The Thin Myth is the idea I dreamed up that if only I were thinner, than the world would be my oyster, as long as I chose grilled fish instead. The “thin myth” started very young. As I stated before, I was not a huge child, just a little chubiniski. My weight was such a point of contention and anxiety in my household. In the late seventies and early eighties, it was difficult to get “plus-sized” kids clothes. They did have “huskies” for boys at places like JC Penny or Sears, but nothing for girls. I guess we were not supposed to exist. I would have gladly worn boy’s jeans if it meant my mother would stop sighing whenever we went shopping. My mother and grandmother would make me clothes and I remember feeling so guilty that I would make so much work for them because I was not like other girls. I remember standing on a chair in my grandmother’s living room while my brother was outside playing so she can hem my dress. I remember her winkled face crinkling even more as her mouth frowned and her brow furrowed and her saying, well, I guess I have to let out the seams, again. I remember standing in my t-shirt and panties feeling as vulnerable as ever with hot tears welling in my eyes willing them not to fall. I remember putting on my shorts and a tee-shirt (probably with either a kitten or a unicorn on it) and riding my bike around the block over and over by myself to exhaustion. I rode until my tears were replaced with sweat trying to somehow put as much distance between myself and the humiliation only to loop back again to the scene of the crime. Later at dinner, when I finally had to go inside, I only consumed the number of forkfuls as I had years on earth, seven. To my memory, this was my first crash diet.
My weight kept me back from so many activities in my life. It was not even that my weight prevented me from doing anything physical. What it really came down to was embarrassment. I played basketball in fourth grade a bit, but because I was too afraid to ask my parents for new sweatpants, I quit. I actually kind of liked the game. I did do Girl Scouts. Even though I did not take it very seriously nor did it “cure” my social awkwardness, the Girl Scouts it did help me be a bit more social and teach me some about nature, service to others, and how to sell some cookies. Yeah, let’s take chubby girl struggling with her weight in an ill-fitting green skirt and have her sell cookies.
The Thin Myth continued throughout my childhood and teen years. Even thinking about it now, how many clubs I did not join, how many activities I did not do, and how many heartbreaks I endured because of the iron clad belief that I was not good enough the way I was and if I only got my weight under control, everything would be okay. I remember in eighth grade I did not go out for student council because I was afraid people would make fun of me. As if being on student council in middle school is not humiliating enough.
As I have described so far is how I discriminated against myself. I have told you how my shame and fear of anticipatory social anguish kept me back all those years. I could tell you some sad stories about how other students, family members, even teachers would tease, berate, and bar me from activities because of my size. Once again, even if I look at pictures an when I am very honest with myself, I was NOT obese, just not thin. I am not going to tell those stories because to start with, they paint me in a very negative light. Second, they are just too painful to bring to mind let alone write on “paper.” Giving them any more oxygen to those memories just give them that much more power. Those painful weight-related memories loom in mind like a scary black blob eating up all my happiness. In my adult years, with a lot of therapy and self-help books, the monster is somewhat contained, caged in my memory like the boogie man, but that doesn’t mean you still leave the closet door open just in case he escapes.
The problem with the Thin Myth is that it is, unfortunately, true. Overweight people face bias in the workplace, in society, in dating, and overweight kids face bias even from their own parents. See the attached articles if you don’t believe me. And if you don’t believe me, look at yourself. Have you run across a fat kid and wonder, even in well-intentioned kindness, “What is wrong with that kid?” or “Why aren’t the parents doing anything?” Or do you watch an obese person at a buffet and watch what they are eating and make sure you don’t choose the same thing in the mortal fear that you too will “catch the fat”?
I have forgiven the little girl I once was. I see what was under my control and what was not. As an adult, I am trying to make better health choices, although vanity is still a factor in my “reinvention.” I would like to get to a healthy weight so I can live a fuller, more active lifestyle. I would also like to be in a place where people look at me and not my weight. I would like to be in a place where people do not make judgments on my character based on my weight. But in the meantime, I am not going to sit on the sidelines of life waiting for the magic number on the scale to tell me now is the time to enjoy life. Right now I have to put on stiff upper lip even if I have wobbly upper thighs and face the world in the body I have now. You have no idea what kind of courage it takes to walk around in a big body unless you have lived in one.
For more information on weight bias and the affects on the child, please see below: