I was twelve when it was painfully brought to my attention that people had different bodies. Well, maybe much earlier. My mother told me a lot that I was a poor feeder as a toddler. I was stick thin; the only thing I would eat was sausages. Eventually a doctor told her, "Just give the child what she wants, until she decides to one day eat regular food." I subsisted on sausages and hot dogs a lot longer than my mother will probably admit (LOL, hi mum!).
Back to my twelfth year. This memory is crystal clear, like it happened yesterday; I can still feel the heat in the room that afternoon. I was in primary school. The term was ending in a few days so we were seated in class after exams "reading schoolbooks"- we really were just whispering about what we were going to do when the holiday started. Our teacher sat by the blackboard writing our report cards. She called me to the front to show me my grades; I had done really well and was the first in class. She quietly congratulated and affirmed me, and I went back to my seat so excited to show the card to my dad when he came to pick us up. Just before I sat, I heard snickers and whispers behind me, "BFM. BFM. BFM." I looked back and saw my arch enemy, a most unsavory boy, Mutemi. He had a sleazy smile, and was for the most part a spiteful and vicious child. He beat up smaller kids, took their food, and had incredibly foul language coming out of his mouth constantly. I somehow feel he's a corrupt MCA somewhere in the country today. I don't remember the reason why but he and I couldn't stand each other.
So there he was, chanting this BFM gibberish, as other boys joined him, whispering it and laughing. I sat down quite shaken because I knew it wasn't something nice they were calling me, whatever it was. About half an hour later the school bell rang and it was time to go home. As I was packing up my school bag, Mutemi pointed at me and shouted, "Bye bye BFM. Big Fat Mama."
Yes, he did. A twelve year old boy decimated me in front of the whole class; and that one insult would be a burden on my back for the next two decades.
I walked out with the poise and composure of an ice queen, and got into my dad's car. I handed him the report card and he was absolutely delighted and proud. We got home, had dinner and went to bed. And that was where I finally cried my heart out. I had never experienced embarrassment in my life; I'd never known what shame was until that afternoon. Isn't that fascinating? How these horrible feelings can enslave us for most of our lives, but there was a time, when we literally didn't know them, AT ALL.
From then on, my entire life revolved around my weight. Even now, I have an anaemic view of myself; rather, my body. My story is not unique. I went to high school and compared myself to everyone else almost every day. I was in an all girls high school, so there was no lack of subjects. By now, magazines at the salon, billboards and TV commercials were unremittingly sending subliminal messages to me that I wasn't attractive. That I didn't look right. That others were "better" than me. That I was FAT.
I went through the garden variety weight loss methods; eating only one meal a day, eating only fruit, going vegetarian, the cabbage diet(that one was the absolute worst one; I haven't once bought a cabbage in my life as a wife and mother.) Of course I would lose weight, quite rapidly, then gain all of it again when I was off my latest diet.
It breaks my heart thinking of my teenage self. I was so young, swirling in the whirlpool of hormones in puberty. When I'm at the mall nowadays and a bevy of teenage girls pass by, I sometimes want to stop them and hug them one by one. In their super-tight high waisted ripped jeans and crop tops, baring bosoms and bellies, thick black eyeliner and blood red lipstick. They're all trying to appear confident but so many seem unsure of themselves, surreptitiously looking at how their friends are walking, if their stomachs are flatter than their own, wondering why their busts aren't as big as others in the group. Many have a plastered smile on all afternoon, watching the boys flirt with the "prettier ones"; but when they get home they take off their uncomfortable clothes and fake smile, stand in front of the mirror and weep.
I know this, because I was her. I was the one hiding insecurities behind my witty jokes and pulling my stomach in when I walked. I was the one always checking to see if her top had concealed her behind when she sat down. I was the one who wouldn't order fries when in public, because I thought people would judge me. Sigh. I would console myself, "At least I've got really long hair, everyone loves my hair," ...."At least I can sing...yeah? Yeah. I'm a singer."
This story is so common place, almost all of you women reading totally relate. And it never really ends, it just "matures". You get to university and you're still comparing yourself to others. If you're still single, you convince yourself it's because you never lost the weight. Then you get into a relationship, and there's a window of blissful affirmation. A part of you honestly believes your partner is with you because you actually don't look that bad. Then you get engaged and you're plunged into the nightmare of being the fat bride, relegated to wear a boring A-line wedding dress that will accentuate every part you want to hide. So six months before the wedding you buy running shoes, you get the hip hop abs DVDs, you join a gym. You push yourself harder than you ever have in your life, running madly on this treadmill of fear, obsessed with looking like a "bride should" on her special day.
Don't even get me started on the hyperventilation about the wedding night, waking up in a cold sweat petrified your new husband will develop a case of severe buyer's remorse.
And the wheel keeps revolving; it never stops.
You get pregnant. There is overwhelming joy, your heart can't contain it. Still, lurking in the shadows is the worry about how much weight you're going to put on. Are you going to become one of those wives people will talk about? "She really took a beating that one. Pregnancy is brutal on some women." "Aii, na si amejiachilia surely?". "Aki she used to be so small. And her skin was perfect. Me I can't hack all that weight gain; si she can do Shaun T's workouts haraka-haraka as the baby is sleeping?".
Woii. Kenyans. Zero compassion, and we don't even realize it. I spoke very unkindly at times, before I was married. God forgive me.
So here I am, embarking on the next level of this madness: getting my body back. I've done it all. Lost the weight for my wedding. Put it all back on in the first year of marriage(because really, those first twelve months are all about staring into each other's eyes as you eat cake and drink wine.) I've had three pregnancies, nursed my babies; and now I find myself, or rather, my body finally taking a breather...it's not needed to do anything for the time being.
But the Lord.
I have finally paused long enough to listen to Him about this. I was genuinely surprised to discover that this is a part of myself I have kept as an idol. I've never once asked my Saviour about this. This wretched wormhole I got swallowed into that fateful afternoon in class, has held me in its grip for twenty years.
Finally, I am beginning to see. I've been wrong about this matter the entire time. Walk with me as the word of God convicts us, comforts us, teaches us and makes us FREE.
Christian, wife, mom, doctor, and an alien on earth, on my way to the city of God.