My fat story

I’ve been thinking about posting this for a few days, and I’ve finally got a few minutes to myself and the guts to share, so – here’s the story of how a rounded teen became a seriously obese woman. I’m not putting this out there as an ‘excuse’ for my fat; rather, it’s a cautionary tale about how this sort of thing happens. I worry that with the current panic over fat more and more girls will go through this kind of experience and that makes me both angry and sad.

I developed early. I was 11 when I began menstrating and at the age of 12 I wore a C cup bra (I had bigger boobs than the female teachers – a genetic inheritance from my Mum’s side of the family). When girls go through puberty they put on weight. I was a little rounded and had a grown female form on a short body. Compared to the other skinny pre-pubescent girls in my class, I looked ‘fat’. We ate fairly healthily; fish and chips once a week, chips and other junk rarely, and never things like McDonalds. I also walked to school and back (each 3 kilometre trip took me 20 minutes, so I was walking for 40 minutes per day at least and covering about 6 k’s). Despite all this though I could never run (could never seem to *breathe* which I now think may have been asthma) and I wasn’t all that interested in sport, so my P.E teachers assumed I was both ‘fat’ and ‘lazy’ and gave me grief about it. (We won’t even mention my experiences in a class where those who can’t are made to try in front of everyone else, who are then encouraged to laugh at them – never seemed to happen in academic classes but once out of the changing room it was another ball game altogether). My peers, of course, had been giving me hell since my boobs first appeared.

My 16th birthday was approaching and a couple of months after that was my first school ball. My parents, who thought they were helping, offered to help me lose weight by sending me to Jenny Craig. That’s where it all began to go downhill.

When I was first weighed I was 81 kilos (178 pounds), and I was told they would take me no smaller than 59 (130). That, of course, became my goal, even though it is far to small to sustain the kind of figure I have naturally. I was caught up in the idea that if I was thin the bullying would stop, I would gain friends, and that guy I had a crush on would like me. So I started to diet and did fairly well at first. Sure, my life didn’t change but I lost weight… just not enough and not fast enough to suit me. The ball came and I was still wearing a NZ size 14 (approximately a US size 10/12) and dresses in that size were hard to find. I felt fat – and a failure. Looking back at pictures from that night I looked fine – perfect, in fact – but at the time I still felt huge. Each time I looked in the mirror I saw a fat Me. Stronger measures were needed, or I would always be a ‘failure’.

So I turned to a kind of quasi-anorexia. On Jenny Craig you’re given a bunch of processed food to eat which you supplement with fruit, veges, and bread. I simply stopped eating all that and began to exist on one chocolate bar a day. I kept exercising (actually, I stepped it up a bit) but the weight loss I wanted eluded me – I only got as low as 63 kilos (138 pounds). I could only fit a size 13 jeans, not even a ‘normal’ NZ size 12 (US 8/10). I felt like even more of a failure. (Incidentally, I still thought I looked ‘fat’ in the mirror, but my mother says I was increasingly gaunt looking during this period). I don’t know how long I would have kept this up if I hadn’t have been ‘outed’ to my parents.

Just a note here – I never lied to my Jenny Craig ‘counsellor’ about what I was doing. She knew I wasn’t eating and was exercising excessively, but all she did was praise my weight loss and tell me to eat “a little more”. My Mother eventually found out about it when she saw my counsellor at an unrelated event and was told about what I was doing (because Mum was paying for this food I wasn’t eating; the counsellor was concerned about the ‘waste’, not my behaviour. My ‘waist’ was fine, I suppose.

My parents were understandably very angry with me; it was a huge financial stretch for them to be able to afford the diet in the first place, and I wasn’t even doing it properly! They also didn’t understand what was going on with me – but my Jenny Craig days were finished. I was devastated. I was still ‘fat’, had no real friends and boys were as turned off by me as before. There it was; I was a Failure. With a capital F.

From there my relationship with food took a new turn; excessive eating as punishment. I would binge eat in secret until I felt that I was going to throw up, but I would keep stuffing the food in. I refused to allow myself to vomit. Junk food was the preferred ‘tool’ but anything would do. And I gained back a heap of weight. I didn’t weigh myself but when I left High School I was about a NZ size 18 (US 14/16).

The excessive eating slowed a little but since then it always comes back in times of stress. And I had a lot of those times, quitting my original career path and training for something else, challenging my comfort zones, etc. I got a car, walked less, and became too busy to get to the gym. I gained weight. I tried more diets (usually Weight Watchers but occasionally others) and they never seemed to ‘work’ well enough for me. I got bigger and bigger.

And now here I am; obese.

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