How Does Your Weight Define You?

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How Does Your Weight Define You?

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I was at a reception a few weeks ago and was chatting with … I hate to say this … an extremely overweight woman. Although a pleasant, professional business woman with excellent credentials, her weight was such a factor that she was having trouble walking and the skirt of her suit was stretched so that it was unpleasantly riding up in the back. I identified with her immediately – have been there and done that.

The next day when I was talking about the reception with someone from her office, I commented that I had met her. Sadly, I couldn’t remember her name and the man asked me to describe her. I tried describing the little I knew about her position with the firm and finally gave up and said “a heavy woman.” The man knew who I meant immediately, but I was racked with guilt to have defined her in such a way. How could I have done that to a sister in the diet battles?!

Unfortunately, overweight people are all too often defined by the way they look. In today’s mandate for socially acceptable language, we are loathe to describe someone by their ethnic background – “He’s an African American” or “She’s Chinese” – but we are comfortable saying “She’s overweight.” The overweight slam is still acceptable.

Sadly, the defense mechanism for many overweight people is to immediately define themselves as knowing they have a weight issue. “I have a weight problem, but I’m working on it.” We believe that by acknowledging our weight struggle up front, we establish ourselves as in control and trying.

An interesting thing happened to me when I lost my weight. I didn’t know how to define myself anymore. Not that I ever walked around with a sign saying “I know I’m fat,” but overweight was part of my personae (okay – my inwardly miserable personae). Looking in the mirror, I doubt I truly saw how obese I was, but I saw enough of myself to sense what others saw (size 24 with my skirt riding up on the back). I hated being overweight, but I could handle it because I had been Chubby Linda since I was age 10.

Up until a year ago, I was defined as “the overweight lady who lost a lot of weight.” Now – enough time has passed that I don’t get a lot of comments about my weight anymore; friends and associates are used to the smaller me. New people in my life have no idea I was ever heavy; they just see a somewhat thin older woman.

So what’s the point? It’s never too late to change the way the world defines you or you define yourself.

Even more important, your weight should be secondary compared to what you bring to this world as far as your time, talent, personality, passions and goals. That’s what truly defines you. Don’t let your weight diminish who you are as a person. That overweight woman I met at the reception did not deserve my description of her. She deserved to be defined by her accomplishments.

If you’re going to change how the world defines you, start with how you define yourself. Be proud of what you accomplish – of those who care about you and those who you love and support. Don’t let extra pounds diminish who you are and how you feel about yourself.

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