I recently read about Not Fat Because I Wanna Be, a book written by a 6-year-old, as told to her mother. Over the course of her short life, LaNiyah Bailey, who is overweight due to several medical conditions, has endured jeers and rude comments about her weight from children and adults alike. She admitted to NPR in an interview here that the bullying makes her sad, but she has had the courage, with the support of her parents, to face it head-on and encourage others to stop this particular brand of negativity. “Bullying is not cool,” she told NPR.
If you’re an overweight “lifer,” as I have been, you may have had moments in your past similar to what little LaNiyah has experienced.
It sounds like a bad after-school movie, but in junior high, classmates found out how much I weighed during one of those annual weight/height check-ins with the school nurse, and they broadcasted the digits to anyone who cared to listen, in a rhyme. This was in the late 80’s, and these children were also able to capitalize, in a timely manner, on Weird Al Yankovic’s “I’m Fat,” a parody of Michael Jackson’s “I’m Bad,” to add insult to their verbal injury of me. Yes, it upset me, but there were enough people around me who felt this bullying campaign was lame that the harassment on this issue wasn’t kept up for months or years.
Thankfully, this is the only weight-related harassment that I can remember in my childhood (though I was a target for other things), but you may have had multiple episodes with mean girls, or even with the relative who had to comment on every bite of food you took, every time you reached for a second helping, every time your eyes held something calorie-laden in their gaze for too long. Are you consciously or unconsciously holding on to the feelings you felt when those things happened?
You’re going to get tired of me saying it at some point, but excess weight is about so much more than food. If you are successfully losing weight, the specters of your past weight bullies may present themselves when you deviate from your plans–when you double up on a serving of French fries, or when you grab a sandwich with white bread rather than whole wheat out of convenience, for example. But don’t let the schoolyard taunts or the nagging auntie voices knock you off of your game.
Take steps to evict the past bully voices from your head. You are reframing your mind on your eating choices (and have done so successfully if you have lost and kept off a significant amount of weight!); you will also have to reframe how you think about slip-ups with food. There are no food police, just you and your feelings and the food. Accept the fact that you won’t eat perfectly 100 percent of the time. Work through your negative feelings and embrace the positive feelings. There should be no set timeline for weight loss; take as long as you need to get to the weight that seems right for you. Long story short, there is no wrong way to lose weight, as long as you are losing weight in a way that is not going to physically harm your body (i.e., illegal drugs, starvation, etc.)
It’s sad to hear that people felt entitled to ridicule a 6-year-old for something apparently out of her control, but I have to applaud her and her parents for their perspective on, and handling of, the situation. This story inspires me to refrain from bullying myself on the ups and downs of my weight loss journey.