I’ve always struggled with my weight. I remember the way my face flamed when a friend in high school held up a pair of size 7 pants at the mall and exclaimed over how huge they were. My friends were all slim and obsessed with staying that way. Eating disorders ran rampant in my circle and while I knew it was a dangerous, troublesome thing, I envied their self-control in their refusal to eat. I was never fat then, or so my mother would assure me, but I still felt disgusting, still stood in front of the mirror for extended periods of time, hating my body and the way my clothing hung on it.
This continued into college. I was convinced that life was easier when you were thin and beautiful but soothed myself with kettle potato chips and heaping bowls of pasta. After college, while working in retail, a customer asked me when I was due. “Excuse me?” I asked, hoping I heard wrong.
She smiled and rubbed her stomach. “The baby! When are you due?”
I felt my eyes sting with tears. My face was burning. My coworkers all stared at me with mouths gaping. I wanted them to disappear. “I… I’m not pregnant.”
The woman fumbled with her words. “It’s because you’re glowing!” she exclaimed, and then pointed to my chest, “and… you know.” I did. A side effect of being heavier is that my breasts are considerably larger than average. I always figured this was why I still got asked out a lot in spite of my weight. This fact has never been a source of comfort.
I was hurt and embarrassed and wanted to tell her how rude it was to just ask someone that question. I wanted to make her feel as awful as I did, tell her how much she just fucked with my whole day. It would have been cruelly satisfying to see her face fall the way I’m sure mine had as I screamed “What the hell is wrong with you?” Instead I forced myself to smile. “Would you like to get 15% off today by signing up for our credit card?” I chirped, ringing up her gaudy poncho and salmon-colored Bermuda shorts. “These have been really popular this season,” I continued, a grin painfully frozen to my face.
I went home and threw out the dress I had been wearing. I stood in front of the mirror, bra and underwear, and stared. My thighs teased me with early hints of cellulite. I wondered if my double chin had always been there. I turned from side to side, jutting out my middle, as my mind fell helplessly down a hole of hatred. When my boyfriend came home that night and pulled me in for a kiss I pushed him away abruptly. “Don’t touch me,” I warned, worried that this time his touch would reveal to him that he was in love with an overweight monster. This sentiment would persist in all my relationships after. Always pulling away slightly, always hiding my body to the best of my ability, angling in such a way that his hands wouldn’t come near my stomach.
Just a few days ago I went on a hike with my sister and a close friend of ours. I moaned and groaned the whole way, but was giddy when we finally reached the summit. The 2-mile walk up the butte on such a hot day was freeing. My calves were burning and my face was damp with sweat and I was gloriously happy. It wasn’t until the drive back home afterwards, looking through the pictures we’d taken during our hike that I remembered to hate myself. Photos are always the worst. You can spin around in front of a mirror and feel like a bombshell but do the same for the camera and suddenly you’re a pale, doughy lump of a person. I deleted every picture I was in and later that day ate my weight in ramen.
Part of my issue, in case you haven’t noticed, is that I am a glutton. I love veggies and fish and quinoa as much as the next girl but spaghettia alla carbonara with its heavy cream and bacon and parmesan is and always will be my weakness. I love beer and I love wine and am a card-carrying member of the Clean Plate Club. I’m a bit of a boredom-binger and my self-discipline has never been one of my strong suits. So I’m certainly not shocked that I’m heavier than average. And yet I persist. I get angry with myself for how I look and then sabotage any and all efforts to adjust the habits that got me here.
Maybe it would be different if I could change my perspective. Make it more about being healthy than about my appearance and how other people see me. I feel ugly. I have nightmares about starting up a conversation with a guy at a bar who is quick to let me know that I’m too fat for him to be interested. Some nights I cancel plans because I can’t find anything to wear that disguises my body’s shape. When my family encourages me to start running again, I get defensive. “So I’ll lose weight?” I say, voice strained through anger and hurt, “Because you wish I looked different?”
So what if I changed my attitude? What if I decided I love my body? Maybe then I wouldn’t be so obsessed with its size and would think more carefully about what I put into it. There would be no more tears, there would be no more nightmares. I just have to stop equating beauty with a slender figure. Doing this is going to be an uphill battle — I have over a decade of hate to get over and my mind has a tendency to submit to its cruelest inklings. Feeling comfortable in my own skin would be a greater test of the strength than losing 10 pounds. But I fully intend to destroy my inner-negativity with aplomb and when I do I’m going to go out on the town wearing whatever I damn well please.