(Hello lovely readers! I have one request: If you do read all the way through this, please don’t respond with comments about my appearance now or then–even comments meant to compliment or affirm. I’m sharing it because writing is important and I need to do it and this is a story I have nagging at my brain. While your kind words are certainly well received and well-meant, they can be a little uncomfortable for me. 🙂 Thanks so much.)
This is me, two months before my 13th birthday. According to the laws of the 7th grade, I was fat. It wasn’t just according to the laws of that grade. Adults “worried” about my weight, too. I won’t tell you what I weighed then, but know that it was roughly within about ten pounds of what I weigh, now. Even that might not be accurate. I don’t know what I weigh, now. Two nutritionists, a doctor, and a therapist have all told me I should never weigh myself again because of the unbridled havoc it reaps on my mental state. I stand on the scale backwards when I go in for a physical.
I was 12 in the picture. I’m 35, now.
I was a little shorter. I had a little less muscle tone. I filled out a pants size that is just a little roomy on me, now. But the painful teasing I endured and the “helpful” comments I received from adults who “worried I might have a weight problem ‘one day'” have never left me.
I started dieting at 13. I did the no-fat-all-carb thing for years until Atkins came in style. Then, I only ate salads with honey-mustard instead of dressing. When I got my own place in college, I could eat half a chicken breast and call it dinner and no one would see it. After college, I did regular juice fasts, telling the world I was “cleansing” when I really was getting away with more of the same.
A year and a half ago, it all stopped working.
I’d been dieting for months but the scale hadn’t budged. In fact, it had moved a bit in the opposite direction. I’d seen a personal trainer and a nutritionist in the months before my wedding, doing the wedding-diet dance brides are force-fed (apologies for the pun). I pulled a mess of muscles lifting weights. I did cardio until I peed myself (happened twice…). But one day a nurse came by the apartment to do a health screening for life insurance. I was a full twelve pounds higher than what I weighed in the picture above.
I went shopping and found that I needed a size larger in my pants. Since I was fourteen, I’d been at least a size below what I wore in the 7th grade, when the teasing was the worst. Now, I was back in that same size.
I know–it sounds dumb. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who would LOVE to fit into the pants they wore at 12. But not me. If devastation could take steroids, that’s the kind of devastation I felt. I cried over meals for weeks. My chest would tighten randomly on the subway. I would struggle to breathe. I wanted out of my skin.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think that being fat is bad. I don’t see fat people and think they should lose weight. I don’t compliment people on weight loss because I don’t know if it’s because of desired change or cancer…and even I know that desired body changes can be done in horrible ways. I don’t think fat is ugly. I also don’t think that being thin is healthier than being fat. I know there is evidence linking obesity to health problems, but being too thin caused me plenty of health problems, too. I also don’t know what I weighed at my very thinnest, but I do know that I was eating 800 calories a day (I counted them, daily), ran 4-5 miles (from NW 21st and Kearney, uphill across Vista Bridge and then back), walking three miles to my waitressing job where I worked 8-12 hours shifts on my feet. My period stopped. I went to bed every night with painful hunger pains and woke up with even more painful hunger pains. My mental health was garbage. I was mean to people because I was perpetually hangry. It stopped when compulsive overeating took over. Not healthy. I also know that when I did start eating again and got boobs and an ass back, the dudes were chasing me down the street. So…being skinny wasn’t healthier or prettier. But it was still something I felt I needed to be.
But if I don’t hate fatness, why was I nearly emotional destroyed over being slightly heavier than I was years ago? Why do I view body acceptance a wonderful thing for everyone else…but I seem to exist in this little silo where I’m not able to accept me?
THE PANTS SIZE and the being TWELVE POUNDS UP FROM THE 7TH GRADE “FAT” WEIGHT was affecting my work, my writing, and more. I couldn’t eat. Once, my husband and I had to leave a restaurant because I couldn’t stop crying into my salad. Another time, I left him in the grocery store because just handling the food made me tremble. I was angry at myself for being 35 and being tortured by the same torturous inner conversations I had twenty years ago about fat vs. carb, calorie-counting vs. intuitive eating, “honoring my hunger” vs….not.
Don’t worry, y’all. I’m getting to the point.
So, I was having an inner tantrum one day last year and took my inner-tantrummy self to yoga, where inner-tantrums have a much higher mortality rate. I’m thinking it was sometime around a Warrior 3 when I heard The Goddess say, They’re not going to come out of the walls and start making fun of you again. The stupid children have grown up and they don’t think about you anymore.
Holy shit. I’d spent 20+ years researching calories in kale because I thought being that one-pants-size-down was the only thing protecting me from the bullies I’d experienced as a kid. Not maturity, not time, not distance–ONLY THE STUPID PANTS SIZE.
But as usual, I could hear the Goddess’s words but needed to test them out for myself.
A few months ago, I saw a woman on Facebook with whom I’d attended elementary school. She bullied me EVERY. GODDAMNED. DAY from 4th grade to 7th. She teased me about my clothes, my hair, my acne, and of course, my weight. I hadn’t seen her since the day that photo above was taken as we attended different schools after that. Her face had barely changed. I panicked a little, as though she’d pop out of the laptop screen and point and laugh again. I’d actually thought a lot about her over the years. One of the many things she hassled me about was “practicing writing my name messy” over and over in the back of my notebooks. In reality, I was pretending to sign autographs for when I was a famous author, but I didn’t want to tell her that.
Her voice was still stuck in my head, laughing when I tried on clothes in the dressing room and telling me what a cow I was when I put a little too much goat cheese on my salad. Hers wasn’t the only one, but it sure was loud.
I friend-requested her. She accepted. I wrote to her: Hi Jan! I wasn’t sure if you’d remember me. how are you? Your kids are beautiful!
And 12 year old me waited inside 35 year old me, scared to fucking death.
She wrote back. She told me all about her family, her partner, how happy she was to have a large family like the one she’d grown up in. She didn’t acknowledge anything about the way she treated me. So I set a bit of bait:
How great you’re doing so well! I thought a lot about you over the years! You probably don’t remember, but I used to scribble my name over and over in a notebook and it used to get on your nerves so much! I told you I liked “practicing writing my name messily” and I think you thought that was crazy. I was actually pretending I was signing books that I’d written. I do write books now and I sign them, so my apologies for driving you nuts in school…but that little practice comes in handy now! lol
She responded with the FB “thumbs up” sign, but nothing more.
I told a few people this story and they got angry. “What, no remorse?” “So, she’s not even going to acknowledge what she did to you?” “She can’t even offer a little accountability?”
No, she didn’t. And I was okay with that.
The mean little girl whose voice had heartily helped haunt my head was gone. She’d turned into a lovely, lively woman. In following this woman’s posts, all of which were happy and celebrated her life and family, I couldn’t imagine her saying now any of the hurtful things she’d once said. It were as though a massive hole had been punched in the that suffocating silo.
It’s not over, yet. I still cry in my nutritionist sessions. I still have to work through some anxiety after eating dessert or a big meal. Some say that eating disorders go through cycles and tend to reemerge during major transitions. Maybe once I’ve settled into our new home a little more, the bastard will go back into remission.
I guess I can wrap this up to say, “Thanks, Facebook(?)” and “Fuck Food Issues.”
I’m still working on it but I’m not giving up and neither should you.