Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Carol Hayley. I’m originally from Newfoundland and I moved out West almost 18 years ago. I’m been married 8 years, I’m 43 years old and I’m a nurse.
How do you perceive your body, and how does society influence your perception?
I don’t have much self-confidence about my body. I try to bring things as comedic relief for myself to others to make it look like [the size that I am] doesn’t really bother. That’s like my way of trying to erase the elephant in the room, so to speak. People say, “Carol, you have lots of self-confidence”, and they might have known me all my life, but I don’t have any self-confidence whatsoever.
I’ve always been a bigger girl. I look back at my pictures and in high school I was 150 pounds and I thought I was overweight. I wish I was 150 pounds now. I was always active, in sports and whatnot, but over the years, with certain things happening [like] deaths in the family and emotional eating, it gets harder as you get older to get it off.
I try to dress nice and I don’t like dressing sloppy and I always try to keep up my appearance. With my job, you want to look clean and professional ... and I always have done that, but when I walk into a room … I feel that everyone is looking at the size of me, [even if] they’re probably not. That’s just the way I feel and I would say that’s probably the way a lot of people feel about certain things, but for me, it’s my weight.
How were topics of weight and body image discussed growing up?
I was adopted. So I was two months old when my parents got me. My mom and dad that raised me are tiny, they’re not tall, small framed- my mom is 135 pounds, and my dad was probably 150 pounds. I have one brother and he’s their [biological son] and probably 5”11, and not a big guy. Back then, growing up in the 70’s, 80’s, it was “chubby”, and going to school as you lose your baby fat in your teens, you start getting your shape. I was always a bit chubbier than my girlfriends that I hung around with. In the family, they (my mom and grandmother) used to always say that I reminded them of my Aunt, my mom’s sister. Because my aunt was always a big girl, a big lady. And they would always say that I reminded them of my Aunt.
You know, we were always told to eat everything on [our] plate, there was no wasting of food. At home, we would never have salads, I didn’t know what a kiwi was, I think until grade 7, it was either apples, oranges, bananas, and at Christmas time you get grapes because it was something special. You always ate everything that was on your plate, and it was usually meat and potatoes. As for dessert, I don’t really remember dessert, probably cookies. But I remember mom or dad always saying “oh, you don’t need that”, or “you’re big enough”.
As you get older you would be going out with your girlfriends and the guy would always go for your girlfriend instead of you, because they were tinier than you. So I got to the point where I always had lots of guy friends, like really good friends, but never anyone that wanted to date me, because I was chubbier, always bigger. So at the end of the day, you just don’t even bother to put yourself out there, to even think that anyone would be interested in you, because in the past, they would always go for your friend.
Can you tell us about a time you or someone you know experienced size or weight discrimination?
My girlfriend just went through it on an airline, coming back from Hawaii. She had paid extra money to sit with her daughter, and when she asked for a seat belt extender the flight attendant told her that she wasn’t allowed to sit in that emergency exit aisle if she needed a seat belt extender. So my girlfriend proceeded to say “Why? I paid extra money to sit with my daughter, and now you’re telling me that I can’t sit here?” and she was trying to be very quiet about, because it’s kind of embarrassing asking for a seat extender. But [the flight attendant] was quite loud and embarrassed my friend. She took her off the plane, had her on the hot tarmac in Hawaii for over a half hour as they were trying to figure out where they were going to put her. It ended up being a big production for her, and they and a couple had to be split up for her and her daughter to sit next to each other. She just felt like she was pretty worthless and that they didn’t care… and she was quite embarrassed about the whole thing.
Would it have been different if it was someone who weighed 95 pounds and was so tiny that they didn’t think that she would be able to help out with pushing the window out? But because she needed a seat extender, just because you’re overweight, doesn’t mean you’re not active. I know, for myself, I work out a lot, and so does she. So just because she’s overweight, doesn’t mean she wouldn’t be able to do what she needed to do. That just happened, just in May, and she still talks about it, because she was quite embarrassed by it.
Do you feel that your weight has created barriers for you, or hindered you in any way?
I always say, professionally, maybe I would have more opportunity, but I think that’s just me being paranoid. I’m a nurse, I’ve been a manager for 8 years, and I’m always very involved with certain things. But then I also notice that some of the other corporate managers are getting invited to the golf games and certain events that I’m never invited to. And I’m thinking, “why aren’t I being asked?” Is it because they don’t think that I would be able to do the 18 holes, or do they think I’m just not sporty enough? It’s at the point now where it doesn’t really bother me anymore.
As for [my weight] holding me back, I was a big sports person, I was co-captain for volleyball and basketball, and did kick box and swimming all through high school. But I can’t play volleyball right now because of my weight. It just hurts your joints and your legs. I have arthritis in my knee now, which I’ve never had, and since this big spurt of weight gain, you just feel it… That really bothers me, because I love playing. And then I have my girlfriends, sending me texts like “are you signing up for September?” and “are you coming and playing?”, but I just don’t want to say that [I can’t because of my weight].
I’m a big concert-goer and I’m going to one at the end of the month, and I’m just having a panic attack inside my brain, because I’m thinking “okay, am I going to be able to fit in the seat comfortably?”. [Recently], I met one of my nurses down in Calgary for a lunch meeting, and she was already there, and she goes, “I’m here in a booth”, and I’m thinking, “am I going to fit in the booth?”. Luckily, the table moved and I was good, but just little things like that, I have little panic attacks and I get embarrassed. Things that I never had to think about before, I have to now, because other people just don’t think about it. I’m so embarrassed with myself, and I just kind of beat [myself] up over it. It’s not only the plane seats- it’s the concerts, the sports games, or even just sitting in the booth in a restaurant. And if the table doesn’t move, guess what? You’re wedged in there.
How have your opinions and beliefs about weight influenced the way you see yourself or others?
I might get discriminated by society, but I think I discriminate myself as well. Not discriminate, but I’m hard on myself. So whether society is not looking at me different, or when I walk on an airplane and have the flight attendant looking at me saying “hmmm, does she need a seat belt extender?”, I think I would still be hard on myself. I think society has to think about the person as a whole, not only the weight. For me, I think the person that has given me the hardest time is myself, not society. And that’s probably not true for a lot of other people, but for me I really think it’s just myself beating myself up the worst.
Do you think you would still be hard on yourself if society wasn’t hard on you first?
Probably not as much, but I’m sure I would, still. I don’t think I probably would be as hard on myself if it wasn’t a big issue, but body image is everywhere you look. Whether it be on TV, billboards, magazines, and of course you have prime access to internet at the tips of your fingers. You’re looking at TV, and you’re seeing these women, of beautiful shapes, and [they’re] the ones the men are always choosing.
And I’m not saying anything, because I’m obviously married, but you know, maybe my relationship with my husband would be different if I was smaller. Maybe we would have had kids if I didn’t have so much weight on, because there was always a problem with trying to conceive. The less weight you have on, they say that it’s easier to conceive, and we never did. Mind you, he doesn’t mind, it was never a big thing-whether we had kids or not- but you always think, “if…”.
I don’t think I probably would be as hard on myself if it wasn’t a big issue, but body image is everywhere you look. Whether it be on TV, billboards, magazines, and of course you have prime access to internet at the tips of your fingers.