Supersize Me

A long time ago, I was institutionalized in a place called High School. It was a time when I smelled like teen spirit, I adored flannel shirts, and I listened to music that my mother despised from Seattle-based bands. There was an interesting girl in many of my classes who was both academically brilliant and artistically talented, and I admired her, but both of us were quiet and shy, and sadly, I never really got to know her.
However, through the magic of facebook, we are now “friends,” and she writes a witty and insightful blog called Unruly Helpmeet that I read while I should be working. She posted a commentary on body weight and size, and I can totally relate to her thoughts, struggles, and frustrations. Thank you for your authenticity, Helpmeet.

I, too, hated my body in high school and college, which was curvy in all the wrong ways (or so I perceived at the time), and oh, how I wanted the stick body with no hips and a teeny waist that my skinny friends had. One or two negative and critical remarks from dumb boys reverberated in my head, and I constantly felt worthless about my physique.

Beginning in high school and for the past 14 years, my driver’s license has read 5’3” and 130 pounds, but there have been times when I have weighed 30 pounds more and 30 pounds less than that since I was a teenager.

After college, I got into working out seriously, and I became a vegetarian and then a vegan, and I’m in great shape now, but it never feels like I am good enough, thin enough, toned enough. I physically push myself to the limit every night in the gym, and I never eat junk, but I still have nagging thoughts that I should have done ten more minutes of cardio, should have added twenty more pounds on the squat bar, should have put less peanut butter on that sandwich.

The pain of always feeling inferior, the constant comparisons, the incessant self-deprecating thoughts are so damaging.

As to Helpmeet’s comments about clothing and makeup, I still have no sense of style. I am 30 years old, and I get to wear jeans to work, and I shop in the junior’s department because (1) I don’t know how to buy grown-up clothes or put together actual outfits, and (2) I can never find women’s clothes that fit me anyway (women’s jeans all look like mom jeans on me, pants have hugely long crotches, horrid tapered legs, or God forbid, pleats, and a lot of it feels too baggy).

The little I know about clothes and makeup, I did not learn until the past few years, mostly by actually reading books on relevant cultural issues like how to apply makeup. The nice thing about being a bookworm is that most of the answers to life I have found by reading, thereby avoiding embarrassment from asking others for information and having them wonder what is wrong with me that I don’t know these things.

Sometimes I wish that one of my well-meaning friends would turn me in to Stacy and Clinton so I could get some real advice and a clothing budget that I’d never be able to afford while working my current job in non-profit. But I’m afraid of (1) giving up the clothes that I actually feel okay in, (2) being forced to shop, (3) having to actually wear grown-up clothes, (4) having to appear on television, and (5) having my hair cut. I admit that I’m fearful of uncertainty and change.

I don’t know the answers. I don’t know how we learn to feel better about ourselves (or at least not feel guilty that we feel badly about our appearance on top of hating our bodies). I don’t know how we stop the perpetual comparisons (superiority: “at least I’m not as fat as her” or inferiority: “I wish my thighs looked like that in jeans”).

Having faith in God and reminding myself that my identity comes from Him and not from society’s airbrushed ideals helps.

But it will always be a struggle.

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