No, I’m not fat-shaming myself. I am not referring to myself as fat in vain. Truthfully, I’m pretty uncomfortable using the word to describe anyone or anything. It’s become quite taboo. But, from a medical standpoint (albeit a somewhat extraneous one), I was once obese.
The first time I heard this word used to describe me was surprisingly not from the voice in my head that decidedly hates me and does not want me to be happy. I was in Kindergarten, probably just being five and minding my own business, and a set of twins in my class pointed it out to me. And I was. At the time, I was roughly a foot taller than most of my classmates, and I would be until I finally stopped growing in the sixth grade. As a rule, height comes with weight. Due to my awkward spurt of rapid growth, I was given the unfortunate role of taking up more space than everyone else in the room at any given time. Turns out this is pretty traumatic as a kid because everyone notices. It also just so happens that children tend to be very uncensored, so they make sure to tell you that you look weird, or in my case, fat. By the time I was twelve, I weighed in at roughly 150 pounds. Again, from a medical standpoint, I weighed in at ‘fat.’
Between neurotic late-night Google searching “WHY WHY WHY DID I GAIN SIX POUNDS IN TWO DAYS WILL IT EVER GO AWAY” and a general interest in weight-loss, I have read my fair share of other people’s experiences. Going into reading about people’s weight struggles, I suppose I’m essentially looking for something to relate to. Eventually, I sought out reading material more geared specifically toward women who had eating disorders. Thus, I found that most people who suffer from anorexia go from an average weight to underweight. This lead me to believe I was alone in my own experience; I was obese, and at my lowest, a few pounds shy of underweight. The fact is, this facilitates the idea that “fat people” can’t have eating disorders.
First and foremost, I’m going to point out that I did not reach obesity through “normal” eating habits. The first time I recognized my disordered eating, I was merely six years old. I became consciously aware that I ate “too much.” It was my first disordered thought followed by disordered behavior. I specifically remember reacting to this thought by eating. From that point on, I kept my emotions well-fed.
At 17, I weighed in at my highest. I had neglected to keep up with the number for a year or two at this point. I was in an incredibly unhealthy relationship, and my situation at home had become unbearable. I had a GPA of less than 1.0 and I was using a very wide range of drugs on a daily basis. All of the emotional turmoil was showing. This is the only time I can recall seeing the number on the scale as something more than a reflection of my appearance. I understand now that in my case, the number has always reflected much more than my appearance.
Now I’m 21, and I’m at my lowest weight. I’m about the size that I was in the fourth grade. It was an awkward transformation, almost like reverse puberty. It was a total shock to the system. My body desperately wants me to put on weight, while my metabolism is like, “NOPE!” Despite physically being my ten year old self, as a woman with a restrictive eating disorder, I am still “fat.” Now I’m just calling myself names. You can tell me how I’m not fat all you’d like, but this is the reality of the way people see things. Anorexia is synonymous with emaciation to an entire society of people, and I’ve (thankfully) never quite fit that standard.
Initially, this misconception was my defense. I didn’t need help because I wasn’t underweight, and I wasn’t going to get any help until I got there. Truthfully, I still fight this feeling every day. I stood in front of my mirror each morning, rapidly shrinking each couple of days, maybe a week. Inch by inch, my clothes hung from my shoulders like the hangers I took them from, growing wider. I picked up the fist-sized ball of hair on the floor every time I ran a brush through it. One, two, three brushes, and I couldn’t bear letting any more fall. I listened to my heart beat, faint and mostly undetectable without great concentration. Still, I wasn’t sick enough because the scale said so. I had been subscribing to the rules of the scale my whole life now. Through years of intense phases of bulimia, I never reached a weight below the high end of “average.” Therefore, I wasn’t sick enough.
Now I’m understanding that there’s no such thing as sick enough. I feel like a lot of people who are hesitant about treatment use this as a device, even if they are underweight, because of such an unrealistic perception of the body. Of course, someone whose organs are failing can’t see them failing, but they can see their shrunken self in the mirror the same as they looked when they were alive and healthy (otherwise known as “fat”). The thing that I struggle with is actually having been fat. The fear of gaining weight that characterizes disordered eating is that much more overwhelming when you know what it’s really like to be “pretty for a bigger girl.” I still see that person in the mirror. I am almost entirely incapable of seeing the difference in me now from a hundred pounds ago.
One of the first things my therapist told me when I sat down on her couch was, “You can sue me for millions if you get fat.” Yeah, it seems a little vain at first glance. But I think about it every day when I have momentary freak-outs about – you guessed it – being fat. I’m starting to think she means something more along the lines of, “You can sue me for millions if you spend the rest of your life thinking you’re fat.” Positive progress in terms of interpretation, right? Which, to me, is what the word “fat” needs in all respects – a new understanding.
This week began with a splendid Easter Sunday. I don’t remember the last time I had a Sunday off! I made a light and healthy brunch for the family. Now that Spring is upon us, I’m making better efforts to eat local. Pittsburgh isn’t exactly an agricultural hub, but it’s easier to source local food than I thought it would be! My plan is to quit the (corporate) grocery store from May 1st until roughly October as a means of shortening my food chain and becoming more strict about my food budget which has become not much of a budget at all! I picked up some pastured eggs and asparagus for the fritatta at the farmer’s market, while the potatoes were from Clarion River Organics which I received in my CSA along with the cheese. I juiced some oranges after not having OJ for months, and I probably drank half the pitcher! It was a simple and beautiful meal. I can’t believe I had never made a fritatta before. It turned out to be a crowd-pleaser, too. I was surprised considering my family is usually a little skeptical of what I’m eating. We have wildly different tastes and cooking styles.
Last weekend, Brandon went out for Record Store Day and picked us up some goodies. I finally went over to see what he had gotten, and I was pleasantly surprised. We added nearly 25 new records this week! He picked up lots of classics, some of our favorite new albums, and some exclusives. This is his official RSD haul with some Regina Spektor and Atmosphere especially for me!
Now I’m looking forward to finishing up building the deck my carpentry class is working on at Garfield Farms tomorrow. We’re having a pizza party, and there is no better combination than pizza and power tools.
I am still trying to find my “blogger voice,” I suppose, but I’m trying to be consistent and not be too worried about my writing being “good” or “bad” at the moment. I can’t tell whether I’m accomplishing anything with what I’m writing, but that’s okay for now. So if you made it to the end, thank you for reading!