Two years ago, I was very fat. Two years ago, I was in a marriage that didn't deserve me with a person who didn't deserve me. I was abused as a child - emotionally, verbally, and physically. It was the abuse that made me fat to start. I was long and lithe as a small child. At six, the abuse began, and so I ate. I ate for the dopamine comfort because it was the only kind available. At nine, they sent me to fat camp. At twelve, they sent me to Weight Watchers. At thirteen, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder that causes the equivalent of a spinal cord injury. I was briefly paralyzed from the waist down, and my mobility, balance, and sensation were never the same again. The entire time, they called me fat either explicitly or subtly, hiding it under mock concern for my health.
At nineteen, I lost a lot of weight. I lost it fast, often 4 pounds or more a week. I lost it by overexercising in secret and fearing most food. I let people think I was just a vegetarian, but I was actively shunning anything I thought might contain fat. In those months, I was the sickest I've almost ever been. I had severe abdominal pain, I was paranoid about everything that went into my mouth, and my immune system weakened to a point where I became so ill with strep they had to give me IV fluids, Vicodin, and baby penicillin. It leveled me for weeks.
And then I was basically married. I was 1200 miles away from all of my friends and family. I felt isolated and lonely. I stopped exercising, and I started eating. We were so poor that dinner was cobbled together from whatever was laying around and cheap. Minute rice, pasta, cheese. It wasn't just the poverty, though. My partner's friends and family hated me at first because I was the bitch who took him away. He wasn't kind, either. He made me feel stupid. He made me feel insufficient. He made me feel small. So I got big -again - without meaning to.
At some point in my mid-twenties, I cried myself to sleep over my size. I told him I was thinking about surgery, but it's one of my greatest fears, and we were so poor (not to mention often uninsured) that it would ever happen. He said he loved me as I was. I believed him and I did nothing. And I got bigger.
Between 19 and 34, I gained 135 pounds. In that time, I learned to love my body for what it did for me. I wasn't impeded by it, and it allowed me all I wanted to do. I'm sure I was excluded from job opportunities because of it. I know people talked about me because they'd say it to my face and I'd tell them a variant of "fuck you" depending on my association to them. I was still proud of my fat and I hailed the body positivity movement. I argued with people about how thinness is not part of the social contract, and I never signed one to start, so they can shove that contract. I still feel this way, and I still haven't signed. Your body is your province to do with as you please. It is yours to move or be still. Yours to show or hide. Yours to share with someone else or to hoard. Your body is exclusively your business.
Two years ago, I was very fat. Two years ago I decided to become less fat. I still knew surgery wasn't an option, and I'd added a new autoimmune disorder that has a severe impact on metabolism. I knew it might be hard. My opinion on weight loss surgery had changed. It went from a possible solution to something with terrifying complications. It's not just one surgery, but several. You lose weight so quickly that your skin doesn't shrink with you, and it needs to be removed. They remove flaps from your middle, create seams in your arms and legs, tailors of flesh. Weight loss surgery also causes digestive problems. Vomiting and sudden diarrhea, vitamin deficiencies, bowel obstruction, hernia, hypoglycemia, and ulcers are all common. A patient's gallbladder will also usually call it quits shortly thereafter, adding yet another surgery. My only option was to change. I settled on a goal of a size 18 knowing I could still be fat and shop in normal stores. I refused to use weight as a goal because those numbers drive me insane.
And oh, a change was born. I realized my marriage wasn't worth me and I'd gotten so low, I mightn't get up again. I created boundaries. I started eating less and better - not least because my newfound boundaries made me nauseated for their boldness and unknown consequences. I found movement I didn't hate. I started taking the dog for long walks on my own to get away from my husband. To mix it up, I ordered kettlebells, 10 and 15 pounds to start. The next day, walking the dog, I broke my ankle. I was angry.
I used anger as a tool. Three days after the fracture, I started swinging. It was cathartic to hold a cannonball in my hands. I began low impact aerobics in a chair - my Old Lady Chair Workouts - to build endurance and increase endorphins. Within three months, I met my goal. A size 18 was a glory, and I reveled in it as it slipped over me, comfortably fastening around me. The thing was, I didn't stop there, and I couldn't. I introduced High Intensity Interval Training, I introduced more weight, I experimented with running. My life was still changing too fast for me to process, and the routine of exercise had become a comfort. I continued to drop a size every month or two for a year, shedding too big clothes like snakeskin. There were times when a pair of jeans would fit only long enough for me to wear them three times before they'd slide off me.
Things have mostly leveled now. I'm less than half my goal size today, and it bothers me. I resent XS clothing that fits me more than I ever resented an XXL, but I like wearing things that meet my quirky aesthetic and that they fit. Comfort in my fat has been replaced by a gnawing anxiety with me every time I feel like I've eaten too much because I'm afraid I'll wake up the next morning fat again. Street harassment has changed from the occasional jeer to encounters that are explicitly threatening because they think I can be had. I have become visible in ways I never expected or wanted. People are nicer to me. Strangers compliment me in public.
My options for partners expanded as my body contracted. I am no longer a fetish or a niche desire. I am a thing of mass appeal, but that's a problem. I'm not a thing and it's harder for people to dig for the person I am, preferring to simply leave the box unopened so they can look at the shiny packaging. I hate these things and I often hate my body. I hate the things I'm trying to change that won't - the crepey skin gathered at my belly, the stubborn arm flab. I hate that (at last weigh in 9 months ago) even 125 pounds down, it doesn't feel like enough, and there will always be a whisper that says, "smaller."
I take comfort in certain dynamics that are new like having a partner who loves and appreciates me entirely, knowing they felt the same when I was fat as they do now because while the packaging may be nice, and was always nice, the gift inside was always what really mattered, so I let them truly know me in ways I never could with someone else, and I look forward to the future instead of trying to brace for it. I appreciate being more approachable even if I don't want to be approached. I like finding clothes cheap and cute that fit like they were made for only me, no longer limited to my fat uniform of tank top, cardigan, and jeans.
I've become harder in many ways, and less sympathetic. My body has harsh angles that dig into soft places and hurt. So does my personality. I'm more judgmental these days. I think bariatric surgery is an expensive cheat destined to fail because they didn't have to do the work or change the habits needed for long term success. I think people who stay fat but complain about it are lazy. It's not fair to anyone and I'm not superior no matter what my ego says. I still love seeing fat bodies proudly displayed in crop tops, sheer bodycons, thighs rubbing in short shorts, and tiny bikinis. I love their stretch marks and rolls because I still have them (and hate mine) and lack these women's flamboyance. I love bigger men, too, with their dissonant firmness and softness, the ease of their strength, the depth of their laughter resonating in their chests.
I was fat, and I'm not anymore. It's not remarkable despite what so many people say when they see old photos. I accomplished nothing that ultimately matters in the end. I'm just smaller and harder now. I didn't work that hard to get here and I'm ashamed of how little I struggled in comparison to how much petty praise I've received. It's taught me that people are worse than I thought. It's taught me that I will always struggle and the nature of the struggle simply shifts or becomes slipperier. It's taught me I'm still me and I'm still not good enough.