Surviving Assumptions

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Labels. It’s amazing what they can do to people. The size on your clothing tag. The words others use to describe you… the ones in your internal monologue. FAT. A combination of letters. That’s all it is really, a descriptive word to characterize someone’s body shape. It is the feeling we imbue the words with that determine their power. Not the word itself.

This being Eating Disorders Week, I wanted to discuss what I see as one of the motivating factors behind them−assumptions. Because not eating enough, or eating too much, and then forcing it back out of your body, all seem to be symptoms of the assumption people aren’t acceptable if they aren’t a perfect physical specimen. We know it’s true, we’ve all heard it. “Buy this book!”, “Try this pill!”, “You won’t believe how she did it!”. Society has bought into it, celebrating the perfect female form, while demeaning anything that falls short. What is so much worse though, is that women have bought into it. And we need to stop buying.

I am fat. Yep. I don’t have a couple of extra pounds to lose. I’m not just pleasantly plump. I am firmly ensconced in the fat category on the body mass index scale. To be honest paintthough, most of my life I’ve been too busy to notice. I was busy having friends, dating, busy moving to Australia, or falling in love, starting a family, and falling out of love. I was busy starting new careers, and trying new things.

It’s an interesting thought isn’t it? The idea that someone could be so engrossed in her life, that she forgot about her body? I promise, it’s possible. It wasn’t until I was nearly 40 that it occurred to me that I didn’t eat enough to be the weight I am.

In deference to my health I’m being tested, but people continue to make those assumptions on my behalf. Those ingrained ideas that have worn their way into our unconscious and consumed it from within. I just needed more exercise. I just wasn’t counting all of my calories. Had I tried Weight Watchers? People find it nearly impossible to accept the fact that I may not be responsible for my body size, and even harder to understand was that I might accept myself despite it. “But you have such a pretty face…” NO. I have a pretty face. Full stop. Thank you. My face is not a consolation prize; it is a part of the package I use to live my life.

Now, whether that life includes attempts at weight loss, or tests at the doctor’s office, it will only ever include it. Women need to start refusing to be labeled as anything less than the whole, happy, crazy people they are. I’m not suggesting unhealthy lives. Exercise. Eat your vegetables. Eat less meat, and make good choices. But let one of those choices be to love your life, and the body that comes with it.

Because ladies, no one can make you feel inferior without YOUR consent.

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