Diet and Self-Esteem: Has Your Weight Negatively Changed Your Life?
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This is one of the most painful messages I will write about dieting – the impact of weight on self-esteem. As we age and look back at our life choices, overweight adults may wonder where they would be in their lives – what different roads they might have taken – if they had more self-confidence about themselves and their appearance.
I’m writing about self-esteem from the perspective of someone who carried a 100 to 150 extra pounds most of her life so my story is different from those who berate themselves for being 10 or 20 pounds over weight. Except – not really. It’s all about how you feel about yourself and sometimes being even a few pounds overweight can undermine self-confidence, especially if there are people in your life who put you down. That’s why this is such a challenging subject – self-esteem is not only based on how we look, but how we allow others to treat us and how we treat ourselves.
My self-esteem journey
Briefly, as a preteen, I was overweight and needed to shop at a special Chubby Girl section of the local department store. Because of the weight (and a mother who hounded me about being TOO FAT!) by middle school my only friend was another chubby girl with whom I shared after school candy bars. Embarrassed by my size, I was quiet and shy in the classroom. My goal was to avoid attention at all costs. Thus began a pattern of low self-worth for the next 60+ years.
Fast forward to college (still the quiet girl), then a job as a writer (a solo career) and marriage (I found a husband who abused me about my weight), children (two lovely daughters), a nasty divorce (I found comfort by eating), and going to work in corporate America. During those times, I yo-yoed from an acceptable body shape to 300 pounds (yes, prior to my most recent loss from 250 pounds, I once weighed 300 pounds back in the 1980s).
Feeling second class because of my weight issues, I never exuded confidence when it came to swimming with the sharks of the corporate world. What I had to offer my employer was a pleasant demeanor, a usable skill set and a willingness to do the work. I was good ole “Miss Reliable.” And that was fine with me. I wouldn’t dare speak up on my behalf to seek advancement because I felt unworthy. Many employers look at their overweight employees and all too often discount them from advancement. Not only because of the weight, but because the person acts unworthy due to their low self esteem.
Your self-esteem journey
Only you know how weight issues have impacted your self-confidence and ability to feel good about yourself. So often, our inner turmoils are so well masked, no one understands how we limit ourselves. The impact of excess pounds on our life choices is private. And weight changes who we are and who we could be.
Perhaps weight is a non issue for you. I know many heavy adults who are totally comfortable with who they are and how they look. As we all should be. If your weight doesn’t bother you and you have self-confidence and are thriving both personally and professionally, well done! However, if your weight diminishes you as a person, I understand.
There are two perspectives: How others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves.
A friend once wrote to me: “When I am feeling good about me, on my diet and doing it, people see a glow and say so. When I am doing badly, my demeanor changes and I fold in on myself. If ever there was evidence of the inner and outer reality being intertwined, it is in the weight realm.”
I wish I could tell you. I have lived through a life of hating myself for my weight and a life of not taking chances. Today – here and now -I feel good about myself. But that’s because – after more than six decades of struggling – I’ve finally lost my excess weight. With that weight loss has come a lot more self-esteem (getting older has helped too). Sadly, if the weight came back on (eek!), I would probably revert to that chubby child eating candy bars and feeling worthless.
All I can say is don’t give up – stay the course – know you can do it. It’s never too late to overcome those weight demons that have held you back. Don’t allow that 10, 20, 50, 100 extra pounds diminish who you are and what you have to give to this world.