This post deals with eating disorders and suicide, and might be triggering for some readers.
Growing up as a 'fat' 14-year-old I was told a lot of things about my body.
Teachers told me that I wasn’t exercising enough.
The kids at school told me I was a fat lesbian. (They knew before I did).
The shop assistants at Rip Curl told me to try Millers.
Doctors poked me with needles and told me there might be a medical reason for my weight.
Family told me I would grow out of it.
Spoiler: I didn’t grow out of it. There were no medical reasons for my weight. I was (and still am) a fat lesbian and there were clothes for me at Millers - clothes that I was teased for wearing.
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When I look back on photos of 14-year-old me, I wasn’t fat.
I was chubby, but not fat.
I was the biggest girl in my friendship circle, but I wasn’t fat.
I couldn’t wear the same clothes as the cool girls, but I was never fat.
I wish she knew that. I wish 14-year-old me knew that she was never fat, not the way she thought she was. Not in the way that she punished herself for being.
So as a woman in her thirties that is actually fat, here are the seven things I would tell 14-year-old me if I could.
1. You are not fat.
I know you think you’re fat, but trust me when I tell you that the reflection in the mirror is not what you really look like. Your mind is playing tricks on you.
Yes, supermodels are in and you want to look like Cindy Crawford or one of the Spice Girls but that’s never going to happen. You look like you and you’re perfect.
2. Being teased will make you a better person.
I know how the kids at school treat you.
I know the mean girls pour water down your back when you sit in the wrong spot. I know that the athletic girls laugh at you when you can’t keep up in P.E. and the boys tease you when you have a crush on them and when you don’t.
You’re either a fat, desperate loser or a lesbian. I get it. But these experiences, these taunts and jeers from people who don’t even know who you are, are going to help you be a better person.
You’re going to be a nurse and a person who helps people without judgement, because you know what it’s like to be judged both from a distance and face-to-face.
You will help to harbour a community of people that is safe from the ridicule of others, and you will learn to accept your body because you really can’t change it.
3. Food can help you cope.
This is the year your parents separate, and a lot is going to change.
You’ll move house, your relationship with dad will all but end, and you won’t understand because most of your friend’s parents are still together.
I need you to know that it’s okay to find comfort in food. Especially the frozen frankfurts mum keeps in the freezer. (They’re still my comfort food, even now.)
If I could ask you to do one thing right now, it would be to not hide the food that you’re eating.
Mum knows you’re taking it and this habit of hiding food is going to make you really ill when you’re about 24 and you’re worth so much more than that. WE are worth so much more than that.
4. Boys don’t get it.
Boys are stupid and impressionable.
The TV tells them to like the blonde skinny girls, so they do. You’re not like those girls and that’s okay. The boys in the playground aren’t going to understand you or want to date you and that’s okay too.
When you’re older people will find you desirable and that will feel amazing; it will fill a void that you’ve had for years but please be safe.
Your body does not exist for the pleasure or entertainment of men, and no boy is worth jeopardising your dignity for.
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And please stop pining after that one boy. You’ll never get the hours back that you spent doodling his name in your notebook, and he will never reciprocate.
You’re also really gay, so there will come a time where you won’t care about him, but right now there are better things to be doing with your day.
5. There will be clothes and you will be fashionable.
Wearing hand-me-downs and clothes from Millers isn’t cool and I know you just want to fit in, but I want you to remember that your clothes don’t define you, and the reason that the fashionable clothes don’t fit is because the fashion industry hasn’t caught up. But it will.
Wait until you’re in your thirties and you discover plus-size fashion and online shopping.
Would you believe me if I told you that I'm a model and there are amazing clothes that fit me now?
Curves are in and fat people (fat Black people) started a revolution that has brought fashion and body love to the stage.
My wardrobe is enormous and on-trend. You just have to hold on a little longer.
Plus, I secretly think mum is grateful you don’t fit into the Billabong and Rip Curl clothes that you want, because they’re so expensive and our family just doesn’t have that kind of money.
6. Don’t listen to your mum or her friends (when it comes to diets).
Your mum is amazing, and she’s doing the best she can, but when Friday night drinks with the girls inevitably turn to diet talk, I want you to walk away.
The women in your life, your aunts and cousins (biological or not), are all strong and powerful women, they are women to look up to and aspire to, but they are also a product of their time when it comes to the way they see their bodies.
Mum and her friends watch shows like The Biggest Loser, they read glossy magazines and they hate their bodies, just like the media told them to.
It’s not their fault, and one day you’ll help your mum learn to love her body a little more and it will bring you closer, but for now just leave the room.
7. There is hope.
One day you’ll be 32, you’ll be a size 24, and you will be genuinely happy.
People will think that you’re beautiful, women will find you attractive (we’ll talk about jumping that particular fence later) and you’ll be accepted and even celebrated for your body and your personality.
Best of all, you will find an amazing group of friends that don’t care what you look like, how fat you are or what brands you wear.
They will love and celebrate you, support you and challenge you in the best ways possible.
Their love for you, and you for them, will be unconditional and whole-hearted because it’ll be the first time in your life where you aren’t pretending to be someone else, where you aren’t trying to shrink yourself, and it will be the first time that you truly love yourself, fat rolls and all.
If I could go back in time and tell my 14-year-old self one thing, it would be that she is enough.
I look back on that time in my life and remember people telling me to shrink myself, to push myself, to be smarter, to be better, and I remember the pressure I put on myself to do all of those things and more.
I am a person who, not four years later, would receive early acceptance to university and develop an eating disorder.
Eighteen years on, a 10-year battle with bulimia, one suicide attempt, one cancelled wedding and a decade of mistakes and heartache later, would I travel back in time and fill 14-year-old me with my knowledge and wisdom? Probably not.
The experiences that I have had and the life that I have lived led me here, to a position where I am able to be comfortable in my skin despite what people say about me.
The bullies, failed diets and mental illnesses have put in me a place where I am more resilient, where I am able to accept myself and where I am even able to help others do the same.
My life wasn’t easy at 14, or at 24, and while 34 may be better, at least I can say I have learned - and most important of all, lived - happily in a fat body.
If you, or a young person you know, is struggling with symptoms of mental illness please contact your local headspace centre here or chat to them online, here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14. Kid's Helpline is also available on 1800 551 800.
For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected] You can also visit their website, here.
Feature Image: Supplied.