I say that a lot. “I’ve always been fat, when I wasn’t actively trying to lose weight.” Or I might say, “I was always a fat kid.” I don’t have a lot of pictures of myself from when I was younger. Pictures pre-1980 or so mostly reside with my estranged biological father, and after that, they are stuffed in boxes in the no-woman’s land of my mother’s attic. Mostly, I rely on my memory, and in my memory, I was always fat. I know there’s a lot of room for interpretation there, and that fatness is a subjective term. In high school, I wore a size 13. Not really fat, unless you are six feet tall and a plus size model. But I also recognize and honor the fact that comparatively, and within the harsh paradigm of high school-aged self concept, a size 13 was plenty fat enough.
But here’s the thing. There’s something very comforting in having always been fat, or having been a fat kid. It means that my current size, which is most certainly fat by any objective or subjective measure, is inevitable. Genetic. Pre-destined. Unchangeable in any permanent way. Just like you heard. It means that the obesity myth is really a myth, that it is okay for me to re-think thin, that I don’t have to diet anymore because dieting really, truly doesn’t work.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that thin children can’t be fat adults. The human body is a complex and fascinating system and nobody knows the exact mechanism that makes our weight set points change. Logically I know this, but the part of my brain that ruminates about my weight and affiliated body issues is deadly simple and it is pretty sure that if I were not fat as a child, I have no freaking excuse to be a fat adult.
And then there’s my suspicion that dieting not only does not work, but is possibly quite harmful to the human body. This idea seems supported by research, but a lot of my adherence to it is personally anecdotal. I try hard not to be upset the fact that, with the support of family and society, I repeatedly undertook a practice that was not only pointless and ultimately ran counter to my weight loss efforts, but may well have been the germination of some health problems that I am dealing with now. If I started dieting not because I was actually fat, but because I just felt fat, if all of that effort was based in my own warped self-concept rather than reality, if my parents encouraged me to diet when I didn’t even need to, well, that is a distressing thought, and one I don’t necessarily like entertaining.
And finally, there is the thought of all that wasted energy. All that beating myself up. All that time I spent sure that I was fat, and thus unlovable, and thus ugly, and thus of low worth as a human being. All that time I could have been doing a million other way more fun things, succeeding at all the things I was really good at, being a smart and funny and interesting and talented kid.
A lot of folks around the Fatosphere followed up with their own posts on the subject after Kate posted her entry about seeing her kid self through her adult eyes. I refrained because of the shortage of childhood photos and a fear of losing my anonymity (such as it is anyway), but mostly because thinking about all those things I just wrote about really hurts. Then my estranged biological father emailed me out of the blue because he had been scanning some old photos of my stepbrother and me:
That’s me in the sweet blue and white Nikes, c. 1982 or 1983, when I was in sixth grade and in the middle of the phase in which I refused to wear anything but button down shirts, jeans, and sweet blue and white Nikes. I know I had boobs under that plaid oxford, and I’d already started my period by then, but I was definitely not fat. I have not, it turns out, always been fat.