy and skinny does not automatically mean you are. I was in my town’s city center to spread some notes for the project and I overheard a conversation between a couple of teen girls. I think they were about 13 – 14 years old. One of them was telling her friends that she got there by bike and her friend exclaimed ‘OH is it because you’re on a diet??’ and her friend replied that she was because she really wanted to lose some weight. At that point I looked up and saw this girl was tall and already really skinny. Not even slender, just skinny. I think she was maybe a size 2-4. She did not need to lose any weight. At all. It’s things like this that really worry me. Society’s message that we need to be healthy has really moved to just being thin. Forget about models and actresses, just the commercials on tv about being healthy and people treating weight like it’s the most awful thing in the world has such an influence on these young girls.
It’s probably one of the things that I want to achieve most through this project. I want to reach girls who are like I was. Although I probably would have thought something along the lines of ‘Yea, right’ if I had gotten a note that says ‘You’re beautiful’, I want to put them out there because if there’s a chance that I can make even one boy or girl feel a bit better about themselves, and maybe give them the strength to say “screw what you think. I’m healthy, there’s nothing wrong with me and it’s a beautiful day so I’m going to eat this damn ice cream” then it’s worth it.
Because that’s what people tend to forget nowadays. A bit more body fat does not mean unhealthy or unattractive or lazy or disgusting. We don’t know what these people do. Maybe they work their ass off. Maybe this is what they’re meant to look like. Whatever it is, they deserve our respect as a person. It does not make them inferior human beings, it does not give us the permission to say things like ‘kill it before it lays eggs’ or ‘it’s funny because she’s fat’.
It’s the old saying of don’t judge a book on its cover that is applicable here. No matter who you are, no matter what you look like, you deserve the right to be happy about the way you look. All of you. No exceptions.