by ROSIE WATERLAND
This week, Mamamia published an article about an overweight young woman, Stella Boonshoft. She published a photo online of herself in her underwear and received a massive reaction – good and bad. She seems comfortable and happy with who she is, which I think is fabulous.
I wish I could feel the same.
I’m morbidly obese, and I hate myself for it.
Being fat is hard. Being fat is heartbreaking. Being fat is humiliating. The way I look right now fills me with unimaginable shame.
Maybe the reason I find it so hard to accept the way I look is that I haven’t always looked this way. I’ve never had a weight problem in my life. I’ve always been slim and attractive. I wouldn’t say I was completely void of body-issues, but I was confident enough in myself that when a play I was performing in called for a naked scene, I didn’t give it a second thought. My body just wasn’t a big deal for me. Until my body got big. Really big.
Things started changing about six years ago. I had a childhood filled with neglect and inconsistency, topped with an extremely traumatic bullying experience in my last three years of high school. When I was twenty, the relatives who had been taking care of me since I was fourteen told me to find somewhere else to live. I was devastated.
These were the people who looked after me when my parents couldn’t, and now they too had cast me aside. I was already dealing with PTSD from being abandoned in my younger years, and now it was happening again. Like sending a traumatised soldier back into the battlefield, I was not equipped mentally to handle a repeat situation.
So I began to eat. Or, more accurately, I began to self-medicate with food. And now, six years later, I’m 70 kilos heavier. Let me say that again: Seventy. Kilograms.
I’m providing this background purely as a context, rather than as an excuse. I take full responsibility for the obese state my body is now in. But I think it’s important for people to realise that, for some, overeating is a complex issue deeply rooted in mental health. It’s not always as simple as ‘being disciplined’.
In my case, food provided comfort when I had none, and that comfort became addictive. Without it, I might not even be here today. It doesn’t help that I also have a thyroid disease that makes it incredibly difficult for me to lose weight, but then I wouldn’t have weight to lose if I hadn’t eaten myself into this mess in the first place, would I? I get it. Trust me, I get it.
The weight creeps up slowly. First, I reached 75. I thought it was fine; that I’d just up my gym routine before summer. Then, 80. Before you know it, it’s 85. Then 90. And suddenly, coming from 95, 100 kilos doesn’t feel that bad. You conveniently forget that starting at your original 65, 100 is actually a massive leap. I really can’t say what my weight is now. It’s not that I don’t know; I just can’t write the number. But given I’ve said how much I’ve gained and where I started… Well, you do the math.
I’ve worked hard with a psychiatrist to combat the PTSD and anxiety I’ve been dealing with for most of my adult life. At 26, I feel like I’ve finally come out the other side. But now my outside doesn’t match my new and improved inside. For the first time in years, my head is clear. But every time I look in a mirror, I feel myself going to a dark place.
Because being fat sucks. And here’s why:
I can’t walk down the street without having people yell things out at me from their cars. I’m the last person people sit next to on the bus because there’s no space next to me. I can’t see my vagina! I have to get my flatmate to tie my shoelaces. I used to love dancing, but I stopped begging bouncers to let me into clubs when I reached triple digits. I sweat all the time. I have to order my clothes from plus-size websites, and sometimes they’re too small. (Full disclosure: I’m crying now as I write this.)
The opposite sex’s level of interest in me used to be high. It’s now zero. Zero. I don’t even bother getting crushes anymore because I know there’s no point (my last boyfriend said it wasn’t his fault he wasn’t attracted to me anymore – men are genetically wired to be turned off by fat girls. He was a wang, but considering the lack of attention I get I have to say, the logic rings true).
I went to acting school and actually had a little talent, but after graduating never bothered trying to work professionally because I was so ashamed of how I looked. Ditto for writing: I finished my degree last year and haven’t applied for a single writing job, in any capacity, because I’m scared I’m too fat, too obese, for the trendy industry.
Every time I sit on a flimsy chair at a restaurant I’m terrified it will collapse. I stopped letting people take photos of me about three years ago – I couldn’t even enjoy my university graduation this year because I knew there would be pictures.
I’ve cut most people out of my life who don’t need to be there; not because I don’t want to see them, but because I’m petrified, PETRIFIED, of them seeing me look like this. I recently saw an old friend I hadn’t seen in years, and instead of excitedly catching up and swapping stories, I hid my face and walked straight by. I’m exhausted all the time (can you imagine carrying an extra 70 kilos on your back, everyday?). I’m constantly humiliated wherever I go. I never have fun because I’m so ashamed of how I look.
The last time my mum saw me, she cried.
Basically, I feel invisible (except for when people I don’t know hurl abuse at me, which happens almost daily. A simple “FAT!” tends to be the creative insult of choice). But I feel invisible because I‘ve constructed it this way. Because the way I look makes me desperately, painfully sad. It’s just easier to hide away.
I’m doing everything I can to get back to a healthy weight. I go to the gym; I’ve changed my attitude towards food; I have a GP, nutritionist, endocrinologist and psychiatrist all working to help me.
But it has been, and continues to be, a long road. And as terrifying as it is for me to be honest about all of this, I thought it was important for someone to be clear about just how humiliating and heartbreaking being fat can be. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve cried myself to sleep. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
I’m happy for people like Stella Boonshoft, who can love the skin they’re in. But I really do wish there were more people who were clear and open about the reality of being obese. Because like I said, being fat sucks.
Although I did go from a AA cup to a D cup.
But still, it sucks.