Christmas, as are other holidays, is a time when families get together. Sometimes we don’t get through family gatherings without laughter and tears. Tears of joy and laughter are the good times. but in some families the dynamics are not joyful, but better described as painful.
For those of us who were once fat and aren’t fat anymore, there can be surprises that range from amusing to devastating. Many a formerly chubby youngster can identify with bringing home a boyfriend from college for the first time and having a mean-spirited sibling haul out the family photo album.
Our college boyfriends didn’t know us before we lost weight. They think we’re “naturally thin.” I don’t like that phrase, but I hear people use it all the time. As somebody who’s lost weight and kept it off it makes me wonder what I am – unnaturally thin?
I digress. Many of us didn’t want to mention that we used to be shorter and weigh a lot more. It’s great to have family members who think it’s necessary to tell our boyfriends, “You should have seen her in eighth grade. She was as wide as she was tall.”
Some of us were lucky and the former fatty reveal sends the boyfriend heading for the hills immediately. Why do I say that’s lucky? It’s extremely fortunate that the relationship with a shallow, prejudice jerk ends sooner rather than later. Others are not so lucky.
My friend, Debbie, was one of the latter. She thought it was great that her boyfriend was so accepting of her former state of obesity. She thought he was a gem among men. She discovered that he wasn’t so great after all when he got very invested in her eating and exercising.
If she reached for a second slice of pizza, he’d ask, “Are you sure you really want that?” If she said she didn’t feel like going to the gym today he’d quiz her until it was easier to grab her gym bag and head for the gym than to endure any more of his interrogation.
It came to a head when one morning he announced, “I noticed your jeans looked kind of tight the other day,” while holding out a digital scale. “Hop on, let’s see if you gained weight.” That’s when Debbie said, “I’m about to lose 175 pounds. She told him it was over. If she needed a Nazi to keep her at goal she’d hire one.
Some of us are the luckiest of all. Our weight doesn’t matter. A number on the scale was never the foundation of our relationship. Our boyfriends don’t care if we used to be fat and they don’t understand why it seems to be a topic of conversation for our siblings. While our family wants to make sure we remember we used to be fat and come clean with everybody who didn’t meet us until we lost weight, it’s unimportant to us and the people who care for us.
There are other examples of people who won’t let you forget you were fat – as if… The truth is they really are using your weight loss as a means to put you down. You’re intelligent, attractive, financially secure, happy and things are going great in your life. That can make some family members, friends, classmates or co-workers jealous because those adjectives don’t apply to them.
These self-loathers want to bring you down to their level in an attempt to raise their self-esteem a bit. Of course, that’s now how self-esteem is boosted, but they either don’t know or don’t care. Maybe it’s more about wrecking your happiness than finding some happiness of their own.
There may be somebody who wants to remind you that you were fat. I take it as a compliment. It’s a statement that validates my ability to successfully achieve what is only a dream for others.