My name is Amanda. I just turned 39 years old. I’m married, and I have three kids; a 16-year old, a 13-year old, and my niece is out of the house now, but I raised her from the time she was 9, and she’s 24 now.
Q: How do you perceive your body, and how do you think that compares to how society might perceive it?
I think I perceive my body as a medium kind of person. I wasn’t always overweight, or had problems with my weight when I was a kid, or even as a teenager or young adult. Everything for me kind of happened after I started having kids, so I see myself in the in-between. If I make a comment, like “oh I look big in that” or “I look chubby” or something, my husband and my kids are always like “no, you don’t mom, it’s okay”. But they see my every day, so I kind of expect them to say that.
Q: How were the topics of self-image, health and size discussed when you were growing up?
When I was growing up, self-image wasn’t really talked about at home. My mother was very self-conscious herself, never overweight, by any means, but she was on the edge of maybe not being the healthiest. She was a smoker and she wouldn’t really exercise or anything like that. She would always make comments like “I look fat” or “I don’t like this on me” or things like that, and I always kind of had that in the back of my head. Going through school- middle and high school- it was the same kind of thing; I was always kind of worried, [and thought] “do I look okay in this?” and the usual comments to yourself like “does my butt look big” and things like that.
Q: Do you think that was an internal voice, or do you think it came from outside forces?
I think the perception was definitely inside. But there were also a lot of factors around me as well. Like, in school, kids are kids and I did deal with a little bit with bullying and things like that, [with] the mean boys saying “hey, fatty”, or calling you fat. I look back at pictures of when I was going through that, and I was so not overweight… I was healthy, and making healthy choices and doing healthy things. So looking back as an adult, you can kind of see that kids can be terrible – not just kids- but you have to tell yourself “I am okay, and I’m not what people say I am, I am what I think I am”.
Q: Have you or someone you know faced discrimination because of weight or size?
Recently, my mom was telling me about a visit she had had to a store in town, and she went to go find some clothes for a cruise she was going on. My mother is what society would consider a regular body type: medium. She’s not big, she’s not small, she’s not tall, she’s not short. But she went in looking for an outfit, and the sales lady rudely told her, “I don’t think we have anything for you”. And my mother was taken aback at first, she wasn’t sure if she meant her style, or maybe her age, maybe she thought she as too old to be in that kind of a store? And she asked the lady, and she said “well, you’re a plus size, aren’t you?”. And my mother was in shock and was so upset she just left the store. When she told me about that, it just broke my heart. Because for somebody to say that to somebody else, just judging them without even knowing where they come from, and even just looking at somebody like that, just dismissing somebody like that, it really upset me. It’s not a fair judgement for anyone to make, I think.
Q: If the fear of weight of weight discrimination were eliminated (judgement and/or prejudice), how would your life be different from how you’re living your life right now?
I think if the fear of weight discrimination wasn’t around, I think things would be a lot easier. Shopping- grocery shopping, clothes shopping, anything like that. You always kind of feel like everyone’s looking at you and what you’re putting into your cart, and [thinking] “you shouldn’t be wearing that type of clothing”. I have daughters, I have nieces and they’re all very self- conscious about their body image… And just to have them be able to walk around and not have to worry about what other people are saying or thinking or judging them. I think it would be amazing, it would be a lot less stressful just going through the motions of everyday.
Q: Do you feel that your weight has created barriers for you?
I think my weight has definitely created barriers for me. Some of it’s in my head, I think “I can’t be seen doing that sort of activity because people will talk about me or people will judge me”. Some of the times, its actually physical reasons… I do suffer from some medical conditions because of the excess weight, so I can’t do certain things because of those conditions. I think it’s a barrier to a lot of things, by choice or not.
Q: How have your opinions and beliefs about weight influenced the way you see other people and why?
I think my opinions and beliefs on weight, from the time I was a child up until now, have changed. When I was younger I put a lot of weight into what other people would say or think. As I’m getting older and I see how the world works and how people can be, [my opinions and beliefs] changed where I can look at other people, not just myself, and see past the weight, see the person they are, and the way they are.
It’s not necessarily about how you look or how people think you look.