The Weight of Your Character

By Shani Petroff

I’m working on losing weight. I want to lose weight.

There is a history of heart disease in my family, and I don’t want it to get it. I want to be as healthy as possible.

That is my main reason for wanting to take off the excess pounds.

I wish it was the only reason.

But part of me, if I’m honest with myself, wants to look a certain way.

It’s been ingrained in my head that thin equals beautiful—and that makes me mad, because sure thin can be beautiful—but so can all shapes and sizes.

I’ve been thinking, talking, and writing about this a lot lately.

I grew up on a steady stream of books, movies, and TV. Rarely was there a heavy female lead (unless the story was specifically about her being fat) who was happy, found love, etc., etc., etc. It was always the thin girl who everyone thought was beautiful, got the guy, and made her dreams come true. It helped cement for me the idea that I needed to be skinny, and I’d wind up on eating binges when I’d get frustrated with myself or my progress.

I’ve been working to change my thought process.

When I see other people, I see beauty regardless of size. Yet, with myself I’m a harsher critic.

I sometimes wonder if I saw more overweight people in books, magazines, and on TV having all the things I wanted, I wouldn’t be so hard on myself.

It’s why with my next book—Airports, Exes, and Other Things I’m Over—I made the lead, Sari, overweight. (The cover model is plus-size—although still a lot thinner than my actual character.) A big thing about the book: Sari’s weight doesn’t define her. She’s also confident, talented, determined, popular, and, yes, boys like her. In fact, the weight thing doesn’t come up too often. Basically it’s just when she worries about her hips fitting into the small airplane seat, when she thinks someone’s judging her for eating a decadent dessert (it wasn’t the case), and when she mentions she had to go to numerous stores to finally find the perfect bathing suit. But otherwise, her concerns are elsewhere. It’s no different than her height or the length of her hair. It comes up, but it doesn’t affect her self-worth.

And I don’t want it to affect mine, either.

So, as I continue on my weight-loss journey, I’m trying to focus on my health—and adjusting my mindset.

Losing weight to me means (hopefully) avoiding the heart issues my relatives faced.

It means having more energy.

It means being able to keep up with my niece and nephews (and hopefully, someday, my own kids).

It means not feeling winded after running to chase the bus.

It means reaching a goal.

Yes, there are things in our society that are geared more toward smaller sizes that also will be nice—I won’t have to worry about my hips in an airplane seat or going to a store and not being able to find anything cut for my body.

But losing weight for me, this program, is about making me stronger and healthier.

And it is—inside and out.

I would love to hear from you. You can find me on Connect @shani!

Read more Shani Weighs In.