Joni Edelman nearly broke the Internet with her shocking declaration that being thin didn't make her happy. Scandalous! How could being thin not make a person happy? That's crazy talk. Being thin is the gold standard of beauty and being beautiful is the only way to be happy in our society. My mother always told me it's better to be pretty than smart and I think she was mostly joking, but it's no secret that the better looking you are, the better off you are. I was one of the people that shared Joni's post on Facebook with the status update, "Well, this resonated."
I don't have what would be considered a full-on eating disorder but I have what I would consider disordered eating. I was a binge eater in my youth, hiding candy and cheddar cheese Combos under my pillow. When I would go to friend's houses, I would eat them out of house and home because my parents didn't keep any junk food in our house. I used to pretend I had forgotten my lunch so I could get school lunch and I would eat both. By 6th grade, I was fat. That year, one of my favorite teachers had a box of diet pills in her desk, and I stole them because I was desperate to lose weight. I was the classroom thief she spoke about to our class and to this day I still feel hot in the face when I think about it.
In my 20s, I finally made it to thin. I started my first real job and the stress of it gave me the runs. I heard my mother's voice from when I was sick as a kid, "Think of it as an opportunity to lose weight, dear!" And I did. I began to lose weight. I really thought I was doing it the right way. I exercised two hours a day, six days a week and, like Edelman, I counted every calorie I ate. I didn't drink alcohol, I fasted, I took Metamucil and calorie-burner pills. I cried when I looked in the mirror. I grabbed my fat and pulled it and told myself I was disgusting. I weighed myself in the morning and at night. But I got my reward—everyone said I looked so great. Men never stopped hitting on me wherever I went. I broke up with my boyfriend that loved me fat and loved me thin and dated a steady stream of hot assholes that broke my heart.
But funnily enough, I wasn't quite as unhappy as I was when my life was dominated by counting calories, exercise and self-loathing.
I was living the thin dream. I shopped for clothes and couldn't believe how much fun it was and I loved how I was always needing something smaller. I only ordered salads with no dressing at restaurants and thought I was totally fine. My family was so proud of my weight loss; I felt like my mother finally thought I was pretty. Then life changed. I moved abroad, and I wanted to eat the foods in the foreign countries where I was living. I didn't have my regular gym routine and my weight started creeping up: 135 became 145, 155, 165, 185. I was fat again by age 32. I was unhappy about my body. But funnily enough, I wasn't quite as unhappy as I was when my life was dominated by counting calories, exercise and self-loathing. I ate whatever I wanted most of the time, met guys, had boyfriends and got a masters degree. I worked out regularly and sometimes dieted, but mostly I was just living.
Then I met a great guy who swept me off my feet, and a year later, he put a fat diamond on my finger and asked me to be his wife. I wasn't thin but I was happy. And yet, I thought I could be happier if I were thinner—getting married seemed like a great motivational tool to lose the weight again. So I started counting calories and worked out every day. I put myself and my husband on a strict diet. Sometimes I would burst into tears at dinner because my 400 calorie meal was just so small.
I hated being on a diet. I hated how obsessed I was. I hated when people said, "You're not fat." But I knew they were just saying it because they liked me. No one tells a friend, "You're fat"—even if it's true. The pull of being thin and beautiful on my wedding day kept me on the crazy train. But after seven months of calorie counting and dieting and an hour of cardio a day plus weights three times a week, I had only managed to lose 20 pounds. It was devastating. Losing weight at 35 wasn't as easy as 25.
Joni, I know how you feel, thank you for sharing your story. The struggle is real and you're so brave to speak out.
I remember the day I gave up. I had bought my wedding dress in a size 12 even though I could barely fit into it—the back fat was intense. I thought I could lose weight and have the dress taken in, but as the wedding drew closer, I knew I couldn't. I called a seamstress and told her I would need to let my dress out. The relief in that decision was more powerful than my disappointment. That was my Joni Edelman moment. I decided I would be a fat, happy bride. I was getting married in Jamaica to an amazing man with all of my closest family and friends to share in our joy. I realized that accepting myself and my body was going to make me much happier than the incredible struggle to be thin. I ordered a fat girl bikini and a couple of roomy sundresses and I went to paradise and got married.
That was a year ago. Now at 18 weeks pregnant, after suffering a terrible miscarriage this past summer, I weigh 45 more pounds than I did this time last year. And it's so hard, I waffle between trying to only gain the recommended 15-25 pounds for overweight pregnant women and eating because I'm starving. I exercise every day, but had a bleeding scare last week where I found out I have a marginal placenta previa and need to take it easy when working out. Joni's struggles and having five kids resonated with me because I've had ups and downs and I still struggle with my weight. Being pregnant means I'm not just taking care of myself, I have a little tiny person depending on me and he'll be depending on me for years to come.
People criticized Edelman for promoting fat as healthy and people applauded her for learning to love herself. People called her crazy. I can only imagine the terrible things people will say about me after reading this. Probably something along the lines that I'm fat and I must not care about my baby. That I will die of diabetes or heart disease, that I won't be able to keep up with my son because I'm so fat. That I looked so much better before. We're so mean to each other on the Internet. Trolls are among us but all I want to say is: Joni, I know how you feel, thank you for sharing your story. The struggle is real and you're so brave to speak out. Your family and you look beautiful, and I hope your life is full of happiness.