I'm 37 years old and I'm obese. I prefer fat, I have heard that word so often in various taunting ways. Family to strangers and everyone else in between who thinks they deserve an opinion on me and my body. I decided years ago I would take back the power of that word, I AM FAT and while I don't wear the description proudly, I will damn well make sure it's not used against me.
I get to make people uncomfortable by making fat jokes while they sit there unsure if they should laugh, because if someone’s going to make fat jokes then they are at least going to be good.
I started to put on weight during puberty around 11ish. I was never a girly girl but now I was stuck in t-shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants. I pretended not to care but I would have loved to dress cute. I wish we had had a school uniform. It would have made things easier but nope it was different sweats every day followed by constant teasing and taunting. I became a smart mouth back talker, no one was gonna get the best of me. Although thinking back on it this is probably when my depression started, but would go undiagnosed until I was 16.
My teacher was obsessed with sports and class games. Everyone hated having me on their teams and were not shy about letting me know. My mother allowed me to skip sports days and cross country days(the last one I ran was horrible, I still had not finished when the next class started, ran and finished). My teacher threatened to come and drag me out of bed and make me do it in my pyjamas. Or if I misbehaved in class then everyone had to miss out on class games, oh yeah they loved me for that. Maybe my interests were against me. I liked nothing more than curling up with a good book or doing some writing. I will admit to hating most sports games, I have never played softball or Indian tag since intermediate or done high jump. Any fun in those games was ruined by my bullying teacher, I much prefer swimming or volleyball but I was more of a loner and there were no teams for these.
I didn't have many friends. I always felt different from my classmates and once all the teasing became regular I put up walls that have rarely come down since, for some reason. I'm not the type to encourage friendship, I always thought there was something wrong with me, like with every additional pound of fat I became more unworthy.
I thought high school would be my time to shine - different school, different people and I wasn't the only fat person in my class. My uniform skirt had to be specially made but at least it wasn't sweatpants. At night before every new term started I would try on my uniform skirt to check it still fit, terrified it wouldn't. One night in 5th form/year 11, it didn't. I cried myself to sleep wondering what I was going to do in the morning. I guess someone out there heard my prayers because it did fit. As always I made the same vow to lose weight, to try to be like the skinny popular girls in my class. I thought about throwing up my food but I could never bring myself to do it. I had started to carve my arms with razor blades to feel control. I hated myself and what I was becoming but food was my comfort and I didn't know how to stop. My parents were divorced by this point. My mother couldn't help herself, let alone her daughter. My father only wanted reassurance that he was a good father, forgetting all the verbal, physical and emotional abuse he had subjected his family to.
I had friends in high school, we had fun and I tried to pretend I was normal, like them. I hid the effects being fat caused. Sure I prefer walking behind all you guys, I like to slowly amble and daydream anyway. “Nah let's catch the bus to the movies, way more fun than squishing in someone's car”. I like to walk the long way round to the tennis courts, instead of trying to squeeze through the locked gates and maybe getting stuck.
I began to always arrive early for school so when I met up with my friends I wasn't sweating and out of breath, especially as my year 10 homeroom was upstairs. “Climb the stairs before everyone else, so no one will hear you catching your breath. If possible choose your desk in the classroom so you don't have to squeeze by anyone and risk looking like you're stuck”. Although ironically I trade anything to go back to my high school weight when I thought I was too fat.
P.E. was brutal, twice a week compulsory exercise. No one wanted me on their teams. I was too ashamed to change in front of the other girls so they couldn't see my pasty stretch-marked skin. I pulled my back muscle pretty bad so I had to have physio and that got me out of P.E .for months. Then I still had to endure the "pep talks" from the teacher that are meant to be comforting and inspiring but are just embarrassing - "I was just like you, I hated to run around, I was ashamed about how I looked". Up until that point though I was just embarrassed about being fat I didn't know I was supposed to be ashamed too.
My classmates asked me if I was pregnant if I was carrying babies in each leg cause my thighs were huge. Boys would poke my breasts and ask if they would pop. They would "accidentally" grope me. One boy I thought was my friend, would hug me but then he admitted he was just feeling my ass to see if I would notice. I had never noticed but I became the butt of the joke.
Once a boy came up and said his friend liked me, his friend was overweight but was a nice guy and pretty funny. People found out he was going to ask me out and they teased him for it. They said we would be perfect together and we could have fat kids and be a fat family, he never did ask me out.
High school can be a cruel place.
So here I am, a fat 37 years old trying to undo years and years of damage.
Maybe you're on your journey, your fight for fat freedom or you just understand the feelings of being judged for not fitting an ideal.
I want to write this blog, however embarrassing it may be, because, for years, I felt no one understood what it was like, or if they did they were afraid to speak up. But now we don't need to be afraid anymore.