Thursday, June 30, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Yesterday I got an email message from a former student telling me that I am “fugly” and I need to get on a treadmill and have plastic surgery.
Sure, I’m hurt by this message, but not on a personal level as much as on an intellectual one.
For instance, it doesn’t really hurt my feelings that the student called me fugly or implied I’m overweight. Since I don’t think he really believes I need plastic surgery, his attack is rather toothless. In that sense, it's kind of obvious to me that he was just trying to wound me.
But what really hurts me is that he doesn’t respect me. Because if he did, he wouldn’t be trying to wound me at all.
Like most of the teachers and college professors I know, I work my butt off trying to help students learn the material and become better writers. I give it everything I have, and when school is in session I basically live and breathe my job. Though I don’t have “summers off” in the sense that I still have to work on my writing, I honestly don’t know how I would survive if I didn’t have these three months away from the classroom to recharge.
So when a former student sends me a hateful message—and it happens almost every semester, though it’s usually not this personal—it bothers me because it tells me that the student doesn’t think I work hard or care about my job. Because if the student believed that, he wouldn’t intentionally try to hurt my feelings.
To be honest, it’s hard to imagine any student—this one included—not knowing how hard I work after spending a semester in my classroom, and that’s what really burns me about this message. This kid knows I bust my butt for my students, and despite this, he’s basically saying, “I don’t care how hard you work or how much you care about your students because I still hate you. “ He’s pissing all over my attempts to be a good teacher.
It also bothers me because it’s the kind of comment that’s designed to attack me where I’m most vulnerable, which seems especially cruel. Most of my students learn over the course of the semester that I have a blog about body acceptance, so it’s clear this student thought he could undermine my self-confidence by attacking my physical appearance. It’s a cheap shot, but one he apparently thought would work.
Finally his comments bother me because they imply—especially the “get on the treadmill” comment—that I don’t exercise just because I’m not thin.
Twice every week on this blog I try to send the message that curvy does not mean unhealthy and a curvy person is not necessarily a person who doesn’t work out, but I’m clearly not getting the message across.
Not only do I work out, I work out religiously. I walk every morning—lately for eighty minutes, during which time I alternate between walking and running—and I usually exercise almost every afternoon and evening as well, which is my attempt to follow my own advice that we should all “play and play often.” So when this student told me to get on the treadmill, it actually hurt me more to think he assumes I don’t work out than it does for me to realize that he thinks I’m overweight.
So let me be clear—just because I’m lumpy or imperfect does not mean I am sedentary or lazy. It just means I’m no longer young, and I have a little wear and tear on my body. Of course, when you’re twenty-two, you have no idea that you can do everything in your power to be thin and still fail.
Though all of these issues are a problem, the biggest problem is why anyone—student or otherwise—feels comfortable saying these kinds of hurtful things to anyone else. Whatever happened to the golden rule?
I am not a religious person in the sense that I don’t read a Bible or go to church unless you count communing with nature every morning, but at times like these I find myself thinking of Leviticus 19:18—“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself”—or Matthew 5:39—“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
Which makes me wonder, what makes a human being want to harm another person this way? What kind of issues must one have to be so hateful?
I don’t have the answer to that question, but I do hope that each of us—myself included—will think twice the next time we are tempted to lash out at another.
If need be, think of the Torah, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Quran, the Bible, the Tao Teh Ching. Think of Socrates, Buddha, Jesus, Matthew, Luke, and Confucius. And treat others as you wish to be treated.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
I'm honored that you wrote to me, and I'm sorry to hear that you're struggling.
I do believe that the first step to losing weight is body acceptance, which is a big part of what my blog is about. If you do not accept yourself the way you are—and like yourself the way you are—you will probably never lose weight and keep it off. So my first piece of advice is to look in the mirror and figure out what about you is most attractive. Most people have one amazing feature—be it, a perfect nose, full lips, gorgeous brows, adorable ears, a sculpted jawline, or clear skin. (For me, it's my eyes, and luckily, I've always known that.) And I think when people see us, they focus on that good quality—and never see the parts of us that are average or imperfect.
I have a friend who is extremely obese, and after knowing her for a year or so, she told me she thinks that when people see her, all they see is her fat. I was horrified and also knew immediately she was wrong. This is someone who is blessed with a sunny disposition and a gorgeous face. When I see her, the first thing I see is her infectious smile—she is the kind of person who lights up a room. After that, I see her adorable nose, her pretty eyes, and her flattering freckles. I never even think about the fact that she weighs more than 300 lbs. It's not even on my radar. But when I told her this, it shocked her. She thought it was the FIRST thing people saw. In truth, people see your assets first, not your flaws.
So you need to look in the mirror and figure out what it is about you that makes you beautiful. You may not be as thin as your sisters—and trust me I know all about that—but you do have something that sets you apart. I know it.
Once you find that thing about you that you know is attractive and start focusing on that by buying clothes or accessories that emphasize it, you'll notice people will start complimenting you about it too. You say that you're not attractive, but as soon as you decide you ARE attractive, other people will find you attractive too. Confidence is contagious, and once you have it, you will pretty easily find that people—men included—are drawn to you.
After you re-gain your confidence and focus on YOUR attractive features, you can start working on losing weight. I follow a seven-step approach to losing weight that is not a diet, but a lifestyle change. Because my approach allows you to eat junk food from time to time, it's not hard to change your life this way.
Incidentally, the reason you want to eat junk food every time you go on a diet is because the diet tells you not to eat junk food. Any time someone tells you not to do something, the natural response is to want to do it. That's one of the main reasons diets don't work. The other reason diets don't work—and 90% of dieters gain back the weight—is because our bodies get used to eating less, and when the diet is over and we go back to eating more, our bodies store those extra calories rather than burning them. These are the two reasons I am totally opposed to dieting. Instead of dieting, here's what I recommend on the blog:
1) Like yourself
4b) Understand why it's hard to avoid them, so you can avoid them even more
5) Cook at home
6) Eat all day long
Also, you may want to read my manifesto and my post about how I define the word diet. You should know that though my approach will work in the long run, it is not about quick results as much as lasting ones. Honestly, it may take you five years to lose all the weight you want to lose. But it will work.
Finally, remember that not everyone has the same body. You may even have a different body than your sisters who share your genes. I grew up with a rail-thin sister, and it took me years to realize my body could not possibly look like hers. But neither of our bodies are perfect. She hates that she has to wear a padded bra, and I hate that I need spanx on special occasions. Either way, no one is perfect. And no one body is perfect either.
I really hope that this helps. Please check in with me and let me know how this plan works for you. I would love to hear back from you again.