So my other posts have touched on this, but before I can get into the nitty-gritty of my internal debates, I need to give a little background into my history of being a fat person.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always been a fat kid. I knew it from the get-go too. I read articles sometimes in which the author explains that they didn’t know being described as fat was bad until they were told it was supposed to be offensive. I never had that. I always knew being fat was “bad”, so to speak, I just never let that get in my way.
I remember once in 4th grade, I felt disgusted with myself because of my size. The girls in class, on the way out to recess, were talking about how much they weighed. Each of them was under 100 lbs and they made sure that that was known. My heart sunk because earlier that week I was weighed at the doctor and I was 140 lbs. At age 10. I didn’t mention that to the girls, I simply sulked quietly behind them, out to recess where I would eventually forget about it. It was around this time that my mother was starting to become increasingly concerned. I started seeing a dietitian, which did not help at all. I just wanted to be a normal kid who didn’t have to worry about monitoring her eating at every meal.
I remember in 7th grade having to shop at full-grown women’s stores, sometimes in the plus size section rather than the teen-style stores most of my friends were shopping at. I had to make do with the trends for adult women on my newly adolescent body. I did not enjoy that. I did what I could with accessories, but it wasn’t the same. It was at this time that I was becoming the token fat friend. That fattest of the group. The one that went shopping with you and sat in the change rooms and told you how good you looked in the clothes you picked because I couldn’t fit anything in those stores.
High school uniforms were fun…. Please note the sarcastic tone. Only the men’s sizes fit, and even then they weren’t comfortable. High school was a bad time. It was incredibly lonely. I had friends, and they were great, for the most part. But I was still the fattest in the school, which, I might add, had 1200 students. And, as it turns out, teenage boys aren’t at all interested in dating the fattest girl in the school. I was sad, watching my friends experiment in relationships, and have all of these first experiences, while I sat on the sidelines and watched with my popcorn. But I had my friends, and I was able to push the loneliness aside most of the time. However, this is where the binging started. Those nights that I was not able to push aside the lowliness, I filled my body with grocery bags of junk food. Bags of cookies, tubs of ice cream, bags of chips, crackers, chocolate bars, popcorn, fast food, the works. As my brain flooded with dopamine from the carbohydrates entering my body, the loneliness would go away for a moment. It would numb the feelings away. Of course, immediately following stuffing myself until I didn’t want to move, I felt immensely guilty. I knew I was just adding to my problems. But I didn’t stop. This was how I learned to soothe myself. This is how I started to blow up. I tried weight watchers but that didn’t help. I didn’t address the real problems I was having. It was a band-aid fix for a much bigger wound.
I continued to grow outward far after I ceased growing upward. I had family problems in my senior year of high school. I was depressed, binging regularly, skipping classes, barely pulling through. I wanted out. I got accepted to a university 3000 km away from my problems and I jumped on that opportunity to escape. Turns out your problems follow you even if you move across the country. So I was on my own for the first time in a city I had never been to before that point, with no family or friends in reach with mental health that was far from functioning. Looking back, it was a perfect storm. I ate and ate and ate. I gained 50 lbs or more in the eight months I was away for school. I made friends, of course, got drunk for the first time, had my first kiss, even had a boy tell be he liked me for the first time (he had never liked a girl for just her personality before and seemed very conflicted about his feelings for me). But rarely went to classes. I would be ready to leave my dorm to attend my first class of the day, reach for the door handle and stop, turn around, completely undress and go back to watching t.v, browsing the internet, and eating. Sometimes I would even pretend I wasn’t in my dorm when my friends wanted to get lunch or something. I just wasn’t up to it a lot of the time. I came home in the spring after exams and shortly thereafter got a letter telling me I had flunked out. They told me to take a year off and reapply the following fall. I was devastated. School was my thing. I didn’t have anything else going for me because I was fat, so my intelligence was my everything. Now I know this all sounds negative and terrible, but I was to note: I would never change my decision to move away. I grew so much in that year away and had was significant in shaping who I am today. I had a great time, had the real “college experience.” I don’t regret it a single bit.
I enrolled at community college and continued to grow in size. I got a job as a housekeeper at a local hotel, where my manager felt the need to tell me that the other, more senior maids, upon seeing me walk into my interview, felt that I wouldn’t be able to perform for the job. Luckily for me, my manager was an obese woman herself and vouched for me. That was my first real experience with fat discrimination. I may or may not have been discriminated against for jobs after that, but not that I’ve noticed and certainly not as outright as that. My binging continued along with the family problems and it was getting out of hand. But I didn’t know at this point that my binging was an eating disorder.
Fast forward a couple years and I’m in my second year of university in town. I’m not doing great in school, but I manage. I finally got referred to an eating disorder clinic and worked hard at getting my binging under control, and I did. It’s a struggle to this day and there have certainly been relapses, but it’s working. I started walking. I walked every day for eight months. But all of that combined made little to no difference to my weight. I was getting desperate at this point. I was tired of being the fat girl. I couldn’t fit in lecture hall seats, I couldn’t go upstairs without being out of breath, I had been online dating for two years with no interest aside from men wanting casual hookups with the fat girl that likely has low self-esteem and will take anything that comes her way. That was never the case with me. I was willing to wait forever for the person who was good for me. I was finally becoming comfortable in the idea of being single forever. I was okay with it. But I was not okay with being fat forever.
I decided to enlist to get gastric bypass surgery. I did everything they told me to do. I went on a shake program for three weeks before the surgery was scheduled and lo and behold! I was able to lose weight. I lost 30 lbs in those three weeks. In that time I grappled with the decision I was about to make: to alter my body permanently, without proof of success, in the name of weight-loss. I couldn’t do it. I dropped out of the program, never to hear from them again. I continued on the shake programs. Three months of 800 calories a day. My mom joined me, wanting to lose the weight she gained when she quit smoking. So we did it together, and it worked. I lost 70 or 80 lbs in that first three months. I had just finished the shakes at the end of the summer, arriving in my third year at university like a new person. I was getting compliments left and right about the weight I had lost, how good I looked. I felt amazing. But it also did not feel like it was enough. I wanted to lose more and knew I would. It was around this time that I met my first boyfriend. After three years of wading through online profiles, I finally found someone who loved me as I am, at the weight I was at. It didn’t bother me that I had found someone after I had lost weight. I was still fat in my eyes and I was still grateful someone else was able to appreciate my body, even if I couldn’t see why.
I decided to do a second round of shakes. I gained some weight back after I met my boyfriend and I was worried that I wasn’t going to get to my goal. He is a large man too and decided that we would do the program together. Another 50 lbs down. It was the first time in my life that my weight wasn’t steadily increasing. I was the lightest I had been since middle school, about 10 years ago. I was happier than I had ever been. That was over a year ago now and I am now 70 lbs heavier. Again.
So now I’m considering going on the shakes again, but between the time that I did the shakes last and now, I have discovered fat activism and body positivity and it has completely thrown off my entire worldview and now I don’t know what to do.