I don't remember the exact origins of these feelings, but growing up in a Puerto Rican family surely didn't help. Puerto Ricans, actually most Hispanics, focus a lot on physical descriptions. That's why you will hear nicknames like "La Gorda”, “La Flaquita”, “Blanquita”, “Negra", "Gringa” etc… Can you imagine your family calling you “the fat one”, “the skinny one”, “the white girl”, “the dark girl”, etc...?
That sticks with you.
To top it off, it wasn’t unusual to go to a family function and have relatives comment on your weight/appearance.
This story isn't uniquely mine. If you talk to enough people, you will probably learn that it's pretty normal. By no means am I blaming my culture nor am I saying I had a horrible family. I love my family and know that no family is perfect. It's just that this constant discussion of weight and appearance created this obsession with being a perfect size, the perfect color, and just perfect in general.
So as I grew up, I always focused on it. If I had gained weight, I had to prepare myself in advance for any family functions knowing that someone would make a comment about me gaining weight. Or if I lost weight, someone would make a comment that I wasn’t eating enough and getting too skinny (blasphemy for a Puerto Rican).
You could not escape someone pinpointing that you gained a few pounds since the last time they saw you. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that they meant any harm by it, it was just how my family operated.
Culture vs. Media
It’s important to note that at no point in my life have I ever been too skinny, at least according to US standards for BMI, in which I have always been considered “overweight” or “obese”. Yet, there were minor occasions when some family members thought I was getting too skinny. I was living in a world where the media glorified a size 0 with an hour-glass figure, but my community glorified a well endowed and curvy woman.
Talk about confusion!
I look back at my pictures and wish I saw then what I see now. Sure, I had some extra fluff, but not to the point that doctors needed to be concerned. I look back at those pictures and I pray that my baby girl wont go through the same issues I went through. I know that she will go through her stages, but I hope that I can help her see the beauty in her that I couldn't see in myself.
What the devil used for destruction, God used for a purpose.
Every stage of my life has had a unique impact on my self-worth. There isn't an exact moment that helped me love or hate my body, instead it was a journey through years of believing lies rather than truth. I hope that through my story, you can identify your own lies and start believing the truth that you are not defined by your weight.