I would have been around 7 or 8 years old when I recognized my body was built differently than the other girls my age. I had been in competitive figure skating from an early age, spending most of my mornings before school and after at the rink going between one lesson to another. I remember my favorite thing to do was go to the concession stand if my mom had given me some money and share an order of onion rings with my tiny friends. One of the sneaky things I used to do was comb the bottom of my fathers closet where change would fall from his pant pockets onto the floor. This would fund my concession trips on many occasions against my mother’s knowledge who was trying to mold her little Olympic Dream on skates. And as a result, treats were few and far between however and was always reminded that Onion Rings were not a “healthy option.” I didn’t understand why not, therefore given my personality felt more inclined to indulge in the forbidden every chance I could get.
To put it into context further, I was the kid who had the homemade fruit leather and vegetable filled pitas in my lunch, which as an adult I would not complain about this at all. Especially considering my breakfast, lunches and sometimes dinner looks more like a reheated Triple Skinny Latte most of the time. But for myself all I wanted was the fruit roll ups I could stick on my finger like the rest of the kids and chew on its artificially sweetened chemically saturated nectar. Hot Dog days at school were especially difficult- I’d salivate over the Orange Drink and smells of boiled mystery meat and mustard. Walking home from school I was advised to not go to the corner store with friends, but my dads closet floor would always pull through and I’d have enough to buy a bag of O’Ryans Sour Cream and Onion chips, with its savory thick powder coating. The walk home would allow me enough time to eat it, and dispose of the evidence just in time.
By no means do I intend on framing my mother as restrictive or intentionally harmful with regards to the relationship I have with food. You see she knew all too well what I’d face growing up with regards to my weight and sense of self image because she too struggled. She grew up in a time when body positivity was not a “thing” and if you were overweight you would shield your imperfections from the world as to not offend anyone. She would sometimes tell me my clothes were too tight, as a way f trying to protect me from potential mean comments or stares she had endured. I remember her telling me that she would wear big earrings to draw attention to her face and away from her body. I too often use this jokingly when I simply need an excuse to wear big gaudy earrings that only I could appreciate. My mom knew the world could be cruel to me and did not want to see me endure the same kind of judgement she had been through.
So when I could be seen in comparison to the other tiny ice nymphs it was clear I was going to be a bull within the china shop. At that time my favorite Figure Skater at that time was Serina Bonnelly, a muscular powerhouse of fierce athleticism. I wanted to be her. In fact I’d attack my jumps and spins with the same kind of ferocity I imagined she did. Fearlessly I’d approach my set ups with a crazed adrenaline determined that could out-do any element of grace required to stick a landing. I wanted to go into them fast and hard, like a kamikaze pilot raging into battle. As a result I’d often fall just as hard, getting up each time to try it 30-40 more times. I wasn’t concerned though about the falls because I loved the feeling of taking flight with the robust capabilities that my body gifted me with.
As my skating career continued I had begun Precision Skating with a group of 20 other girls, which is now known s synchronized skating now. I remember being fitted for my costume, it was an Annie themed routine, and I wore an electric red body suit with a little white collar. There I was with my oddly shaped 7 year old body, you know the one, round bellied sprinkled with hints of puberty. My legs were strong and I was a powerful skater with a tooshie to match. I loved Precision skating as it was so unique to work with a team as opposed to being alone on the ice. We had gone to a competition with our Annie program and we had taken team photos after winning first place in our category beaming with delight. I’d get the long awaited photo and pull it from its envelope and look for myself in the photo, and it didn’t take long as I stood out appearing like a brown haired chubby cherub in a red body suit. I no longer wanted to be Serina Bonnelly, I wanted to be skinny and tiny like the rest of the girls.
My heart breaks for my 7 year old self with that statement.
Similar situations like the Precision Team picture would occur into my adolescence. I continued to be powerful, strong and heavy into sports like Rowing and Field Hockey which I would excel in. Lazy I was not and loved competing and enjoying the thrills of being an athlete. But sure enough, with every team I was on, there I would be, standing out in photos, with my bottom heavy thick legs and thighs among the petit bodies that I wanted so much to be like. I remember hitting grade 11 and had decided I’d drop some weight going from 136 lbs. to 120 lbs. Weekends we would order pizza to our dorm and I’d savor my allowed portion by eating the slice in layers, starting with the cheese, then the soft dough, moving down to the bare bones of the crust.
I actually still eat pizza this way now, except I eat 4 pieces with ranch and hot sauce.
During that time in high school I had heavy training related to my sports teams, but additionally I’d spend my nights in the weight room working out on my own when everyone else was hanging out. I thought maybe if I could get “skinny” things would get better for me. Maybe I’d be more desired by the popular boys, maybe the cool girls would want to closer to me as a friend, maybe teachers would pay attention to me or even maybe I’d be noticed more for my accomplishments like the skinny girls were. What I wanted was to be seen and appreciated. It seemed like this happened so effortlessly for the skinny girls. This was the message the world was giving me at this time. It was reinforced by the early warnings of my mother who had shared similar experiences of being treated differently feeling that society did not value fat people. In my experience the ridicule came in the form of feeling often invisible in the crowd and achievements unacknowledged despite my efforts, dedication and performance.
“If we make self-love or body acceptance conditional, the truth is, we will never be happy with ourselves. The reality is that our bodies are constantly changing, and they will never remain exactly the same. If we base our self-worth on something as ever-changing as our bodies, we will forever be on the emotional roller coaster of body obsession and shame.”— Chrissy King
By graduation, I was tiny, and I looked phenomenal catching the eye of those who underestimated this newly blonde and bodacious bombshell. I worked that form fitting Latin inspired dress like a rockstar…it was my night to shine and it felt so good to be looked at for once. I remember my father continued to comment on how amazing I looked and how everybody was staring at his gorgeous daughter.
I felt seen finally!
It was like a drug for a girl that felt so invisible.
After high school I’d venture into a world that was far more forgiving, team photos a distant past and tucked away in a box. My inner desire to feel the urge to compare and regulate my body weight would be fleeting depending on where I was at emotionally. Having my daughter would push me over the 200 lb. mark and keep me there 20 years later. I’ve fluctuated since then losing 10, gaining 20, losing 30, gaining 10. The game continues today. I’ve done weight watchers, Keto, G.I. diet, HCG, and gone vegetarian all with great results. I remember in June this year I’d lose 25 lbs on a quick and restrictive calorie deficit diet, feeling like I had hit the jackpot finally on my quest to feel good in the body I was given. I had been anticipating a night out with friends and planned an outfit that would show off my newly smaller frame. I’d put this outfit on and immediately hated how my body looked in it. Parts of my figure that I loved before no longer were accentuated in ways that made me unique from the pack. I looked like a deflated and more invisible version of myself than ever before. This was not the kind of reinforcement I had hoped for in the quest to continue my journey to be more visible and accepted in the world. And wouldn’t you know, within months I’d go back to the fluffier and more filled out version of myself.
I cannot win, but I’m okay with it.
Let me just say this, the happiest I’ve been with regards to my how I feel about my body is when I can work out 5 days a week and eat what I want. During my most gym dedicated times as my commitment often varies, did I ever lose any significant weight, but my body would change as did my confidence. Do I get “Skinny” by doing this, absolutely not as you can see. What does change though is my confidence and acceptance of how my body looks and more importantly what I can do with it. I continue to try and free myself from the chains of a scale and the displayed numbers that are not necessarily a determinant with regards to measuring the contentment within myself. In addition I’m so pleased to see how society and women especially have embraced the body positive movement, and that plus size models are no longer seen as the other or niche market. On social media you can see women of all shapes and sizes celebrated for their beauty and unique figures, all sporting a sense of renewed confidence that is refreshing for a woman like me who has been welcoming this moment since she was 7 years old.
I recognize that body augmentation remains to be highly sought after with women desiring to attain fuller curves and minimized waists. It mimics the same patterns I felt in my early years looking to be noticed in the hopes to have access to the same recognition and opportunities that appeared to come so easily to the skinnies. And do not get me wrong, I am not against any form of augmentation that a woman desires to get, as long as she feels good about herself and does not risk her health in doing so. What I do caution though within my experience of sharing that sense of wanting to belong and be seen is to not expect that in doing so doors will open or life will get easier. Life remains the same and is contingent on the ambition and confidence you have within- You Cannot Fake It. If cosmetic and plastic surgery opens the door for confidence to root its seeds deep within you then its a win in my eyes. To each their own whichever road you choose.
And to be fully transparent I would love to get a few things nipped, tucked and sucked! I’m 42 and I have at least another 5-6 years of pool parties in me- I wanna go out with a Bang before Menopause hits and I have hair growing out of my chest and bouts of lunacy. If I wasn’t so darn practical and lets admit…peasant poor… I’m sure I would have already dove head first into it. In addition I feel like I have some heavy work to do before taking the easy the way out. I’ve been saying to myself, first get healthy and super fit, see where you land in terms of results then go from there. Lets see if this materializes, don’t hold your breath y’all!
Each individual woman’s body demands to be accepted on its own terms.Gloria Steinem
I believe I’m not the only one in this revolving door of wavering confidence mixed with good intentions and intermittent self discipline as it pertains to managing weight. And I don’t believe us full figured women are the only ones that can get consumed with the numbers on the scale. I’ve often heard my slender beauty’s say that there is an element of competition and scale number comparison’s among themselves. They’ve told me other women will ask them how much they weigh and from there put themselves into a frenzy to keep up and out-do that number. I was extremely uncomfortable learning that those kind of conversations even exist. I assure you in the fluffy girl world we do not discuss numbers let alone divulge them in conversation! That’s a no go zone!
But it does not surprise me either.
Shamelessly I admit I’ve been binge watching the Kardashians and on countless occasions the opening scenes start with “Oh my god your so skinny.” Whether its that Jonathon Chaban “Food God” or one the sisters, I cannot believe that is an acceptable way to either greet someone or say hello. What baffles me even more is how this guy eats the way he does and stays looking like Skeletor, I swear the man two finger diets his way through life. Its cringe worthy every time I hear them say it on the show, I just want to jump into the TV and give their necks a choke. I miss fluffy Khloe by the way!
This way of being extends itself to the world outside of the Kardashians whereby other women will refer to other women as “those skinny bitches.” I’m sure you have either been guilty of it or heard it from someone. I challenge you to think about how you felt in that moment and ask yourself what did I mean when I said that to someone?
Did I mean I think they are beautiful?
Did I mean I think they look like they have been working really hard at getting healthy and toning up?
Why did I not just say something more specific with regards to what I admire about them?
I think often our own insecurities become disguised in our admiration of others and can be damaging to them. It’s essentially role reversal body shaming and its not a good look either. Again I think it boils down to the perceived idea that being thin carries the illusion that life must be easier as a result of the smaller number on the scale. Thin, thick, in the middle, we all have the same struggles, that being the journey to love thy damn self and the vessel that god gave you. It has taken me a long time to come full circle with regards to not allowing my value and self worth to be dictated by the failures of the sliding numbers on the scale. As long as body positivity continues to trend and we begin to see a larger array of women being celebrated in various media platforms I think we can begin to close the divide of misconceptions. Taking the initial steps to be kind within ourselves will open the doors to consider being kind to others, being authentic in our admirations of others, and opening the door for dialogue, understanding and acceptance.
“So the question is, which boulder are you going to choose to roll? The ‘must lose weight’ boulder or the ‘fuck you I will boldly, defiantly accept the body I’ve got and LIVE IN IT’ boulder?”— Kate Harding
We are all Beautiful!