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.