This hasn’t been something I’ve talked about here because it’s something I still struggle to accept. Yes, I am fat.
In my teens, I was very slender – a size 4 or so at most. I got up to a 6 for a while, and then the summer before I turned 19, I worked at a Girl Scout summer camp and got down to a teen’s 3-4 again. I was hardbodied and muscular, and very proud of that body.
Well, the next year brought new birth control (depo) and my thyroid output decreasing dramatically. I put on about 35 pounds over the course of a year. I’m sure you can imagine, going from a teen’s 3/4 to a women’s 10 was pretty distressing. I felt very unattractive for a while, and a relationship with my ex-fiance that was falling apart didn’t help matters any. What that came down to, in its harshest terms, is that my ex-fiance cared more about not moving and keeping his life exactly as it was than he did about being with me. That sort of thing makes a very hard realization at any age, but when you’re 19 and it’s the first time you’ve been in a relationship where you truely would do almost anything for them and think you’ll get married, I think it’s especially rough. I think I did more crying than I did studying that year, and considering that I was writing a thesis paper that’s saying something.
I did a lot of work on my body, though – yoga and running mostly. I got my thyroid hormones balanced out again. But the weight stayed. I slimmed down slightly with all that activity, perhaps one size. I didn’t diet, but doing yoga really got me in touch with my body’s needs so I was eating a lot lighter and healthier. My plate was full of fresh vegetables more often than not, and I didn’t eat much in the way of carbs. My sweet tooth was often satisfied by fruit instead of candy or pastries.
It was very hard to be doing all of that work and not see my body slim down at all. However, I started being able to see things about my body that I liked again – the muscular definition in my legs and arms, my shoulders, my curves (I’ve always been a curvy girl, the smallest bust size I’ve had since I became an adult is a DD).
I bounced back up to a 10 pretty quickly when I moved off to grad school and no longer had a thrice-weekly yoga class. I took up dancing, which is probably what kept me from gaining dramatically, as the stress of grad school had me back to eating a lot of junk food.
It was in my second year of grad school that I really came to terms with, and started loving, my body as it was. Of all things, the thing that did it was the mirrored closet doors in the bedrooms of my townhouse. I couldn’t avoid seeing myself – clothed, naked, half dressed, so on. I had to buy a lot of new clothing, because I worked as an office manager and had to be professional every day, and having a lot of good looking clothes that fit well really helped, too. I started to realize hey, I really do look good at this size. The frank admiration of men I dated and male friends helped, too. Being able to see that I was attractive to other people did help me see myself as attractive.
I quit grad school after my second year and took a year off. That year, I was a gym rat – I was at the gym every day to do cardio, did yoga once a week and weights 3 times a week. I stayed exactly the same weight – 138 pounds. But I dropped a size, and I looked and felt good. Well, in my opinion, anyways.
And then there was the disasterous family portraits. We hadn’t had a family portrait shot for several years, so we finally went and had one done. And let me tell you, almost every shot that woman took was awful. We ended up buying the least awful picture. Unfortunately, it happened to make my upper arm look…rather large.
When we took a trip to visit my grandparents and give them the newest family portrait, my grandfather said I looked like I weighed 300 pounds. More than twice my actual weight. He picked the portrait to death – my dad looked like he was staring at nothing/daydreaming, my mother was sneering. While he said nothing about my sister, he has in the past suggested that she could be a model…if she got a boob job and a nose job.
The combination of the bad picture and my grandfather’s harsh critique of the way I looked in it put BIG cracks in my already fragile self-esteem. Combine that with going head over heels for someone who had been very supportive, flirtacious, and I daresay even romantic but in the end decided he wasn’t interested in me, and I was in bad shape.
I started dating a guy (long distance) that I knew was all wrong for me. I’m not going to go into why he wasn’t the right guy, just say that things got as far as they did with him because of the shape my self-esteem was in and the fact that I was rebounding off of the guy I’d lost my heart to.
Things eventually fizzled out; even the need to have someone wasn’t enough to keep me with him. I did start dating pretty quickly, and that was when I met my boyfriend. I’ll admit, I’d been very nervous about starting to date again. Painfully nervous. I was a size 12, which to me felt very large and doughy. I was walking with a cane; it was the first thing I saw about myself, so it was hard for me to concieve of a man who wouldn’t see it that way.
The now-boyfriend who thought I was heart-stoppingly georgous, even though I was now a size 12 and walking with a cane. Thought I had a great ass, and a beautiful face.
My self-esteem slowly improved. Buying myself clothing that fit me, rather than sticking to my too-tight jeans that pushed my hips up into a ‘muffintop’ helped, too. Finding out that a couple of classmates that I considered friends thought I was pretty helped, too. Once again, other people seeing me as attractive started to help.
And then my thyroid slowed down again, throwing another 30 pounds on me. Now a size 16, I’ll admit I cried about it a bit. I was horrified by the bulge of my stomach and the wobbly fat on my thighs. Don’t get me started on what I thought of my butt.
That my boyfriend if anything found me more attractive momentarily shook my faith in his view of my body as beautiful. If fatter was more attractive to him, my brain said, then how can I really be beautiful? He must be wrong. I’m just a…a…blob. A blob who can’t do anything about her weight. Sure, it stabilized, but it didn’t go back DOWN. Fixing my thyroid levels just made it so I stopped gaining. I was still fat.
Once again, it was clothing that FIT that made the difference. I gave in and admitted that my old clothing was unflattering and uncomfortable, and *gulp* started buying size 16 and 1X-2X. You can be sure I cringed at the lables, but when I put the clothing on, it was a different story. Hey, I looked GOOD! I had great curves, I had these great muscular calves, and I still love the line of my neck and shoulder. Sure, finding cute clothes became a lot more difficult, and shopping trips were downright depressing – trying on 20 items might yield nothing, on a good day perhaps 2 items that looked good and 1 that was…okay.
But I DO look good at size 16. I am attractive, I am beautiful.
Anyone that tells you it’s all about inner beauty? Screw them. Forget them. Being fat does not mean you aren’t beautiful. It means that you have to learn to see that you ARE beautiful. Shaking that cultural training that anything above a size 6 is fat and ugly is hard. Truely, deeply hard.
I know that being a size 16, I have an easier time of it than someone who is a size 26 or 30. I do believe, however, that we can learn to see our bodies as beautiful, by not hiding from them. Seeing yourself naked, half dressed, dressed in clothing that fits well – that is how you learn to see yourself as beautiful. Looking for the features about your body that you love – that is how you see yourself as beautiful. And sometimes it takes trying to see yourself as someone who is attracted to you sees you. It’s okay to ask them – tell me what you love about my body. And then look in a mirror and let those words play back, so you can see your amazing ass, your beautiful hands, your killer calves, your rack of DOOM, your dazzling smile, your laughing eyes, your georgous hair, your beautiful self.
So dress yourself in something that makes you feel good and remember, when idiots insult you…they are idiots. You are beautiful.
You are beautiful.
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