An interesting aspect of my personal story is that there are two groups of people in my life: people who knew me when I was at my heaviest and people who only met me after I lost weight. The former are often impressed by the transformation, find me a bit unrecognizable and can’t believe how much weight I’ve lost. The latter tend to be a bit astounded upon seeing old photographs of me and can’t believe I was ever so heavy. However, there is a third perspective to consider: mine.
On an intellectual and purely practical level, of course I know I’ve lost weight. I have donated countless clothing items when they no longer fit my shrinking frame. I am aware of how much easier physical activities are now compared to before. While I have not yet met my weight loss goal, I absolutely can acknowledge that I have lost a significant amount of weight. But I don’t feel any different on the inside. On the inside, I am still a fat girl.
Being an overweight person and experiencing life as such went a long way in forming my identity. So intricately entwined with my personality and reality was obesity that, in many ways, being fat was my identity. Ask someone what he/she “is”, they may answer with a profession, they may answer with an ethnicity, they may answer with a gender. Ask me what I am, and the answer is “fat.” So what is the fat girl mentality? My fat girl persona is the funny, cool, laid back, the perpetually friend-zoned girl men want to hang out with until they meet the woman they want to date. In short, it is the girl whose wonderful internal qualities exceed her perceived outwardly shortcomings. I am self-deprecating, quick to deflect insults by making myself the butt of the joke. I feel lumbering, awkward and uncoordinated. I view compliments as highly suspicious and probably disingenuous. I see a department store as a potential minefield. I have no mirrors in my house apart from the one installed over the bathroom sink and, in it, I look at only parts and pieces as necessary (is my mascara all over my eyelid? Is my hair ok? My teeth clean?) and not the whole. Regardless of changes in my size and physical abilities, this remains my complicated and, at times, painful internal life. While everyone around me sees a person changed, I see myself as the same – a fat girl, albeit a fat girl in a slimmer girl costume, masquerading as something I am not.
Will this change? Will I leave the fat girl behind as I continue to progress and, eventually, meet my goals? Will I become confident in my appearance, will I feel graceful or elegant? Or is the fat girl someone I should fight to hang on to? She has an endless capacity for compassion, seeing her own struggle in those of all who are ridiculed, judged and dismissed for trivial and superficial reasons. She has zero tolerance for body shaming, fat bashing and making fun of others. She understands that people aren’t fat because they are lazy, they aren’t fat because they have no self-esteem, nor are they fat because they have an Oreo cookie dispenser in the dashboards of their cars. She is not of her physical self, but of her emotional, mental and spiritual self. Is the fat girl inside, in fact, the reward for having persisted despite truly foul treatment on the parts of others? I do, in all honesty, believe I am a better person for having lived this particular life and learned these lessons. Perhaps being forever the fat girl is, in fact, a blessing.