Tag Archive for eating disorders

(Fat)al: a story of growing up fat in America
… a guest post by J.C.

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Shame. It’s a heavy word.

When people ask for my story, they assume I have been hurt because of prejudice about my sexual orientation. That’s the narrative they want. The you-came-out-as-gay-in-the-South-let-me-praise-you-for-getting-through-this-hardship story. That is not the narrative I feel obligated to write.

Yes, I was ashamed of my sexual orientation when I became conscious of it at fourteen. But that shame no longer exists. Sure, the word “faggot” still gets fired at me, but that isn’t the problem anymore. My “story” is about my anxiety as a fat man, especially a fat gay man. I’ve been ashamed of my fat ever since I can remember. “Fat” is the word that has plagued my entire existence. “Fat” is the hurricane that dilutes my humanity.

My mother provided me with my earliest memory of shame. She didn’t just tell me I was fat: she showed me. Pushed into countless fitting rooms, I was unable to find clothes my size at a young age. Still, she refused to buy me jeans that fit. For three torturous years, I wore pants that would attach by Velcro, not buttons. I wanted to be vapor. I wanted my fat to instantly vanish into thin air because I felt like a burden to her. After all, what would the other parents think of her fat first-born?

Imagine a child as young as eight telling his grandparents he wasn’t hungry because he was fat. That’s what I did. Their solution was to bribe me with one dollar for every meal I attempted to eat.

At age twelve, I was too embarrassed to change my clothes for gym in front of the other boys. Refusing to do so, I received a C in the class. It was worth it.

When I started a food diary, I convinced myself SlimFast was the salve that would weaken the poison fat on my body. I drowned my stomach with that faux chocolate to the point of nausea. It replaced my breakfast and lunch. Every. Single. Day.

I got thin. But I also got weak. And I didn’t lose enough to satisfy myself despite my family complimenting my weight loss. There was a sense of Armageddon within my fat cells. My goal was a BMI of 18: I wanted to be underweight.

When one of my friends got her driver’s license, we went to Walmart, so I could buy Lipozene for the first time. The words “lose pure body fat” coaxed my brain into submission. I took my precious miracle to self-checkout only for an automated voice to say, “Please wait for assistance.” The employee told me I was too young to buy weight loss supplements and sent me home. My friend suggested eating only five hundred calories a day, and we became each other’s food coaches.

A year later, I came out as gay to my mother for the third time. Her response was to “cure” my “queer-washed mind” with anxiety medication. I launched the pill into my stomach every morning, and, as a result, my mouth got sore and eventually bled. I could only ingest a small portion, but I savored the metallic liquid, hoping it would sustain my body for one more day despite the excruciating pain.

In college, I had a health professor who wondered how fat people had sex because “their parts don’t fit.” I felt like the other students were staring at me as if I were the only overweight person in the course, as if I was the target of her words. I felt even more ashamed and thus began a diet of SlimFast and Special K. My roommate and I would run at the gym until I felt like I would collapse. Once, when I ate a cookie, he posted unsolicited advice to my Twitter page: “Go throw up.”

I could have died from that shame.

The treatment I got because of my fat made me feel as wretched as Frankenstein’s monster and as twisted as Mr. Hyde. That’s when I realized I needed to change before I ended up eradicating myself with diet rituals. What I learned is that fat people don’t need to feel shame. I’ve ended up gaining eighty pounds back in college, but I feel healthy and positive now. I’ve learned to be patient with myself and surround myself with people who encourage me to love my body. I have the right to exist and won’t let anyone water me down. I am not a problem, nor am I a before and after dichotomy.

I am a credible, intelligible fat human.

—J.C.

Exceptions: why graduating from college and
wearing a size two doesn’t always make you happy
. . . a guest blog post by Margaret Mason Tate

May 3, 2008—the day I graduated from college—was the worst day of my life.

Okay, perhaps that’s not entirely accurate. Perhaps it would be more fair to say that May 3, 2008 was the realest day of my life because it was the day I learned that hardest lesson:

Achieving your goals after a long period of hard work, sacrifice and dedication feels incredible.

Except when it doesn’t.

On May 3, 2008, with a GPA that reflected my years of diligent work and a photo album full of snapshots that will make me ache for those years and that place for the rest of my life, I walked across the stage on the terrace of the Detamble Library at St. Andrews College grinning like a fool.

I’m an overachiever, and I had worked hard to earn the asterisks and denotations by my name in the college commencement program. The thrill of knowing I had worked hard for four years to achieved my goal felt incredible.

Until it didn’t.

The next day, I woke up—back in my hometown—knowing I had a grown-up job and a live-in boyfriend. I was starting my Big Girl Life…but I could not stop crying. I mourned the passing of a time in my life I will never be able to re-create. I rued the loss of an environment where every one of my friends was in one place at the same time.

My heart was broken—not in the romantic sense, but in the sense that I missed my friends. I was not happy.

Eighteen months later, at the age of twenty-three, I found myself single and obese.

This wasn’t a new development. I had been obese since age sixteen, and I had come into my own in that imperfect body; regardless of how fat I was, my self-image had been pretty good, especially in light of my body composition.

But, to deal with the pain of my relationship ending, I decided that I was going begin running.

I knew that I wanted to lose weight, and I had already taken some of the necessary measures to initiate that process, such as limiting calories and exercising. But I needed something—a goal, the promise of achievement—to motivate me. So I decided I wanted to run a 5K. And when my overachieving self realized that I needed to make my goal just a bit bigger, I thought, “I’ll run the Georgia Half-Marathon.” And in March of this year, I did just that.

In the process of training, I lost a whopping fifty-six pounds. And that felt incredible.

Until it didn’t.

One year after I began my quest to lose weight, I have lost seventy-one pounds, my BMI and body fat are well within normal range, my blood pressure and cholesterol are ideal, and I own a pair of size two blue jeans.

But nobody told me it would feel like this, like my inner demons are still alive and well.

In my teenage years, I was this exact same size and weight I am now, but back then I struggled with disordered eating. I binged, I purged, I restricted, I obsessed over my body. (When I say my eating was “disordered,” it is a way of saying, “One eating disorder just wasn’t enough for me, so I adopted ALL of them them.”)

But when I got fat, all of that went away. Or so I thought.

Now I am dealing with the fact that losing the weight I was hiding behind has awoken all of those terrible voices in my head that tell me lies about the way I look, about the way I appear to other people, and about the food I eat. The voices that tell me I am superior to people if I can go without eating. The voices that tell me that my boyfriend will not love me if I eat in front of him. The voices that tell me to make myself vomit in restaurants.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad I am as healthy as I am. This new body that I fought tooth and nail to earn feels great, physically. But the head and heart need some work now.

Losing a significant amount of weight is something any obese person should do. It’s simply a matter of health and self-respect. But there are serious emotional consequences to going into a weight-loss program without some sort of debriefing plan, especially for anyone who has ever felt that s/he might be prone to disordered eating, continual negative self-talk about appearance/weight/body, has previous eating disorders or a family history of eating disorders, or a history of depression.

I lost weight for a lot of reasons. I wanted to be attractive because I was going to be dating again. I wanted to be able to wear certain styles of clothing. I wanted to prove that I could do it. I wanted to be a runner.

But most of all, I did it to get out of my own head, to get over a break-up and come out the other side healthy. I didn’t realize then healthy doesn’t only include numbers and charts and scales and good cholesterol versus bad. It includes the way we feel about ourselves, the way we talk to ourselves, the way we treat our own hearts and spirits. Changing how much you weigh has the power to make you absolutely ecstatic to be you.

Until it doesn’t.

 

Margaret Mason Tate is a twenty-five-year-old South Carolina native. Having recently relocated to Atlanta to begin her life with her boyfriend and his son, she works as a homemaker and volunteer. Margaret graduated in 2008 from St. Andrews Presbyterian College with a BFA in creative writing and is currently working on a series of non-fiction projects. Aside from writing and holding down her proverbial fort, she runs half marathons and attends all the live music performances she can.

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