It is not fun being fat. Being overweight is the physical manifestation of emotional pain. A lot of heavy people pretend they're joyful and happy. In fact, they're filled with shame. What those of us who are overweight need is to be showered with love -- a love that is so strong that it overwhelms our self-doubt and the sabotaging of our best selves.
I feel the shame. I want better for myself. And I know the only way that I can shed the weight is to shed the shame. To let it go. To call it by its name and let it fall off of me.
My shame is one that is shared by so many women who are chubby, hefty, voluptuous, thick and -- my favorite -- curvy. It is the shame of a young girl whose body was violated. One who saw other women's bodies not as tools of power and femininity, but things that were abused, discarded and used to weaken the soul.
For me, my weight -- and my brain -- kept me safe. My fat served me. It hid me from those I was not ready to face. It was like an electric blanket in life. I could be present as an incredible friend, strategic colleague and female warrior. But my body shielded the part of me that was scared and unable to interact with men in the way that represented what I felt I deserved. Sure, people may have said things about my weight. There may have been snide remarks or softly-spoken cruel jokes. However, none of those slights compared to the pain I had experienced and the reality I knew existed for so many. I went to sleep many nights alone. But my fat kept me safe and helped hide me from a world I was not quite ready for.
There was a period when I was ready. I lost weight and kept it off for five years. I never felt thin enough. But I knew I looked good, and I didn't have to shop at a plus-size store, which was an incredible victory. Only a kindred sister can understand what it feels like to be limited to shopping in stores with baggy sweaters, leggings and thick calf boots. After losing weight, I felt giddy every time I walked into a store and realized I had so many choices. The mall was made for me. The world was made for me. People smiled at me on the elevators. Men helped me do everything. The world is nicer to thin people. I loved it, and I could never understand how people gained weight back. I vowed to keep it off. After five years, I thought I was safe. However, that all shifted when I became pregnant.
For many women, pregnancy is a beautiful experience. For me, it was incredibly frightening. All of a sudden, my body became the center of every conversation. My pregnancy reinforced my shame, fear and inability to fully communicate what was happening. I had a challenging pregnancy. It involved multiple doctors with different opinions. I left feeling as though my body had failed. I knew my body was once again wrong, but I had to pretend it was fine. People want you to be joyful when you are pregnant. They want to touch you, talk about your body, and tell you everything will be all right. But I knew everything was not all right. I was bleeding. I was on bed rest. I was told I was carrying problematic genes that demonstrated all that was wrong with my body. It is only as I am writing this that I realize how familiar these feelings of shame were.
Now I have a daughter. And I realize that I am carrying more than the extra weight I gained during my pregnancy. I am carrying shame -- shame that I cannot pass on to my little girl. I do not want her to share the legacy of self-hate that so many women feel. So I am calling it out. I am acknowledging the pain. Not because it is enjoyable. It is incredibly frightening to open up your most raw and vulnerable self.
I know that it will make some people uncomfortable that I am even addressing this issue. They'll think that by acknowledging my shame about my body, I'm embarrassing myself and those I love. It's not easy to talk about this. But it's too important to ignore. I can't allow the shame to have power over me -- because then it will have power over my daughter. Her future is too bright and her purpose too mighty to be hobbled by hatred of her own body.
It's time for us to help our daughters and nieces, our sisters and our friends. To make sure that they can live confident, joyful lives -- free from the misery of self-hatred. And that starts with each of us. So, today I am saying goodbye to my shame about my body. I'm not going to compare myself to other women. I'm not going to say cruel things to myself when I look in the mirror or step on the scale.
And I'm ready to say goodbye to the fat that has protected me when I needed it, that has stored my fear and disappointment. Now it must go -- because it is keeping me from being the mama that my daughter Grace deserves.
So goodbye, old friend. I pray for the strength to replace the shame with light. Not just for Grace and me, but for all of the little girls who have seen too much dark and are afraid of the light.
Follow Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/phaedrael