Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's Harder When You Are A Little Bit Fat...

“Does Mommy look fat or SKINNNNY in this? ”SKINNNNNY or fat,” I asked my seven year-old son, Tye the night of my high school reunion. Since the emphasis of my sentence was on the word skinny, the answer my son so obediently gave me was “Skinny, Mommy. You look so pretty.” With a sigh of relief I turned around to go to my bedroom to finish getting ready when I heard him yell back up the stairs, “But I never realized how large your butt is!”

All my life I have struggled at times with self-image. Growing up, my 3 siblings were skinny to point of looking like they were from a third world country. They had these little stick arms and legs and huge eyes and looked like these darling little waifs. While I, on the other hand, was, well, just regular. That’s right. Just of average weight. In fact, that was how I felt all around. I was not the ugliest kid on the block, but neither was I the prettiest, or the smartest, or the fastest or the baddest or the anything est. I was just another average kid.

I guess most kids, heck even most adults, feel that way. Something inside of us is just wired to compare ourselves with others – and for most of us, those comparisons almost always lead up to the places where we fall short, rather than where we might shine. How many times have you heard a woman with curly hair lamenting the fact that her hair is not straight? Or heard those with straight hair moaning about wanting more body in theirs? Personally, I think God created us all to have these differences, not because one was necessarily better than the other, but probably because He would have been bored stiff to have all these little clones of sameness marching around down here. I mean look at what he did with the animal and insect species!

Centipedes with their hundreds of legs. Baboons with their shiny red butts which my children always have to point out at every zoo we visit. The peacock with his glorious tail and screaming voice. Thousands of variations, all beautiful and sacred in their own way.

I have wondered what our world would be like if instead of looking for reasons why we don’t measure up, people were looking at reasons for why we are good at something or focusing in on things that make us feel acceptable rather than not? Just the other day, while I was attending a Christian Conference I found myself engaging in one of my favorite past times – people watching. But for me, what often comes along with this hobby is looking for ways to feel critical or superior to others rather than appreciating who God created them to be.

But back to me! I am certainly not the fattest person I know nor am I the thinnest, but I can honestly say that the less I weigh the better I feel about myself and the more self confidence I have. Now on the surface that is not such a bad thing, right? We all know that it is not healthy to be overweight and certainly in our society the fatter – or I guess I should say heavier since that is more politically correct – the fatter you are the less attractive you are. Studies have proven that prejudice against obesity is probably one of the last bastions of acceptable discrimination. Everyone knows that the thin people are the chosen ones. I think it might even say that somewhere in the Bible “…and the THIN shall rule the earth….” Or something like that.

A few years ago, I hit my dream weight. I was looking gooood. After having three children in five years and gaining 70 plus pounds during each pregnancy, I was carrying around some excess poundage. Added to that was the fact that I have never really exercised much (people who know me would claim that is an out right lie since I have really never exercised at all – but that is for another story) and was also traveling a lot for my work, I was at least 35-40 pounds overweight. Ok, maybe even a little more, but that is just too embarrassing to admit so I am sticking with 35.

I decided to do something about it. I began dieting and finally hit on the thing that worked for me and I lost the weight. There was no magic about it. No real pain or suffering. No trauma. No loss of life or limb. I just ate a whole lot less, quit having wine with dinner and cut out all the sugary soft drinks and desserts and, low and behold, over time, I lost the weight.

Suddenly it seemed I was transformed into this whole other person. Now I don’t mean that my soul changed and I suddenly became more spiritual and other worldly, but I mean by the way people acted toward me. For months, people would rush up to me and rave about how proud they were of me and what a great thing I had done. How great I looked. Salespeople waited on me first. People smiled at me on the street. I think maybe even angels cried. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the compliments and I did feel good about the way I looked.
But after a while it began to really bug me. I mean I was still the same person – only “not so fattish” as my youngest son, Tye, would say. I had not done anything very significant. I had really not even lost that much weight. Yes, I was fat, but I was not obese. I was not in danger of dying or of never getting outside my house or anything. I was not like one of those people you see on Jerry Springer that have to have the fire department come and bust out a wall to get them outside the house. I just I had some weight to lose.

And, I most certainly was not a different person. I had not suddenly morphed into a Mother Theresa or something. I was not any more honest than I was when I was fat. I was not a better wife or mother now that I was a size 8. I was not any closer to God. My weight loss did not suddenly transport me into a place of truth and love. I did not suddenly start a ministry that would end world hunger or stop war forever on this planet. I just wasn’t quite as fat as I had been a few months before.

Fast forward about 7 years to 2007. I am a 46-year old, working mother of three who has gained much of that weight back. Again, I am not the fattest person I know, but I am certainly not the thinnest! In fact, I am a perfect size… Oh wait, I am so not going to go there.

My battle of the bulge is probably going to last my entire lifetime, but now I am more comfortable with my “Muffin Top” than I used to be. For those of you not in the know, a “Muffin Top” is that roll of belly fat that hangs down over your blue jeans and pants. Even though I am now much more enlightened and secure with who I am, I still want to look as good as I can. Hence the “Muffin Top”, because I can no longer wear Mom Jeans that would hold in that belly roll, because high waisted Mom Jeans are so OUT! So yes, I still care about my appearance and yes, I do make judgments about other people’s appearances too. In fact, I can be pretty quick to find the “est” person in the room. The one with the biggest…or smallest…. It is just in my nature. But I am trying not to. I am trying to learn to look at who someone is on the inside rather than just at their outside. Because I think that is what Jesus would want me to do.

The best lesson I could have had on how much my happiness can depend on what I look like to others happened to me a few weeks ago. We were going on a Spring Break Cruise and I decided I would need to get a bikini wax since we were going to be in our bathing suits. Everyone knows that Spring Break anywhere is filled with young, beautiful, thin girls. Did I say young? And since I am no longer young, not really beautiful and certainly not thin, then at least I could be was hairless.

From the first when I went on Saturday to get my Bikini wax, the experience was rather unusual. By unusual, I mean more unusual than having a Korean woman pour hot wax over your private area, rip it off in a moment of incredible pain and charge you $45 for that pleasure.

I should have known that I was in for some sort of tremendous spiritual revelation when Mai Ling said to me as she walked in, “Oh. You not so young. You skin is old. Not tight like youngah gurls.” As she poured the hot wax on an area that is not really used to much exposure or attention (certainly not like those younger girls!) She then says, and I swear I am quoting now! She says, “Pull back the skin tight like this, it is hardah, you know, when YOU JUST A LITTLE BIT FAT.” I promise that is what she said. Let me repeat it just in case you missed it the first time or thought perhaps you were mistaken….”It is hardah, you know, when you just a little bit fat.”

That was an Oprah moment for me. I could have been outraged. I could have been crushed. I could have just cried. But I just had to laugh. I agree with Mai Ling. It is harder when you are a little bit fat. And by the way, I have lost 4 pounds since then….

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