A lot of my posts lately have been highlighting my topical steroid withdrawal process. However, I originally started this blog revealing my complicated relationship with food and body image. Initially I thought my health and skin issues were a result of my poor diet and binging and purging habits years ago. While I'm sure they didn't help, my use of topical steroids for so many years is the real cause of the various health issues I'm dealing with now. While it's a relief to finally know why everything has happened, having positive body image is still something I battle with daily. And it doesn't help when other people feel like they have the right to comment on my body.
I have always been the type of person to take everything with a grain of salt, so when people made fun of me for my bushy eyebrows, my furry upper lip, my chubby cheeks, my lack of ass for a black girl (aaaaaall the time), or told me not to gain or lose anymore weight, I laughed it off, internally rolled my eyes, and kept it pushing.
My entire life people have felt the need to make comments about my appearance, size and shape. Even though I would shake it off, I know now that the accumulation of those various comments affected the way I felt about myself. Before I lost weight I needed to lose 15 pounds; after I lost weight I was too skinny; when I gained some weight back I was warned not to gain anymore cause I'd be teetering the line of fat. The truth is, people will NEVER be satisfied and will always find something to criticize, because that's how people are. They think their opinion is warranted, wanted and welcomed with open arms.
Society has this ideal of what a woman is "supposed" to look like, and when one doesn't fit into that box, people feel as though they have free range to criticize and nitpick. Especially when you are in show business. My junior year at Howard I played a prostitute in The Sirens. I lost a lot of weight that year, partially because I knew I was going to be onstage half naked, but no matter what size I was, I wasn't curvy enough to be a believable prostitute. To fix my lack of curves I was supposed to wear padded underwear, but they were extremely uncomfortable so I just left them in the dressing room.
Fast forward to 2014, and I found myself being padded in a show again to give the appearance of hips, boobs, and booty. This time was a little different, since my body was referenced in the script (although it only said my character had nice hips), but it didn't help that once in full costume I got the comment that I "looked like a woman." Because before I couldn't have possibly looked like a woman without full hips and a larger bust-line.
Off-stage I have received a multitude of comments about my body, but one in particular sticks out in my mind, so I'll share. Junior year at Howard, walking to my dorm in the evening after the homecoming step show, some simple-minded fool made the comment to his friend after I walked past, "that's not my type of ass." First of all, idiot, I could hear you, second of all, nobody asked to be "your type of ass," and third of all, congratulations for being a brainless product of our society which believes that all women should fit your narrow standard of beauty and should be subject to your appraisal at all times.
Now fast forward to November 2015. Since my skin has gone haywire, it's caused a lot of internal irregularities within my body. I've talked about leaky gut and touched on adrenal fatigue, but long story short, when I began The GAPS diet I was eating a lot of animal protein, cooked veggies and animal fat, which is very healing for the gut. I was constantly hungry and constantly eating, which is normal on the diet, but my weight never balanced out like the research I did said it would. Instead, while I was the most active I had been in months, I began to gain weight. I later found out that I was dealing with adrenal and thyroid issues, which can cause weight gain. I also learned that I needed to take a break from my normal physical activity so I wouldn't stress my adrenals out even more. Then I began moisture withdrawal, which kept me in the house for about two weeks. So inevitably, dealing with adrenal and thyroid issues, not being able to work out and not leaving the house, I gained more weight. But no, I don't need other people to point that out to me. I live inside my body every second of every day. I'm aware that my clothes fit a little tighter and my legs and arms are a bit thicker.
I've spoken to plenty of other women who have had to deal with comments about their weight or body shape that made them uncomfortable; either from family members, colleagues, friends or acquaintances. If someone does not flat out ask you for your opinion or bring up the topic of weight themselves, your opinion is not necessary. Point, blank, period. If you are worried about someone's health, there is a way to go about it without embarrassing that person or making them feel less than. Otherwise, if someone has gained or lost a little weight, there's no need to make snarky comments. It's not your place to say, "oh, I liked you better with a little meat on your bones," or "oh, you've gotten bigger!" If that person is happy in their body, that's all that matters. And if they are uncomfortable about their weight gain or loss, that's even more of a reason NOT to say something. If someone is feeling self-conscious why add to that by pointing out their insecurity. Of course, there are relationships where people feel comfortable talking about these things, but if you don't have that relationship with someone, just leave it alone.
My weight has fluctuated my entire life for various reasons. Honestly, I'm bigger than I have been in a few years and bigger than I would like to be right now. Not being able to work out was extremely difficult for me. Not only because I enjoy being active, but because I was afraid of gaining more weight. But this process is forcing me to love my body as it is so that I can get healthy. And right now that's with a few extra pounds added.
For a while I avoided buying clothes, which I always do when I gain weight, because in my mind buying clothes for this size means I'm comfortable here and I won't change. Which is ridiculous. But not having clothes that fit is even more ridiculous. I've recently gotten over myself and purchased some clothes. I was also worried about coming back to do A Christmas Carol. The costumes fit me last year, but based on the way my everyday clothes fit, I knew that my costumes would have to be let out this year. I was embarrassed and waited until the last minute to tell the costume crew, because I didn't want to admit that I had gained weight even though I felt like it was out of my control. Luckily, I've been able able to squeeze into all of my costumes (some have been let out), and it wasn't a big deal at all. In fact, several of my cast mates commented on their costumes feeling tight or needing to be let out, so we've all come back a year later in solidarity.
I do want to get back in shape, but I'm not allowing myself to obsess. I'm able to work out again, but I'm starting off slow and working back up to where I was. I eat when I'm hungry, and I don't starve myself like I have before. I trust that I'll find the right balance for myself as my body continues to heal. As for the people who feel the need to comment on my weight, nobody asked you. Maybe now I'll have the courage to tell them that their unsolicited opinion is unneeded, and I hope you do to. Don't allow someone to make you feel insecure because they're uncomfortable with how you've changed. If you're happy that's all that matters.
I've spent my whole life worried about what people think of my appearance, but now I just want to be happy and healthy. I used to look at celebrities' bodies and wish I looked the same. I even had a trainer ask me what my celebrity dream body was, but I don't agree with that type of thinking anymore. I don't want to aspire to have someone else's body. I want to aspire to have my best body for me. So no, I don't care what you think I should look like. I only care that I am happy, comfortable and confident in my skin no matter what size I am. I'm not completely there yet, but I guess that's why I'm on this journey. Let's work on being more positive about our bodies and loving ourselves. We only get one, so treat it well. And when someone gives their unwarranted opinion, let them know about themselves!
If anyone has ever made an unnecessary comment about your weight I would love to hear your story in the comments below! After talking to my friends, I realized that I was very much not alone in my experiences. Let's take the power away from those comments by sharing and laughing at how ridiculous they are. Much love and until next time!
I'm Lauren, aka Just Du Pree, and I want to thank you for reading. This is a space where I share my very personal journey healing from eczema and topical steroid withdrawal (among other things), life lessons I've learned along the way, and occasionally the thoughts of an awkward Black girl (no Issa Rae). I'm a performer and filmmaker, so if you feel so inclined, pop over here to see what goes on in my mind on the regular. If you like what you see, you can stay up to date with my work here. Much love, friends!