A note from the editor: We noticed something powerful on Twitter the other day. The #theysaid hashtag is all over, encouraging women to share stories of things they’ve heard from loved ones about their bodies. Started by user @Oiselle_Sally to encourage body positivity, the hashtag has gained a life of its own. It seems a lot of us have heard terrible things from people we trust and love.
Writer Lillie Ramirez tells us below about her own #theysaid story. Tell us yours in the comments below.
When I was thirteen, my father called me top-heavy and told me that I could stand to lose fifteen pounds. Every morning for the next five years, my dad would wake my sister and I up at five a.m. and we would go to the gym before school.
Later, in high school, I went a couple of years with a hole in the crotch of my jeans and a constant itch in my boob where my bra, whose underwire was escaping, kept poking me, because my mom refused to buy me new clothes.
“I want you to lose weight,” she said. “And there’s no point in buying you new clothes when you’re going to lose weight.” Meanwhile, my sister tried on new jeans, deciding which she was most comfortable in.
I gained 40 pounds instead. I weighed 250 pounds by the time I was 17.
Perhaps my weight gain was retaliation: how could my mother not provide for me because she wanted me to lose weight? How could my father not love me just as I was? Then again, the doctor did say I needed to lose a few pounds in order to not be considered for some health risks. And a part of me knew they was just being practical: Both my mom and my dad wanted what was best for me and they thought this would be the best way to get through to me. Perhaps I was being sensitive.
After all, I talked to my mom about how she had made me feel, even though it was so long ago and I’m now twenty-one. To this day, she still stands by her words: “I just thought it would be a waste to get you new clothes when they would be too big for you. I didn’t mean it as a bad thing.”
When I was 19, I showed my father a speech from David Foster Wallace, in which he emphasizes the idea of the default setting: The world would be a better place, he says, if we took a step back and tried to consider how the other person lived. My father responded by coming home with a diet drink supplement to help me lose weight.
“Like the speech you showed me? Seeing things from other perspectives,” he said, handing the dietary mix to me.
Once, I asked my sister if she thought I was fat. She said no. “But, Lillie,” she added, “I do think you are overweight.”
When my family says that I am fat or overweight, I can’t help but feel the sting. Some part of me knows they mean well. They were just telling it to me like how it is, right? And you would think because they said those things, I would do something about it, just to get them off my back and make them stop criticizing my looks.
Perhaps their comments hurt because some part of me knows that they genuinely care for my health: By being brutally honest, they hope I will see the error in my ways and change. They see that something is wrong and they want to fix it. Fix me. Maybe it hurts because my family sees me as a project instead of a person who could be hurt.
But, here’s the thing: there is nothing wrong with the way I look. I am not something they can try to control in hopes that I become better, or in this case, skinnier.
I am fat. And that’s ok. I own up to it now. There are days I’m insecure about my weight. But I’m trying to change it. Not because my family has hinted at it over the years, but for myself. I go to the gym when I can. I eat healthier. There are times I do not do either of those things, but that’s ok. This isn’t an easy road.
My family sees the changes I’ve made with myself. They do not bother me about my weight as much anymore. I still get a few judgmental looks or asked to cover up my body when I decide to wear crop tops or short-shorts. I choose to ignore them, though, because I look and I feel good about myself.
I am a 228-pound woman. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made on my own, for myself. I’m not saying that losing weight is making me happy or is what I’m settling for. I’m saying that coming to terms with who I am and accepting that I have the power to look how I want to look whenever I please is what is empowering me and making me happy.
This battle will be lifelong because there will always be one comment or glance from a family member that will hurt, and make me second-guess why I even like being the way I am. But with patience and kindness to myself I know I will succeed in my search for self-acceptance. And once I have self-acceptance, I know my family will follow suit, just like they are now.
At the end of the day, I know my family will love and be comfortable with who I am once I love myself, and am comfortable with who I am.