TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of weight loss, eating disorders, and fat hatred.
Oy. Okay. You’re lucky I’m feeling patient today, because regardless of your intention, this is an incredibly rude question — just FYI.
First, there are a few basic general truths here you need to understand:
- Diets are 95% ineffective. (Here are more things to read).
- Self-esteem fluctuates in people of all body sizes, and all gender identities, all the time. You cannot tell by looking at someone whether or not they’re comfortable with or like themselves. This is as true of that Anne Hathaway lookalike in your English 101 class as it is of me.
- Health and happiness are possible at any size.
Now we’ll get to me, since you’ve asked.
Here I am at around one year old:
And late elementary/early middle school:
At this point I was being bullied so mercilessly in school that I would sob in the morning and beg not to go. I had used gum thrown at me, screws loosened in chairs so they’d collapse, nasty things written on my locker, and few friends — no one would risk being kind to me. In middle school, people were openly hateful; once, in a mandatory Home Ec class, the other two people in my group were openly praying that I wasn’t there when I came in late and didn’t bother hiding their disgust when I did show up. This was all for being fat (and, I assume, for having the coolest sweatshirt ever manufactured by Macy’s).
Here I am at the height of my eating disorder in 2006/2007, at which point I was 70 or 80 pounds lighter than I currently am (pardon my then-boyfriend’s hair):
The reason these aren’t great is because this was also the height of my self-loathing, and I did not allow full-body pictures of myself to be taken. It should also be said that at this time I was regularly fainting, chronically dehydrated, and losing muscle mass, not fat (yes, I did see a cardiologist at that time to ensure my heart was still functioning properly).
Here, in August at the SPARK retreat (rapping along to Nicki Minaj with the indomitable Lil’ Carmen):
And now (the picture quality is shitty because I literally just took this on iPhoto in my living room, hence the cup of tea on the couch behind me):
As you can see, I have always been fat. Even at my thinnest I was never lighter than 165lbs (I weighed myself religiously at that time). Once I started recovering from my eating disordered behavior, I gained that weight back steadily and have capped out at my current body weight. It’s now thought that body size may be as inheritable as hair color.
The difference between the pictures taken in 2007 and the one I took just now is something like 70 pounds — I’m not sure exactly how much because I haven’t weighed myself in months. It amounted to the following in actual body changes:
- Significantly decreased focus, motivation, self-esteem, endurance, and energy.
- As I mentioned previously, chronic dehydration and fainting.
- Significantly increased depression.
- 1 pants size. I went from a 16 to a 14.
I am currently between an American size 16 and an American size 18 depending on the brand of clothing I’m looking at. I’m probably like 220 pounds? I don’t really know. I’m 5’8”, meaning most doctors consider me obese.
(Yes! I am the obeast! I am what the media warns you about! I AM HERE TO EAT ICE CREAM TOPPED WITH PURE SUGAR AND HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP AND SPURN ATHLETIC EQUIPMENT!)
You know what, though, friend? I feel good about myself about 70% of the time. This is because I take care of myself. I move my body joyfully and often, I eat the things my body tells me to eat, I surround myself with positive and affirming people, I limit my exposure to trolls as best I can, and I have done a lot of work to stop thinking about myself in terms of hatred. Let me reiterate that for you, just so we’re as clear as we can possibly be: weight has had very, very little to do with my happiness.
You know that saying “misery is other people?” The 30% of the time when I feel shitty about myself occurs when comment threads like this happen (serious trigger warning there for all manner of rape apologism and fat hatred), which is, if you were wondering, any time a picture of me is posted anywhere for any reason. I feel shitty about myself when I get rejected romantically for a ton of reasons outlined in that link. I feel shitty about myself when I start comparing myself to other people. I feel shitty about myself when I am reminded, essentially, that American culture believes I should feel shitty about myself.
You embody this belief, you know. It’s why you assume that I don’t feel good about myself because I’ve reclaimed the word “fat.” It’s why you assume that fat people don’t feel good about themselves, or shouldn’t. It’s why you assume that being thinner would make people feel better about themselves. And it’s why you felt entitled to come into my inbox anonymously, assume I hate myself, and ask me why I don’t just change it as if it’s as simple as changing a pair of dirty underwear.