I was 10 years old. It was right after a Girl Scout meeting that was held in the basement of a friend’s house. Several of us were waiting for our parents, so we were playing a game.
Believe it or not, I was the tallest person in the room. I was a whole 4ft 10in, I think, but it was still a good 5 inches taller than a couple of my friends. They were these amazingly petite 10 year olds.
I was a tomboy. I played outside with the boys and played sports. I was taller and stronger than they were.
And, they called me fat.
The great irony of that statement looking back was the fact I was totally underweight. I had been dealing with a medical problem – one I don’t talk about to anyone – not even Garbanzo knows about – and I know, from doctor’s visits, that I was well underweight for my size and age.
But, because I was taller than they were and had muscles where they didn’t (my arms and thighs specifically), I was fat. Oh, and remember my post from the other day – I also had breasts that they did not have yet. Guess that contributed to my “fat”.
I remember trying to shrink a bit more when I was around the other girls. I remember at sleep overs after that covering up while others were not. I was fat. I no longer saw myself as a girl who was fit and healthy and athletic, I was forever fat from that moment on.
This image of “fat” has been something I have combated for my entire life. Even when a doctor would tell me I was normal, I didn’t believe them. As a girl, I already had body image issues. Show me one during their teenage years who didn’t as their body was morphing. But, I was told by my peers I was fat. I did not fit their definition of what a girl should look like or weigh, so that just affirmed things, in my opinion.
The summer between junior & senior year in high school, I lost 15lbs. It was a combination of working too many hours, not eating enough because of those hours, and being determined not to start the cross country season out of shape. Plus, I think I even got recruited to play in a woman’s softball league and a coed league that summer.
I finally felt skinny because the number on the scale said I was. For some reason, “healthy” weight of a 5’5″ girl of 17 was that number, not the one I had been. What was ironic was the doctor during my athletic physical started drilling me on whether or not it was intentional, how I did it, why I did it, etc.
Later, I would understand he was making sure I wasn’t depressed, didn’t have an eating disorder, or have something else going on he should be concerned about. I actually commend this doctor for being so pushy about getting answers to these questions. I don’t think many would have, but he had kids – a son & a daughter – so I get where his concern came from. He was first and foremost a dad.
It was amazing what this did for me. I had confidence that came from it….or so I thought. In the end, I realized my senior year confidence came more from the realization I was getting the fuck away from these small town, small minded people and all the bullshit surrounding that small town. I had a plan, the end was in sight, and no one was going to rain on my parade. Amazing how freeing that feeling is.
My body image issues lie more or less in a dormant state for a while. College was a time where you got to see a lot of people who were comfortable and uncomfortable in their own skins. People were having intellectual discussions about the “real woman” concept. And everyone was, for the most part, openly rejecting the idea that “real women” could be defined by a size or number on the scale.
My friends and I were part of that group who was comfortable with that discussion. Fred, my best friend, used to joke about her good childbearing hips. But, she would never trade them – she just wished she could find a pair of pants that could fit her hips and not be too big around the waist. This was the root of the joke. Since several of us were athletes, we celebrated the strength our bodies gave us. Strength, emotionally and physically, was how we defined women – not size.
Post college, however, the body image issues were back in full force. It was starting a new job where the people I worked had body image issues they wore on their sleeves and brought up constantly. I lived near my in-laws who were always looking to lose that 10lbs that they didn’t need. And were more than happy to point out to their son that he could stand losing at least 30lbs.
Then there was the wedding. Nothing like getting measured for a wedding dress, told you have to buy some ginormous size because your bust or something is bigger than a usual size 14, and have it altered down from what feels like a size 80 or something. Oh, and then because you have size D breasts, you are in the “extended sizes” which means more money. Yeah, I felt like the world was telling me I was fat again. I was not a “normal woman of a normal size”.
After I delivered Indigo, I was ginormous. I know it, I own it, and I did something about it. I lost the 75lbs I needed to lose, and got to a respectable weight again. But, my image of myself in my head did not match the outside body. I never felt healthy – I felt like a woman who went on a diet, got skinny, and still had the thoughts of a fat person. The voices of those 10 year old girls calling me fat were still alive and well in my head.
Late last year, I put out the call to others who would like to form a support group for those with diet and exercise goals. I had gained about 30lbs of that weight back, I was not happy with the fact that the change didn’t take, and I wanted to try it again. Several people joined the cause, and a support group was formed. I lost 35lbs in 5-6 months of this year. But, something greater happened – my image of myself changed.
I think a lot of what drove the change in that internal image was being surrounded by body positive people – both in blogger land as well as professionally and personally. People who were comfortable in their own skin. Who did not judge people by whether or not they were skinny or fat – but by who they were underneath their skin. Be skinny – look hot – be an ass – well, skinny and hot got you in the door, but being an ass got you right back out of it. It is about being the whole package. And that goes for everyone regardless of shape, size, etc.
While there are many disparaging remarks throughout the ages where the guy asks his friend if the girl is hot – and the response is “she has a nice personality.” But the truth is, if she does have a great personality, she is perceived as hot. She becomes beautiful. It is about owning the body you have and working it. And, I have found in my experience, those who have the personality can and do just that.
Just like I found out – having a size 8 body doesn’t make you sexy unless you feel sexy and feel like you look good. And, feel like you are worthy of someone’s lust and attention and love.
That last statement was an important one for me. Until I started feeling it myself – feeling I was worthy of the lust, love and attention I was getting, I was not going to see myself the way others did. I still until recently saw myself as that 10-year-old girl wishing I could be “thin” who was thin, but saw a fat person in the mirror.
Making this mental shift has also been important as a mother of two girls. I do NOT want them to have these issues. I want them to be comfortable in their skins and not judge themselves by those on magazines, on TV or even their peers. And, when someone suggests Indigo is overweight – I am the first to bite their head off. I don’t need her to hear that – and I won’t worry until the doctor says to worry. My in-laws and I have already had this talk once. I think I scared my father-in-law enough that we won’t need a second one. Garbanzo feels the same way. Hell, our nanny from hell and I used to have this discussion on a weekly basis because she was one of those people who believed women who weren’t in that “real woman” box were not worthy of time. Great role model for my kids, huh? Was one of the reasons her ass was fired.
Losing weight this year when the girls are at the age where they understand has been tricky. We are very clear this is about health. We want to be healthy. We want to run to be strong. We want to run races and compete in triathlons. It is not about being “skinny”. It is about being healthy. A very important distinction.
It is hard enough being a kid in this world; I will be doing my damnedest to keep them from falling victim of this issue for as long as I can. So, I will educate them so they can deal with it the first time someone says they do not meet that person’s physical standards. I don’t want them 25 years later still fighting those comments.