Hi, my name is “Abena” and I think I am fat…or not.
Depends on which part of the world I find myself. Who am I kidding, I am fat everywhere. My weight has been fluctuating between 63 kg and 67 kg for years now. My lowest weight of all time was 53 kg and my heaviest was 80 kg.
Why should my weight be of concern to you? Maybe you shouldn’t care. Maybe it’s MY problem but humor me and make it your concern for a couple of minutes.
I was a chubby baby which earned me the name ‘obolo’ – which is very common in the Ghanaian society. I did not care much about my baby fat because I actually grew out of it at about age 5 or 6. I was never an overweight child. I was pretty much healthy. However, family members did not seem to notice this and kept on calling me ‘obolo’. Never mind the psychological effect fat shaming could have on a child.
I grew up thinking I was fat and therefore hardly participated in activities at school. In my mind, the fat (nonexistent) would jiggle and roll and my mates would laugh at me so I would rather sit in a corner and read or let my mind wander. I was just too ashamed of myself.
Fast forward to my early teen years and all I wanted was to be stick skinny. Never mind that I had a very healthy BMI as at then and did not need to lose weight for any reason. I got obsessed with my weight to the extent that I started looking up the weight of celebrities I liked so I could be like them. I would starve myself and embrace the pains in my stomach as the acid juices ripped at my stomach lining. I did not care much for the pain; it was only a means to an end. One to get others to stop calling me ‘obolo’ although I was not an ‘obolo’ in the actual sense. I later got to a point where I gave up on that and just ate my life away. Food suddenly became my lover and best friend. I figured I would get fat so then when I am called fat, it would not hurt much.
Yes, you guessed it, it did not work. It hurt more.
I have had my fair share of eating disorders (balancing between almost- anorexia, binge eating and yo-yo dieting). I have sunk into depression over my weight. I have gone blindingly angry at family members who do not want to give up on calling me fat and making fun of me. I have felt unwanted and a waste of space because they insisted I was fat. I have hated myself because I did not fit in. I was not the “standard” of beauty.
For years, I have often toyed with the idea of cutting on my thighs because they are thick and unattractive (in my mind).
I only recently entered my 20s and I have two beautiful nieces. I would not want them to grow up being shamed over their bodies. I would not want them hating themselves for the way they look. I would absolutely hate to see them stressing over their looks.
I am trying to love myself now and treat my body better. It is the only one I have and whether my thighs be thick or not, whether my waist jiggles when I laugh or not, whether my arms look flabby when outstretched or not, I will treat my body with respect and love it for all the wonderful things it does.
Next time you want to comment on someone’s weight, first think of how your comments will probably affect the person when alone. You never know how powerful and hurtful words can be. More so when they are insensitive.
Lest I forget, yes, I do know that slim people are often shamed too. My elder sisters had to deal with comments about their “chopsticks like legs” and such which also affected them.
There is no one standard of beauty. We are all unique. Each body type is beautiful, regardless of what the tabloids and magazines say.
You are gorgeous!
NOTE FROM OUR EDITOR:
For the rest of Women’s Month we will be sharing the personal stories of young girls trying to navigate their way into womanhood. “Abena” is one of ten. We are inviting you to share similar stories with us. Earlier in the month we launched our IBIM Campaign. These stories are the inspiration behind IBIM. Through mentoring, we are hoping to show young girls that we believe in them and they in turn should believe in themselves. Our I Believe In Me Campaign is a mentoring program aiming to inspire and foster the GoWoman ethos in young African girls. In Sierra Leone we will be working with Educaid’s Women’s Project. The IBIM Big Sister Program will connect young girls with female mentors for one on one coaching, and we will also use social media and technology to bring African women in the diaspora to mentees on the continent. We believe that often young girls need a trusted confidante; someone they can talk to about their concerns as they transition into adulthood, without the fear of judgement. Be it career choices, love, sex, abuse, family issues or simply navigating their way through friendships, we hope to create a virtual environment where young girls can feel safe to openly share and whenever a sister to sister chat isn’t enough, we will put them in touch with the right agencies.
Our homepage will continue to share the power of mentoring and having strong role models in our lives with the #IfNotForYou campaign. You can make your contribution to our work by shopping from our IBIM Collection.