I grew up overweight. From the time I was in second grade I knew something was wrong with me. A group of boys in the fourth grade would chase me around the playground pretending to shoot me like I was an escaped zoo animal. “Why me?” I would ask over and over again while staring up at the sky. Why did I have to be different? Why did something about me have to stick out so obviously? But more importantly, why did everyone seem to hate me because of it? Suddenly I was a freshman in high school and it seemed like life revolved around boys, parties, and anything we could do to rebel, that is except for mine. My life revolved around food, dieting, exercising, and cutting out pictures from Seventeen magazine to glue onto the inside of my notebooks
My obsession with the way I looked only amplified as I continued my journey through high school. The media constantly surrounds us with the newest crash diets and “Get Skinny Today” schemes, and I was the perfect victim. I specifically remember “The 500 Diet”. Tumblr was the mecca of my “thinspiration” at the time and after hours of scrolling “pro-ana”, otherwise known as pro-anorexia blogs, I decided this diet was for me. It consisted of eating a different number of calories per day always under 500 calories. I was never successful with these plans, whether it was the 500 Diet or the Military Diet, which involved eating two hot dogs a day and a scoop of ice cream, but nevertheless, I was sick. The thing about being a fat girl with an eating disorder is nobody can tell. I would starve myself for days, ending in an all-out binge by the end because I just wanted to torture myself. I wanted to torture my body for being different from what I saw on Tumblr and magazines and ad campaigns. But when you’re fat, people congratulate you for this torture.
In January of 2015 I lost ten pounds in two weeks. I was beaming with pride at the fact that I was vigorously working out every day while consuming an apple and a bowl of Progresso light soup at about 200 calories per can every day. I would stare longingly at the clock in class, watching time tick by slowly but pleased with the pangs of emptiness deep within my stomach. I would pat myself on the back for not having eaten in 18 hours. Could I make it to 20? This was when people started to notice. The “Wow! You look so amazing!”’ and “How did you do it? I could never!” comments came at me from family, friends, and strangers. Finally I was getting the validation I had always dreamed of! But after I would hobble out of the shower, sore and weak, crawl onto the scale, noticing I was .2 pounds less than when I weighed myself before I got into the shower, I realized I was completely empty, not only physically, but emotionally. The only thoughts to ever fill my mind were calories, sit ups, and the scale. I had no room to think of friends, family, or fun. The anxiety of it all was overwhelming. How could I keep this going? The answer was that I could not. I was withered and tired, and slowly destroying myself. My self-esteem seemed to have reached an all-time high but for the completely wrong reasons.
When you grow up overweight, it’s engrained in you that you are wrong. You’re taught that every decision you make should revolve around losing weight. The media surrounds us at every turn with ultra-thin supermodels and jacked up “muscle-heads”. And even when larger people break through the media, it is often that they’re bodies become the butt of the joke. Traditional media teaches us from an extremely young age that if you’re not a size 0, you’re nothing. They convince you that pretty and fat are antonyms and that no one will ever love you or be attracted to you. I’ve learned after 18 years of struggle and heartache that we have to look beyond the ideal the media portrays to us.
The good news is things are changing! Social media is now an outlet for body positivity. All over Twitter and Instagram men and women, young and old alike, are taking part in the body positivity movement. Posting pictures of their bodies, stretch marks and scars exposed, unashamedly for the world to see. Becoming comfortable with our bodies and the moles and freckles and hairs that grow in weird places is conducive to self-love. This movement is so important because young girls and boys are being taught that not everyone looks like they just missed the casting call for the cover of Teen Vogue. My generation didn’t have that at the ages of 12, 13, and 14 and it’s a beautiful thing that I am glad we are able to witness. Always remember that you are not different. You are not wrong. You are beautiful.
Being plus sized, you are bred to hate yourself. People bully you, make fun of you, and will do anything to point out what makes you different. If I could grab every young boy and girl struggling with body image, body dysmorphia, or eating disorders I would tell them endlessly, “You are beautiful.” The sooner you believe that, the sooner you can go on to lead a happy and healthy life. I would be lying if I said sometimes I don’t yearn to feel empty again, if I didn’t stare at a banana wondering if maybe it was 100 calories or 120, but those thoughts do not control me anymore. Learning that my self-worth had to do with more than the number I see when I get on the scale made me realize I am so much more than that. I’m smart, I’m funny, I like to read, I have brown hair and brown eyes, I wear a size nine shoe, and hey I’m a little chubby. I’m also stubborn, sensitive, and a know it all. But all of this shapes me into the person I am and I love every aspect of myself. No one is in control of what you think, and you should never allow anyone to convince you otherwise. Your body is perfect because it belongs to you, bumps and lumps and all.
Sheets is a contributor for The Millennial Times.