By JULIA KOZERSKI
“Big.” Not “fat,” not “obese,” “Big.” That was what they (my family, my friends, myself) called me. “Big.” Growing up, I was always the biggest kid in my class. My family is tall (I am 5’9”.) We have broad shoulders, large feet. My mom always said we were just genetically predisposed to be a “big” family.
That’s where it started. “Big.” My two younger sisters, my mother, my father and I lived in a home in Milwaukee, WI (a city in which I still reside today.) Both of my parents worked full-time and, for us, food was mainly a necessity. There wasn’t much focus on the enjoyment of meals, rather just eating to continue living. We consumed a lot of “family-style” frozen meals and they were limitless. Second and third helpings were regular. And, we drank soda (usually “diet.”) So, our already “big” family kept getting bigger.
When it came to high-school, I began to feel more self-conscious about my physique. Of course, I was still the “biggest” teenager in my class. I befriended the boys because they didn’t care what I looked like, they just wanted another teammate to play basketball. I didn’t have many female friends. I mean, at that age, I knew I would never be homecoming queen and I surely wasn’t going to be able to go clothing shopping with them.
So, I was a tom-boy. Then I entered high-school. The emphasis on appearance was overwhelming. Everyone was dating and trying out for cheerleading, while I resorted to skipping class and eating whatever was in sight or hiding out, processing film in the photography darkroom. It was during this time that I began becoming depressed and channeled my feelings and emotions into creative/artistic/visual explorations.
My junior year, after a couple of dates with others and a few boyfriends (who later turned out to be gay,) I met Tim. We attended the same high-school and worked together at a local non-profit. He was fun to be around and, while we were friends at first, later started dating. (I was 15 years old at the time and roughly 225 pounds. Not thin by any means, but that didn’t seem to bother Tim.)
The following years were turbulent. My parents began experiencing health problems, due to obesity-related issues, and I struggled to find my place in the world. After high-school graduation, Tim and I continued dating. He went on to college and I decided to enter the working world. Five years later, we were still dating, Tim had a steady job, but I was left feeling depressed. My weight only continued to balloon.