55. Wonderfully Made

55. Wonderfully Made

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Wonderfully Made

To free us from the expectations of others,
to give us back to ourselves—
there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.
 ~Joan Didion

“My name is Thurmeka and I am fat. I would like to change that. I’m going on a diet to lose weight. I weigh 95 pounds.” I wrote this on the inside cover of a book called Don’t Call Me Fatso when I was seven years old. My stomach squirmed when I read my seven-year-old handwriting. I realized that the words I wrote then were the beginning of what I would continue to write and think about myself.

Growing up I was called chubby or “big-boned” by adults. I hated both of those words and wanted them to disappear from the English language. (What was “big-boned” anyway?) Even though I disliked the words that adults used to classify me, they were gentle compared to some of the things my peers said to me. If I got into an argument with someone they would say, “What are you going to do? Sit on me?” or “Shut up your fat self!” I used to pretend it didn’t bother me, but it did. Instead of discarding the lies I heard about myself, they became my truth.

I let the fear of people’s perceptions rule my life. I wore jeans and sweatshirts in the summer (including at the beach), kept my coat on in school, and only wore long skirts. My mother and I got into many arguments about this. It hurt her to see me react to my reflection in this way, but I just thought she did not understand. I knew my perception of myself was abnormal when I told my high school boyfriend he could not hug me because his arms might not fit around me and he would feel my fat. Clearly my perception of myself was distorted, but I did not see it that way at the time. It affected many relationships and I missed out on opportunities because I let fear consume me.

Throughout my college years, I tried many fad diets and came to the conclusion that my body was wired differently than any other human. I was destined to be “fat” forever. After years of thinking this way, and after many people telling me I had a problem, I sat back and evaluated what was going on. I was carrying a lot of emotional weight that was literally weighing me down. My struggle to accept myself kept me from living life. I had to realize and accept that I was wonderfully made and I had to love myself. I also had to stop comparing myself with others because I was not them; I was me!

At that time I was at my all-time high of 189 pounds. I looked at myself in the mirror and I said, “I like me.” I finally pointed out the good and didn’t focus on the bad. I began working out at a gym with one of my friends and we held each other accountable. I also joined kickboxing classes and dancing classes that I knew I would enjoy. Instead of looking at my eating plan as a diet, I looked upon it as the beginning of an exciting new journey. I enjoyed food instead of being afraid of it. At the end of my three-month journey I was down to 166 pounds. Even though I was not at my goal weight, I was happy. I did more than shed physical weight; I shed years of pain and loneliness. I learned how to love me and as a result I was better able to take care of myself. Now I enjoy eating healthy and exercising because it is a part of loving myself rather than a chore. I know I am beautiful on the inside and out, and my goal is to exude beauty through the way I live my life. Here is what I write now: “My name is Thurmeka and I am wonderfully made.”

~Thurmeka S. Ward

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