In the past year or so I have lost a grown-ass adult worth of weight after a lifetime of being fat. Yes, lifetime. I was born into a fatass family and I don’t have a single picture of myself over the age of one where I am not a roly poly chubkins. At 14 years old I was officially diagnosed as “obese” by doctors and that fucked me up mentally. I looked just like every other fat person, so I never saw myself as “obese”. In my mind I was just “regular” fat not “obese” fat.
I didn’t have problems running or participating in physical activity. I was a cheerleader for a few years when I was around eight years old, and I could do splits, backbends, and cartwheels when my skinnier counterparts couldn’t. I actually loved playing sports in middle school, and flag football was my favorite. As I became a teenager, I was complimented with “You have such a pretty face.” and “You carry yourself well for a fat girl.” by those of the dick-swinging persuasion. Basically, I didn’t “act like a fat person” as people would tell me as I was growing up.
The problem with being a fat kid that liked being active is that it is assumed that you are going to be bad at whatever the activity is because you’re fat. So, even thought I stole the most flags on the field when I was allowed to play, I was always picked last by the kids and was the one benched by the coaches when there was an odd number of players. Even though I was the only one on the cheerleading team who could cartwheel into a split, I was instructed to teach a skinnier girl to do it so she could be the center focus during the final pyramid at competition. (I was placed as one of two “basees” of the pyramid.)
As I grew up, I internalized the words people would say to me. Maybe I WAS too fat to play sports. Maybe I WAS too fat to be in the school play. Maybe I WAS too fat to go out on dates. If EVERY person I encountered thought I was too fat to do pretty much anything, how could EVERY person be wrong? It was me. I was the common denominator. I was the problem. Eventually, I stopped trying to participate. It was easier to be the fat girl just being fat on the sidelines than it was to be the unwanted fat girl being forced onto the others by authority figures.
I have been on some sort of diet and/or exercise regime for the majority of my life. A doctor made me start keeping a food journal at 9 years old to make sure I wasn’t eating more than 1500 calories a day. That went on for a few years. My mom would make me run laps around the house every day. At 13 years old I stopped eating altogether. I had seen on some talk show about anorexia that you could fool people into thinking you were eating by cutting up your food into tiny pieces and pushing it around your plate. If anyone says anything about you not taking a bite, the pieces are small enough to chew in front of them and spit into a napkin when you wipe your mouth without them noticing. My family didn’t notice for over a year until I wound up in the emergency room because I fainted in a grocery store. I had to tell the nurse what I had eaten that day. Nothing. My mom found out that her fatass daughter was trying to lose weight by not eating and I found out what dehydration was like. That’s why I fainted. More doctors appointments were booked as soon as I was discharged. I wondered what was wrong with me. It seemed that no matter what I tried, I was just… fat.
The poorly executed anorexia attempt didn’t help me lose weight, by the way. I lost maybe 10 lbs. by the time it was all said and done. In hindsight, it wasn’t worth it.
Test time came over the following weeks. I was made to pee in cups and was poked, prodded, and swabbed in every way imaginable. Every panel and test came back perfectly fine. I was healthy, but obese. Along with the “obese diagnosis”, I received the wonderful news that genetics was the primary contributor to my fatness. Diet and exercise would not be enough and he suggested gastric surgery. What the hell is a teenager who just failed at becoming anorexic supposed to do with that information?
You give up, that’s what. You say fuck it and teach yourself how to emotionally eat. You’re already “obese”, what does any of it even matter anymore? You alternate between gaining weight from the emotional eating and losing the weight you just gained through starvation. You achieve the weight you were before the pendulum started swinging and are unable to make the scale number go any lower no matter how many meals you skip or hours you spend on the treadmill. You then say fuck it and start eating again. This is the cycle that has been my entire life. It’s viscous and it consumes your thoughts every time you bring anything besides genitals to you lips.
There is a ridiculous emphasis on the correlation between what number is on the scale and how attractive you are by societal standards. This thought process is so prevalent and accepted by the general populace that just saying the word “fat” is supposed to illicit negativity and hurt from the person to whom the word was uttered. The word has transformed from a factual adjective to a tool used to tear down another human. How did that happen? No one gets upset if someone tells you your hair is black, your eyes are brown, or your ears are attached to your head, but being told you are fat is supposed to imply that you are somehow lesser. In my experience, whenever there is conflict, calling me fat is the very first thing that is said in an attempt to strike a blow to my psyche. Luckily, I have no emotions so I really don’t care, but the fact that it is literally the initial thought by every single stranger I have ever argued with, without regard to the actual subject of concern, gives you some idea as to how real and ingrained this bias is.
Eventually you figure out that nothing you do or say will ever matter to others because you’re fat. You grow a thick skin to go with your thick ass. You learn to point out your flaws first before anyone can think of a way to try to use your appearance against you. You become the funny one. You don’t trust compliments because you think they’re just being nice to the fat girl. You get sad. You shut off your emotions so you’re not sad anymore. You stop caring. You withdraw by varying degrees. You find solace in solitude. Eventually, there comes a time when nothing anyone else says, positive or negative, phases you anymore.
Even after all that, I still found myself watching the scale for any movement on a daily basis. The difference now was that I no longer swung with the pendulum for the approval of others. The fat=bad societal view was so deeply rooted in me that I held myself to these standards without prompting. People calling me fat whenever we had a disagreement no longer affected me, but those three digits underneath my feet did. Every moment was a struggle with my emotions, my cravings, my self-image, my thoughts, and my desire to stop fighting (with all that insinuates). I realize that these thoughts are contradictory. That’s part of the struggle. You have enough self-respect to not care about the opinions of strangers, enough empathy to embrace others for who they are and see the beauty in them, but not enough of either to apply these lessons yourself.
Something has to give.
I started therapy (for many reasons, of which my weight was one). I was prescribed meds. I consciously changed how I interreacted with people. I changed jobs. I changed how I ate. I exercised more consistently and regularly. I did all the things to start the journey to fixing myself. I was changing mentally but physically I was the same old me, the fatass. I thought back more frequently to that day in the doctor’s office as a teenager when gastric surgery was suggested as my only option. I thought back to the years of “second opinions”, blood panels, Orlistat, food journals, gym memberships, and self-flagellation. I was tired of fighting. I finally decided to give in to the doctors.
In October of 2020 I had gastric surgery. It was a year long journey, that I’ll go into some other time, but sufficed to say it was the only weight loss thing I’ve ever tried that worked for me. Here I am five months later and I’m still not sure how I feel about my decision.
On one hand, I lost a metric shit-ton of lbs. and am on my way to finally getting to experience what it’s like to not be a fatass for the first time in my life. On the other hand, there’s a part of me that feels guilty about giving in to the notion of being socially acceptable. I didn’t “need” the surgery. I am perfectly healthy, all things considered. I don’t have a family history that was of concern for my future health. It was purely a choice based in vanity. In my mind, I succumbed. Being a fatass was almost a “fuck you” to anyone who dared lay eyes upon me. My fatassedness was telling those who were uncomfortable with my existence that their opinions were shit. At the end of the day, I still chose surgery, I’m currently three sizes down and 85 lbs. lighter since October and I still see a fatass when I look in the mirror. I don’t say that with positive or negative connotation. I can’t pinpoint an emotion to accurately describe any of this because it’s an amalgamation of all the emotions. Emotions I had suppressed for the majority of my life. It’s all just… different.
Now, my dramatic weight loss is pointed out in earnest by those who haven’t seen me in over a year. Well meaning kindnesses about how good I look and how thin my face and limbs have become. Words meant as encouragement but actually sting more than any insult. Words that subtly suggest that I was ugly before I lost weight. Words that shout silently from the shadows that my worth is measured by my physical attractiveness, and my physical attractiveness is solely based on how round my belly is.
So what is the point of writing all of this? Why bare this part of myself for strangers on the internet to read? I think the simplest answer is… awareness. Awareness of how fucked up our thinking in relation to the word fat is. Awareness of how idiotically predictable humans are in reaching for the lowest hanging fruit when expressing an opinion. Awareness of what we inherently teach our children about how they are to judge themselves and others. Awareness that every fat person has been told to eat a salad or get on a treadmill at least a million times in their lives and that doesn’t always work. Awareness that food is an addiction for some. The only addiction in which you must continue to indulge out of necessity, and there is no “cold turkey” or twelve step program for it. Awareness that genetics matter and opinions don’t. Awareness that you don’t have to be nice, just don’t be a dick. Awareness for myself.
There’s a lot about this life change that I am adjusting to and trying to figure out. I’m working through years of living one particular way and relearning how to just be at the same time. I lost a bunch of weight but I’m still a fatass. I’m learning to accept that no matter how many sizes I shrink or how much more weight I lose I will always be a fatass when I look in the mirror… and that’s ok.