I’ve mentioned recently that I have gained some weight over the past few months. I’m on several antidepressant medications that make me feel like a whale, and the depression itself has been helping me eat way more than a reasonable adult should. My penchant for staying in bed during my free time has also kept me from exercising, which also helps me hang onto the unreasonable amounts of fat I eat. Am I painting an attractive picture of myself or what??!
At work there is a cleaning lady that I have become friends with over the past year I have worked there. My passable conversational Spanish and her zero English are the basis of our friendship, but we have covered a lot of ground helping each other fill in our respective language gaps. She has told me about her husband who is in jail and her various boyfriends scattered around Latin America. I have told her about my diabetes and my tattoos and stories about men I have dated. We have both helped me feel like less of a spoiled American gringa. The other night, though, she almost made me cry.
I had been out of work for a few weeks to be in the hospital, and the first night she saw me again she was very happy to see me for about 30 seconds. Then she burst out laughing and told me in Spanish how fat I had gotten. I thought maybe I misunderstood what she said, but she repeated what she said with more emphasis on how “gorda” I was. She laughed and mimed a large person by puffing her cheeks and stretching her arms out to her sides.
I even passed her in the hallway later that night and she said in Spanish, “I mean your face! It’s just so…fat!!” She was laughing delightedly like I was a science fair experiment that she didn’t expect to turn out so fascinatingly.
Hypothesis: Laney will leave work for a few weeks and return the same size.
Actual results: Laney left work and returned with a larger ass.
I’m not nearly as delighted with my weight gain as she seemed to be, and it was a little jarring to hear someone just lay it all out there for me so artlessly. She was right, though. She didn’t say anything that wasn’t true. There is just never a need to point out something like that to anyone.
I live in a culture that promotes SKINNY SKINNY SKINNY instead of healthy body images, so hearing someone tell me I had gotten fat hurt, initially. But she didn’t say it maliciously or judgmentally. She might as well have said, “You have saliva on your chin,” or “your fly is down.” I have gained weight. That is not a flaw in my character. A person’s size is not any indication of their character, in spite of the constant American cultural ONLY SKINNY IS BEAUTIFUL messages that assault us.
I decided to fight the negative thoughts that her comments induced. She just made the statement: I have gained weight. I’m the one that attached negative feelings to it. I have always struggled with negative body image issues, even when I was a teen and swam for 4 hours a day and was made of muscle. So I’m fighting the part of me that is saying LARGER IS LESS BEAUTIFUL. There is nothing true in that statement.
What is actually true? I am a beautiful, interesting person. I have been going through a hard time, and have gained some weight as a result. Now I get to live life as a larger, beautiful, interesting person. I cannot control what other people say to me, and I cannot control external messages I hear every day. I can control whether or not I internalize the negative messages. Sometimes this is an hourly struggle, sometimes I can relearn how to make a negative thought a positive one and live on the positivity for days or weeks.
We can actually remodel our brain’s pathways for internal messages. We can train our brains to internalize messages in a positive way instead of letting the messages travel the usual negative paths. We can do that by doing what I just did: finding truths that are hidden in the negative message, then based on those truths, rewrite the negative message into a positive, self-affirming one. I have been using this practice a lot lately and it is helping me fight the cloud of negativity, one thought at a time. It might take some time to go through the process and get used to it, but it will be time well spent.
I still stand by my statement that it is never necessary to point out to someone that they have gained weight, no matter what your intentions are or what language you speak. The person you tell might be having a much worse day than I was.
*Tomorrow officially kicks off Victory Month! Tomorrow I will feature my first of several guest bloggers who will be sharing their stories of strength and personal victory. Get ready for a month of hope and inspiration! You don’t want to miss it!
If you’re interested in guest blogging please contact me by clicking on the “Contact” tab on the top right of the blog!