This is a post I promised myself I wouldn’t write until I got to a certain place in my life and for the last few years, I started to doubt it’d ever get written.
This is the story about how I got fat.
In 2005 I started a new medication and I started to put on weight. Not a little bit here and there, a lot, fast. I’d always been a skinny kid so weight gain was confusing. I remember standing in my bedroom, which I had diligently decorated with Polaroids and plastered with Radiohead and Bikini Kill lyrics, trying to do up a skirt I had worn mere weeks before. This was the first time in my life I’d felt comfortable with the essence of whatever it was that was me. I was having a very self-confident year and I was very satisfied with a lot of aspects of my life.
What was uncomfortable was the way the skirt suddenly felt like it was sawing me in half. When I couldn’t do it up, I assumed the washing machine had eaten part of it. I let this charade go on long past the point where white goods could be to blame.
I didn’t just gain weight, I became obese. People who’ve known me for years have argued that although I weighed a lot, I couldn’t possibly have been obese, maybe because there was six-foot of me to spread the weight gain across, but there’s no getting around the facts.
This turn of events both upset me greatly and numbed me. While I became obsessively self-conscious to the point of avoiding clothes shopping almost completely, because fitting rooms would make me panic to the point I would break out in a sweat, I somehow felt safer with a label. If I was fat, people could just see me as that, ignore me and move on. I never learnt to “embrace my curves” perhaps because they weren’t so much curves as odd bulges in hard to hide places. My self-loathing was very insular and I ignored it so diligently that I didn’t even notice the depression creep in, a low buzz that sapped me of so much energy and made me a homebody. I assumed my constant tiredness was a side-effect of the weight, except I wasn’t tired, I barely slept, I was instead exhausted in every way possible.
I joined gyms, I ate microwaveable “healthy” meals, I bought bigger and bigger clothes and then I finally gave up. The thought of what I used to consider dinner and the portions I ate makes me feel ill now, but at the time I guess I thought that I was fat anyway, junk food made me feel better and what did kilos matter when they were just being added to kilos on kilos?
Nothing could stop me. Family members talking to me about my weight and the consequences didn’t, hating all my clothes and my reflection didn’t, being diagnosed with high blood pressure didn’t.
I was so numb that on the several occasions strangers decided to tell me I was fat, one man going so far as to follow me around the supermarket, I didn’t shed a tear. Whole Lotta Rosie? I was a whole lotta fuck you.
Then in 2010 I started losing weight slowly, living alone meant that the only things in the fridge were things I really wanted there. Bottles of soft drink became a can every now and then, I started cooking at home more, snacking less. It wasn’t a conscious decision at all, but the small results were nice and were enough to get me back to the gym.
Last year I lost more weight and learnt to love the gym, particularly lifting weights. I started to lose fat, and gain muscle, so although the scales weren’t moving much, clothes started to fit differently, I started to sleep better and I stopped hating every photo I saw of myself. I started letting people take photos of me.
This year, I set myself the same resolution I had done for about five years, but I tweaked it slightly. Rather than telling myself I would be skinny and a total heath food nut by year’s end, I told myself I didn’t need to do anything more than reach the weight I was when I first stepped on the scales in 2006 and realised I had a problem and probably needed to do something about it. It was still a huge task, but at least I had a number, and at least I was being realistic.
On April 8, I stepped on the scales and realised I’d passed my goal with eight months to go, and I cried. I hadn’t realised until that moment how much weight loss actually mattered to me.
I’ve lost about 10kgs this year already and multiple clothing sizes. I fit into clothes I haven’t worn since my early 20s, whereas clothes that I bought as recently as November look ridiculously baggy on me now. I have developed a shopping addiction and had can’t stop clutching my sides and screaming, ‘Hip bones! Hello it’s been so long since I’ve seen you!’
I am nowhere near the point where I want to analyse the whole process or the long-term effects of ignoring that I felt so bad about myself for such a long time, and honestly, I don’t really want to get into the politics of weight in western culture either, so I’m just kind of enjoying it at the moment and trying not to run into things when I look at myself in shop windows, not because I’m arrogant, but because I keep having to check in to make sure it really happened.
And so this is the serious side of the story, a fairly superficial snapshot of one of the biggest struggles I’ve had.
Probably the biggest thing I will take away from the experience is this: I have never met a seriously overweight person who doesn’t have mental health issues, and it’s a chicken or the egg scenario, but I don’t care which came first. It doesn’t matter. I don’t find fat jokes funny, I don’t understand the intolerance people feel for, say, overweight people at the gym, overweight people sitting next to them on the plane, overweight people eating in public. It’s not necessarly gluttony and laziness, sometimes these people are very, very slowly slipping away, self-medicating on food, faced with a huge task to get better. To taunt them, to use them to make yourself feel better, is cruel.
I was the same person, the whole time.