A weighty issue – self-image, mental illness and body weight

Those of you who know me or have seen photos of me will know that I am somewhat heavier than medicine recommends. When I was in my teens and early adulthood, I could eat anything I chose and stayed at an (Australian) size ten or twelve. I never worried about ‘watching my weight’. If I wanted chocolate I ate it. I have a fast metabolism and a lot of anxiety and I suspect that the combination of those resulted in my apparently enviable body mass index.

When I was 21 I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and told I would need to take anti-psychotic medication for the rest of my life. So far this predication has been correct. I still take a relatively high dose of a couple of anti-psychotic medications.  For those of you who haven’t come across such things, a side effect or pretty much all of these drugs is that they cause you to gain – and retain – body weight. When I was 22 I wore a size 10, at 24 a size 16 and now, at age 40 I wear a size 20. For many people, this additional weight might result in self hatred or misery. For me it doesn’t. I have never judged myself based on my looks. If I am happy with what is in my heart then I am happy with what I look like too. I don’t think larger people are lazy or undisciplined or ugly. Your body is merely a receptacle for your soul and if your soul is beautiful. As far as I’m concerned, it hardly matters what the body it reside in looks like.

Sadly, I suspect I may be in a very small ‘club’ in relation to these views. Most people seem to judge others based on how they look. People insult and judge bigger people. They think carrying extra weight is an indication of greed, laziness, a lack of pride in oneself and so forth. These kinds of attitudes can be torture for those of use who are a bigger size. For me, I don’t particularly care. As I stated before, I value myself for what’s in my soul, not what’s in my jeans. However, for other people, these kinds of judgements can be a torment and a curse. They can make people feel guilty, worthless, ugly and depressed.

Our society places so much value in what we look like. And not just around weight but also age, skin colour, facial features or physical disabilities. This is one part of our world which I find it difficult to fathom. But all these ‘norms’ of appearance results in a multibillion dollar industries around making apparently ‘aberrant’ people look ‘good.’ People feel they have to conform to norms of behaviour around things like eating. Woe betide the person – and particularly big people – who have an extra slice of cake at a work afternoon tea. If one is big, there is an intrinsic expectation – often unspoken – that you should be watching your weight and going to the gym. We are supposed to feel guilty and want more than anything to lose weight.

Personally, I am sick of all this crap. And remember that I am writing this from the perspective of someone who doesn’t judge myself based on these criteria. Imagine how people who are influenced by these expectations and genuinely judge themselves negatively because of their weight.

Yes, there is a weight range in which one is more likely to experience health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure. This is a Health Issue, not a character or personality one. I will continue to love and value myself. And as I said on Facebook recently, if my worst characteristic is that I am fat, then I must be the most awesome person in the world! Love yourself, value what’s inside and yes, lose weight for health reasons or because you want to but not just because the world dictates that people must look a certain way. You are all so amazingly beautiful, wonderful humans. I know this without needing to look at your body or your face. What’s in your soul, your heart, your being is ultimately what matters.

WJP_3452

Me being big, beautiful and awesome – launching a book in 2014

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2 thoughts on “A weighty issue – self-image, mental illness and body weight

  1. I totally agree Jeanette. Stereotyping and unrealistic expectations are wrong, and people and if people got to know these people they think are fat and lazy or a “charity case” because they have a visible disability they would realise that we ARE ALL HUMAN who ever you are. There is way more than meets the eye with everyone, no matter who they are.

    Liked by 1 person

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