My Fat Story
It was freshman year and I was 14. Childhood shame over my big boobs and chubby frame had left me very insecure. Believing that criticism would somehow melt the fat right off of me, my family often made harsh comments. It didn’t help that my first boyfriend, Josh, had recently broken up with me over my weight. (He was teased so badly for dating me, he felt he had no choice.) I dieted all summer in order to start high school at a normal weight.
The summers were always diet-time. Since I was 10, I used every summer to slim down. And I would. Even as a little girl, I had major discipline and knew how to drop 15-30 pounds every summer. I’d swim, jog and do workout tapes. I secluded from friends in order to focus on not-eating. I did the typical 90s lowfat approach and always made sure to go to bed hungry.
But as the school year went on, my body would always slowly fight back with insatiable hunger, a slowed metabolism and wacky hormones. No matter what, I would inevitably put all the weight back on, and then some. The next summer would come, and I’d repeat the same cycle. All this before I had even held a boy’s hand.
Rapid Weight Gain
But my freshman year was different. I had lost my normal summertime 25, but this time, the weight came back on really fast. Like, so fast that 2-3 months into the school year I had gained all the weight back. I was devestated to learn that all my brand-new school dresses were suddenly skintight, and unwearable.
We were always on a ridiculously tight budget because of dad’s gambling addiction and mom’s depression-era mindset towards money. He spent everything and left little for us. Mom tried her best to provide, but never understood my feminine need for a variety of pretty clothes and things. Busting-out of my clothes felt like an unsolvable nightmare.
“Mom, I need more new clothes. My dresses don’t fit. I think they shrunk in the washer?” I felt humiliated.
“You gained weight – again! It’s your fault. You want to be fat!” Mom barked.
I yelled, “Who in the world wants to be fat, Mom? I want to be skinny, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be my entire life!”
“No. We can’t afford it. That’s all the clothes you get for the year. You lose that weight!” I ran away and cried as hard as my body would allow. My mother always had a way of making my darkest moments – darker. I felt hopeless.
I wondered, why is this happening to me? Why God, did you give me these size D breasts? I hate them so much. Why am I hungry night and day? Why was I cursed with this fat body!
From Dieting to Starvation & Bulimia
From that point on, things went from unhealthy diets to a full-blown eating disorder. I remember being willing to do anything to get thin. I felt that death itself was better than being my fat, disgusting self. I starved myself as much as I could, until, like a rubber-band – I’d snap. And binge.
I started to ask a friend at school about throwing up. She once confessed to me that she would eat candy bars and throw them up. I thought that sounded like a fair plan? I was so hungry, I needed a way to be able to eat without consequence. Bulimia was perfect – I could inflict pain and violence upon my body, while stuffing myself silly with forbidden treats.
I began to read about eating disorders in magazines, books and movies – and I loved it. I wanted to be these women. They looked so frail, cared-for and loved. So opposite of the fat, unlovable me. I wished I could be Karen Carpenter and get so skinny I could die.
Once Mom caught me throwing up in the sink in the bathroom. I hadn’t learned how to do it silently, yet. “How dare you! Don’t you ever do that again! Just stop eating so much!” She scolded. I ran to my room in utter loneliness and shame.
The same shame I felt when I was sexually abused at 4, when I started my first period at 10, when we hid my bad grades from dad, when the doctor told me I needed to lose weight and when the boys wrote insults about my body on the bathroom wall. When you’re a child who receives no compassion, you assume that you’re the problem. I thought – I’m a dirty, rotten, disgusting failure.
Desperate, I asked my mom for phen-phen during my junior year. It was expensive, and mom always said no to anything expensive. Generally, towards me, mom always said no – period. But I think a part of her genuinely felt bad for me, so she agreed.
Phen-Phen (i.e. Speed)
I loved phen-phen. It took away my hunger and allowed me to focus on school, extracurriculars and relationships. I loved the freedom, for once, of not having to think about food. I think I ate somewhere around 500-1000 calories per day. With phen-phen, the weight loss was seemingly effortless.
The teasing from the boys slowed down at school. My breasts shrunk quite a bit and so I started to feel like a normal high school girl. My cheer skirt had to be taken-in, and my clothes fit loosely. A few of the nerdy boys decided I was good enough to be liked, which felt kinda nice.
“Now you look like the other cheerleaders – all of you are slender.” Mom stated. She seemed pleased that I finally blended in with the others, and since all I ever wanted was for her to love and approve of me, I decided that was a compliment. I loved being slender and cherished every moment.
I think I started around 170 pounds, and ended up somewhere around 135. So a size 14 to a size 7. But after 6 months, it was time to stop the pills. I continued to fight hard to eat no more than 1000 calories per day, as prescribed by my doctor. But with time, my intense hunger returned, accompanied by an even slower metabolism and improperly functioning hormones. As usual, the weight came back.
The Safety of College & Beyond
My eating disorder continued. I managed to gain and lose so much weight so fast, one of my friends later admitted she thought I had cancer or some other sort of life-threatening illness. My friends saw my strange behaviors with food, but I was impossibly secretive and defensive. I now knew how to binge and throw up in complete silence in our dorm bathrooms.
Despite my struggle, my college years were beautiful in that I had loving friends, was never bullied and got pursued by some of the cutest guys on campus. (Cali hated my curves, but New York seemed alright with them. #loveyouNY) I made very good grades, something that never happened in high school. I led an overall happy and thriving existence, grateful to be far away from the pain of high school and my parents.
It would be a total of 20 years of diets, starvation and bulimia before I would begin my full recovery at age 30. My recovery is heavily tied to the body positive movement that arose around that time. More about this in a future blog post. (I promise!)
What Is Weight Setpoint?
I have since learned about setpoint, which explains why I was never able to keep the weight off. This is why some of the most amazing and disciplined people in the world continue to remain fat. It’s why health is a lifestyle, not a weight. Setpoint is why all diets inevitably fail for 97-99% of the human population.
Here are a few key things to understand about setpoint:
1. Setpoint is the healthy weight your body aims for.
2. The weight you maintain when you respond to your body’s signals of hunger/fullness.
3. Your entire system will work tirelessly to bring your body into alignment with your setpoint.
4. Your body tries to maintain your fat at a level that you will be healthiest. And yes, a size 18 or 20 may be ideal for some bodies, just as a size 2 will be ideal for others.
5. Poor lifestyle, toxic environment and dieting cause setpoint to rise.
Setpoint can change over time – it can go up or down, depending on how your body decides to survive. I actually know a handful of women that, once they stopped dieting, did slim down over time. Selflove, relaxation and intuitive eating always played a key role in their weight loss. It was slow and easy; a natural unfolding, so-to-speak.
But for those determined to continue dieting, they will most likely experience a slowed metabolism, improperly functioning hormones and an insatiable appetite (i.e. food obsession). When we diet hard, our bodies literally become fat-producing machines.
Where I Stand Today With My Body
I have come a long way, and no longer diet, restrict, over-exercise or practice selfhate. I am currently a size 16 and in perfect health. I feel light, flexible, energetic and free. Most importantly, I maintain my weight effortlessly, eating whatever I desire.
I eat intuitively, which means I listen to my body and follow it’s lead. Sometimes that’s fruit and veggies, sometimes that’s steak and ice cream. I opt for the best quality foods I can find (organic whenever possible), and never eat past satisfied/comfortably full. Though I don’t count them, I’m aware that I eat between 2000-3000 calories per day. I don’t do cheat days cause when you’re fulfilled, there’s no desire for them.
I take the time each day to nurture my body with exercise, plenty of rest, low-stress, amazing skincare (contact me if you’d like to try mine!), pedicures, cute clothes and happy experiences with loved ones. I walk down the street with beauty and finesse, having made peace with the body God has given me.
If time should lower my setpoint, I’ll miss my curves, but I’ll be happy to embrace thinness, too. Whatever my body is, will be accepted as my own ideal. I don’t compare myself to others, because I consider my present-moment body to be the epitome of beauty. After much healing and selflove, at 230 pounds, I can’t help but feel like the most beautiful woman in the room. And you can, too.
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