When I was really young, I didn’t think about weight or my body at all. I was a picky eater, but that was based on an advanced palate, not a desire to control my weight. I also wasn’t overweight as a young child.
As the elementary years ticked by, I became more and more aware of how much more and more of me there was. By early middle school, I started daydreaming that the body I was living in wasn’t actually mine. I was wearing a fat suit.
In my fantasy, I would take the fat suit off in front of the kids at my school, and they would all feel bad for the things they thought or said about me because of my weight.
Wouldn’t that be a surprise?
I don’t honestly remember actively being made fun of, so I can only imagine that I got my feelings hurt when people made fun of other fat kids or used “fat” as a word to mean stupid.
Maybe I felt bad because I never stood up for a fat kid who was being bullied, too afraid I would be exposed as being fat, too.
More than likely, I really just wanted the legitimate option to stand in front of a mirror, unzip my fat suit, and make my own psyche feel bad for all the mean things I had thought about myself.
Growing up, I never talked about my weight. I imagine I thought if I never verbally acknowledged it, and no one else did either, then maybe it wasn’t really there. Or people didn’t see it. Maybe I hid it well.
I didn’t look at myself in the mirror often, and I didn’t “feel fat”, at least not that I actively recall. I didn’t know how to feel anything different from what I was.
I was active. I played soccer and was on the jump rope team.
Yes, the jump rope team. The Razzle Dazzle Ropers. We even went to Colorado from Oklahoma for a jump-roping competition.
But, no matter how active I was, I still carried around more weight than my frame was designed to carry.
In sixth grade, I lied and told a girl that I didn’t have stretch marks.
I was fat and already had boobs. Both of which cause stretch marks, at least on me.
Amy, who was an acquaintance-friend, called me and told me she had stretch marks and asked if that was normal.
She was thinner than me.
I felt trapped. If I answered honestly, I would be admitting I was fat. If I lied, I would leave her feeling like something might be wrong with her.
Sixth-grade me chose saving myself over the discomfort of honesty. I said I didn’t have any and didn’t know if it was normal.
This was the beautiful beginning of true transparency and my stint as an after-school hotline for girls with questions….
When my mom found out what I’d told her, she wanted me to call her back and set the record straight. I never did. Kids can be so cruel.
In my mid-twenties, I contemplated going to Weight Watchers. I’d never been a fan of diets. Sure, I’d eaten cabbage soup for a few days and tried a couple of other half-hearted ideas but never a full-fledged “program diet”.
In 2008, I officially joined Weight Watchers. A thin girl in my office was a card-carrying member and credited them for her weight loss success.
I decided to give it a try but resisted showing up in person for meetings for months. I didn’t want to be part of the Fat Girl Club.
News flash: you don’t have to apply for membership to the Fat Girl Club. Being overweight makes you an automatic member, whether you attend meetings or not.
A friend-in-the-weight-loss-fold once told me that she didn’t want people to know she had a problem. Then, she realized that weight isn’t something you can hide, like alcohol or drugs. The effects of “the problem”, the weight, are carried on the outside of your body for all the world to see.
That blew my childhood theory of “not talking about it means no one sees it” right out of the water. I guess my friends and classmates had just been nice enough not to point it out to me directly.
My husband, Judah, is one of those people who can eat anything and still lose weight or at least maintain a sleek physique.
Chocolate cake is heavy. And dense. He loses calories cutting it, getting it to his mouth, chewing it, swallowing it, digesting it, eliminating it. Such hard work. So many calories burned. His body doesn’t even have to count those calories.
My equivalent would be eating carrots. I don’t have to count all of those calories, but they also don’t taste quite as good.
I actually had a doctor tell me once that carrots are high on the glycemic index. As if eating too many carrots was the cause of my weight problem.
I cried in her office. She suggested counseling.
Early in our marriage, Judah and I wanted everything to be the same. Equal. He wanted us to eat the same amount, the same food. If he wanted ice cream and I didn’t, he wouldn’t eat it.
I should note here that he has a twin sister. I grew up in a house where it was important for the kids to be treated “the same”, but I think it’s an even bigger deal between twins.
Often, I felt stuck in this “equal” dynamic. I would feel bad when Judah didn’t eat something he wanted and decide to eat whatever it was just so he could have what he wanted.
My body registered it. His didn’t.
Now, if I had wanted some carrots and he didn’t, I could go ahead and eat the carrots.
I guess not all food fairness is created equal.
The fact of the matter is, he has more muscles and less fat. And, he’s a boy. And, he has different genes than I do. And, he needs more calories in a day than I do.
And. And. And. And. And.
And, comparison is the root of all evil.
It makes no sense for us to eat the exact same everything. My well-worn response became, “If I eat what you eat, I’ll become the size of a beached whale.”
In 2001, there was a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit. She is later revealed as the thin beauty she is.
Something like that. I never saw it.
Let the record show, it was my idea first.
Had I seen the movie, it might have made me cry.
Or made me angry.
Lots of people got mad and made a fuss. Something about putting a fat suit on a thin girl.
Why not let a fat girl play the role?
Hmmm. You know, maybe she never actually did reveal herself as the “thin beauty” in the movie. Maybe it was only when she, herself, got out of costume that the kerfuffle ensued.
Regardless, it was close enough to my daydream to trigger the hurt.
I never did get to step out of my fat suit. I can’t reach the zipper. And no one else seems to see it.