This is about losing `fat girl` — sending ‘fat girl’ to the bottom of the sea, an excision of her from my life from this moment forward. I’m writing this out so that I can see it and own that I am not only my body. I am NOT only the device which houses my spirit.
I was a chunky, solid kid. I was taller and stronger and bigger than the other kids on the street where I grew up. I didn’t even know that I was physically different – it didn’t even make a dent in my consciousness until I was about five or six. That’s when some older kids started taunting me with ‘Fatty, Fatty, 2 X 4’ as I was skating on our back yard rink. And I couldn’t get them to stop so I ran crying into the house. There, my mother tried to make me feel better. But I was too young. All I remembered was their hurtful scorn.
That’s the first time that I felt that there was something wrong about how I looked. It was after that that I started looking at the other kids in my class – especially the girls. And I was not like them. Being six, I didn’t understand that I was taller and stronger. I just knew that I was bigger. And I started to wear ‘fat girl’ for the first time.
At home, we ate almost every dinner meal together. I had hated vegetables when I was a kid. I liked meat and mashed potatoes and desert when we had it and especially if it was sweet and chewy. My parents had watched what I ate for the most part to try and make sure that I ate the vegetables on my plate. But as puberty approached and then happened and my body started changing, that due diligence on the part of my parents changed. And the change was mainly from my father. Now, it seemed that every mouthful that I ate was scrutinized. I find it ludicrous now to remember that I was expected to eat everything on my plate whether I wanted it or not or was full or not and seconds were never acceptable but I was not supposed to eat desert. In my house, desert had been the reward for eating everything I was served. And now the reward was snatched away from me. And it seemed to be the ultimate hypocrisy that my father, who was not a sylph by any means, was always allowed to have desert even if he had to make his own but it was denied to me.
And now I went to the doctor to be weighed and advised what to eat and how to eat. Worry about the amount of food and number of calories I was eating became the penultimate and oppressive bully in my life. I went on the Metrical diet – chalky liquids and cookies that were more like chewing on ground gravel than anything else. And I started to hoard any money I could lay my hands on so that I could go out of the house and buy lots of candy bars and then go and sit away from home and by myself and eat them – all the while, feeling guilty. And then there was the grapefruit diet, and the rice diet. And there was the two weeks of fasting where I did lose weight but spent all my time planning what my first meal would be when I could eat again. I remember eating exactly what I had planned and being very sick.
Apparently, my mother even called my best friend’s mother to ask her, please, not to let me eat anything at my friend’s house. So, others in my world were co-opted to be mouthful watchdogs.
It seemed that I was always on the scale – another weight bully. I told myself that I should only weigh myself once a week on the same day and at the same time but that wasn’t what happened. I weighed myself every day – sometimes more than once. And I would set impossible weight loss goals for each week. I wanted to lose 5 pounds a week and when I didn’t do that, I’d beat myself up for failing [yet again] and then tack on the pounds which I had not lost to the next week’s weight loss goal. Boy, did I set myself up for failure. And I didn’t know anything about physiology and growth spurts. I just wanted to look small and feminine and petite like the other girls at school. I wanted to be attractive to boys which, to me, meant that I had to weigh less. Yet no matter what I weighed, I wore ‘fat girl’ in my heart.
When I was in grade 12, I remember going to be measured for the kilt which I had wanted as my Christmas present that year. And I didn’t like the measurements. So I put myself on my own 500 calorie a day diet – a very unbalanced diet but still no more than 500 calories a day! And I exercised almost every night for at least a hour at a time. I created my very own personalized diet and the first of the several encounters I’ve had with eating disorders in my life. And my blood sugar crashed and I constantly felt sick to my stomach and queasy and faint. And I kept breaking out in cold sweats and I felt shaky and weepy most of the time. My mother took me to an endocrinologist to make sure that I wasn’t doing harm to my body. But I lost 94 pounds in 9 months! And when I went back to school in grade 13, no one recognized me. But I still didn’t feel like I fit in. I still looked in the mirror and saw ‘fat girl’. I had gone from a size 24 to a size 12/14 and all I saw was ‘fat girl’ – the physical me I had been.
I know that I started to lose weight so that I was in control of my body, a typical marker of eating disorders, but I also lost weight for the psychiatrist I was seeing who celebrated my weekly weight loss. And for my father who was proud that I was losing weight – finally! And I lost weight so that I would be able to attract a boyfriend. And that didn’t happen. No one knew how to treat with me – I didn’t know how to respond to myself! I look at pictures of me as I was then and now I see a beautiful young woman and at the time, that is not what I ever saw when I looked in the mirror.
And still I weighed myself incessantly and worried about what I ate and how much I weighed. Any weight gain terrified me because all I could see was that I would be fat again and all I felt was that I was a failure because I was not able to keep all the weight I had lost off.
And then I went into university for the first time and in the wrong course. Food became a comforter – it tasted good and the feeling I got while I was eating was predictable. When I was feeling lousy about myself and confused, food was a silent friend. It wasn’t something I needed to fuel my body; it was something I turned to so that I could feel happier – albeit for only a moment. Because, you see, I knew what I was doing and so I would beat myself up and feel like a failure who had no ‘will power’ because I was over-eating. Yet I still chose to eat. [I can still hear my father saying that all I needed was will power to control my eating!] Food was the one thing I could count on to help me feel better when my life felt like it sucked large!
And as I’ve aged, there have been several times where I’ve been ashamed of my body. One of my aunts [a very tiny woman] was disgusted by me because of my size as she was disgusted by anyone who was large or overweight at all. It didn’t matter how intelligent I was/am or what my character was. All she saw was my body and everything which she said and did telegraphed her feelings about that! And then there was the time that I auditioned for a potential singing teacher. After I had finished singing, he let me know that I was not worthy of his time because he only worked with those who had the potential to become professional singers AND I was too big to ever have a career as a singer. It didn’t matter how well I sang. The only measure of my worth as a singer was my size. So, thanks but no thanks and I was not acceptable. And I cried as I walked back to my parent’s house – for myself and for failing and because there was no one who could help me feel better about myself.
And then there was the therapist I was seeing who told me when I was in my forties that there was little likelihood that I would ever have a man in my life because, well you know that all the ‘good ones’ are taken by the time they reach forty AND no man would be interested in being involved with me because I was so fat! And then there is the general surgeon who refused to do the surgery to repair my ventral hernia because I weigh too much. He told me that he wanted me to weigh 180 pounds and my response was, “In your dreams!” And he will not even consider doing the repair until I weigh no more than 220 pounds. So my weight now condemns me to a physical condition which, while not life threatening, is medically unacceptable. And when he cancelled the surgical procedure, I felt like such a failure, yet again. All I did was cry and hate myself!
And every Sunday, my father would phone me to check out how I was doing and inevitably he would ask about my weight. He even did this until a few months before he died. I know that he was worried that I would end up living my life alone because my size would mean that I would not attract any man to want to be part of my life. I can tell myself that he meant well but it still strikes me that he never took the time to know me – really know ME. He didn’t seem to be able to look at me and see a successful, intelligent, caring and loving woman who is also fat. What he always saw was the fat woman, first. And, yet again, I felt that I was only seen as a fat woman which, to me, has come to mean unlovely and unlovable, and unacceptable.
It didn’t matter that I knew and know that the problems about my size were and are not mine to own but the problems of others. My intellect could grock that. My heart could not. My size was and continues to be, when I am not awake to the potential malaise which my thoughts can create, an indication of my failure as a human being.
I am embarrassed by my body – especially by my severe ventral hernia which is the result of surgery I had in my twenties and which has become more and more pronounced by my weight. All I keep telling myself is that if I find my body a turn-off, then how could any one else look at it and not be turned off by it. That’s the language I use. At times, I’ve looked at myself in the mirror and not seen anything below my shoulders. The mid part of my body has been an amorphous blur. It’s been weird to know that I have such a disconnect with myself. Like I’m a drawing where the middle part of the picture has not been filled in – head and shoulders – blank – knees and toes. Full height with no substance and only space in the middle.
Since my early twenties, my weight has yo-yoed up and down. Lose 20 pounds and regain 30. I’ve tried prescriptions, fad diets, over-the-counter nostrums, exercise, Weight Watchers, the Diet Centre. I’ve done the master cleanse thing for 8 days. I’ve fasted. I’ve kept graphs and charts on the fridge door. I’ve been bulimic. And thank the lord that, with my mother’s help, I got past that! And I’ve spent over $16000 on bariatric surgery. I even went so far as to investigate the other form of bariatric surgery – the one listed with a mortality rate and which is not reversible. And I’ve been told that, since the first form of bariatric surgery I had has not been totally successful since I’ve gained some weight back, I’m not a good candidate for the other form. So – again, I’ve felt a failure because of my weight.
I know from all that I have read and experienced, especially in the last two years, that I am not only my body. I know that my spirit chose to come down from the Great Void and chose this body as its housing for this go-round. Yet it can still be such a battle to consciously keep that knowledge in the forefront of my awareness. It’s like I won’t allow myself to give myself a break and to celebrate that no matter how long the journey has been to this point, I now know that I am NOT just my body – that I now know that it truly is what’s inside that counts! Yet I also know that I AM a Godforce AND I know that a Godforce IS NOT a failure!
So what I am choosing to do is to put the scale away. And when I go to the doctor, I am not and will not be weighed. I know that I can so easily obsess about the number and that, if it has gone up or is higher than I would like it to be, I can give myself grief about the number. So, I’m choosing ‘not that’. Consciously choosing ‘not that’.
I’m choosing to no longer follow any ‘diet’ and weigh food and measure things and count calories or points or portions and total up my eating for the day at the end of the day. And I’m choosing to listen to my body and pay attention to what I eat and how I feel when I eat. I know that I have issues with gluten and lactose. I also know that I don’t eat enough protein. So, I’m going to eat to fuel my body and eat until I feel full. I’m choosing food for energy not comfort. And I’m choosing to change my language about food. I’ve always said that eating desert is ‘bad’. I’ve gone to restaurants and told the wait staff that ‘I’m going to be bad and order desert.’ That language stops now. In fact, all language that questions what I eat or the amount I eat or that questions my choices stops from this moment. I’m listening to my body. I’m choosing to not count calories or mouthfuls or to set a time limit for eating – finish in 20 minutes or stop and don’t eat after 6PM.
And I’m choosing to celebrate all of me – all my skills and abilities and talents and interests. I’m choosing to do things that I enjoy doing and to let go of those things which have become habit or which I do not know why I’m doing anymore because the reasons to continue no longer serve and do not match to the reasons why I began.
And I’m choosing to celebrate ‘Large Lady’ and to let go of ‘fat girl’. And I don’t need scales or diets to rule my life and to live even at the edges of my consciousness any longer. I am definitely Large and In Charge! I AM a Godforce of capacity and capability and potential which I choose to explore!
I AM Jean Winter. I have an immense presence. I have immeasurable talents and skills and abilities. My spirit is massive and shining and bright! This IS WHO I AM!!!
I feel like singing, “See me, feel me.” How very Tommy of me!