I am fat. I have no illusions about this fact. And yes, you nay-sayers who actually know me, it is a fact. I am fat. I have been for a very long time. But the point is, I don’t feel bad about it.
I was always in the higher percentile for my age group when it came to weight, even as a small child, but my parents and my doctor never worried about it much. I was healthy for a child of my generation, even with my sweet tooth the size of Montana. I grew up on a farm, where there was much running and playing and climbing trees. I had a slight pudge of a belly (which I have never been able to get rid of to this day, no matter what numbers stare back at me from the scale). But I was healthy, active, and fairly happy.
It wasn’t until I started wearing a bra before any of the other girls that body image ever even entered my mind. While my social development was severely hindered by several factors, my physical development met no such obstacles. And when you’re the lone weird kid, that ain’t a good thing. That’s when I started to pack on the pounds. I’m not entirely sure how it happened; maybe stress. Being in middle school is no picnic for anyone. Maybe diet. My mother was finishing up college and doing her student teaching about that time, so there were many a night of pre-packaged meals without a vegetable in sight. Maybe it was some subconscious way to even out the rest of my body with my new breasts. Maybe it was just life.
Don’t get me wrong; I was by no means fat in junior high, or high school, or even the first couple of years of college. I was a little chubby, or overweight if you will. But even though no one ever outright called me fat (that I remember, anyway), it always felt like they were thinking it. Because I was thinking it.
My freshman year of college, I lost fifteen pounds instead of the usual gain. I was 160 lbs., in a size 12 jeans and a 36 DD bra. I thought I looked fantastic, but I had never been sicker in my life. My immune system went to crap, overworking itself to adjust to the sudden weight loss and the new environment. This was the time when both my iron-deficiency anemia and anxiety disorder reared their ugly heads. I had to have my tonsils out over Thanksgiving because I’d had tonsillitis five times that semester. I had at least two upper respiratory infections and a sinus infection or two during the spring. With all the antibiotics I’d been on, I developed an allergy to a Z-pac which resulted in my first ever EKG.
I might have looked good at 160 lbs., but it clearly wasn’t worth it.
After that, my weight steadily climbed into the 170s, which were much more tolerable for my body. Then into the 180s, which were still not too bad if technically overweight for my height. And then there was the college boyfriend, and the inevitable shattered heart that followed him.
That was when I discovered food as a friend. And through our friendship, I hit 210lbs. by the end of my senior year. Some friend food is.
It is an ever losing game, this yo-yoing with the scale. I would drop the weight, start getting sick as my anemia cropped back up, and put on the weight again. I would focus on eating healthy, lose the weight, and then get too busy with life to pay such close attention to what I ate, and put it back on. I found out my mother is diabetic, and determined to lose the weight for my own health, only to discover I am hypoglycemic and wasn’t eating frequently enough. When I went gluten free, I dropped a good ten or fifteen pounds just from the diet change, but then rediscovered my mountainous sweet tooth with specialty products and gluten free bakeries. I’d had my thyroid checked. I’d tried every reasonable weight loss plan or philosophy I came across (and “reasonable” ones are few and far between, in this world of super-fruit diets and juice fasts). I’d read every conflicting piece of information out there, trying not to pull my hair out in the process.
And all that time, I’d get on that scale and cringe until it would show me my worth in inverted proportion to the numbers that flashed up on the screen.
We live in a society where thin is in. Clothes are designed for models with sickly frames who then have their every flaw airbrushed from view. Girls are taught from an early age that the size of their dress is more important than their health. Young ladies scour the internet for advice on how to starve themselves. You can’t turn on the television or listen to the radio without hearing about some new pill that will melt the pounds in rapid time. You can’t stand among a group of women without overhearing someone with a gorgeous body mention the weight they need to drop, or how “fat” they are.
It makes me sick.
I have never had any illusions that I would one day be a size 4; I would be glad to get back to a 14 and stay there. I have always been stocky and broad of shoulder and wide of hip. I have curves, and I am proud of them. When I started dancing, I realized that beauty is whatever you make of it. I got to know my body and appreciate it. But it’s taken a long time—until very recently—for me to realize that the numbers on that tiny screen don’t have anything to do with who I am or even how healthy I am.
These days, the scale usually says something around 200 lbs. And I have never been this healthy. I take two or more hours of dance and yoga four days a week. I practice at home and do dance meditation at least once or twice a week on top of that. I am physically stronger than I have ever been, and have better stamina than I can ever remember. My hypoglycemia and anemia are in check. I listen to my body, giving it what it asks for. Sometimes that’s a lot of protein and veggies; sometimes it’s grilled cheese sandwiches on gluten free toast. Sometimes it’s ice cream.
And I leave the scale tucked away in the cabinet, only pulling it out every few weeks to keep an eye on things. I try not to obsess when the number goes up a little, nor do I let myself rejoice when it goes down. Those numbers don’t need to be that important to me. It’s a process, one that I still haven’t quite mastered, but I’m getting there.
And yet I still find myself surrounded by women—beautiful, strong, intelligent women—who buy into that cultural bullshit, who hate their upper arms or stomach, who downgrade their own beauty with self-deprecating comments about their weight. And I want to take them by the shoulders and scream in their faces.
“If you’re fat, what does that make me?”
I read this post on Hello Giggles a while back, and it got to me to thinking. Why is fat such a bad thing? If I’m happy, and I’m healthy, what does it matter? And I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter one bit.
Am I perfectly happy with ever little part of my body? Not really. Would I like to weigh less? A little. But I am what I am, all two hundred pounds of me. I’m fat. And I’m okay with that.