“The literary equivalent of a summer night, a good friend and a gin-and-tonic: Shannon is a deft writer; a natural storyteller with a wicked turn of phrase and frighteningly specific memory...”

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He Says I’m Too Fat, But What Bothers me Most is my Response

I have a co-worker who occasionally tells me I need to lose weight.

Sometimes he tells me I need to lose three pounds, sometimes it’s five pounds. Every once in a while he ratchets it up to ten, even though I’ve been roughly the same size for about five years, an 8/10.

This is a recent photo of me with my mom …

Body Image

The fact that I feel compelled to post a photo is indicative of my need for approval. My need to have you say, “You don’t look fat, Shannon. You look great!”

I think what bothers me the most about the situation isn’t what my co-worker says, but my response to what he says. I do one of two things.

I either become coquettish and attempt to display my body to him in flattering ways to get his approval.

Or I abandon my body completely, as if it were a one-legged stepchild, by saying, “You’re right. I do need to lose 3, 5, 10 pounds. I’ll do it soon.”

“When?” he’ll ask.

“Soon,” I’ll say.

Then he usually presses me to pick a time frame. Or a special event as my goal. And I will arbitrarily pick something. By my next birthday. Before I participate in a ballroom dance competition. By Christmas.

After I’ve assuaged him with an end game I’ll try to shift him back to a work topic so we can move on from the conversation. But I’ll get stuck, in my head, on the conversation long after it’s ended.

I’ll ruminate on how I really should start tracking my food consumption on Fitness Pal again.

That I really would like to get down to 135 lbs.

That I don’t, in fact, look good right now and should feel a general sense of self-loathing in order to force myself to lose those last few pounds so I can finally be perfect.

And if I’m perfect, then I’ll be happy.

I should mention here that I love my co-worker. He’s one of my favorite people and worth the annoyance.

When he tells me I need to lose weight he’s not trying to be hurtful or mean. He genuinely thinks he’s helping me with Tough Love. He wouldn’t say this to someone he didn’t really care about.

Intellectually I remind myself to consider the source. I know he’s just as strict with himself about weight and that his highest value is THINNESS. FAT is the enemy.

But no matter how my intellect intervenes, I do internalize the message that my fat is bad, which messes with my emotional well-being.

So I want to change the way I respond to the situation when it arises.

Instead of nodding and humoring him by promising to do as he suggests at some future date, I want to set a firm boundary by saying, “No. I don’t need to lose weight. In fact, I don’t want to lose weight. Because I think I look great and I love my body just as it is.”

And finally, “My body is no longer allowed as a topic of conversation.” Period. The end.

It’s true that on most days I don’t always love my body.

I’d like my tummy to be smaller, I’d like my sun damage to vanish and my neck to be smooth and sag-free again. But I really want to love my body just as it is. I don’t want to abandon it the instant someone insults it.

I want to treat it as if it were a child I need to nurture, protect, advocate for and love unconditionally.

Body ImageAfter all, my body is my vessel on my journey through life.

It isn’t perfect, but it is beautiful by virtue of all that it can do.

Which is walk, dance, swim, eat, play, kiss my daughters and hold my husband in ways that make him so happy.

So today I will say to my body like a prayer, like a mantra, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” And “Thank you so much.”

How do you protect your body image?


Tags assigned to this article:
body imagefat shamersfat shaming

8 comments

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  1. LizzieLau
    LizzieLau 30 September, 2015, 09:23

    Have you watched the Mindy Project? I love so many things about the show, but I especially love how she responds to people commenting on her size, “How DARE you! I’m petite.” Most of the time I walk around thinking I look like Gwyneth, and then I see a photo of myself or a reflection and I’m like, WTF? Who is that chubster? I’m a 45 year old size 8/10 who flirts with fitness, but mostly plays hard to get. I have a 5 year old daughter though, so I never let on that I’m not 100% happy with my body. She thinks I’m a magnificent golden creature and the best thing I can do for myself is to let her hold that mirror up for me. Aside from that, I had heart surgery 10 years ago so every morning that I wake up, I thank my body for hanging in there.
    “I am not overweight, I fluctuate between chubby and curvy.” Mindy (TMP)

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 30 September, 2015, 11:06

      Love this Lizzie!! And I’m sure the heart surgery put things in perspective. Off to binge watch Mindy.

      Reply this comment
  2. Annie
    Annie 6 October, 2015, 13:49

    Oh my gosh. He may be one of your favorite people in the world, but if his comments are damaging to your self-image, you definitely should say something. Your emotional well-being is most important and if he is a true friend, he will understand that. And-ohmygoshseriously!!! YOU ARE SO PRETTY! You have amazing hair, flawless skin and fabulous eyebrows. Remember this too: the older we get, the more fat we need to keep us looking fresh and youthful. I would much rather look like Salma Heyak than Rachel Zoe. Salma is 50 and Rachel is 44. Skinnier isn’t always hotter 😉

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  3. Laurie
    Laurie 11 March, 2016, 09:01

    This is such a familiar story. I’m guilty of the same acceptance of the comments friends and family make about my weight, despite having already lost 30 pounds. While I’m at a healthy weight, I find myself thinking, “Shouldn’t I be ten pounds lighter? Or more toned? Or something!” I also find myself thinking that at look pretty good – with my clothes on. My goal is to think, “I look hot naked,” no matter what my weight is.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 11 March, 2016, 13:17

      Laurie I know. It’s so tiring to hear these voices both in and outside of us. It’s almost driven me to meditation. ALMOST!

      Reply this comment
  4. April
    April 1 June, 2016, 09:22

    There’s an amazing Melissa McCarthy quote that I like to keep in the back of my head about these things.

    “Even when someone gets to looking like she should be so proud of herself, instead she’s like, ‘I could be another three pounds less; I could be a little taller and have bigger lips.’ …Where does it end? You just have to say, ‘It’s pretty damn good. I am right here at the moment and I’m OK with it. I’ve hot other things to think about.'”

    That, and I follow body-positive Instagrammers. It helps to see other women celebrating in the moment in their skin as well–none of us are perfect. PROMISE. 😀

    Reply this comment
  5. Tracy
    Tracy 3 July, 2016, 14:44

    Hi Shannon. I can completely resonate with you. I may have only JUST found you, however I am loving all the yummy things you have written.

    Reply this comment

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