12 Things I’ve Learned From Being A Former Fat Kid

1. People are generally kinder to thinner people.

And not even just kinder: they’re more accommodating, friendlier and flirtier. People tend to defer to you and give you that much more respect when you fit in with what they deem to be aesthetically agreeable. I’ve heard tons of stories from friends (both former fat kids, and still overweight individuals) who note some pretty harrowing experiences from people who don’t realize that just because someone is heavier than you deem “acceptable” doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect, too.

2. … And a lot of that also stems from how kind you are to yourself.

I’ve seen it time and time again: people are always friendliest toward and most attracted to the person who holds themselves well — who has the most self-respect and is kind to themselves (and you can be kind to yourself at any size or weight.) Often, we forget that most people — weight aside— are NOT kind to themselves and thus don’t ATTRACT kindness. People won’t be nicer to you just because you lost weight, but they will when you decide exactly what kind of treatment you deserve, and start giving that to yourself. “We accept the love we think we deserve,” might seem like a trite aphorism, but Chbosky’s words are so pervasive in part because they’re… true.

3. Fat-bashing people will assume you’ve always been thin, so you’ll overhear some hurtful things that you otherwise wouldn’t have before.

You can’t erase your past or anything you experienced as a fat kid, and people who didn’t know you “way back when” often don’t (and can’t be expected to) know that you used to be heavier than you are now. They’re going to let you in on some pretty awful gossiping sessions, and it’ll stick out, not only because you know how the object of their ridicule must feel but also because you’ll be left wondering if those people would have said the same thing about you.

4. You take a perverse and sad pleasure in showing people your former fat kid photo.

Like your own personal sideshow project, it’s something that will throw people for a loop; it’s practically a surefire way to win #tbt. And they’ll marvel and ooh and ahh over it, as if fat-you was an apparition or even a rare sighting of Bigfoot. They’ll even come to request seeing it, as if it’s some sort of magic trick. And for every person who marvels that “no way, that can’t be you!” you’re going to start to realize that the round-cheeked kid in the photo was and yet isn’t you all at once.

5. You find that our whole society is pretty screwy in the head when it comes to food — it’s not just you.

We’ll have one tab open on 75 Ways You Can All But Have Sex With Tater Tots, and the next tab over features a search on the merits of different Juice Cleanses Available In Your Area! We’ll take back-to-back spin classes, only to scarf down an entire sleeve of cookies; avoid food all day long to “save calories” when you binge drink at an open bar that night; try 10 completely opposite fad diets, and then bitch when they backfire. One minute, we’re decrying processed food; the next, we’re railing against mayors for taking away what we think is our constitutional right to guzzle chemicals by the bucketful if we so choose. (Not that we’d dare eat something that’s not organic, we just want the choice IF we wanted to, okay?) And suddenly, the person eating the sensible salad with croutons in the corner looks sacrilegious simply because they’re not going to extremes. Our whole society is bizarre about food. Being fat or thin has nothing to do with it.

6. People will look to you for some sort of “magic trick” to “getting thin.”

There is no magic trick. There is just work. You want to know how I lost weight? I stopped working out for 2 hours a day (in retrospect, how I kept that up is beyond me) and started a reasonable running routine. I stopped yo-yoing around every diet imaginable when I realized that I needed to eat in a way not because it would make me thinner, but because I’d be happier. The weight loss was a side effect of the fact that I was treating my body kindly and I was giving it the nutrition and the activity (and subsequent rest) it so desperately needed. That’s it. Was it hard work? Yes, but truth be told, I wasn’t working at the one goal it feels like we’re all chasing after: getting thin. I wasn’t trying to “get thin.” I was trying to be kinder to my body, my mind, and my self. One diet is not going to work for everyone, nor is running a panacea for our obesity epidemic. Seriously, my way won’t work for everyone. I have no idea why what I did works for me, and I’m just doing me. I can’t tell you what you should do to be any size. You know what works? Whatever you like best, and what you will stick with. And I can’t tell you what that is. No one can, because the place to discover what your personal definition for being kinder to yourself already exists within yourself; no one else but you can find it.

7. You still don’t know what size to try on or what to wear — to your mind’s eye, you still need your fat kid sizes and tricks.

I just did a massive overhaul of my closet, and found clothing spanning at least 10 different clothing sizes in there — partially because H&M is the literal worst when it comes to being reliable towards any one standard fit, but also because my body has fluctuated so much over the years that I’m constantly guessing where it might be on the spectrum of size in any given day or month or year. And as your body changes, the cuts and washes and colors that mask your size when you’re heavier translate differently on a smaller frame, so you’re left wondering A) who the hell can wear cap-sleeves anyway, and B) if there is ever going to be something that is universally flattering. (It’s usually a little black dress. Those babies never fail.) Former fat kids also tend to size up before heading to the dressing room, because reliving the horror of trying something on only to realize it’s a size too small is a humiliation you’d rather never see again — but then you wind up swimming in a pool of fabric, have to ask the attendant for a smaller size, feel as if she thinks you’re now #firstworldproblemhumblebragging, and really, no one wins.

8. There is no #FOMO like high school bathing suit season.

The height of my fat kid days existed in high school and college, and being surrounded by tons of pretty, lithe, athletic girls whose metabolisms had yet to meet a burrito that could not be vanquished did a number on my already shitty self-esteem. It’s memories like those that make Hannah Horvath’s green bikini so revolutionary still; I cried when I saw that episode, because I’d spent so much of my life giving way too much importance to such a small amount of fabric. When you’re the kid who sweats about wearing a one-piece and everyone else is gamboling about in bikinis, it makes you feel even more freakish than you already think you are…

9. … But you have to remember that one fix doesn’t make life better. There will always be something else to chase.

There is always going to be something else, something more you can do to improve your appearance, some other accolade to try to win, some hotter significant other to try to snag. You are never satisfied with your body, yourself, or your life until you simply stop and choose to be satisfied with it. Fat people have problems. So do thin people. Some people have more problems than others, and some problems are self-made while others stem from terrible circumstances. Everyone’s got issues, and everyone is always trying to find a way to make life better for themselves somehow. But you’re alive. You’re living. If you’re reading this right now, chances are you’ve got a pretty decent life, all things considered. Losing a fair number of dress sizes and running a few half-marathons didn’t make my life better. I decided to be happier with where I was in my life.

10. People will be quick to label your personality as a byproduct of your weight.

As though you went through your young life “not relying” on being a pretty little kid, so you had to compensate with being funny. With being friendly. With being smart. With being kind, and a good friend, and good at holding a conversation, and someone who keeps secrets. (A guy once asked me if I was a former fat kid because I had a “Former Fat Kid personality” and that “pretty people aren’t usually funny.” I never went on a second date with him.) I would like to think I’m funny regardless (or at least my mom tells me I am, so the verdict’s out) and that I’d still be me if I hadn’t been heavy as a teenager. Sure, I felt like I had to compensate for my extra weight by being someone people wanted to be around regardless — I grew up in Los Angeles, a town fixated on being a size 2 and where Pretty Woman Syndrome was literally invented — but keeping the same personality traits after I lost the weight doesn’t mean I “tricked the system” or “got the best of both words.”

11. People think what you looked like in your past “doesn’t matter” to you anymore, and you’ll get a whole new life to go with your “whole new body.”

The other day, I was hanging out with a friend and her daughter, who was running around with her backpack on frontways and saying, “look at me, look at me, I’m fat!” I asked her to stop, and said that was how kids used to pick on me at school, and she shrugged because, according to her, “Well, they can’t pick on you for being fat anymore.” But you also don’t abandon your compassion when you’re thin — at least, I hope to god you don’t — and you’re not going to trade in your friends and your life to go along with your smaller-sized clothes and new eating and exercise habits. You’re still the same person, with the same body, and the same fears and hang ups and scars. What you do to heal those scars is separate and equally as important work.

12. The weird fear that the fat kid is going to pop back out of you never really goes away.

So you remain vigilant. You work out, and when people marvel over how dedicated you are, you shrug and say that you have to be — because you do have to be. You eat right. You weigh yourself. You pay attention to how your jeans fit. You mix up your workouts. In the beginning, it almost feels as if you’re living like a fraud — like this is short lived and all the things people say about 95% of diets failing will hold true for you, too, and one misstep means you’ll snowball back into the fat kid you still identify with deep down. But you didn’t strategically tuck that fat child inside of you like some magic trick; you put in the hard work, and you know what works. You have to trust yourself. And anyway, the “inner fat kid” is not so much your actual size as it was the insecure little kid rattling around in your heart and mind and soul for so very long. That kid needs love and acceptance and to be told that everything’s going to be okay whatever your size more than it needs another donut or another boot camp class. TC mark

featured image – Shutterstock

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