confessions of a former fatty
Disclaimer: The following contains a series of admissions that would probably have been extremely embarrassing to me at any other time in my life. However I now find myself at this refreshing stage where I feel compelled to be completely honest about who I am, have been and want to be. I wish I could say with 100% conviction that I dont care what anyone thinks of me, but I do. I get my feelings hurt from time to time, and I wish I didnt. But I do understand how little other peoples opinions really matter. The only person who you know will go to bed and wake up with you everyday is you.
So with all that said I proceed with the following proclamation. I used to be fat. Not cant sit in one airplane seat fat, but definitely annoy the person sitting next to me with the size of my rear fat. Now that the size of my body has changed it is easier for me to speak freely about what that was like.
When I say I used to be fat I mean always. Until recently. I remember being the girl kids would chant boom bada boom bada, when I walked across the classroom. My nick name was Buffalo Butt to which I routinely pointed out Look at a buffalo, they actually have small butts! but as you may imagine, this was not the kind of witty banter that may make a 2nd grader reconsider his actions. I would get physically ill at the thought of gym days on the off chance we might have to try to do something particularly physical, like climb the rope, in front of the class.
In Jr. High I slimmed down for a while, both from playing basketball and from ill-advised competitions with friends to see who could go the longest on the smallest amount of cheerios. I cannot even begin to justify this game, suffice it to say 13 year olds dont have incredible judgment- let alone a fully developed brain. Even then I worried about having to wear basketball shorts in front of the school, and when all of my friends decided we were going to be cheerleaders I dropped out one basketball tournament from lettering due to extreme anxiety over who would attend the all city game, and see me in a skirt.
High school and college brought much of the same. In college I carried the dirty secret of vomiting after meals which resulted in a dramatic yo-yoing of my weight. I would sneak away to the private bathroom at my sorority and quietly puke, probably hoping someone would find me and tell me to stop, that I was fine the way I was. While I had great friends who probably would have done this, the getting caught never occurred. Thats the gist. I could tell countless stories but the aforementioned pretty much sums it up. Throw in some run of the mill growing pains and bouts of depression and you have all the classic body image issues.
Probably the most interesting part of all this is that I put on a very confident front. I had decided at some point that the only thing less attractive than a fat girl (me) was a fat girl (me) talking about how she hated being fat. Probably the result of reading too many Cosmopolitans, I had decided if I couldnt be attractive I would be confident, I would try to be funny and (gosh darn it) people would like me.
But at every turn in life the ugliness inside of me, my inner voice that was constantly attacking and criticizing myself would rear its head. Every time a guy didnt call or I lost a job or any rejection whatsoever came my way I would immediately begin to beat myself up for my appearance. Even at the time I knew this line of thinking to be irrational, but its hard when it is the line of thinking you have always had.
I should probably go back even farther now to tell you that the first time I remember being worried about my weight I was four years old. I was an average sized kid looking back, and had dreams of being a ballerina. My Mom enrolled me in a class and we went once a week after Winnie the Pooh. The other girls all seemed to know each other already. They were all taller and skinnier than me. I remember doing exercises where we leaped across the room watching our form in the mirrors. I would watch my legs jiggle and how the other girls legs did not, and I would wait terrified of the end of class where the teacher had us each run to her and she would lift us over her head and deliver us to our parents. The other girls delighted at this. I was afraid she would tell me I was too heavy, or drop me. The other girls in class laughed at me. At least this is how I perceived it. It is likely that that wasnt the case at all, and I was never a very large child, certainly not enough to be concerned about these things. So I tried to cut myself with a kitchen knife one night. Fed up with my dream of becoming a ballerina and feeling unworthy of dreams at all. Four years old.
So when I take a deep breath and take all the in, it makes since that at 22 when my boyfriend dumps me because my weight is bad for his reputation my feelings were more than a little hurt. And the deeper truth about that is I attracted him to me. We seek proof that our perceptions are true. When we find someone who believes what we believe about ourselves its like the ultimate validation. In this case, poison.
Being fat isnt just about sad stories of mean kids or ex boyfriends. There is like this whole set of self imposed limitations and ways of thinking. Its always wondering if your good enough, its folding over clothes when shopping so no one sees the size tag, sticking your neck out in pictures to appear as though you only have the one chin. Its dreading the summer/shorts/bathing suits, its sitting out the dance or the beach, taking up a love for handbags and shoes as these items always fit. Its being friends with the men you find attractive and setting them up with your thin friends, being surprised when someone has opinion of you- that you were ever noticed at all. Its a series of daily assumptions that serve to only keep you from living your fullest life and its sitting on the sidelines of life wishing you could trade places with the skinny girl- the one who doesnt have any of these problems.
Trouble is that skinny girl doesnt exist. The one without the problems. Because I know that while all women do not have the experience of being obese the majority of their lives, the vast majority of us have felt some of these feelings. The most beautiful girl you can image has self esteem issues. There is a notion now that we cant all be an unattainable models size. But even THOSE women cant feel great about themselves everyday. Their livelihoods rely on competing with other beautiful women for jobs looking nice. That cant make you feel good. I cant imagine getting weighed in at work.
Plus as a culture we are so look obsessed that it is difficult to be a woman and not fully understand that your looks determine your place in life. Our families, our friends, every form of media all tell us loud and clear to put down the fork pick up the curling iron and the boy will like you/youll land the dream job/ the house/boat/houseboat, its all yours. Rainbows and butterflies dance at your fingertips, all you need is several hundred-ninety-nine, a plethora of products and lord help you- dont be fat.
So where do we/I go from here? Now that Ive been all Debbie Downer, I do have a solution- or at least an attempt at one. Every word I have written thus far was not enough for me to make changes (or believe they were possible) for myself. As I have talked about here before, I hope to create the environment to help my little girl avoid some of this. I know I cannot keep her from the rest of the world and its message, but I can make my message at home clear. And no message speaks louder than action. If it wasnt for my little angel I would still be that unhealthy person, feeling stuck in a box of my own construction. You dont have to have a baby to change. You dont have to be fat. You dont have to have some great epiphany to decide that the person you are today could be healthier, happier and better educated about how to take great care of yourself. But if you need an outside motivator, a new generation of little girls is running around right now and they are watching YOU.
Lets be the generation of women who support each other. Lets teach each other, learn from each other and decide to be measured on our character and not our pant size. Let this be the time that we become educated about how to take care of our bodies so we can teach the same to our daughters. Lets respect ourselves more that they might grow up to do the same. Through our own active, healthy lives we can change the path of those to come. We can focus on what our bodies can DO and not what they look like. We can decide that just because you have always been something does not mean you have to choose to be that today. Who we are and what we do is up to us. A notion which I realize is terrifying as well as its liberating.
I guess my point is I understand if you feel hopeless. I understand if you have given up on yourself. I have been there. But I think we owe it to each other, and we owe it to our daughters to be a better example. To feel genuinely good about whom we are and reflect that into the world. And you dont have to lose and ounce to do that. If you have read this far I appreciate you. Please shoot me a line, Id love to hear about where you have been and where you are going. And if I can, I would love to help.