Being Fat | a Timeline
We know there's something wrong with us from a young age. We watch our mom's and older siblings diet and exercise, and try so hard to fit into a body standard, that when we come of age, the comments begin so that we, too, can join the misery.
I was six years old, first grade, when I walked up to the lunch supervisor and handed her my cookie.
"I'm on a diet," I told her.
Her eyes widened. "Six year olds don't go on diets," she said, handing me back the cookie.
I took it, and ate it. I might have said something else, about needing to be thin, but I remember walking away from that conversation clear on one thing: six year olds didn't diet, but at some age, you do diet.
My mom was always on diets. Diets being that she constantly restricted herself. Weight Watchers, South Beach, Gluten-free, Blood Type Diet etc etc etc. She couldn't eat sweets. Couldn't eat too much. Couldn't do this. Couldn't do that. We lived in a country that claimed freedom, but I knew the truth.
We weren't free to do what we wanted with our bodies. Our bodies were confined to standards. Standards set by a scale created by a fatphobic, white man. Standards created by media. Standards of beauty that you could never really achieve because every time you reached the goal post, you realized it had actually moved further away from you.
A beauty marathon, but you never finish and you pay money each mile-marker. Oh, btw, you're getting older as you go.
In fourth grade, we all got on a scale at my friend's house. It was a sleepover. We did lots of things. We had runway shows, jumped on her trampoline, played MASH, talked about crushes.
And we got on her mom’s scale.
I refused at first, because I knew the truth. I even told them "I'm going to weigh a lot more than you, no I'm not doing it."
They tried to convince me, but I held firm.
They all got on the scale--60 lbs, 65 lbs, 59lbs, 71lbs...
They all looked at me.
I sighed and said "okay." I stepped on the digital scale, my insides twisting, my stomach dropping out, my throat closing up. The number climbed and settled at 91lbs.
I jumped off immediately "See," I said, voice cracking, "I told you."
My father's mother died in her sleep. She was fat, and the kindest person anyone had ever met. She was beloved. More than anyone else I have ever known. She had soft hands, made rugs with a crochet hook and little pieces of yarn, and her pies are my father's favorite he's ever had to this day.
She had a fire to her, that even at five years old I respected in a woman. She was the best cook and baker. When I ask anyone in my family how to make something, they often reminisce about her cooking.
She died in her late eighties, asleep in her bed. Beloved. The way we could all only dream of going. And the coroner's put on her death report 'death caused by obesity related problems.'
It broke my dad quietly, in a the way a rock might fly up and hit your windshield. You jerk back, then settle. It isn't until later, as the crack grows, you realize the damage it did.
It was little comments about eating too much. It was the one time he said my shirt looked too tight. It was when he told me I needed to run faster in soccer if I wanted to be better.
My dad is a really great father. He never demoralized me with intent. He never said anything directly, but I know he was terrified that we'd all die of 'obesity related problems.'
As a junior, I stood in my best friend's kitchen with our other two friends. They complained about how fat they were, hands on flat stomachs, sizes 0, 2, and 4 respectively.
I stayed quietly contemplating in the corner, wanting to shout, "IF YOU'RE FAT AND FAT IS THE WORST POSSIBLE THING FOR A JUNIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL TO BE THAN WHAT MUST YOU THINK OF ME AT A SIZE 12?!"
I must be a monster, I concluded.
I must be atrociously ugly, I thought.
If you think you're fat at a size 0, and fat is the worst thing you can be, I must be worth nothing. Worse than the worst thing.
I was always brave about telling guys I liked them. After all, I was a catch. I liked to say, "I'm very confident in who I am as a person, just not how I look as a person."
There were two distinct times I was rejected in college. Both times the boys said "I really like you as a friend, but I'm not interested in you that way." Which I was smart enough to know meant: I am not attracted to you because you are fat.
They were and ARE great guys, and I couldn't fault them for living in the same culture as me wherein fat girls were ugly and unhealthy and Not People You Thought Were Hot.
To one of them I actually said the words "You're mostly just interested in skinny, brunette hipster girls, huh?" And he said "Yeah, pretty much."
The guy I dated for two years in college took me home to meet his family.
We sat in the car on the way to a friend's graduation party, me wearing a sweatshirt in sweltering heat because it was the easiest thing to wear to hide myself.
He was quiet. He was not usually quiet.
"What?" I asked.
"Just tell me," I said.
"My mom asked why I was dating a fat girl."
I stopped eating for about two weeks while my mom was away in Japan.
When she came home, I told her about it and how I was trying to eat again but my stomach always hurt.
She took me to the doctor. I stepped on the scale. I hadn't lost any weight and so my doctor did not believe me that I hadn't eaten anything for two weeks.
She told me I needed to be more secure, that I had a stomach that most 30 year olds would be very happy with. I was seventeen at the time. She told me if I could just maintain that body, I would be really happy with it when I was 30.
When I started to crush on my now-husband I lost twenty pounds by eating very little and exercising a lot. It was the first time I had dropped below 200 lbs in almost four years.
He made an offhand comment, not meant to be hurtful, and said "I wish I could put your personality into ________'s (girlfriend at the time who he soon broke up with) body."
Side note: We are all assholes at points, so though some of you are damning him for this, just know that you've said shitty things too, and have people that forgive and love you.
My birth mom (I am adopted) told me that all the women in our family are chubby, and that none of us have ever been able to lose weight. Surprisingly, this gave me a bit of freedom.
I could now blame my genetics.
My family doctor always asks about my weight. "How are you doing with your weight?"
"Fine," I said shortly this last time, because I was over being asked about my weight.
She is thin. This doctor has always been thin.
"Some people just can't process carbs," she said. She twirled back and forth on her stool.
I stared at her. "Uh, huh," I said.
“You should stop eating carbs,” she said again, like I was dumb.
I have not been back since.
The trauma's we undergo are all different, and shape us each into the people we are. For me, these made me angry and sad and disgusted by my body.
I hated my body. Not trivial, passing hate. I loathed it. I told people constantly that I felt like the real me was hiding inside this fat, awful exterior that wasn't me.
I felt constantly like I needed to change. I used to stand in front of the mirror and stare at myself and say the words aloud "you are disgusting."
I was controlled by my toxic relationship with food. I found exercise draining instead of fun, because it was always about how many calories I burned or inches did I lose and NOT about enjoyment of movement. I was trapped inside my own body, inside my own self-hatred. I thought often about killing myself.
And then, my friend suggested I watch the documentary Embrace which talked about being body positive and learning how the media had shaped our diet culture and our hatred for ourselves.
For the FIRST time in my life, someone gave me permission to love myself as I was. No guilt attached. No apologies over my size. No stipulations that said I could embrace my body, but also that I needed to change X, Y, and Z. I did not have to prove to the world that I wasn't lazy. I did not have to prove to everyone that I tried to lose weight by restricting my food and exercise taking up all my time.
I was liberated.
There are days, a lot of them, that I do not love my body. I have lived too long in a world that is offended by my body to love it all the time. But I have been liberated from the oppression of hating it. I have been liberated from feeling like I have to invest all my time and energy into changing it. I have been liberated from the guilt of squeezing into airplane seats and being the largest person in my yoga class.
I do not always love my body, but I am free in it. And that is the point.