June 1, 2015

"The Fat Kid" Tells All: The Formative Years (Part 1 in a Series)

My weight isn't often something I talk about openly. Post-baby, I've been working really hard to lose all the baby weight and continue to lose beyond that. My goal, as of today, is to lose another 106 pounds. I want to get rid of this excess weight for so many reasons. To be healthier. To hopefully live longer. To be more comfortable, in my body and with myself. To set a good example for my kids. To be able to physically do more. To fit into clothes easier...especially ones that aren't in the women's section of the store (as, let's face it, they're often ugly, unflattering, and cost more). To save money on food because I won't be eating as much. To save money on clothes because, like I said, stuff in the women's section is far from cheap and forget finding good stuff in a thrift store above a size XL in my area.

I could simply post about my weight loss and healthy eating journey. But, instead, I'd like to start with how I got to this point. I want to be open and honest. To share what I've gone through as I've never talked about my struggle with being over weight. It's been a long one, too, dating back to first grade I'd say. Maybe even kindergarten. I'm starting this series not to make excuses for myself, or to garner sympathy, but to share with you what I've gone through. Nothing more. Nothing less.

My weight isn't something of which I'm proud. In fact, I'm quite ashamed and embarrassed by it. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying over weight people should be ashamed or embarrassed. They shouldn't. That's just how I personally feel, about myself only.) To be this open isn't something I find easy to do. Letting people read this is even harder. And thus begins my series, The "Fat Kid" Tells All.

Telling you exactly where my weight issues come from is hard. I can't recall ever having been skinny as a child. To me, I've always been fat. I'm sure as a really little kid, I probably wasn't.

I can't remember my mom ever trying to teach me good eating habits, portion control, or about eating healthy. We were the typical 1980s family. Meat, potatoes, and some veggies were put on my plate each night, with more to come if I wanted it. Milk, soda, juice, and Kool-Aid were staple drinks, with milk at dinner to build good bones. McDonald's and other fast food existed as a staple in our diets. (My mom doesn't remember this, but my sister does.) Holidays and rewards revolved around food. If you're sad? Eat. Happy? Eat. Pissed off? Pull out the ice cream. Little Debbie, Lays, Coke, Pepsi, Fruit Roll-Ups, Kool-Aid, and Pop-Tarts crammed into the upper shelves of our pantry.

My mom would yell at my sister and me not to eat it, but as kids, we just wanted the good stuff. When the doctor would say my weight would even out if I just didn't gain any more, I had no idea how to not gain. At 5, 6, 7 years old, kids just don't know how to eat healthy and maintain their weight on their own. My mom would tell me to just stop eating. That didn't really help the situation as I had no concept of what to actually do about my weight. Just not eating isn't a solution, what should I eat? How much? I wasn't buying the food or making the meals. I had no clue. Kids rely on their parents to help them and control what they eat when they're young.

By the time I was 10, the doctor told me I was just plain fat and that I had to lose. I didn't have the help, support, or knowledge at that age to be able to, so my weight just crept up more and more. Trips to the store for clothes became a nightmare. Never the fun stories of mom and daughter finding cute things to wear. Nope. Total nightmares. I got yelled at for being fat, told I had an odd shape, that I had to lose weight or no one would ever love me, laughed at, and shamed for having to go into the misses section when I wasn't even old enough to hit the junior's department. The cost of the clothes was brought up, too, as misses clothes cost more than the ones in the kids' section. I still have echoes of my mother saying, "You're so fat, if you keep gaining, we won't even be able to find anything that will fit you. You'll have to wear a tent."

One memory stands out vivid in my mind: Going to the department store to find a dress to wear to my cousin's wedding. Sounds like it'd be fun, right? Mother-daughter shopping time to pick out an outfit for a fun occasion. We were even going to be taking a trip as the wedding was far away. Yeah, no. It sucked. I can still see the misses' department with all the round racks of clothes, the odd-colored carpet, bright dressing rooms with a mirror right in front of you, hiding nothing. Hours of being told how horrible I was as I stood in front of that mirror in yet another dress that didn't fit or didn't look right. Going back out to dig through the racks to find yet another dress, or a bigger size, to try. My mother ranting the whole time, telling me how fat I was. How ugly. How nothing fit me or looked right. That I had the oddest shape she'd ever seen. How was it even possible to be shaped like I was? That my mom was so thin when she was my age. My grandmother never let her get fat and would barely even let her eat anything. My grandmother would never have put up with a kid being that fat. How could I be so fat, I needed to control it. Finally, we found an acceptable dress. Only, it wasn't. It was black and white. I was told, over and over, that black wasn't appropriate for a wedding, it was for a funeral, and that white was rude to wear as only the bride wears white. But, nothing else fit, so that was the best we could do. Oh, well! Hopefully, no one would notice and be upset.

Well, I noticed. I was upset. I felt horrible that I wasn't wearing something appropriate and was being inconsiderate to my cousin. I didn't want to be in any pictures. I felt like everyone was starring at me. The fat, inappropriate, horrible kid. I'm sure they weren't. After all, it wasn't about me. People were there to see my cousin get married, not to eye me up and down to see how much I weighed and judge whether or not my dress was up to par. I was 8 or 9 years old at the time, though. So to me, they were.

I think my mom had her own issues with weight that were put on her by her own mother. It was a cycle. Her mother had her weigh herself constantly and made her stay at a rather low weight. Food was very restricted for her growing up. Perhaps she never learned good eating habits herself and just went from one extreme to the other with food.

Always the fat kid, I had a hard time making friends. By middle school, we'd moved to a state far away from where I'd been born, where I knew no one. I was firmly in the obese category. When you're amongst kids who have known each other for years, and are the undesirable fat kids, friends are even fewer. I didn't talk much because I didn't have the self esteem to. I figured anything I said, people would hate me. Who would ever like me? That's when the bullying about my weight started as well. No one wanted to pick me in gym class, they'd call me fat and say they didn't want me on their team. They'd argue over who would be stuck with me. Even the gym teacher would make comments. Some of the kids liked to tell me I was as big as a vending machine. They'd sit there and jab at me, pretending there were buttons on my arms or legs. Demanding that their sodas, candy, and chips to come out, saying I'd stolen their money. Teachers ignored it. I sure as heck never told my parents, I was too embarrassed. Back then, bullying wasn't something people stood up against or recognized as being an issue. I had two semi-friends who I later found out weren't friends at all, one just put up with me because her mom made her.

We moved again for my last year of middle school, once again cross country. At my new school, I wasn't bullied as much about my weight, but still had trouble making friends. I threw myself into getting good grades. Getting the highest grades and being the top of my class was my goal. To be honest, I was (and still am) a bit of a geek, immersing myself in history, writing, and music. I read tons of books about anything and everything. The library was my safe haven. The stacks allowed me to hide and just disappear for hours.

Since I was so fat, I always felt like I didn't belong and wasn't as worthy as the other kids. Why would anyone want to be friends with me? I still didn't talk much. Honestly, had no idea what to say to kids so they would like me and not hate me or just ignore me. I can't say all of that is due to weight, though. A good part of that came from the depression I battled.

My weight didn't cause the depression, but it sure didn't help. When you already feel like worthless crap, unwanted, like life isn't worth living, and are the odd kid because of your mental illness, being one of if not the fattest kid just makes you stand out even more and feel even crappier.

Coming up next: "The Fat Kid" Tells All: The Teen Years

Note: I am by no means saying or meaning to infer that I have a horrible mother. She had her own issues and struggles to deal with, including the food and body image issues put on her by her own mother. The 80s were also a different time when it came to food. My mom has also changed since the time period I talked about here -- more on that is in a future post. 
 

All photos except series graphic and picture of me are credited to freedigitalphotos.net.

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29 comments:

  1. Quite valuable info shared here. Thanks for the post.

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  2. I was one of those 80's kids that came from a big Italian family- we ate everything on our plate. Or else.

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  3. I'm sorry you've been through so much. It's great that's you're doing something that will make you feel better and healthier.

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  4. Thanks for coming out of your comfort zone and sharing this! Can't wait to read more! {HUGS!}

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  5. *hugs*
    I can relate to your story. I was also a "fat kid" in school. It's awful how much you were mocked about your weight, though. But you are such a strong woman!

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  6. I'm so sorry you've been through so much. I think it is hard for parents to find balance between not leading their kids to feel afraid of food and not letting them overdo it. That said, I can't imagine what was going through your mother's head when she was making those mean comments to you.

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  7. Your honesty is important. Good for you that you're making lifestyle changes! Your kids will notice. I look forward to reading the next parts in your series!

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  8. Wow, I love your honesty in this post. It really broke my heart to hear about your story. That's awesome that you are making healthy changes. It can't be easy. I really look forward to reading the next part of your story.

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  9. Happy you are taking the steps for a healthier lifestyle, blessings on this new chapter.

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  10. Losing weight is incredibly hard. I wish you luck with your goals. Sounds like you are determined.

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  11. Melissa, I am sitting here reading this, thinking did I write this or did you. Aside from the moving around (we never moved) I experienced the exact same life as you, right down to clothes shopping, and so I can say that I DO know how you felt about yourself and the lack of support from family, and even teachers.
    PS - You look beautiful in your pictures!

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  12. This is such an honest post, thank you for sharing. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. It's one thing to be made fun of by kids (that sucks enough), but by your own mom? That's inexcusable. You're little ones are so lucky to have you and they will learn good eating habits from a mama that learned the hard way. We're all with you on your journey. Thank you for sharing.

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  13. Thanks for being bold and sharing this!

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  14. I wasn't always fat but I can relate to always feeling picked on. I was underweight at first. I was called ugly and stupid for years. Then I started to put on weight at 10. At first it was great but by 13 I was overweight and have been ever since so I was picked on for that. I still have to see some of the people from my childhood. I sometimes feel like we are kids again they just say it behind my back now instead of to my face. Thank you for sharing I will be eager to read the next chapter.

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  15. Thanks so much for sharing! You are awesome!

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  16. I get it,I do. Blessings to you on your journey.

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  17. I was not fat as a kid but now as an adult I am. 5 pregnancies I guess can do that to you and even more so it you do not try to lose the pounds after each pregnancy.

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  18. I find your story so inspiring. I really need to lose the weight I have put on over the past few years.

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  19. What a rough time and so sorry you had to go through so much. I think it's a great thing to write and open up about it.

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  20. Elizabeth O.6/02/2015 6:20 AM

    Sorry to hear that you've been through this. Good luck on your journey.

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  21. Thanks for sharing and so honestly. I'm so sorry for the emotional wounds you endured as a child. Those are hard to erase, and that I know from personal experience. I am working hard right now to lose baby weight and some days I hear those tapes in my head replaying (you're looking fat, you need to lose weight) and I wasn't even obese as a kid. I was just bigger, but healthy. Now that I am very heavy, after four kids, I really need to dig deep, push away the negativity and do it for myself. But you really have to face those demons to do it. You're doing great. All the best to you.

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  22. very interesting, i have no problems with losing weight for my children but i really wanted her to gain more,

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  23. You went through some rough times and it broke my heart to read that your mom was making hurtful comments about you when dress shopping. :(

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  24. Stay strong, hun. You are doing great.

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  25. I was not fat as a kid but the stress eating has definitely caught up to me. Now I am struggling with weight issues.

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  26. Thanks for sharing such a personal story! I'm sure it will help a ton of people. Bravo!

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  27. I appreciate your honesty and openness. It's an uphill battle, for sure.

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  28. My dad said these same things to me

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    1. I'm so sorry. :( It is horrible to hear those things!!

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Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. As a busy mom, I'm not always able to respond to each one, though I read and appreciate them all.