I’m scared to eat.
This happens on occasion.
I look at a few photos of overweight people and their transformation into slim beauties and I get the urge to finally do something about my weight. I gear myself up, setting peppy songs on my phone for the next morning (the best time to run, I think – less spectators), set aside my running shoes and go to bed early waiting to wake up and just go.
This doesn’t happen very often and when I do, I give up after about two weeks.
Before I continue, this isn’t a piece to make anybody feel sorry for me or anything. Like I said in my blog descriptor, I’m spreading love and encouragement one post at a time. So, this is me, being encouraging by sharing my story.
Let’s crack on, shall we?
I was 11 years old when I realised I was fat.
It had been happening before but I wasn’t consious of it – it wasn’t a priority or a problem. Then I went to Class 6 and that’s when the names started. “Big Show” they called me, “Rakishi” they giggled as I walked past. These were wrestlers around that time (I don’t know if they still fight – I don’t follow wrestling any more). I wondered what these names meant, but there was “Big” in one of them so I had a feeling I wouldn’t like it if I found out.
I found out.
I didn’t like it.
And I’ve lived with my obesity ever since. At first it was just being overweight and there were little comments here and there from “friends” and family.
“You’ll lose it all once you get to High School – boarding does that.”
“It’s just baby fat. You’ll lose it” (at 11!?)
“Maybe if you didn’t eat so much.”
“You should try running a little more.”
And the comments never really stopped. People are well-meaning, but their kindness can really turn cruel.
“No, I’m not trying to make you sad, I just want you to be beautiful.”
This translated into – I’m not beautiful. I will never be loved if I’m fat. I am not beautiful therefore I will not be looked at. In a warped sense, this sort of comforted me because I ended up thinking “If I’m not beautiful and I’m fat and unattractive, I will not get raped. Only beautiful people get raped and I don’t want that.”
Which is an awful thought to have. Rape is wrong, whomever it happens to.
So I wore it as a protection. It was especially useful in the “Don’t-Play-With-Boys” era of my life. I stayed chaste, mostly because I was unattractive. I took this to be truth and did not argue. And yet, the romantic in me was growing and I lived off fantasies of love and romance and happily-ever-after. I didn’t “play with boys” since they “only wanted one thing” and they wouldn’t want it from me. I was safe.
Unfortunately, this also meant that whenever a guy showed interest in me, I felt that there was something wrong with him – he was so desperate for sex that he would turn to me – the unattractive fat girl. So I had my crushes and I let them go, I wouldn’t wish myself anyone.
Then I started getting jibes from the Aunties, “Ehe… where is the boyfriend now?” and “You have to find a husband now” and “If you don’t lose some weight, you’ll never find a husband.”
This is where things started getting tricky. If “boys only wanted one thing” that I am not to give (and can’t since I’m so fat and ugly) then where exactly am I going to get a husband? What if I lose weight and I’m so beautiful I get raped? I don’t think I could live with myself. I’ve had the weight for so long, it’s protected me from unwanted glances and unnecessary attention (Did I mention that I’m also an introvert), do I really want to let that go?
I was depressed. I had the desire to lose weight but no willingness. I still don’t.
So I would get scared to eat because this was just the beginning. No matter how little I ate or how hungry I was, I felt the judging eyes on me and my plate, as I stuffed my fat face (even though there were none). I felt watched and monitored at every turn. If I went jogging, I felt those same eyes going “Ha! Look at the fat girl running and trying to lose weight. Run fat girl! Run and let’s see all your jiggly bits!” (Okay, this one is a little peculiar, I admit, but that’s what I felt and sometimes still feel.)
I would try it for a bit but since I didn’t have any real willingness, I would give up after a few days and decide “To heck with the world, I am going to eat what I want when I want.” And this resulted in weight gain. Which brought me more depression (especially during doctor’s visits) and made me want to lose weight again. Thus the cycle continued.
It’s been a hard road accepting how I look. I’m still unhappy with my shape although I have somewhat desensitised myself by dressing and undressing in front of the mirror. I know what my body looks like. I know all the curves and all the contours. I know all the marks, all the stretch marks, all the bits I don’t like. I poke at them and prod at them. I examine, I look at my scrunched up face and try to smile. I turn this way and that way looking for an angle I like. When I find it, I strike my best pose and then really smile and turn away from the mirror, happy at last with my reflection.
But I know I’m not happy.
I see so many positive messages out there saying “Curvy is Beautiful” and “Embrace your Curves” and “I’m not fat, I’m (insert other word meaning not-small)” and I see happy, healthy women just like me. There’s only one difference between them and me – they are happy. I am not.
And, okay, I watched Why Did I Get Married and I learned “If you don’t like something about yourself, change it,” and I shouldn’t keep putting myself down about it. I am beautiful.
That was a completely foreign concept for me. Beauty wasn’t something I associated with myself but I learned to see it. And I appreciated it.
And yet, small ghosts from the past kept appearing through this bubble I had created to protect myself from all the criticism and apparent scrutiny. “I just want you to be beautiful” as if I wasn’t already. “You’ll never find a husband,” but I wanted one. “You have a good heart and you would make a loving wife but your husband also needs to be attracted to you or he will cheat on you,” as if he would have no mind of his own and I would have such a capricious husband – like it was my fate. “You shouldn’t eat so much,” even if I haven’t eaten all day. “You should try this diet,” the tenth one recommended to me in three days. “I heard about this exercise plan…” the third one today.
The world had gone crazy about weight loss and I was at the centre of it. Easy target since I was so big. I heard people wax ad nauseum about this cousin, that friend, the other sister who had gone on diets or started running or both, or taken pills or done surgery to lose weight and they looked great now!
I started getting properly scared. Would I ever find a proper diet plan or exercise plan for myself? How was I going to do this healthily? Was I even going to succeed, I had been fat for so long? I would become so sad I would cry myself to sleep. I would torture myself into not eating and pinching myself if I did something I wasn’t meant to. I even fell into an addiction. Not a physically, but mentally damaging one.
It would help get me through the depression but I felt awful and guilty otherwise so it ended up being a “lesser of two evils” type of deal. At least I wasn’t planning suicide. Or starving myself. Or eating cotton or downing pills or forcing myself to throw up. I’d just indulge for a bit, get through the rough patch, go through a bout of milder (in perspective) depression, then get up and move on. But it was still bad. I was a mess through and through and I wasn’t getting any better.
I was terrified of getting help with weight loss or getting advice because this would mean diet number one thousand, two hundred and six (1,206) through to one thousand, two hundred and thirteen (1,213) and a variation of exercise three seventy five (375) with a spin on exercise seventy seven (77) combined with diet plan number six hundred thirty three (633). (The numbers are for TLDR)
I’d pretty much heard it all by a couple of year ago. Eat more – eat less- eat more often – eat less often – one large meal – skip no meals – remove one type of food – eat everything – increase metabolism – eat certain fruit – no sugar – some sugar – no starch – some starch – snacks included – no snacks – certain snacks – balance electrolytes – pills plus meals – no pills – all exercise – some exercise and meals – juices only – juices and some meals – certain juices a certain way… there was no end. There is no end.
Then I decided to stop. I decided to start loving myself – at the very least liking myself because if not, who was going to? The world was too busy focusing on itself to stop for me. For two years, I blocked out all the noise and “helpful advice.” I stopped thinking about what other saw. I ran when I wanted to and stopped when I felt like it. I felt beautiful. I felt loved. I flirted with a guy and he became my boyfriend. He wanted to marry me.
We broke up (and I’m still a bit salty about that) but I finally felt like I was living like a human being. I was doing things that normal people did – things I was petrified of doing. If I needed help, I asked it in no uncertain terms. I made a resolution to be more courageous this year and I have been. I have said what I felt honestly. It feels good and it feels liberating.
Over the last week, I have looked at myself in the mirror and not been happy with the way I look. I really wasn’t to begin with but this is different. I’m not seeing myself reflected in others’ eyes or judgemental gazes. I’m not remembering all those guys I could have flirted with but didn’t because I felt too fat for them. I didn’t hear all those voices expressing their displeasure at my failure to lose weight for fourteen years. I saw myself, through my eyes and with my own mind made up.
The weight is not healthy and I will probably feel better about it. I can take up a defence class if I’m truly afraid of rape (I’ve wanted to try martial arts for the longest time but I’m just too chicken :p). I can carry around a rape whistle and pepper spray. Adding weight is not a defence and that thought is fundamentally flawed anyway. Rapists are evil people. If I want to change it I can, I just have to approach it from the right mindset. I am fat and unhealthy and I need to change my habits.
These are truths.
Not strikes against me.
And damn it, that feels so good to say.
So yes, I am still afraid to eat. I am starving and I’m still afraid to eat. I’m not “fixed” yet. This problem has been developing for over a decade. It’s not going to go away in a snap. But I can rationalise my thoughts and feelings now. I’m scared to eat because I’ve decided to lose weight. But I need to eat to live – I have to be healthy even as I lose weight.
And it’s not going to happen at once. I won’t magically wake up and be a sumptuous size 8 (#goals). I won’t be doing myself favours by starving. I can have a banana. And some nuts. And I won’t feel hungry. I’ll have eaten healthy food and felt good about myself.
I fit in my space. It may not be small from the outside, but it’s big enough from the inside – and that’s good.
My friend got excited today when I asked her what time she goes to the gym in the morning. While my first, split-second reaction was offense, I realised something. She didn’t see me as fat – this was not that weird over-excitement about my (finally!) deciding to lose weight that I’ve always experienced. She was just really excited to have a gym partner since it’s already so hard to motivate oneself. And that made me happier than you could imagine.
It’s been a journey that many people are still on. I’m happy to say, as concerns my addiction, “the last time was the last time” is working as a strategy whenever I’m tempted. I promised myself not to indulge any more and so far, so good (only last time was like three months ago – it could hit any second, I could still slip up since it’s early days; I’m still fighting it – you get the picture).
For all of us, it’s our first time living. We are bound to be clumsy and scared and worried. We are bound to make mistakes, but we can’t let them stop us. So I’m going to go to the gym later. I will try to get up and run tomorrow morning. I will make healthier food choices and encourage myself every time I feel like giving up, and even if I actually do. I will still love myself and encourage myself.
Let this be clear. I love my family to bits. I love and appreciate all my friends and I understand that their hearts are in the right place even as they still awkwardly get overexcited about my weight loss. They mean well. Truly.
I’m doing well for myself, I think.
I think so. And that’s all that counts. That’s all that ever counts.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll get myself something to eat 🙂