You’re Fat


A photo of me from when I was a child.

You’re fat.

Growing up, these two words were spat at me by others as well as myself.

Ever since I was in elementary school, the awareness that I was bigger than most of my classmates surrounded me. Everyone knew it, and so did I. Even though I have never been the biggest girl around, this awareness still came with a sense of debilitating insecurity about my body. When I wouldn’t quite fit into the blue plastic chairs that were molded to the average child’s body size, my focus wouldn’t be on the teacher and the white board, but on making sure I didn’t look fat. I would perch my toes on the tile floors through my shoes in hopes of making my thighs seem smaller. I would suck my stomach in so my classmates couldn’t see the rolls of flesh and fat that rested at the bottom of my torso through my khaki, pleated uniform skirt. I would force my spine to be as rigid and taut as a metal pole, hoping the fat that my body was submerged in would seem evenly distributed.

When puberty hit, I became bigger than ever before. My thighs, arms, and stomach were roadmaps, covered in street-like white and purple stretch marks. My chest got bigger and bigger as I kept gaining weight and underwent hormonal changes. Most people went about their business without mentioning the rapid changes that were overtaking my body, but the rest of my peers made it known that they saw what was happening to me. When I wore my short-sleeved red, white or blue uniform shirts, one girl in particular would call me various obscenities, accusing me of promiscuity. When I couldn’t take those comments, I would throw on a big sweatshirt. When this girl would see my extra layer of clothing, she would tell me and my classmates that she would never want a chest as small as mine. I grew up trying to be the perfect little girl; I tried to make everyone around me happy, but I just couldn’t seem to please her and the others that made remarks about my body.

The school I attended didn’t seem to take my being bullied seriously. After months of reports, emails, phone calls, school counselor meetings and therapist appointments, my family decided to move from Kansas City, Mo., to Overland Park, Kan. When I was younger, I dreamed of living in Overland Park. I dreamed of living in a big, cookie cutter house with a lush, green lawn. I wanted to be like the girls I saw on our rare family ventures from Kansas City into Overland Park — girls with straight, shiny hair, flowing down their backs with ease, unlike my wavy hair that I grew up hating. But most of all, I yearned to be a thin, athletic girl like the ones I associated with Overland Park. I wanted to have wrists I could wrap my fingers around, I wanted small thighs that didn’t press together at all times, I wanted a flat stomach that wouldn’t tumble over itself every time I sat down, I wanted a small chest that didn’t bounce with every step I took. All that I wanted in that time in my life was to be skinny.

My desire to be thin consumed me. It was all that I could think about. My thoughts gnawed at me from the depths of my being. I counted my calories obsessively. I ate less and exercised more. Every day, I would get off the bus and walk into my empty cookie-cutter house that I had dreamt of for years. This house ended up being the place in which I would crumble. On days when I felt terrible, I would try to eat my pain away. On these days, I would raid my house in a senseless, primal frenzy. I opened every cupboard and drawer in my house, on an animalistic rampage for food. Some people drown their sorrows in alcohol and drugs, but my drug of choice was food. I ate myself sick in hopes of silencing the sadness and insecurity that was screaming inside my brain. When I was done binging, I would be filled to the brim with unhealthy foods and guilt. Feelings of culpability filled my being because I had eaten as much as I had, as well as guilt because I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling.

From eighth grade up until my freshman year, I went back and forth between near-starvation “diets” and binging. Some days, I loathed my body and some days, I was proud to be housed in my weathered, heavy shell. I started talking about my eating habits and I became mentally healthier. But then, out of nowhere, a particularly terrible bout of depression hit. I started binging again and justified it as “eating what I want, when I want” and as “self-care.” I gained 30 pounds in three months. I was the biggest I had ever been.

With my weight gain came a torrential downpour of hatred and maliciousness from my classmates. People would tell me that their friends noticed that I had “put on a lot over the summer” and they asked “what happened to her?” I tried to embrace my fat-suit. I tried to turn my poor eating habits and coping mechanisms into a kind of self-care. I tried to justify my peers’ words in my own mind; maybe they’re just being mean? Maybe they’re just trying to get on my nerves? And I obsessively wondered, “Had I really gained that much weight?”

I began to realize that the knowledge of my fatness wasn’t private. Others knew what I knew; the way I saw myself in the mirror was the way everyone around me saw me. This realization came into full effect on one fateful night after school. I opened SnapChat only to see a group chat I had been added to with people I knew didn’t like me. I opened the chats and my heart sank into the depths of my stomach. “McDonald’s a** b**** Delaina,” “disgusting pig,” “fat wh***,” and ever onward. This was the night that I looked in the mirror and fully realized other people see this, too.

When dance recital time came around, I tried on my costumes that had been tailored to fit my body from months before. I squeezed, wiggled and ultimately forced myself into each spandex, sequin-covered costume, looking in the mirror, trying to feel pretty. I walked downstairs in each skin-tight costume to show my mom. Each time I came down the stairs, I could feel the sadness in her eyes that I had damaged my health, I could feel her sense the pain and shame I was hiding under each piece of stretched spandex.

Once I was done trying my costumes on, my mom slipped into the bathroom where I was struggling to find a way for each costume to hug my curves instead of strangle them. She looked at me and said, “I don’t know that you want me to say anything like this, but have you thought about eating better?” Through beet-red cheeks and scorching tears, I spat at her that it was okay for me to be a little bigger, that I felt beautiful in my skin. Then, she hugged me. She took me in her arms and held me as close to her as she could. Crying, she told me that she knew I wasn’t happy with the way I looked, that she had seen me feel beautiful before and that this wasn’t what she had seen that night. My body was wracked by wave after wave of tears. I told her that she was right, I didn’t feel beautiful and I didn’t feel happy. She took me by my hands and looked me in the eyes and said that she would help me through it. We hugged and cried for a little while longer before putting on our pajamas and tucking ourselved into bed.

The next morning, poached eggs and sliced fruit were waiting for me on the breakfast table. This morning was the beginning of a new start for me, as cheesy as that sounds. I cut out bread, dairy, red meat, processed sugars and anything else deemed unhealthy. I was fearful in starting this new diet because when I had tried dieting in the past, it quickly went south. This time, however, it was extremely easy for me to do. I don’t know why or how, but it was. Over the summer break, I lost 30 pounds. I became healthy and happy, and have stayed that way ever since.

Now, this may seem like a perfectly happy ending, but I am not perfect and this isn’t an ending for me. My reality of having dealt with the experiences unique to a fat person will continue with me until the end of my life. I still have days where I get sad and eat too much; I still have times where the rumble of hunger in my stomach makes me feel slightly accomplished. Recovering from mental illnesses and eating disorders doesn’t mean they go away. It means a person in recovery now has tools to cope with their issues so that their symptoms can be minimized. I now know how to face these feelings in a way that addresses them, but doesn’t give them the leeway to overtake my being.

I will always have to deal with the side effects of mental illness and eating disorders. I know that I may be faced with a repetition of my disorders some day. This knowledge is not fun, but it is something I am learning to live with. I know I may be bigger than most girls my age, I know that I always have. While my experiences have been grueling, they truly have made me into the person I am today (excuse my cheesiness). I may be fat, I may struggle with mental illness, but I am strong, I am brave and I am willing and able to forge through the rest of my life knowing I will have struggles, but knowing I can and will overcome them.