The Struggles of a Former Fat Kid
My entire 16th year of life was filled with pretty much one thought, "I need to lose weight." My childhood, spiking the year I entered high school, was punctuated with my weight problems. Nearly every woman, and some of the men, in my family could be classified as overweight or obese, so the idea of being a fatty seemed to be the expected turn my life would take at some point. Only in hindsight do I realize what a gradual and greedy process being overweight, due to your own behaviors, actually is. No single person can predict the toll being a chubby child can have on the rest of their existence in psychological, emotional, and physical facets.
The first time I remember actually getting bullied over my weight was in fourth grade when a girl found my identification card, that had my weight on it, and passed it around the class. 104 lbs. I still remember that even now as a junior in college. I was unreasonably popular and well liked in elementary school, though, and quite tall for my age, so everyone rallied around me, telling me that "everyone is different," and looking back on it that is an odd response from a group of 9 year olds, but I'm thankful that incident received the reception it did.
Growing up, literally every special occasion revolved around food. Graduation? Food. Birthday? Food. Family coming over? Better get to cooking! Wake up, eat. Get bored, eat. Almost lunchtime? Time to prepare food! Oh, you just ate breakfast an hour and a half ago? Too bad, it's lunchtime now. Food started and ended every thought I had. Like too many people, it made me happy when I was sad. Not to sound like a complete glutton, but I was a complete glutton. I knew no different. Even seeing the effect it had on some of my extended family and their weight related problems didn't do enough to scare pudgy little me into eating healthy.
The way I looked upset me, it stressed me out. I couldn't imagine getting older and being so out of shape and unhappy my entire life. I knew I wanted to make a change, I just lacked the skills and the knowledge on how to do just that.
I distinctly remember the first time it actually clicked in my head that I needed to make a change, by all means necessary, to my weight and way of living. My best neighborhood friend and I recorded a "music video" on my laptop, and at one point she tried to jokingly smack my butt, only to be greeted with a handful of back fat (*gag*). The confused, and slightly disgusted, look on her face is still etched in my memory. That look alone genuinely changed my life. I was tired of being ashamed of my body and hiding behind pounds upon pounds of fat.
I quickly went from that "human vacuum" friend, to the obnoxious, "can't hang out, gotta work out," "do you know how many calories are in that?!" friend.
I'd like to order a formal apology to all parties involved in my early weight loss days for I was a complete nightmare to be around. I've always had quite an obsessive personality, and once I starting losing weight this process was no different. Most of the things I was eating were of little nutritional value. I remember I once went several days with only eating small servings of Goldfish snack crackers and drinking cups of tea to keep my energy and sugar levels up. Some days I would ration a granola bar, an apple, and a banana to last me all day. It was honestly anything that would have me seeing a result on the scale the next morning. As somewhat of a perfectionist getting the end result that I wanted, when I wanted it, was all that really mattered.
I took up running after I lost around 40 lbs, switching it up from walking 30 minutes a day like I had been doing before. I tried running 15-20 miles a week, which isn't that far at all if you're getting all the necessary vitamins, minerals, carbs, and calories from the food you are consuming. But I wasn't. But that equaled weight loss, so that's a good thing. Right? At that point in time I had no concept of losing weight being unhealthy in any regard. As far as I was concerned thin was in and fat was an unhealthy death trap. I didn't realize that being too thin could be just as unhealthy as being overweight, and being overweight wasn't inherently a bad thing.
My longing to be a perfect size was fueled by people's comments about how much better I looked (as a thinner version of me), how much healthier I appeared (because I was thinner), and how much happier I looked. I was happy to be thin, but every day seemed to be a battle between things in the flesh and my brain. I know humans naturally crave sweet and fatty foods, but the guilt I felt once caving to a sweet or fatty craving was unreal. Donut? Time to hit the pavement for several miles. I was genuinely punishing myself for being a normal human and experiencing normal human wants. Getting lightheaded, losing my vision, and feeling on the verge of falling out, as horrible as it sounds, was what I considered "progress" in my warped idea of what progress meant.
I was a terror to eat out with, picking apart the menu and googling calorie content in the salad dressing I chose as well as every single topping and every item I put in my mouth, then I would just opt out of dressing altogether. Salads, salads, salads. I ate nothing but salad. My father told me that no one could live on just salad forever, I said "watch me," and put up a valiant effort for over a year. Instead of trying to just not eat certain foods, I put all sorts of restrictions on what I was eating. I went vegetarian (still am!), cut out cheese, all types of cereals and granola, didn't eat any 'sweets' (i.e. pastries, fruit snacks, candy bars, etc.), no chips or bread. These were all things I caved to once I started eating, so to do without was the logical option.
Counting calories, minding your weight and what you put into your mouth, exercising regularly, etc. should be a part of most people's lives, to an extent. Letting it consume your life completely, testing family ties, and having adverse effects on your health should not happen. All the knowledge I had on how to lose weight I had picked up on the internet, from people who didn't really care about me. While my family was happy that I was getting healthy they could not help me at all in my endeavors. I was completely alone in that respect. Having that obsessive personality is a blessing and a curse.
At a point, I was having anxiety attacks due to consuming too many calories during the day. I would have emotional breakdowns when I had to go a day without working out. At the time I thought that was a normal part of losing weight and you were supposed to be thinking about your weight nonstop and be worrying about gaining again.
It turns out that that isn't normal.
Needless to say, those few years were incredibly stressful for me.
Now, roughly 70 lbs down from what I was at only 15, I have yet to find the happy medium between being obsessed with my weight and feeling completely unhealthy and out of control. I think that is a normal part of life though. A lot of people struggle with their weight, at least to some degree.
Old habits die hard and like any addiction food is incredibly difficult to become "unaddicted" to, especially considering you cannot live without food.
Running into people who knew you when you were heavy and them saying "so good, girl!" or "how did you do it?!" gets old considering you just want to forget how you used to look. Explaining why they say things like that to people who didn't know you then gets a little old as well. Some lady called me a miracle at one point... I'm still confused on that one!
It took me a long while, and even still now, to get used to not being "fat" anymore. It took me a while to get used to the idea that I didn't need plus sized clothes anymore and that I was a jean size 8, not 20, even though technically a size 8 is plus size in the world of models. Let's not even crack open that unreasonable expectations for women (and men too) can of worms.
I remember overweight me getting catcalled by groups of boys, solely because I was fat and vulnerable and that's a funny thing to do, I guess. Picking on someone who is already visibly uncomfortable and hormonal and self-conscious and God knows what else is the lowest of the low as far as I'm concerned. There's a special place in hell for people who do those things, but I won't touch that can of worms either.
The point to this whole rambling passage is that all of these problems and insecurities don't just disappear when the weight does. Anxiety about food and appearance doesn't vanish once you reach what you consider to be your goal weight. As far as my story goes, my goal weight still was never good enough for me. If anything these anxieties grow worse once you realize what a task it can be to maintain your weight. You may never see yourself as anything other than sub-par in the eyes of the world because how you were looked down on as a heavier person. Whether you acknowledge it or not, the world looks at overweight people as lazy, good for nothing slobs. This is what I have gathered in my experience.
To a degree, I think I will always be weary about certain situations because of the bullying and harassment I received in my younger years. Those insecurities will stick with me, maybe just on a subconscious level, for the rest of my life regardless of how I try to get over it.
Kids are mean and sometimes adults can be just as bad.
This article is relatively pointless, but I hope it can serve at least one of the following two purposes: 1) Please encourage activity and a healthy lifestyle from a young age. My experience isn't indicative of all overweight people, but I know this is how it is for many, and many would readily admit that teaching an old dog new tricks is quite difficult. 2) Please don't ever pick on someone for their size, or anything they can't help... or anything for that matter. Just don't be a horrible human. It isn't that difficult.