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What Makes YOU the Expert on MY Body?: A Question for Body-shamers Everywhere, a blog by Barb

I’m going to tell you a little bit of my story, but let me preface by saying that this topic is WAY bigger than me.

Body-shaming… just, why?

Once I hit 13, my body happened. I shed some of that childhood “chub” that I had carried around for years, I didn’t have braces anymore, my hair grew long and shiny, and I must have grown two inches in height. Throughout high school, I was thin. I averaged 100 lbs. on heavy days and started college at a whopping 102 lbs. I thought I would be thin forever, and I had reason to believe such a notion…

A little background, the women in my family are notoriously tiny. My brother, tall and thin. In addition, I spent hours a week in dance, gymnastics, or cheerleading from the age of 5 until 15. In high school, my best friend and I conned our way into the same lunch every semester and shared a turkey sandwich and an orange. For dinner, my anti-chef mom would make something like grilled cheese or boiled chicken over rice. I didn’t snack, we couldn’t afford a ton of snacks or soda’s, but we would occasionally get some take out Chinese. But I never struggled with my weight.

I even remember my sister joking with me as a senior in high school that I needed to “eat a cheeseburger” or “put some meat on my bones.” She meant it lovingly, as a compliment.

Fast forward to freshman year of college, I played tennis (for fun) and went to the gym every day for an hour and used the elliptical. I would eat from the salad bar, or skip a meal here and there, drank lite beer every weekend, and indulged in a 6” Wawa hoagie a few nights a week. After all that, I had gained only 5 lbs. (and had managed to lose 10 more from getting my tonsils removed that summer). I entered my sophomore year of college at around 98 lbs.

Then, a new boyfriend and moving to an apartment with my girlfriends assisted in adding 60+ pounds to my 5’2 frame within a two year period.

Something happened during those two years. Although I had pretended that I hadn’t changed anything about my life or routine, I had. I had changed almost everything. I literally NEVER went to the gym anymore, I ate like garbage, drank all the time, and went from a size 0 to a size 12 (and those were awkwardly tight). During those two years, I had resigned myself to thinking, “I’m just this size.” I would even make weird jokes about how I must not have hit puberty until age 20.

At my heaviest, I weighed in at 175 lbs.

I decided that I “had tried everything” and done “all the diets” and all the “workouts and boot camps” and that this is just the way my body was meant to be all along. I became accustomed to this “new” body, comfortable in my skin, until one day my (now) ex-boyfriend said to me, “Sometimes I’m embarrassed to take you out with me because all my friends’ girlfriends are thin and pretty.” Ouch…

Followed a few weeks later by, “I love you less since you’ve gotten fat.”

Ok, now that’s enough of that.

That day, I called a friend who had great success and joined CrossFit. Within 3 weeks, I shifted my diet to smaller portions, and changed the composition of my meals to a more Paleo approach. I thought to myself, “my boyfriend will be so happy… he won’t think I’m embarrassing anymore and we can be happy.” Then, something really weird happened: I became “too skinny.” I remember sitting at a wedding with my then-boyfriend and best friend, where I hadn’t finished all of the food on my enormous plate. My friend leaned over to me and said, “We are worried that you have an eating disorder, you’re losing weight too fast.”

Reality check: at that point I had lost 20 lbs. in 4 months. That’s less than 2 lbs. per week. Even weirder, they knew I was working out 6 days a week, had started getting stronger, could move better, and was eating better quality foods than I ever had in my life.

So let me get this straight, before I was too fat, and now I’ve got an eating disorder? Screw that.

I kept going on my journey, and in the end I lost 50 lbs. I was performing better at the gym, I was never starving, and I had tons of energy. During that journey, I also shed some other dead weight – my ex-boyfriend and many of my so-called friends. I decided to surround myself with people who didn’t judge me for being too “fat”, too “thin”, or whatever insult they wanted to assign to my middle-of-the-road-weight.

Then, I started to think to myself… what IS the definition of fat, skinny, muscular, pretty, etc. etc. etc.

Why is MY body YOUR business?  What makes YOU the expert on MY body?

Here’s what I’m trying to get at… It’s NOT ok to body-shame.

It’s not ok to “skinny-shame” people. Perhaps that person wants to gain weight, but struggles to. Perhaps they have a health condition. Perhaps they just eat really freaking well and work out to stay the size they are. Maybe, just maybe, that’s how they want to look. Maybe they aren’t obsessed with their weight, or they don’t have an eating disorder. Maybe, just MAYBE, they actually feel really good about themselves and the hard work they may have put in. NO ONE has the right to make someone feel bad for being thin. Would you call your overweight friend fat? Or smack the food out of their hands with the same vigor you’re trying to feed a cheeseburger to your “skinny” friend? No. Ok, then.

It’s not ok to “fit-shame” people. Do you have ANY idea how much hard work and dedication it takes for someone like a body builder or CrossFit athlete to look how they do? If you can criticize them, then you don’t. That shit is NOT easy, it is focused and intentional. Why, GOD WHY, do YOU get to say things about these peoples’ bodies? If you don’t like that look, stop following them on Instagram or change the channel. A man or woman with muscles is equally as beautiful as a man or woman without muscles. Everybody and every body is different. If you don’t want to look like that, don’t dedicate your life to doing it then (because that’s how much work it takes to look that amazing).

It’s not ok to “fat-shame” people. Every single person on this planet has aspects of their life that you know nothing about. You should also not assume to know exactly why someone may be carrying more weight than the “average” (wtf does “average” even mean) person. Some people are ok at the weight they are at – I was at one point, until someone ruined my self-love. Here’s something to consider – their weight has literally zero effect on your life. Or maybe, just MAYBE, these people are on a personal journey and your opinion could shatter their progress. Maybe when people comment about how Lady Gaga needs abs or is pudgy, you’re destroying the hope of someone who is just trying to go from 250 lbs. to 240 lbs. What makes you the authority on how anyone else should look? Where did you get the certificate that decides you’re allowed to label someone?

MEN. No, I’m not about to complain about you – in fact, I think in many cases women are WAY more critical. In fact, although I’m telling this story from my perspective, men suffer from body-shaming too. In many ways, men are expected to look like clones of Channing Tatum. Newsflash: This isn’t Magic Mike. It isn’t ok to call out a guy for being “too thin” or joke around when he can’t gain weight. It also isn’t ok to make fun of the guy who doesn’t have abs, or if weighs more than you THINK he should. It is literally NO ONE’s business. All this does is make him feel poorly that he doesn’t look like the model on the cover of Men’s Health magazine. At least women have beautiful plus-sized models to look up to – men don’t. They have Matthew McConaughey. Or I guess the movie stars who have “dad-bods” – but I don’t even really like that term either.

…so now what?

I LOVE a “before & after” photo as much as the next person, but there is so much more behind those happy faces in the “after” photos than their physique.

What’s more important to focus on?

  • An empty medicine cabinet.
  • Healthy joints that get you from the train to work and vice versa.
  • Being able to lift your kids off the ground.
  • Eating foods that give you energy or help you heal yourself.
  • Making friends.
  • Reaching a goal.
  • Doing something you’ve never been able to do before.
  • Having adventures without your health limiting you.
  • Feeling strong and beautiful.
  • SELF-LOVE.

Celebrate these things, it will make you feel good. Do you know what will immediately make you feel like crap? Making someone else feel like crap because of the body they live in. Stop it.

Whatever journey I’m on is mine alone to own. You don’t get to tell me when I should start or where I should end. If I’m too “fat” or “thin” or “muscular” or “not muscular enough” for you, I DON’T CARE. Likewise, you probably shouldn’t care what people think about whatever body you’re living in. LOVE YOUR BEAUTIFUL SELF, love people, and let others love themselves without your labels.

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