Fonticulus Fides

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Shrinking Self-Esteem of Women

This is something I’ve wanted to blog about for at least a month now, but I haven’t had the guts before today. I'm feeling brave because not so many people are reading my blog these days.

One of the things about depression for me has been a lack of appetite. Some people eat more when they are stressed or depressed. I’m one of the people who eats less.

It was easy to ignore at first, because I still had some pregnancy pounds to lose. Then I realized I was losing 5 pounds every three weeks or so. I had a doctor’s appointment coming up, and knowing I was losing weight too rapidly for a nursing mother, I started drinking a soda and eating a little junk food every day to keep from losing more. I’m not skinny, mind you – I’m just losing weight in an unhealthy way.

Even so, the 5-6 pounds I’d lost in that month between visits concerned my doctor. She even told me if it took a trip to Baskin Robbins every day to get my calorie count to 2,000 a day (basic for a nursing mom like me), I should do it.

That was last Wednesday. I’ve lost two pounds since then, even with a daily bit of junk food.

The thing of it is, I know that if 100 women were reading this blog today, only 10 of them or so would understand why this is an issue. I’d lay money on it that 73 would be saying, "Lucky her," 12 would be scheming a way to develop depression like mine so they could lose weight too, and 5 would be thinking what a b---h I am to complain about it.

How do I know it? Experience.

For one thing, friends and acquaintences keep telling me how wonderful I look, how marvelous it is that the baby weight came off so easily for me. They ask me how I’ve done it. They hint that I must be working out at the gym (I’m not, nor could I afford a gym membership). Am I doing Atkins, South Beach, the Zone?

For another, one of my former co-workers recently got married, and my husband and I actually hired a sitter (!!!) and went to the reception. There, we met up with a couple of guys from the office and their wives. I hadn’t seen either Amy or Stacy for over a year, and both of them had also had babies in the interim. Both of them gave me the once over after learning I’d had a baby in January and then wouldn’t socialize with me afterwards.

We all ended up at the same table, and as my husband plied me with hor d’ourves and cake, they refused to eat and seemed to grow increasingly impatient with my attempts at conversation. I finally realized that the only reason they could possibly be so resentful of me was that I’d lost all my pregnancy pounds, and they hadn’t yet. And to make matters worse, my husband kept setting plate after plate of yummy things in front of me, trying to get me to eat. No wonder they refused even a bite of cake.

I told my husband I wasn’t feeling well, and we left early. I felt bad that my current body shape had affected Amy and Stacy in such a negative way, and I hoped that by leaving early, they were able to relax and enjoy the party. I was also frustrated that they had let something so superficial get in the way of what should have been friendly conversation. I was dismayed that I couldn’t tell them that my weight is actually an unhealthy thing right now ("I was suicidal and had to go on anti-depressants" isn’t exactly good wedding reception conversation). And I was – and still am – so very angry with our stupid modern culture that has convinced so many women that if they are carrying a few extra pounds, they are somehow less worthy, less desirable, less attractive.

It’s so bad, even marginally overweight women often suffer from such a lack of confidence, they won’t befriend a thin woman. In every place I ever worked and in every group of women I’ve ever belonged to, there was a thin and pretty woman who was ostracized just because she was thin and pretty. I always thought that I’ve never been thin enough and I’m too plain to be called pretty, and that’s why I haven’t been the outcast. Amy and Stacy are both prettier than I am, but apparently the weight issue takes precedence when it’s just a group of moms.

Why can’t people just focus on being healthy – eating healthy foods, getting healthy amounts of exercise, clean water, fresh air and sleep – and simply accept the fact that there are different body shapes and sizes out there?

That’s how I’m trying to raise my kids. That’s how I’m trying to live. But the culture works against me. From the constant "lose weight" ads all over TV, magazines, the Internet…to fashions which are pretty much designed for thin people or to emphasize thinness…to the "Extreme Makeover" shows on TV…to the huge amount of "weight conscious" pre-packaged food options at the grocery store…It’s way out of hand, people.

So here’s what I’m asking of you today. Next time you see somebody who has lost a lot of weight rapidly, ask them if they’re okay. If they are losing the weight on purpose and doing it in a healthy way, you can share in their joy. But if they are losing weight in an unhealthy way, it might just be an opportunity for you to help, with a prayer or a meal or a word of encouragement.

You’d be surprised what people might be hiding in their hearts.



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