Saturday, March 7, 2020

Self-love and Being Fat

I have been fat all of my life.

I have internalized it, hated it, fought with it the entire time. Every year, for years, my New Year's Resolution was to lose weight.

I tried diets from Weight Watchers when I was ten years old to different ones when I was older: cutting out meat, depriving myself of bread and sweets only to pig out in them a month or two later when I couldn't stand it anymore. I've gone to nutritionists and health classes over and over again. I've tried fruits and vegetables that I didn't like, tried healthy foods over and over again. I learned to cook in hopes of cooking healthy food.

I look back at my child self and I see someone round and big and fat surrounded by skinny-legged peers, by people who are points and angles when I am a mammoth. I see myself as someone tall, towering over the rest and never quite fitting in.

(It all comes back to that one issue, doesn't it? I know who I am and I refused to bend so I cried until I started biting myself because that was the only way to make it quiet. I have always walked to the beat of my own drum and it is so, so hard to see it for the blessing it is and to appreciate my sense of self as always a little off.)

My mom says I was never that much overweight. Ten pounds, maybe twenty. Round, fluffy, soft. I say it was fifty, one hundred, one-fifty, because I remember being fifty pounds away from my goal weight in Weight Watchers. Except, no - memory has twisted it. I was fifteen pounds away from my goal weight when we stopped; I only ever had fifty to lose. I try to look at myself like a stranger, take away my biases.

If it was someone who is not me, I would not be this cruel to myself. I would see that I was adorable, that I was fluffy moreso than fat, that chubby isn't that bad as long as I'm healthy.

I was a chubby kid. I didn't have the double chin that I carry now, or a butt that I can feel the wrinkles on. I used to have no stretch marks, and then small ones. I started gaining some weight when I was 12, but it wasn't until high school that I really started ballooning. Looking at myself, as a child - I ate vegetables, I've always enjoyed them, and I was far more active than I am now even as a voracious reader and someone who chose the computer above almost everything else.

Now I stagnate. I try brief attempts - a week, two, a month - at weight loss with diet and excersize and always fall back into old habits. Ice cream, chocolate; the absolute food explosion that comes at the end of the year starting in October and not ending until early January, spiking up around Valentine's Day and Easter once more.

But I was so different from my peers. Everyone was skinnier than me; I was the one fat kid in the ocean of 'average'. Even the rounder, softer people I knew didn't make me feel less fat, and there were times when I couldn't stand looking at myself in group pictures, even ones for my favorite birthdays.

I still can't stand looking at myself in group pictures. But sometimes I get dress up and I practice poses and I take selfies. Here, there - I can see the double chin, the wideness, the roundness, but I can also see my enchanting eyes and my gorgeous hair and the so-much-of-me that is beautiful.

Beautiful despite being fat. Beautiful, unattached to any other word, but conditioned to believe that the beauty is hiding away if I could just lose the weight.

And that fear, that horrible fear as if I am standing in a spotlight and the whole world is staring at me: even when I am ten, fifteen, twenty pounds overweight, I will still be considered fat. I will still be too-round and too-big. I will be a mammoth amongst people who are normal, average, whatever else. That even being healthy - because being slightly overweight is not bad - I will still stand out.

Because chances are I will always be a little bit chubby. Chances are I will always be soft and round and carry fat. It's the story of my family - overweight, fat, and even the skinnier ones aren't pencil-thin and pointed elbows. That's okay. Sturdiness is good, too, and when it's sturdiness built out of muscle and health then that's especially good.

But I had it pounded into me, as year after year I set goals to lose weight. As kids said "your new year's resolution isn't going so well, huh?" and "guess you'll just be fat forever" and "you're too fat to do this". As I watched other kids being able to be lifted by friends, screaming and squealing; as I took dance classes and ended up, in high school, not being able to do the same jumps as others; as I panicked at a group trust fall that I wouldn't be able to be caught despite the fact there were ten people gathered around to catch me, and adults that said, yes, it is fine; as being out of shape and being fat became one and the same so that as long as I perceive myself as fat I will never be capable.

In my worst moments, I have wished for an eating disorder. Anorexia, bulimia - anything. I have attempted and failed to make myself throw up food because it's all just calories. I have gone full days without eating and lamented my lack of willpower when I finally gave in.

Being fat has become as much a part of me as being a writer, in some ways. Even when I lose weight I will still see myself as fat, still see myself with a double-chin, a triple-chin, a turkey gobbler; still see my butt as too big, something that is too obvious and ill-placed, as bigger than it is in reality; still see my thighs as having too much fat.

So in the end, love has to come when I am fat. I have to love myself for who I am with a round belly and too many places that jiggle and that cursed double-chin. I have to find ways to say "I am beautiful" and then say "I am beautiful and fat, and I am beautiful RIGHT NOW. Not in spite of or because of or for being fat, but as two things that co-exist." I have to recognize my inner beauty AND my outer beauty and refuse to allow myself to hate myself for being fat.

Because if I hate myself, I punish myself. And if I punish myself, I stay fat.

And more than that - I have to learn to lose weight for health. Because if I lose weight to be pretty or to fit in then I will lose weight until I am underweight and unhealthy and have a very different but no less dangerous problem. I have to learn when my body is content, when my body is okay, when my organs aren't choked by fat deposits even if I still have a little bit extra.

I have to love myself. And I have to love myself as I am, as I have been, and as I will be.

Because as every fat person knows: the shame people place upon you does not help. It breaks you. It hurts you. It causes anorexia and bulimia where you don't actually lose weight because your body is made a certain way, and if you don't eat healthily and take care of yourself you cannot be healthy, you cannot lose weight.


Loving myself.

I will find it, someday. And whether I am fat or thin, I will love myself through it.

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