The shame, blame, and ridicule was heaped on me from a very young age. Obesity is genetic in my family, as most of my relatives are what doctors consider “overweight” or “obese”, even though they eat healthily and exercise. I was about four when my parents got custody of me back, and at the time, I was a healthy, chubby little pre-schooler. I remember my mother grabbing my chub, and saying “we got to put you on a diet, you little porker”. I had no clue what a diet was at that age, but I remember those words ringing through my head. I remember eating my spaghetti at about the age of 5, and my mother and father were getting ready to go to a party. My mother said to my father “we got to get someone to supervise that pig eating over there” (looking for a babysitter). I still didn’t take those jabs to heart, because I didn’t understand what she meant, but I did later on, and it hurt. I was put on my first diet in kindergarten. I was only allowed steamed veggies and salads, and small bowl of plain oatmeal in the morning. My mother said to me one day as she swept me off the ground that summer and showered me with affection “you’re skinny! You did it! you’re perfect now!” I think I was still only 5 years old at that point, because she lifted me in the air without struggling, I remember now, that that love was only conditional, and it still is.
I was on and off parental-enforced diets until I was 11, when I started hating my body and restricting on my own. Whenever I lost weight, affection, love, and approval shone down upon me. If I hit a plateau or gained anything, abuse ensued, physical, mental, verbal, emotional, forced exercise and calorie counting. I became obsessed with “safe” foods, and became fully vegan, then I decided proteins and other higher calorie foods (beans, brown rice, nuts and seeds, oils) were off limits as well. My father got me a scale for my birthday (thanks a million, pop) and I began weighing in several times per day. My dad would shame me, I remember, for every morsel I ate. “You’re going to die alone if you eat that (insert food here), you know”. And “It must hurt you to exercise because your thighs rub together”. I hated his jabs, so I tried not to eat around anybody, and my days revolved around avoiding food, and how to lie to friends when they asked me if I’ve eaten or offered snacks. “I ate before I got here” or “I have an upset stomach” almost became my mantras.
My mother got me teen-aged targeted magazines with these airbrushed, impossibly thin images, and these became plastered on my bedroom wall, the refrigerator and cupboards, and on the bathroom mirror. I was severely depressed, and looked to cutting/burning to alleviate my anxiety and emotions. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror without seeing myself as fat, contrary to what my friends were telling me. I remember on several occasions, taking a black marker to my thighs, stomach, arms, hips, circling what I thought I needed to lose in order to gain approval and acceptance. I started writing “thinspiration” quotes on my mirror with eyeliner, and writing body-hatred quotes on post-it notes on the refrigerator.
Self-hatred was put into all three of us girls, my sister suffered from Anorexia, too, but I don’t think she will admit it. My mother compared us to each other constantly, and one of us was the favorite based on a weekly weigh-in. The inner dialogue was enough to kill me inside. I didn’t mind other people around me being overweight or chubby at all. I thought, all the power to them, I wish I could love my body as they love theirs. But I thought for myself, it was “morally reprehensible” for me to be happy with my own body the way I thought it was.
I had a few exes, too, which if I had fat on any other part of my body other than my breasts, then I was fat. I had a bit, I was considered “normal”. He pulled the trigger by pointing out on tv when a model or actress was on the screen, stating that even some of the Victoria’s Secret runway models were “fat”, or if he saw what most considered underweight, he told me to take an example. I soon found out I was pregnant with my first child, and I started eating better for the baby. I gained weight from the pregnancy, but the fat shame kept being thrown my way. I overheard him joking with friends that I looked like a beached whale and that he was considering cheating on me, and that he was ashamed to be seen in public a fat chick, that I would order half of the entire restaurant menu if he took me out to dinner. He constantly told me that the pregnancy made me look fat. I paid no attention. I kept eating healthily. He left me shortly after the birth, because he said I looked warped and disgusting, and left me for a skinnier friend of mine.
Fast forward to 2008, I was newly married, and was pregnant with number 2. This was a time I still was recovered and loved my body, then my mother came back into my life shortly after the birth. I was called a balloon, a blimp, a whale, a porker, at several family dinners, including my aunts and uncles jabbing at me. I was afraid to even eat in front of others, and with the withdraw of love and affection, the negative inner dialogue came back, I was fighting it, but it came back, and I started a vegan diet again, for the weight loss, but it wasn’t working, and my family made a point of bringing it to my attention that the diet wasn’t working. I also had a group of friends my age, and they made cracks at people in public who walked by who happened to be people of size. I went to stores to find nice clothing, and sometimes the workers said, sorry, we have nothing in your size, why don’t you try the plus-sized stores? and laughed as I walked out. I’m 6’2”, so you could picture that I do have wider hips and a wider frame. I was ashamed of shopping, and started dressing in baggy black clothing to hide myself away.
Fast forward to 2010, my (now ex) husband had problems with libido, but him and his ego, went into self-preservation mode. He blamed it on my weight. He told me that no woman should ever outweigh or be larger than the man she’s with, though I was nowhere near his size at the time. So I started restricting my already vegan diet again, and added exercise. I did so in the rain, the snow, windy weather, it was part of my routine. I joined calorie counting websites which shamed me for a small spread of butter on a piece of rye bread, labeling the “food grade” an F, even though the calories were low, so I cut out entire food groups. I still had the scale my father got me some time ago, because I wanted to track the progress, this site prompted you to weigh in every so often, with a “progress chart”. As I lost weight, I was getting increasingly depressed, because my goal was always set and reset to lose more. I cut from time to time when the pain and hopelessness felt like too much. Starving felt like elation and serenity, an so-called “hunger high”. I went through a small recovery period from 2011 to early 2012, (I was pregnant with number 3 late 2011. My changing body shape scared the living daylights out of me. I was (again) shamed, this time, by myself. I feared weight gain at this point, and restricted, severely. I lost more weight, and my ex-husband’s family didn’t know I had an eating disorder. They were telling me how good I looked, how beautiful I made pregnancy look, they thought my eating rituals were strange (cutting up food to tiny pieces, water in between, etc) but thought nothing of it. They told me they like how I slimmed down, and ask me how I did it, I had to lie, I told them diet and exercise, forced a smile, and walked away to distract myself. All of their gatherings were about food, and I would have to do anything to avoid eating, and if I did eat, I didn’t want people to see me. I keep remembering my mother’s and father’s harsh words as a little girl.
During the latest pregnancy, I decided to reach out to a doctor. I told him, when he thumbed through my medical history, that I was having a relapse. He chuckled, and said that my “ample fat storage” was enough to nourish my unborn baby. That meant to me, a green light. A go-ahead. I knew, deep in my heart, that I should have been eating healthily for the sake of the unborn baby, but I was terrified of becoming like my family after they had their children. They were all people of size. I gave birth to a healthy baby girl, with an insane amount of luck, she was fine. I regret letting the stigma and shame get to me during a pregnancy. I regret letting those words and encouragements put my baby girl in harm’s way, all because of anti-fat bias and crappy (dangerous) advice from a anti-fat obstetrician.
I still was mortified by the way I looked after the birth, and started taking diet pills in 2012. My heart already had problems, it was atrophied. My blood pressure was extremely low. I was hospitalized for extreme electrolyte imbalances, heart palpitations, heart racing for no reason as if I ran a marathon, and fainting spells. I went into cardiac arrest at the hospital twice (luckily I was already there), they kept me there for only a week, deciding that I was underweight, but was still deemed not severely underweight enough to have a problem with an eating disorder. The hospital psychiatrist booked me in for a few outpatient treatments with the least helpful advice ever; just eat. You can’t be possibly suffering, as you don’t quite make the weight cut-off. This is what I’ve been told by doctors over the years, because of my frame. “you look fine”, “you’re healthy-looking”, “I wish I was your weight”. I would have liked to give them a day with aching kidneys and liver, heart palpitations, dizziness, fainting spells, severe bloating, constipation. Skinny does not equal healthy, though most doctors beg to differ. You would think that cardiac arrest was enough to tell them that I had a big problem. I’m 25 years old; I shouldn’t have to worry about heart attacks, blood pressure, weight and shape. I should be having fun, and loving myself at any size.
What was worse, was my family telling me that I’m so strong and have great willpower for going through with my weight loss despite that it came from an eating disorder, they were well aware of the fact that I had one. How I must be so brave because of the hospitalization. I have since then, cut my family out of my life, threw out my scale, my tape measure, most of my mirrors, and “thinspiration” pictures. Gone. And I will never allow those things in my home again. When you add life-long abuse and weight-shaming, overly critical parents and aunts, crappy doctors who don’t take you seriously if you need help but happen to look “overweight” or “chubby” or “fine”, crappy doctors telling me that an ED is fine as long as it helps me to lose weight, family genetic predisposition to being larger, being a people-pleaser and over-achiever, with an intense fear of weight gain, and a general societal hate and ignorance towards larger people, and you have a deadly cocktail. My body still aches, but my mental clarity is becoming better. My heart is healing from those painful wounds, and I will pick up and carry on.
I just started to recover, January 2013 was my new years resolution to love myself, eat right, repair the damage done to myself, and not give flying **** about what others have to say about my body or size. I was happier being considered a person of size, than I was in the depths of an eating disorder. I am proud to say, that I am a survivor, a fighter, and I will be a role model for my children when it comes to Health At Every Size.
Asked by Anonymous
yes, anyone can submit a story. and no i don’t believe there’s a word limit :) we welcome stories!
I am thirty years old and I am crying my heart out. This makes our fifth therapy session about body acceptance and self-esteem. I cried the the whole time during those sessions too.
“What did he say?” my therapist asked.
I’m too embarrassed to tell her. And she’s been my therapist for four years. She knows my inmost thoughts and dreams, but I can’t manage to tell her this. So I tell her the story, hoping that by the end, I’ll have the strength to say what he said.
“I’ve been called all sorts of things. Bitch, cunt, much worse. They roll off me and don’t mean a thing. I’ve had internet trolls tell me I should be raped to death. Doesn’t keep me awake at night. But the thing that’s hurt me most, the worst thing I think anyone has ever said to me was when I was 12. We were getting ready for church. The whole family was already in the car, and as usual, I was the last in. I remember exactly what I was wearing. A blouse. A black, knee-length skirt. Some horrible early nineties dress shoes. And some dark hose, almost tights, to cover what I already thought were my huge, fat legs.”
I stop here, remembering standing in front of the mirror, looking at myself in that outfit.
“My dad stopped me. He said “Your legs look like tree trunks.” I’m not sure what he said after that, the blood rushing to my ears and my pounding heart made the rest of what he said a blur. I knew he told me to go back inside and change.
So I did. But I lingered another moment before the mirror, staring at my legs. I had started to get hips and thighs. I know now, that I wasn’t fat then, wasn’t even overweight.
But I changed into a long dress.
And I never wore another skirt that showed my legs again. I didn’t wear a bathing suit for nearly twenty years after that. I still haven’t worn shorts. I never wore another tank top. Or sleeveless shirt. I stopped participating in sports because I’d have to reveal too much skin.
It helped start a terrible cycle of self-hatred, low self-esteem and obsession with my weight. I’m still fighting it.
-Amy from Wellington
TRIGGER WARNING, for body hate, self injury, and eating disorders.
I was an active, chubby kid. I played softball, I ran around the neighborhood, I rode my bike and climbed trees. I did yard work and was proud of my ability to lift and pull heavy things. My uncle called me “husky” and it was a compliment because it implied a kind of sturdiness that I wanted.
But at school, to everyone else, my body was worthy of ridicule. I remember the feel of eyes on my skin, the burning feeling, as if hatred could be sent across a room and physically painted onto me. I remember the constant reminders that I was taking up too much space. I remember feeling that I shouldn’t exist, because I obviously brought up something unpleasant to the people who had to look at me. The insults, half-whispered, that I tried to tell myself were not for me, but they were. I remember groups of girls ganging up on me after school and having to run away while their voices followed me.
Toughen up, my mom always said. If you laugh with them, they’ll stop laughing.
But they never did. And how can you laugh at cruelty to yourself? People stole my things, wrote on my clothes, pushed me into lockers, and made fun of my friends, so that soon it was a liability to be with me.
At some point I discovered that I could hurt the body, the body that was the source of all this torment. Why shouldn’t I? Perhaps it was practice for getting rid of it. I didn’t know all the reasons, I just knew I hated this body as much as everyone else seemed to. I tore at it. I bruised it, I cut it, I burned it. I climbed high into trees and flirted with falling. By the time I decided I wanted to die, I was too suspicious of other people to actually receive any help.
I suppose I was lucky that I didn’t develop my eating disorder until later, after I’d stopped growing. The behaviors had started in high school, but I didn’t recognize them for what they were. Being thin was a good thing, so it didn’t matter how I got there, right? In my early 20’s, when I was deep into a sport that stressed not just fitness but size, I succumbed. My coach told me I’d be better if I lost ten pounds. It’s not her fault, though. I actually stopped eating to fit into a costume. I remember that moment so clearly. It’s as if the mirror I was looking into shattered, breaking me into pieces.
I almost died because I tried to erase the body that people had poured their hatred onto, hatred that had soaked into me. Getting skinny didn’t change my feelings. I hated the body just as much as before, and it was just as ugly to me. Yet now the positive affirmations came. “You’re so trim,” people would say. And “You look wonderful!” while I was dying, starving and dying. Then I turned into a bone person, and people didn’t say that anymore. Still, the response was almost affectionate; “You’re so frail,” as if that were a good thing, a feminine thing to be.
Seven and a half years later, with ruined teeth, a ruined metabolism, and thousands of dollars spent, I finally started eating again. As most people do when recovering from an eating disorder, I gained weight very quickly. It was very, very difficult, but I kept going. I was never going to go back. I nearly lost everything, and slowly things were restored to me. I was able to eat socially again. I was able to exercise and participate in my sport again, and learned to let people look at my body and not take their judgments into myself.
I am lucky I got away, escaped from a lifetime of disordered eating. So many people never do. I mostly get along with my body, even with its lumps and bulges. My body is strong and muscular, not ‘frail’. It never deserved my hate or the hate of anyone else. I didn’t choose it. I do what I can to be healthy, and that’s all I can do. I will not engage in any type of radical body modification ever again. If people compliment my body, while I appreciate that they are trying to be kind, I am deeply suspicious. My body’s shape does not determine my worth, or it shouldn’t. I want people to tell me they like the muscles I worked hard for, not the genetics I didn’t.
The scars all over my hands and arms remind me of the hatred, how it seeped in and spilled from me. They advertise to others that something went terribly wrong. Because it is apparent what they are, no one asks. If they do, I don’t know which narrative I will tell them; the narrative of self hatred or the narrative of hatred brought forth by the shape and size of my prepubescent body. They became intertwined.
I wonder if I will pay a price later for my seven plus years of starvation. But right now, I am grateful that I can live in my body, that I can eat and enjoy food, that I can try to spread the message of body acceptance to my circle of friends and family. When people say critically, “My arms are fat!” I always interrupt with a contrasting message: your arms are beautiful and so are you. There’s no need to say those things and ascribe any type of value to them. We don’t have to play that game anymore, any of us.
Let’s face the facts. We’ve lost the war on obesity.
Fighting fat hasn’t made the fat go away. And being thinner, even if we knew how to successfully accomplish it, will not necessarily make us healthier or happier.
The war on obesity has taken its toll. Extensive “collateral damage” has resulted: Food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, discrimination, poor health….Few of us are at peace with our bodies, whether because we’re fat or because we fear becoming fat.
Health at Every Size is a new peace movement
The only way to solve the weight problem is to stop making weight a problem- to stop judging ourselves and others by our size. Weight is not an effective measure of attractiveness, moral character, or health. The real enemy is weight stigma, for it is the stigmatization and ear of fat that causes the damage and deflects attention from true threats to our health and well-being.
**trigger warning for ED, fatphobia, dieting**
My mother wore the same suit to every one of her class reunions. I don’t mean the same style suit. I mean the same suit. I remember that she always looked so pretty when she got dressed and went to the party. She was very proud to fit into the same suit every five years for each reunion. She did not stay the same size between reunions though. In real life, she fluctuated between a size twelve and a size twenty. Months before each reunion she would “buckle down”, lose “the weight” until she “looked good”, and fit into her black suit again. She was proud of her accomplishment. After all, so many of the “girls” really “let themselves go” over the years.
My mother had four daughters. We heard her friend’s reactions to her many weight loss “successes”. “Oh, Jeannie, you look wonderful!” “You look much better now.” “You were really starting to look awful there for a while.” As young girls listening to these conversations of the women around us, we learned these hurtful lessons that caused problems for all of us later in life: When someone loses weight, that is always a good thing. Thinner people look better. Anyone can, with enough willpower, lose weight anytime they want to. These were hurtful lessons. And these lessons were untrue.
Two of Jeannie’s daughters were short and chubby. We learned that our bodies were unacceptable when we heard the grown-ups talk. Two other daughters were tall and lean. They also learned to criticize and measure their bodies. We were all in training for a lifetime of body loathing. Our teachers were the adult women in our lives. They did not mean to hurt us. These women were just doing what they were taught. Still, listening to these hurtful compliments wounded each of Jeannie’s daughters.
Mom was wounded too. Every compliment about her brief thinness was also a criticism of her usual plumpness. Every compliment would come back to haunt her when her weight returned, as it always did.
No, I am wrong. Eventually, my mother did lose weight and keep it off. She did finally get off the diet and weight gain merry-go-round. When she was fifty-four years old, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. As the cancer ravaged her body she got thinner and thinner. One day, when I was visiting during her illness, we went to the corner shopping center. We ran into one of mom’s old friends. I remember her friend saying, “Jeannie, you look great. You are so nice and thin!” A few weeks later, we all went to my sister’s opera performance. Mom wore a beautiful gray slinky dress. I remember her saying, as she adjusted her wig, “One nice thing about having cancer is that I don’t have to worry about my weight. I finally look good in these fitted clothes.” A few months later she looked good in her casket too. All her friends said so.
(God! I cry when I read this even today. Mom died 30 years ago.)
By Julie Moult
Last updated at 9:21 PM on 19th October 2009
Abused: The attack on Marsha Coupe left her with a black eye
A woman who claims to have been beaten up because she is overweight is campaigning to see discrimination against fat people outlawed.
Marsha Coupe, 53 was attacked on a train by a woman who began verbally abusing her for her size.
‘I was returning home one night on a train and a woman sat across from me started kicking me and said, Hey fattie! You should not be on the train, you need two seats, she said.
Mrs Coupe, a marketing manager, was left shaken and badly bruised after the attack in May last year.
‘I had probably 30 to 40 bruises over my chest and my neck.
I was terrified I was going to lose my eye.
‘London prides itself on being diverse yet there is almost a zero-tolerance on anyone of size.
You cannot walk the streets without being verbally or physically assaulted.
The American who now lives in Hayes, Kent and weighs 22 stone was travelling home from London late at night in May last year when she was set upon.
She has now joined forces with a group of other women to lobby mayor Boris Johnson to make the capital more fat friendly.
In the US city of San Francisco it is illegal to discriminate against people because of their size and the women are hoping to see similar moves introduced.
Cinemas and restaurants have to provide larger seats, and doctors are even asked to ‘respect the wishes’ of fat patients who do not want to discuss their weight.
The plight of overweight people in the capital was illustrated on a BBC documentary Inside Out aired last night.
Eve Hart, 25, an emergency services phone operator from Ilford, Essex told how she was often turned away from nightclubs because she is overweight.
‘When you go out, you get ready and look your best, and then get abuse. I feel more embarrassed than anything for my friends than myself, she said.
Kathryn Szrodecki, an overweight presenter from Fulham, travelled to San Francisco in the documentary to research the law and is determined to make similar changes in London.
She says: “Mayor Boris, I have seen the law in action. I have my scales with me and I’m on my way to your office to begin the transformation of London.”
Our first submission on Purple Hearts- please go read it now
Dear Anonymous, I hereby award you the Purple Heart in the War On Fat for your bravery and strength.
Trigger warnings for: suicidal ideation, rape, abuse
Let me start this rant off by saying I REFUSE to use the word bully. Its a candy fucking coated word to make a serious issue…
The idea from this blog came from the amazing efforts of people all over the country in response to the string of gay suicides. It was covered by the media, new anti bullying policies were put in place in many schools across the nation, the It Gets Better campaign was started, and the majority of the country came together to support those in the LGBT community who may be considering suicide. As a member of the LGBT community myself I found these efforts to be heart warming and overwhelming in their compassion and love for fellow human beings in pain. I feel lucky to have been surrounded by people who didn’t care about my sexuality. I may have gotten an eyebrow raised in my direction, but I never faced the horrors that many LGBT people face.
Unfortunately, as a fat person I have not been so lucky. While I rejoyced at this new swell of LGBT acceptance and support, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that while these gay suicides were catching the media’s attention and more focus was being put on bullying of LGBT people (though it seemed mostly focused on LG people- I think we can do better here), there were still people getting bullied, contemplating, attempting, and completing suicide because of their weight. I couldn’t help but wonder, where is our awareness campaigns? Our media coverage? Our “It Gets Better” videos?
Unfortunately the sad truth is that, for many fat people, it doesn’t get better. The abuse doesn’t stop just because you grow up and move to a liberal neighborhood. Fat people face constant verbal abuse and bullying, fear of physical attacks, job discrimination including a fat wage gap, they can be denied insurance or even certain medical procedures, have their health and lives put in jeopardy from dangerous weight loss methods (in the name of health no less), and are constantly degraded and dehumanized in the media. The truth is that fat people are more at risk for both eating disorders and suicide as a direct result of weight stigma.
This blog is to share the stories of the survivors of this war. Those who have suffered through physical and mental injury in the name of thinness. Eating disorders, self harm, surgery and more. These are their stories in a hope to show people that war always has casualties. My goal is that this will help people accept themselves, know that they’re not alone, and maybe, just a little, help to end the war on fat which is, after all, a war on fat people.