Growing up is hard, the evolution of going through the phases of adolescents into young adulthood and adulthood is not linear. We all experience life differently from each other but one of the few universal experiences everyone has at one point or another is body image. Specifically, focusing on weight, appearance, and eating habits. While in current days there is a more acceptable and growing awareness of the body positive movement in learning to love our bodies whether they are small or big, flawed or not. However, for those who grew up to be on the plus-size spectrum, this has only been a relevantly new concept to digest and for many that didn’t grow up in an era filled with body acceptance, there is more to unpack than learning to be okay in the skin they’re in.
I speak from personal experience as someone who has been criticized by family for my eating habits and physical appearance. I was a chunky child and by the age of seven, I received my first dose of being body-shamed by a family member in front of an audience. And that is a memory that will forever remain with me, as I believe it to be the first time in my life where I began to question myself and believe maybe there is something wrong with me. Parents often wonder why their children develop low self-esteem or think so lowly of themselves and fail to realize that the reality of how their child views themself is a direct reflection of what they were told as a child. The messages of being shamed for eating too much or eating too little, or just being told often that their body isn’t worthy or enough if it doesn’t look a certain way. This leaves an incredible impact that can go on to be their self-narrative and take years to rewrite for themselves by themselves.
And as those children grow into adults the takeaway of being critiqued as a child stays with them, leading them to develop either eating disorders or unhealthy relationships with food. In the context of growing up on the bigger side of the scale the constant terror of getting told “You are eating too much” or “Are you going to eat all that?” It’s a carousel of constant bewilderment of how to feed yourself without receiving backhanded comments of “concern”. It feels as though there is no way of winning because you have to justify what you’re eating and why you’re eating it. As I grew up to be on the bigger side of the scale, I can tell you from firsthand experience that even when you find yourself in a more secure place with food and body image those thoughts of questioning your food choice or even justifying them still sticks and it takes time to break a habit that’s been nurtured throughout more than x amount of years.
For me, I developed the habit of placing food in two separate categories. One being “good” foods and the other “bad” foods. For good food it was everything low calorie, it didn’t necessarily have to be considered healthy, as long as it was low in calories it was “good”. Meanwhile, “bad” food wasn’t junk or processed foods. It was any food opposite of low calorie, thus leading me down a road where I lost myself for a little while. Because it wasn’t just the aspect of food, it was everything that comes with what I grew up being told. I was fat and because I was fat I had to eat less, eating less = no comments about my appearance, no comments about telling me to lose weight. Eating, in general, = eating too much, meaning I was actively just making myself fat just from doing what my body needed.
My advice for anyone who can relate just a little or very much is that you are not the words of others or the ones you’ve recited to yourself. Along with educating yourself on your body type, what you feel your body needs, and health habits not fueled by diet culture. It is difficult to navigate at first but a few people who I follow for healthy lifestyle tips and workouts is Stephaine Buttermore, you can find her youtube channel with that same name, Ryan Read on instagram, and Sabrina McMullen. I would definitely give them a look at if you want guidance but along with that here is a reminder that food is fuel. There is no such thing as good or bad food, food is food and it’s all great and fueling in moderation. And while it takes time to become okay with yourself, body, and with rewriting the narrative that family has given you.