Hi, My name is Mandee and I am fat.
This is how I have introduced myself to a plethora of people when I was in high School. Mostly online, because as a fattie I would never introduce myself to someone IRL.
The worst/best part is that I was not fat in high school. I was active and healthy, even if I wasn't a size zero. I could shop at all the cute stores and wear pretty much anything I wanted. But I had such a terrible body image that I wouldn't let myself.
No tank tops, God forbid anyone see my grossly fat arms. No short skirts, unless I had opaque tights on, and even then I felt awkward all day, cause eew, thunder thighs much? Boot cut jeans were all t he rage when I was in high school, and it took me years to get in on the trend (Turns out it's actually pretty flattering). The thought of anything fitting my body so closely was repulsive to me. I didn't need to show off my body, I needed to hide it.
i am fat, i come from a (mostly) fat family. I also come from a mother with some serious body issues and what I now recognise as the eating disorder anorexia with continued and constant disordered eating periods between the full on anorexia. (These things are not one and the same or mutually exclusive)
My relationship with my mother varied from strained/bad to non-existent while I was growing up. But her actions have had a huge impact on my life. How I view myself and treat myself have been impacted by things that she has done or said. Most of this was harmful, and I have to work very hard to not let the self hate overwhelm me.
Harvard Medical School researchers did a study and found that girls who thought their mothers wanted them to be thinner were "two to three times more likely to worry about weight". Girls who "thought" their mothers wanted them to be thinner.
What about girls like me who knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that her mother wanted her to lose weight. The article says:
“While it’s less likely that parents are directly saying something about their children’s weight, a mother’s desire to become thinner can directly impact her children’s attitude.”
Not only did my mother make direct comments to me regarding my weight, more and more as I got older. But she also had patterns of eating disorders and poor body image. Things did not bode well for my own body image from the beginning.
There is one incident in particular that sticks out in my mind regarding my mother and my body image. It is an event that I go back to time and time again.
It was summer time and we were headed to a BBQ. This was an event for co-workers and friends of my mothers at another co-workers house. There was a pool and volleyball, tether ball, bad minton, horseshoes, cards, it was going to be so much fun! Me and my best friend at the time went. She had slept over the night before so that we would be able to leave early and get there right on time.
The party started at 10am and went until everyone went home. We rushed around all morning getting ready to leave at 9. For those of you who may not know thins, getting 2 pre-teen girls, we were 10 or 11 at the time, up early on a Saturday in the summer is not an easy task. We didn't have time for breakfast so we just headed up the the house, there would be food there after all it was a BBQ right?
Wrong. There was no food when we got there at 10. In fact we were the only ones there at 10. (the reason for this became obvious later) But whatever it was sunny and awesome and my friend and I were going to hang out outside, poolside, all day.
We skimmed out of our shorts and T-shirts and perched ourselves in chairs facing the sun. Then my other walked by. "You know Amanda, you really should put your T-shirt on if you aren't in the pool."
My mother is an avid tanner, baby oil and iodine and hours laying perfectly still was how she got her tan on. I was at least wearing sunscreen to avoid burning. Clearly her comment was not about sun protection.
"We're trying to get a tan! I don't want to have a farmer tan," I replied in that snotty pre-teen way, I was so classy.
"Fine, but don't say I didn't warn you if people laugh, or boys won't talk to you. Cute Bathing suit *Crissy."
Just go back and read that again. Don't say I didn't warn you if people laugh and boys wont talk to you. Really? I mean, Really?!
If only it stopped there. It gets worse.
At around 12:30 Crissy and I were getting Hungry. Remember we didn't eat breakfast, and we were active tween girls, who had just spent the last two and a half hours on the Sun and fresh air.
I approached my mother while Crissy was in the bathroom. "Mom, when are we going to eat? I'm starved."
"I think they're cooking at 2," She said between sips of her Kahlua and Milk.
"But I'm really hungry, my stomach is growling," I said, hoping she could at least offer a snack or something to hold me off until lunch.
Instead she said, "Good, maybe you'll lose some weight," and walked off.
I didn't respond. I just kind of stood there trying not to cry. I went back to my beach chair and promptly put my shirt on, where it stayed for the rest of the day. I did not take it off to go swimming, in fact, i did not go swimming because if I took off my T-shirt people would see me, and if I didn't then it would get all wet and clingy and then it would be like I had taken it off. Y'all I love to swim, and I didn't because even my own mother thought I was fat. And how dare I subject people to having to look at me.
When 2 O'clock rolled around and the grill was finally on, and my stomach hurt from being so hungry, I ate half of a Hot Dog and 10 potato chips. I counted.
Guss who noticed exactly what I ate? That's right! My beloved mother. (No really, I love her, despite her flaws) "Thought you were starving," she mocked. She and the friend with her laughed and turned back to the volley ball game.
I went to the bathroom and threw up.
This wasn't the first time she made negative comments about my appearance, and it wouldn't be the last. i don't know what it was about this particular event that has made it stick with me for so long, and in such vivid detail. I can describe my outfit, my mothers, my friends, i can draw a map of the yard and the festivities. I remember every grueling detail of that horrible day.
Like being a tween/teenager isn't hard enough. Basically everyone I know hated their body at that time. It's changing and becoming something you aren't familiar with. It's getting squishy and hard and smelly and hairy and where the hell did these tits come from anyway? You should be able to count on your parent to help you through this rough time. This was not my life. Instead I had a mother who judged me and my body even more harshly than I did myself.
My waist wasn't small enough., my butt wasn't big enough and my boobs were to "saggy". I was a pretty young girl, but all I could see was the imperfections. the dreaded double chin, which I so did not have, the hugely fat upper arms, gigantic thighs, not to mention my stomach wasn't totally and perfectly flat.
Even as a grown woman I don't have an hourglass figure regardless of my weight loss or gain. All my weight centers in my belly, I don't have wide hips or a small waist. I have large breasts, they are not perky, and never have been. People often tell me that I "carry my weight well". And I'm not sure what that really means. But the basis of it is that I'm fat, but not totally gross. Is this a compliment?
Even when I did not live in the wonderful fat comfort zone I am in now, I hated my body. I still hate it, and I am working really hard at loving myself and my body again.
I can;t help but wonder how much of this I would have to endure without the reinforcing of poor body image, as opposed to my mother teaching me to love my body and all it can do regardless of size. Maybe i would still b self conscious as society wants fat people to be hidden away like the uncontrolled beasts so obviously we are. But maybe, just maybe I would love myself a little more.