I remember the first time I realised that something was “wrong” with me. I was three and at preschool and one of the boys called me fatty fatty boomsticks. I was plump but not huge.
By the time I started school, I was viewing myself as a second class citizen because of my weight and school did not help this. I was teased unmercifully and my weight just kept increasing. I started to see my body weight as the key problem in my life. If I could just fix it, everything would be better. At 9 I stopped eating anything but tomato and cucumber for six weeks. I didn’t lose much and it didn’t stop the teasing.
By high school, I was miserable in my own skin and suicidal. I weighed about 82kg (180lb) and 5ft 2in. The doctor put me on a diet but because I had been starving myself, I actually gained 5kg (11lb). He accused me of cheating. People were horrible to me. The bullying got so bad that, years later, a number of people told me that when we were in high school they used to be glad they simply weren’t me.
At 15, my blood pressure became dangerously elevated and I was told to diet or die. I lost 40kg (88lb) through sheer persistence and hard work. For the first time I actually liked myself but I realised that how you feel about yourself is in your head not a function of fat on your behind. They weight came back, as it always did and forever will but my confidence stayed higher than it was before.
The next problem was that my weight was affecting my fertility. I weighed about 300lb at the time. I tried for eight years to get pregnant but no dice. I knew I needed to lose more weight than I could on my own so I had a lap-banding. It was a devil’s bargain. I was miserable, in pain and vomiting but with extreme exercise, the weight just fell off. I lost 70kg (154lb) in seven months. My ego got huge and I did not like the person I had become. I later realised the ego was a covering the fact I was deep down unhappy. I could not relax or enjoy being thin because if I did the weight might come back. Fortunately I got pregnant but regained nearly half the weight during the pregnancy.
As my son grew, so did my weight. The lap-band only slowed the regain and there was so much pressure to lose weight that I kept trying, losing and regaining, developing increasingly disordered eating habits and severe arthritis in my knees from pushing myself to exercise so hard. I was starting to see that this was destructive for me and truthfully, I felt like I was a traitor to myself each time I celebrated a loss.
In my thirties, I decided to embrace my weight. I started to use the word fat for myself and be really upfront about my size. I decided to be kinder to myself and stop believing the things society tells me I should think about myself. I was still dieting though.
The final straw came when I was about 37. It is very hard to find a doctor that supports my position of self-governance regarding my weight. My GP at the time blackmailed me into having my lap-band tightened (against the surgeon’s better judgement), so tight that I could only take liquids. My liver function started to decline as a result. This is where I called a halt. I realised this pressure was no longer about making me healthier but about making me try to conform to societal ideas of beauty. Over my life time I have lost about 510lb and regained it. If dieting was going to work long term, after 25 years, it would have done so.
I now refuse to diet. I am a fat woman. I weigh 315lb and am 5ft 7in. Ask me my weight, I’ll tell you. I love myself the way I am and have no desire to lose weight. There is no thin woman trapped inside of me; I am chunky to the core. I do not diet but instead treat my body with dignity by giving it healthy food and as much exercise as my disabilities allow. I dress boldly, shave my head and am covered in tattoos. People stare; I stare right back. It is a struggle to get doctors to respect my wish regarding my own body but I believe it is a basic human right to control what happens to my own body and because I love myself, I persist in the fight.
The thing I learnt through all this, is that your self-esteem is not about your body but your mind and your thinking. Constantly worrying about your weight is a pretty depressing way to live and allowing others to influence how you think about yourself is effectively turning over your power to them. Change your mind.