On Growing Up Heavy

The first time someone ever referenced my weight in a negative way was when I was in the third grade and just 8 years old. I remember sitting at the table in class with some of my peers, when one girl was looking at me a little weird. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, “You’re fat.” Even typing this now over 20 years later, I can still feel the sting of her words and vividly remember the red sweater I wore that day.

Things never really got any easier for me all throughout school. I was constantly harassed for my weight and often went home in tears from being teased. It caused me to develop a really hard shell over the years and pretend like the taunting wasn’t getting to me. Sometimes I’d even laugh along with them. That was, until I got home and could really let myself feel the affects of their words in the form of tears and self loathing.

I remember when my sisters both got married in 2004, how instead of feeling joy and happiness for them, I was overcome with fear because of the bridesmaid dresses I’d have to wear. Nothing in regular stores ever fit me, so how on Earth would I fit into a dress that the other normal sized bridesmaids could wear? For my sister Wendy’s wedding, I had to order a size 14 (the biggest size it came in) with a yard of extra fabric to make it large enough to fit around me, and for my sister Heather’s wedding I had to order a size 20 dress. I remember telling myself that bridesmaid dresses ran small and that was the reason. And I actually believed it. But even now, I have a hard time looking at the pictures from both of their weddings without a terrible feeling coming over me because of how far I let my weight get out of control.

I finally got a boyfriend in college, and I remember the first six months being bliss. I was so excited to be in a relationship with someone who actually liked me despite my weight, that I turned a blind eye to how he actually treated me. He was never physically abusive, but would often do things that left me in tears and that no one should ever put up with. I felt like I should just take what I could get at that point because honestly, how many options did I have?

I remember one time, my sister Wendy told me about a job that was mine if I wanted it, working for one of Justin’s, her now-husband, clients. My ex was with me when she was filling me in on the details, and of course I wanted the job – it sounded perfect for a summer gig. The next week, Justin was at his clients and was following up to make sure the job would work out for me, when the client pulled up an email and said, “Is this her?” Justin looked at the email with sheer confusion when he realized the email the client was referring to was sent not from me, but from my ex. Apparently, after Wendy had filled me in on the job details, my ex went behind my back to look up the employer, and then sent in an email pitching himself as the perfect fit for the job and trying to steal the job out from under me. Even after a stunt like that, I stayed with him for several years.

I think because of the years of being told I was fat and the accompanying harassment, I adopted being heavy as part of my self identity. This probably contributed to my lack of success at losing weight until I was an adult because I let what others think of me be such a large part of who I was. Even though all through middle school, high school, and college, I wanted nothing more than to be skinny, I think I was fearful of shedding the weight and having to deal with what was underneath it all.

It was not until I was out of college and living and working in the “real world” that I was finally able to realize that I had so much more to me than just the size of my clothes or the number on the scale. I was mature enough to realize that the names that other people called me or the reasons that they judged me were not what defined me. The ball was in my court in terms of growing (or shrinking) into the person I wanted to be, and no one could stand in my way if I wouldn’t let them. And while I have found myself many times wishing that I had started to make the change in my life sooner, I also think being heavy was something I needed to go through to be who I am today. And honestly, I like the person I’ve become, so I’m OK with it. Finally.



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42 Comments on On Growing Up Heavy

  1. Victoria
    February 7, 2013 at 8:37 am (2 years ago)

    I know how painful a lot of these feelings and situations are, and it’s incredibly difficult to deal with as a child, when you don’t have fully developed coping skills. Add to that the fact that it winds up entwined with your identity, as you noted, and it’s very difficult to get away from as an adult. Kudos to you for moving in that direction.

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:41 am (2 years ago)

      Kids are SO mean. But so are young adults. And even a lot of full fledged adults. But that’s why it’s important not to base your self worth on OTHER people!

      Reply
  2. Janice
    February 7, 2013 at 8:43 am (2 years ago)

    Beth, I know just how you feel. Though my experience wasn’t identical to yours it was very similar. I was always heavy as a child. When I was in my sister’s wedding, I had the largest size at a 16 and I thought that was terrible. I can look at myself then and say I wasn’t happy with my weight. I’m not happy with my weight now but I now know what do to about it. Then I didn’t really know. When I was in high school I would always think that something magical would happen and I would be skinny. I had no clue how to begin to lose weight. One time some guys that I had just met told me I was so fat I was like an elephant. I don’t know why but I gave strangers the ability to hurt me so much that I wanted to kill myself. Don’t feel that way anymore though. Hope all is well with you.

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:43 am (2 years ago)

      It is crazy how easy it is to put so much emphasis on what others say to us. It makes me so sad to think back to how much I used to let it affect me.

      Reply
  3. Lauren
    February 7, 2013 at 8:50 am (2 years ago)

    Oh my god. The last two paragraphs of this post just completely summed up ME. I’m still in the middle of my weight loss journey and have a long road to go, but I completely relate to you.

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:45 am (2 years ago)

      It’s nice to know I’m not alone!

      Reply
  4. Lauren @ Lettuce Eat Cake
    February 7, 2013 at 9:02 am (2 years ago)

    I love this post, Beth! I so relate to feeling like I should just be with whatever guy came along, because who else would want me? Every relationship I had was extremely unhealthy until I started dating my husband. I, too, look back on situations with exes and wonder how the hell I thought I deserved that kind of treatment. At least we now realize how valuable we are!

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:48 am (2 years ago)

      It’s sort of funny because now I can’t tell if I’m being TOO picky! Opposite end of the spectrum haha.

      Reply
  5. Stina
    February 7, 2013 at 9:22 am (2 years ago)

    I endured a lot of teasing in grade school and junior high, not so much for weight but because I was an independent thinker and not part of the clique at my small, Catholic school. And despite how much I hated them, and myself, at the time, when I look back on it all, I can’t help but feel a little bit grateful to them. These people, and their torment, made me who I am today, and I am pretty damn awesome today (or at least I like to think I am. :) ) They taught me how to treat people. They taught me that the only person who’s opinion of me really matters is me. Despite my self esteem being garbage at the time, they really did, without me even knowing it, help me find my self confidence.

    I’m glad that you can (finally?) look back on those negative experiences and find some amount of appreciation of them for making you who you are today. I think that’s a really hard thing for people to do, but I also think it’s extremely important in the process of learning to love and accept ourselves and bulding self confidence.

    PS I once had an employee at a bridal shop tell me on average you need to go 1 -2 sizes larger on a bridesmaid dress than you would at a retail store so those bridesmaids dresses really do tend to run small! :)

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:52 am (2 years ago)

      So many it was just that the dresses ran small! haha. Really though, I do have to give them some credit for contributing to who I am today, which definitely helps me feel more empowered with the situation and less resentful.

      Reply
  6. Bailey @ Onederland or bust!
    February 7, 2013 at 9:38 am (2 years ago)

    Great post, Beth! I can certainly relate to it and I’m sure many others can too. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:52 am (2 years ago)

      Glad you could relate!

      Reply
  7. Suzanne
    February 7, 2013 at 9:58 am (2 years ago)

    A brave post, thanks for sharing. Many of the things you describe resonate with my experiences. I think two things prevented me from seriously trying to lose weight.

    The first was, as you mentioned, you build a shell to protect from hurtful comments. If I was to try and lose weight, then I had to admit there was some truth in the comments and accept the hurt.

    The second was fear of what failure would mean. As Janice says you imagine (and sometimes people say) the childish weight will just go away at some point. If I was to seriously try to change and fail, then I would have to realise that the dream was unrealistic.

    It took me a long time to figure this out and, as you say, I too wish I’d thought about it earlier! Intimidation from all the ‘diet dos and don’ts’ that you hear and not wanting to become an obsessed unhappy yo-yo dieter really prevented any deep thought about my weight. It’s still a work-in-progress and I’ve had to accept that I will need to work and be mindful for the rest of my life but I’m proud of what I’ve done so far. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 10:17 am (2 years ago)

      Hi Suzanne! Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I think there are a lot of reasons that the mental weight is so hard to shed, and fear of failure is definitely a big one. I remember when I lost weight the first time on Atkins, the amount of shame I felt when I regained it was so much greater than the shame and disgust I felt for being so heavy in the first place. It just sucks.

      And all that said, I am definitely still a work in progress myself!

      Reply
  8. Slimming Style Secrets
    February 7, 2013 at 10:14 am (2 years ago)

    You’ve had an incredibly tough journey and I’m so happy you’re doing well now. Sometimes those mental pounds are the toughest ones to shed.

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 10:09 am (2 years ago)

      I 100% agree. The mental part is as hard, if not harder, than the physical part.

      Reply
  9. MaryB
    February 7, 2013 at 10:50 am (2 years ago)

    This post is amazing & inspirational! Thank you for a wonderful blog.

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:53 am (2 years ago)

      Aww thanks Mary! And you’re welcome. :)

      Reply
  10. Carol
    February 7, 2013 at 11:01 am (2 years ago)

    Wow. This was an amazing post. Thank you so much for sharing. It has pushed me to reflect on where I am right now with my weight and your success inspires me. I love your blog!

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 10:08 am (2 years ago)

      Aww thanks Carol! Glad it made you think about your own journey. It’s important to center ourselves sometimes. :)

      Reply
  11. Gina
    February 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm (2 years ago)

    Thanks for sharing Beth. It can’t be easy to write, but it’s awesome that you are on the other side of it now and are happy with who you’ve become. Not everyone can say that about their current selves!

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 10:08 am (2 years ago)

      It’s definitely something I’m still working on, but I’m in a muuuuuch better place than I once was. Thanks for the encouraging words!

      Reply
  12. Christi
    February 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm (2 years ago)

    What a great, honest post. Thanks for sharing. I have a similar moment that haunts me, from 6th grade, at a field trip to a pool when some boy I didn’t know made a comment to his friends about me being a whale. I think I lost any self-esteem I’d had after that. I’m still struggling with reaching my goals. I just wanted to say that your blog is so inspiring.

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 10:07 am (2 years ago)

      Aww thank you Christi. It makes me sad how much we weight other people’s opinions of ourselves, especially as children when we’re still figuring out who we are. The mental side of weight loss is definitely as hard, if not harder, than the actual losing weight and often goes a lot deeper than we think at first.

      Reply
  13. Meg
    February 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm (2 years ago)

    This story could be mine – except, I haven’t been able to overcome “The Fat Girl” as the very definition of how I perceive myself. What was it that finally helped you shed that?

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 10:05 am (2 years ago)

      Hey Meg! It’s definitely something I’m still working on, and has been/still is a long, slow process. I try to use a lot of positive self talk and focus on the things about myself that are good. A few of my friends who I’ve met since college read this post and were like “WOAH! I can’t believe you put up with that guy. That so doesn’t sound like you!” And I realized, I’m seriously like a different person than I was then in terms of confidence. I don’t know what single thing helped, but losing weight definitely reinforced that I could be successful, and made me realize I could do anything. I know that sounds corny and cliche, but it really is true. It’s changed my life completely, and definitely not just my body!

      Reply
  14. Gina
    February 7, 2013 at 3:51 pm (2 years ago)

    Wow, that guy sounds like several of my exes! I was made fun of most of my life for just looking dorky all throughout elementary and middle school. When I gained weight in college, I pretty much went a little cray on every guy trying to force a relationship. It’s natural to seek that outside reassurance but I’m so glad you have found it within yourself! I’m still working on it so thanks so much for this post!

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:59 am (2 years ago)

      I’m still working on it too – hope I didn’t give the impression that I have it all figured out! I’m just in a bit of a better place than I once was. :)

      Side note: love the word cray. too much.

      Reply
  15. Christa
    February 7, 2013 at 9:00 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi Beth,

    What a wonderful and inspiring blog post. I was in the 4th grade when another girl in the swimming class said I was fat. I was wearing a pink floral bathing suit with bows on the back. It’s crazy how vivid these memories can be and how damaging. I am 31 years old and I remember everything about that comment. I was overweight all my life until I joined WW when I was 22. It was the best choice I ever made. Love your honesty and your blog. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:58 am (2 years ago)

      It’s wild how much things like that stick with you. I remember the exact table, where I was sitting, and what I was wearing, and it was over 20 years ago!

      Reply
  16. Brittany
    February 8, 2013 at 12:06 am (2 years ago)

    Thank you so much for sharing Beth! I love the complete honesty in this post. Your story is so inspiring, I am so glad you’re at a better place now!

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:57 am (2 years ago)

      You’re welcome Brittany! I love having a place to get my thoughts out and work through things. :)

      Reply
  17. Connie
    February 8, 2013 at 6:11 am (2 years ago)

    I can related to this so much, I just went to my 30 HS reunion this past summer and some of the people I reconnected with from elementary and jr high – I could remember what they used to call me – it just popped back in my head when I saw them – oh, you called me rat rat the water rat – nice. I’m not bitter it’s just ironic how that sticks with you. My first mean comment was 3rd grade when I started a new school after we moved. Thank you for posting – love your blog!

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:57 am (2 years ago)

      Those words get so ingrained in us, it’s crazy. I was just at a high school reunion over Thanksgiving and the same thing happened to me! It felt good to look a lot better than I did back then, but it was even better to FEEL as good as I did!

      Reply
  18. Becky
    February 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm (2 years ago)

    This post hit so close to home for me and I thank you for posting it. Nothing makes me feel more “normal” than knowing that I was not the only person in this world that went through the same types of things growing up and learning who I was. My first incident I remember from being the “fat girl” was in Kindergarten! I remember standing in line waiting to go in from recess and a kid went “Why are you so HUGE?” (I was also taller than everyone in my class) I remember saying “I’m just tall.” Because being tall apparently meant fat too. I was only 6 years old… and it really never got any better. Even when I had friends, there were those that still picked on me, called me names, snickered at me, pull chairs out from under me (yeah, in 8th grade).

    So I really appreciate you sharing your emotionally rooted issues with weight. You are truly an inspriation to all!

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:53 am (2 years ago)

      That makes me so sad. Kids are SO mean! Ugh.

      Reply
  19. robin
    February 12, 2013 at 6:37 am (2 years ago)

    Your post are so spread out.

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 12, 2013 at 9:39 am (2 years ago)

      Hi Robin! Unfortunately I just don’t have the time to post as much as I used to, but as I mentioned in my goals for the year, I want to post at least once a week. I’m aiming for 2 – 3 times a week but it doesn’t always happen. Thanks for sticking with me anyway! :)

      Reply
  20. Gretchen @ Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen!
    February 12, 2013 at 11:45 am (2 years ago)

    Great, GREAT post, Beth. I think this really speaks to any of us who were heavy as kids or in high school. I still remember with VIVID clarity the first time I was ever called fat. I was 9, and I was getting ready to go to the beach with some of my aunts and cousins. My aunt walks into my room to collect me, sees me in my bathing suit, pokes me in the ribs and tells me I’m getting fat. And even though half my family is Chinese, and there’s a cultural difference, and tabooes that exist for us don’t exist for them, and even though she probably didn’t even mean to be hurtful or even mean it in the way that I took it, things were really never the same after that.

    Your posts, as always, are so inspirational and relatable. <3 you. :)

    Reply
  21. Karen
    February 18, 2013 at 3:29 pm (2 years ago)

    Beth – You said it all for me! I sat here & read your blog & all the comments! This was the first time I’ve ever read your posts! I just started WW last week – not my first time thru! I grew up heavy & have worn my fat suit my entire life. That’s not me! It’s just been what others have said I was. It’s time to find out who the real me is… About time – I’m 56 yrs old. Thanks so much for your words… I love your honesty & transparency, Keep up with your healthy journey – Best wishes to you!

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Karen! Thanks so much for your comment. It’s so easy to let other people affect our self identity and its pretty awful how mean society can be. It’s a never ending battle to healthiness that we need to fight for every day, and I’m glad you found WW and hope it works well for you like it has for me! Good luck!!

      Reply
  22. Lauren @ Oatmeal after Spinning
    February 21, 2013 at 10:42 am (1 year ago)

    I was catching up on your posts the other day and meant to come back immediately and comment- but here I am (better late than never).
    I LOVED this post, and could relate to it so much (just like pretty much everything you post!). I started getting chunky when I was about 9 years old, and then after my dad left, I put on about 30 lbs. in a year. And I carried that weight (plus about 30 more lbs) when until after I graduated college. I got teased a little bit in 6th grade, but was pretty lucky otherwise. I rememeber a few things- a few specific kids telling me I was fat (um, hello! I already knew that!), but I used humor as a defense mechanism. And I had some really great friends that didn’t care how I looked- many of them were boys. BUT, in high school especially, being fat was torture. I watched all of my thin friends eat whatever they wanted, wear cute clothes (while I struggled to zip up my size 16 pants), have boyfriends, etc. I WISHED to be thin every single day, but never did anything about it. I was so uneducated about nutrition and exercise too. It wasn’t until college that I lost weight/gained weight and then after college finally lost it and kept it off and got healthy.
    But, no matter how thin I would ever become now, I will ALWAYS see that fat girl when I look in the mirror. When you have that identity for so long, it’s nearly impossible to erase. It’s definitely gotten better, but it will always be there.

    Reply

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