When I look back at photos of myself during my childhood, I see the insecurity in my eyes staring back at me. I see a timid little girl wearing a fake smile. That was coaxed from her by the man or woman behind the camera. You know what those eyes say to me? They tell me that chubby faced, innocent child had already learned that she was something that society frowns upon. She had already been forced to accept the hard truth that she was viewed as the dreaded “fat girl”.
My Dad’s nickname for me during my childhood was, Pudge. He playfully called me this, never realizing he was fracturing what bit of self-esteem I had developed, up until that point. The nickname and the snide comments from other family members had made me aware of my sin of being fat early on. Even before the start of elementary school. In some ways, I’m glad. At least, I wasn’t blindsided by the name calling I met there. It’s strange, how rude comments that were made so many years ago, can still hurt so badly.
The thing about being fat is, that you figure out pretty quickly that it’s viewed by others to be solely your fault. Even if you have never known any other existence. You are labeled as lazy, weak, defective, and gross. Along with a myriad of other undesirable characteristics, people choose to project toward your body. You grow accustomed to hearing rude comments. Even, from the ones closest to you. For example, my Mother making snide comments like, “If you ever want to find a boyfriend you’re going to have to slim down.” Making me feel as though my body in its natural state was irredeemably unlovable.
The seeds of self-hatred had been planted.
“A Reflection of the Disappointment”
I began to view myself as a failure too. As a reflection of the disappointment, I saw in those who always had critical things to say about my body.
I started thinking if I could only eat less. If I could only exercise more. Then I would be good enough. These thoughts became an obsession of mine, and I spent a lot of time fantasizing about my how the skinny person inside me would be living like a rock star when I finally lost the weight.
Over the years, being fat, held me back from trying a lot of new things. It always felt like I was on the outside looking in. My body appearing to me as the obstacle standing between me, and the life I longed for. I typically tried to fly under the radar. Seemingly paralyzed by the fear of bringing too much attention to myself. Not wanting to risk failing and being a seen as a laughingstock. Terrified that I might have to endure the pointing and laughing, along with the typical fat shaming slurs that always accompanied them. Things like “fat cow” and “Miss Piggy.”
I’m ashamed to say it, but the truth is, I’ve let my insecurities stand in the way of a lot of opportunities throughout my life. I always thought if I could lose X amount of weight, I would be less afraid of trying new things. Always putting things off until the scales revealed some magic number. The signal that I was now allowed to do all those things fats girls aren’t supposed to do.
During the summer before my Junior year of high school, I decided I was finally going to do it. I spent that whole summer counting every calorie and obsessively exercising. I lost around eighty pounds in four months. My plan seemed to work. I was getting more attention than I ever had. It was almost like up until that point I had been invisible to a lot of my peers. Boys that I’d crushed on were finally noticing me and not just my skinny, best friend. It was everything I’d imagined it would be.
A Vicious Cycle of Self-Hatred
I soon discovered being thin wasn’t all I had dreamt it to be. In all honesty, I found the obsessive thoughts and utter terror of gaining a single pound tiresome. I spent the next couple of years compulsively counting calories and reps. While deep down, knowing full well, I couldn’t keep this up forever. It was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. A vicious cycle developed, where I’d give in to my hunger and eat more than the 1000 calories I’d restricted myself to. Then I’d feel guilty for cheating my diet, and this would lead to self-punishing amounts of exercise.
The sad thing is people were encouraging this self-destructive behavior. Complimenting how nice I looked since I’d lost weight. They were finally accepting me. In the end, I felt as though I’d let them and myself down when I gained all of my weight back. The truth is, I just allowed my body to revert to its natural state. My body’s blueprint calls for thick thighs, waist, and arms.
I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t repeat this cycle throughout my adult life. I’ve lost large amounts of weight in too small amounts of time, several more times since I was fifteen. God only knows what damage I may have done to this body. With the yo-yo dieting, as well as the damage caused by my struggle with my addiction to prescription pain killers. Which I’ve since come to realize that I used the pills to self-medicate. They helped numb the pain of my wounds and silence the echoes of all the hateful words that had been inflicted on my psyche. By those people who felt entitled to pass judgment on my body.
Life is a battle that I’m finally learning to love and appreciate fully, along with my body. Although, I won the battle against addiction. It is a disease that I continue to live with. I’m only beginning to understand how other peoples’ judgments of my body, steered me towards this path of self-destruction. One thing I’ve learned throughout the years is that I am a survivor and I will endure. I will no longer wait for this body to be a certain size to live and enjoy my life. I choose to live and experience life now.