Something happened in one of my yoga classes the recent weeks that I am intensely sorry for. I body shamed a student. It was meant in jest because I tease those I love. There is never a good enough reason to make someone feel bad about themselves, especially in what should be considered a safe space.
First, a little background story. Let me throw you back to my childhood, specifically my delicate years between 11-14. Those close to me knew that those were not the only delicate years, but they are the most vivid in my memory. I grew up in a household where food played a central part, in fact, it still does. I had a large appetite for terrible foods. School lunches were things like peanut butter and caramel sandwiches with chocolate milk and a joe louis or cafeteria fries and/or pizza with root beer. By grade 7 (photo above) my self-esteem was shot and no matter how many times my parents told me I was beautiful, I couldn’t believe them. The voices of the kids at school were too loud in my head. My nickname was “Kool-Aid” and kids would yell “superfruity!” when I would walk into the room, as if I was the Kool-Aid man bursting through a wall. It almost sounds funny now. What was meant to be a joke was no joke to me.
But I digress, this blog isn’t supposed to be about me.
I called a student skinny in class, right in front of everyone. What I didn’t realize was that I may as well have been calling her Kool-Aid. I think we share opposite background stories. I was fat shamed mercilessly as a child and she was likely skinny-shamed. To me, the concept of skinny shaming seems impossible. I am still a fat girl stuck in a healthy body (a body I am now finally proud of – though I may falter when three people in a day ask me if I’m pregnant. No, I’m not, I just have a soft abdomen and an excessive lordosis, now can you take your hands of my belly?). To me, skinny is a compliment.
So this brings me to the concept of body shaming. I know that it is everywhere and over talked so I will keep it brief. We live in a society where skinny was valued then the people revolted. People started saying things like #Strongisthenewskinny and #Healthyisthenewskinny. The problem with these statements to me is that these characteristics are not mutually exclusive. You can be healthy and skinny, you can be strong and skinny, you can be fat and healthy, you can be fat and fit, you can also be fat and unhealthy, and you can be skinny and unhealthy.
To keep it simple, why can’t we drop these adjectives? Why does anything have to be the new skinny? I wish we could emphasize the feelings. Some days I feel fat, some days I feel skinny, some days I feel strong and some days I feel weak. I know that I’m not any of these, but my perception of these feelings does affects who I see in the mirror. I have learned the tricks that help me see myself as happy and feel good. For me, this means walking my dog, doing yoga, and challenging myself to eat as many vegetables as I can in a day so that I can eat butter tarts if I want to. I know a day of lethargy will make me feel fat but the number on the scale doesn’t change. An unfortunate encounter with a questionable street lassi will make me feel skinny, but there was nothing healthy about that sort of cleanse.
I am genuinely sorry for hurting someone’s feelings. I am mortified at being the person on the other side, the one having caused pain. I know how horrible it is to be on the receiving end. Worse yet, I’m alarmed that I may have caused this sort of pain in the past to someone who would not have made my mistake known. I am grateful for this new-found awareness. I shall strive to be better to choose my words and actions more carefully.