The great weight debate

I, like many women, have been unhappy with my weight for the majority of the last decade. Currently, for example, I weigh about 40 pounds more than I would like to. But there’s a twist to my story, a narrative I haven’t read anywhere before. I have also spent a lot of time being upset about not weighing enough. I suffer from debilitating chronic migraines, and in the search for relief I have been on a lot of different medications. Some of these medications have made me gain a lot of weight, and sometimes the illness itself has made me lose a lot of weight. I have weighed anywhere from 100 to 170 pounds, and have thus spent most of the time either feeling too fat or too skinny.

Growing up, I had always been skinny, and while most of the time I was very grateful for this natural state of things, I could become self conscious about it. The feminist writings I was beginning to read were telling me that real women have curves, big is beautiful, and size zero only existed to make women feel bad about themselves. This last sentiment really stung as a teenager, seeing as I often was a size zero, and I had as little control over this as I imagine the author of the comment had over her own weight. I never felt like I could speak up though, because I felt like I should be grateful for my size and be quiet. I finally feel I’ve gained the right to say something, having been on both sides of the great weight debate. I recently talked to a friend my age who declared that she’d finally given up trying to gain weight resigned herself to being “too small.” This sounded darkly familiar to me.

It is exactly because I believe that every woman is entitled to love her body that I need to be a critical of feminist discussions of weight. Yes, big is beautiful, but so is small, and I feel like that can get lost in the narrative. I know being worried about being too skinny is a less frequent problem than being worried about being too fat, but my conversation with my friend reminded me that I was not alone in my experiences. In my times of feeling too skinny I never once found anyone writing about how I should feel empowered about my particular shape. Instead I read a lot about how women hated me for my size, and felt like it was because of people like me that they were being held to a ridiculous standard. We should never demonize other women, particularly when we know nothing of their circumstances. Yes, some women are too small for the wrong reasons, but some of us can’t help it. I couldn’t help my size then, I can’t help it now, but I’m trying to be happy with myself always.

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    You bring up good point, I feel that the mainstream media has it’s pressures to look a certain way, but I feel pressure in some (not all) people I encounter, or the writings you described, to look the opposite way. Ultimately I think each individual has to determine at what weight they not only look but feel their best.

    My own personal issue with this stems from some of the anti-psychotic meds I’ve been prescribed creating a number of changes I didn’t like – dulled my reaction times, made my thought processes seem in a fog at times, disoriented me, made me unhappy with the way I was drawing things (must have something to do with affecting spatial perception or psychomotor, I’m not sure) – and yes, caused weight gain. I chose to stop taking them and deal with the chips as they fell. The changes I disliked went away, and part of that was the weight. Along with that I was learning more about food and it’s values. Some people saw these changes and expressed concern it was a disorder, with the platitudes about how “women can be beautiful in all shapes and sizes” etc. I’m not saying that’s not true, but I am saying I couldn’t get some people to understand that that weight wasn’t me any more than the catatonic states or anything else the pills did was.

    I guess my point with that story is there may be a lot of reasons women may be conscious of weight issues, and some of them may not be as readily apparent or simple as “you’ve been brainwashed to think you need to look like a Photoshopped image in a magazine”.

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