This is going to be a long one. Bear with me. It all leads somewhere. I promise.
When I was a little girl, I didn’t love my food very much. I was extremely picky with what I ate and that made things even worse. My mother had the unpleasant task of forcing me to eat whenever it was meal time. I hated the taste of onions, couldn’t bear the sight of vegetables and didn’t enjoy the taste of millet bread very much. Basically didn’t enjoy just about everything that was good for me.
It wasn’t until I turned 11 or so years old that I started trying to finish my meals but only because I was often told that I was too skinny and that once I joined high school, older girls would find it much easier to bully me than any other girl in the freshman class.
I believe it was in my early teenage years that I began to truly appreciate food. Being in boarding school changed so much. It’s like my taste buds were being awakened for the very first time. So many girls at school had mastered the art of making their food taste so much better with all kinds of spices and oils and I just loved food. Because of this, and possibly also my raging hormones, I gained close to 20 kilos within the next four years. I think most of it within the very first years of high school.
I was no longer the skinny little girl; I was fat. I quite plainly hated the way I looked; the acne didn’t help the situation. Whenever I looked at myself in a full length mirror I cried. When in public I fought to hold my tears back. I felt like an ugly blob every time I walked around. It didn’t help that the majority of my friends were much smaller than I was and were being crushed on by “popular” boys from “popular schools” (high school drama).
One of my very lowest moments was when a number of people would see me with my mother and say something like, “So who of the two of you is the mother and who is the daughter” Words have the power to heal and to hurt and by the time you have convinced yourself that the worst ones have no effect on your life, they have already wounded you. This didn’t happen just once or twice. So I wasn’t just bruised; I had been stabbed over and over again in the very same spot.
My mother is a very slender woman and looks far too young for her age. Whether or not what those people said was meant to be a compliment to my mother without being an insult to me was beside the point because that statement always broke me down. I was about 14 or 15 at time. There’s no way I couldn’t take it as an insult while being compared to my mother who was at the time in her late 30’s. I resolved to limit my movements with her because I just could not take those harsh comments anymore. What made things even worse was that the prettiest dresses and clothes we often found while shopping in town, never fit me. And I guess because I was only I teenager then, I didn’t think, “There must be some other pretty ones in my size.” When my mother caught on with how I felt about myself. She tried her best to console me. She often told me that she saw absolutely nothing wrong with the way I looked. But nothing she said could help. I had already fallen too far down the “self-hate” hole. It was going to take more than a few kind words to lift me out of it. All I felt like was some fat kid. I always got back home in a fit and cry until I fell asleep.
My self-hatred became so awful that there was distressing point in time when I had resolved that I’d throw up my food after eating it; that way I wouldn’t gain weight but would still be able to happily munch away. I tried it once and failed. I just couldn’t do it. But one afternoon, after having my meal. I had a strong urge to throw up and it wasn’t because the food was bad. I guess my body was catching on with what I had resolved in my mind. I hurried to the restroom. My entire body shook. My stomach felt like it was being painfully squeezed into submission. My throat was dry and I could barely breathe and yet my body kept being heaved forward with so much force like it was truly on a mission. The pain I felt in body was tremendous; one that I didn’t want to experience ever again.
I still needed a way to either control my eating or cut down my weight. Cutting meals certainly didn’t help because I tried for a while. Later I tried to cut out fats and sugars from my diet. But that was a trick. No one at hone was willing to make or even let me make separate oil free, sugar free meals. And while helping me do my shopping for grub for boarding school, my father would never hear of it and bought me all the usual and would even get me some barbeque chicken pieces. He loved my weight. He loved the way I looked. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t see the blob that I felt I was.
My resolve to lose weight could not be deterred. I started doing as much exercise as I could while at school. Which wasn’t much though. I also changed the way I ate; reduced my portions to what I felt was enough to give me energy throughout the day. Changed my attitude about myself. This was tough though considering I didn’t feel as beautiful as the other girls. By the end of that fourth year in high school, I felt a bit of a change and I OWNED IT whether or not other people could see it.
At the end of the first four years of high school, students get a long vacation. I used that time to lose as much weight as could. I exercised vigorously. I really do mean VIGOROUSLY. I cut snacking to a bare minimum. I had all my meals but continued to regulate my portions. I made sure I ate enough to make me satisfied and never too much that it made me feel as if I were full to the top of my throat. I didn’t look at a weighing scale even once during that entire time. Well, I didn’t even have one. I just felt the change and OWNED IT. I used a pair of jeans and a belt that I wore when I was fatter to measure my change and they only kept getting looser and looser. That, was plenty for me.
I lost a lot of weight over the next two years and ensured to keep as active as I could and I have managed to maintain the same weight over the last few years. My father doesn’t like it though. He feels I’m too skinny. My mother feels I could use a bit more flesh. I have aunts that invite me to their homes saying things like, “I’ll feed you well” (this is typical of African aunts) One would think basing on that statement that I don’t get enough food in my own home. I do feel like I could use a little more flesh here and there but this isn’t an issue that keeps me up at night. I am quite comfortable with myself.
I’m still young though. My journey up and down the weighing scales hasn’t ended. I am yet to experience baby weight, “comfort” weight and the challenges of a woman, whilst being a mother, wife, guardian, juggling so many responsibilities and positions with so much on her plate and less time to work out. I have vowed, however, I will try my very best and ensure that I am fit and healthy because that is what matters the most.
The challenges of self-image especially those stemming from self-hate affects so many women from all age groups. Girls as young as 10 in this day and age starve themselves because they feel fat. While women at their prime, worry about the two kilos they gain within a period of just one year. The truth is ladies, you will never look perfect for everyone. When you’re small and slender, you’ll be too skinny for some people’s tastes. When you’re a plus size, you’ll be considered too thick by some people’s standards. The important thing above all this is how you feel about yourself. Are you healthy? Yes? Good! Are you fit? Yes? Perfect! Getting there? Encouraging! It doesn’t matter how big or small you are. Being anorexic isn’t healthy. Being obese isn’t healthy. If you feel the need to change something about yourself, you are at liberty to do so. Gain weight if you want. Lose it if care to. But always remain within the margins of health and fitness.
Mothers protect your daughters. Women, protect your friends. Do the best that you can; it’s always better than nothing at all. This world is too harsh to go about life on alone. Encourage the women in your life when they talk about doing something about their weight. Be their comfort when they are being bullied. Be the beautiful woman that you are and OWN IT because by this crazy world’s twisted and unbalanced standards, you’ll never be perfect. You can only be perfect for you.
Your woes may be about something completely different from mine. It may not be about your weight but something else you’re battling with the way you look. If you can do something to change it, without putting your health on the line or at any risk, then give it shot. To each his own. But love yourself, regardless and always keep your health and fitness in mind. Remember, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!!! Whenever you look in the mirror, that’s all you should see.