What would you do if you woke up tomorrow weighing 15 pounds more than you do right now?
Would you care?
Would you be disgusted?
Would you have a (literal) panic attack?
How would you go about your day differently?
Seriously, think about it. And honestly- what would you do?
In several conversations I’ve had over the past couple weeks, I’ve started to notice (or perhaps be reminded) that a large portion of young women are crippled and consumed by a fear of gaining weight. No matter how much the rest of our individual worldviews vary, we are nearly all terrified by the thought of being/becoming “fat.” Or “fluffy.” Or “chunky.” Or “huge.” Or whatever other negative descriptor you prefer to depict a body that is larger than some idealized prototype. This goes beyond a relatively normal desire to remain reasonably healthy and attractive…this is the kind of fear that becomes a constant preoccupation and dictates one’s every action. Women that struggle with this fear are often fully functional and even top-performers in many areas of life, but they are crippled by one terrifying possibility: What if I get fat?
Men probably deal with this, too, at least to a degree, but I think women struggle with it more. (But correct me if I’m wrong, fellas!) Is it because we’re taught that our value lies in our beauty, our physical appearance, our ability to be pleasing to other people? Or is it because we abhor the thought of losing the slightest bit of control over our bodies? I’m asking honestly here, because I think it’s probably different for every woman. The common denominator, though, is this overarching belief that being fat is the worst thing that can happen to us. Sure, we might know intellectually that there are worse things that could happen. We see coverage of natural disasters and hear about tragedies and experience heartbreak, and we can realize that those are objectively more damaging experiences than being fluffy/chunky/overweight/fat.
But do we believe it?
What do our actions reflect? Are we less likely to skip a workout than we are to skip buckling our seat belts or wearing sunscreen? Are we more consistent in skipping meals or choosing salad for dinner than we are in getting our bills paid on time? Most of us have allowed fear of being/becoming fat to dictate our actions at one point or another, and it’s one sad waste of time.
Maybe that sounds like blasphemy in the face of a worldwide obesity epidemic. But there’s another epidemic going on, especially here in America – it’s an epidemic of vanity. We are becoming more and more focused on the superficial and losing sight of those things of real depth and value. When we let this “fat fear” rule us, we’re letting the spirit of vanity win. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t want to look good. Hell, I want to look fantastic (especially naked). What I am saying is that looking good is not the most important thing in life. Likewise, looking bad (fat, chubby, ugly, plain- choose your flavor) is not the worst thing in life. It doesn’t even rank in the top 10. And it sure as hell does not deserve to be the primary motivation for most (if not everything) you do.
Trust me, I say this as someone who spent years obsessing over not getting fat. During that time, I thought becoming fat was the absolute worst, most heartbreaking thing that could happen to me. Ironically, I was chubby for a while in the middle of that phase. (Some people might even say I’m still on the chubby side of the fence. But they don’t get to see me naked, so I don’t really care if they think that.) And obsessing over not becoming fat did nothing to help me be skinnier or happier. Oddly enough, it was when I stopped worrying so damn much about being fat that I was able to become a little less chubby. And once I started prioritizing more meaningful things over my endeavors to avoid getting fat, life changed. Not only did I become a little less chubby, but I had the time to notice the things that mattered. I had time to start developing interests outside of elliptical machines and dumbbells and the latest no-fat, no-sugar, “guilt-free” crap that I could feel safe eating. If I had spent a fraction of that energy focusing on developing some of my talents or investing in relationships, my life would probably look a lot different today. And if I’d spent a fraction of that fear worrying about how I was going to pay for college or what I wanted to do when I grew up (still waiting for that to happen…), I would have less student loan debt to pay off and more Benjamins in the bank. Time machines aren’t a thing- yet- so I can’t change those years behind me, but I can change the ones ahead of me…and I hope you will, too.
There are so many things in this life that are worth prioritizing, worrying about, and, yes, even fearing. There are things that truly should be heartbreaking. Being fat is not one of those things. You know what is? Losing a family member. Going bankrupt. Becoming estranged from your parents. Ignoring your life calling. The fact that humans are still sold into slavery today. The persecution of Christians. The current American economy. The situation in Ukraine. The oppression of women in the Middle East. The thousands of children dying of hunger or preventable illness. Things like this:
Being or becoming fat is not the worst thing that can happen. Let’s stop living like it is.