I am reaching for another wrapped candy and am on the receiving end of a reproachful glare, the potential to be pulled aside and privately shamed hinging on whether or not my hand takes away another Werther’s Original. I am ten years old, and I am ashamed of my body.
I am on a hike with my step siblings, who are both petite and athletic. I am round and pudgy and soft and have the breasts of an adult woman. We stop to take a family photo and I cover my belly with my crossed arms. I am a weird, booky kid with a quirky personality, and it is just. too. much. that I am fat, too. I am twelve years old, and I am ashamed of my body.
I swim competitively and obsess over calorie counts and slim down. I am skinny and boobless. Sometimes, I don’t eat. I skip lunch. I am sixteen, and I still think I could lose ten more pounds.
I muck twenty four stalls a day, bicycle twenty kilometers a day, horse back ride and play roller derby. I eat whatever I want, and I am slim and fit, though my carb belly could use some work. I am eighteen, and I want slimmer thighs, toned calves and abs.
I move to the city and I pack on sixty pounds like it is nothing, between missing the barn work and the bicycling and the stress eating and the lifestyle changes. I binge eat, furtively, in private, a silent ‘fuck you’ to any relative who thought it was ok to pull me into a hug just to whisper into my ear, “You’re really putting on weight,” and comment on my appearance, as a child, as a young adolescent, as an adult. I am twenty one, and I am ashamed of my body. My traitor body, which grows more and more foreign each day.
I am out for dinner with my fiance and food has become a moral issue for me. If I order a burger, I am bad. If I order a salad, I am good. I struggle internally for some time, with much anxiety and self loathing, and at last, I order a wrap- a halfway compromise. When it comes out, he grabs half and eats it, and I cry because after all of the mental struggle of choosing whether or not I could allow myself that small indulgence of the wrap instead of the salad, I was ready to eat and enjoy every aioli smothered, fatty avocado, goat cheese filled bite of it. I am twenty two, and I am ashamed of my body.
We are in line to pick up our takeout and tears are oozing from my eyes involuntarily. I am fat, so fucking fat, and I shouldn’t be eating this take out. Like the ten year old me reaching for that second candy, I feel the reprove over the years. I cry in the shower and cover my torso with a pillow when I sit down. Sometimes, I stare menacingly at myself in the mirror and repeatedly slap my fat as hard as I can, as if that is the only way I can tell it “I fucking hate you.” We try to make plans to go out for food and I am wary, embarrassed. “Let’s get breakfast,” I suggest, and when rebuffed for valid reasons such as ‘no time’ or ‘not hungry’, I perceive my hunger as my personal failing and a grotesque personality trait. I am twenty three, and I am ashamed of my body.
I am in the forest, burning calories every day tree-planting. I lose nearly thirty pounds. I have clavicles again and my legs are fit. I won’t wear just my sports bra to plant in, though. The fat creases along my abdomen in unflattering ways and resides stubbornly on my back. One of my favorite photographs from this summer is a dare, a line of planters breasts peeking out of the bus window, and every time I see it, I want to slap myself. I don’t cry in the changeroom at Old Navy, but I avoid looking at the mirror full on. I am twenty four, and I am ashamed of my body. Despite my weight loss, I am ashamed.
I get laid and I get dates and I get asked out and I still worry about my body. “I like girls with small boobs,” somebody says, and I almost cry, because who the fuck wants these saggy udders when you can have pert, tiny, firm? I like the lights turned off and being blanket covered and keeping my shirt on. I am twenty five, and I am ashamed of my body.
I have a date with a man who is a chef and he makes a home cooked meal, one of the best burgers I have ever had. I can’t eat in front of people and almost have to leave, choking down the delicious, fresh food with tears threatening to spill out of my eyes. “You don’t deserve to eat this,” my mind says accusingly. “Look at the fucking size of you.” I can not eat on dates. I am accustomed to eating, hunched over a garbage can on the line, a bite of this, a bite of that. Offered tidbits by Chef or staff meal, I set them aside, waiting to eat without being observed, wolfing down cold morsels past their prime because the image in my head of me stuffing food into my mouth, my huge thighs and pendulous gut and breasts, disgusts me. Full meals I reserve for private, where no one can judge my gluttony. I am twenty five, and I am ashamed of my body.
I work on the farm and run 10km a day. I eat takeout almost constantly because I work 6am-3pm on the farm, ride, then head to my night job at a restaurant. There’s no time for cooking, or groceries, or dishes. I stay level and it is a failing of the mind and will that I can not lose more weight. Every outfit must be scrutinized in the full length mirror before being worn out. I spend two hours a day at the gym, I run, I walk the dog. I make better nutritional choices than I ever have before. I can not lose weight. It comes back on, incrementally. Every second of sitting is focused on pinching my fat rolls or looking at my calves, losing their muscle tone from the tough barn work and running. It seems that only a punishing schedule of exercise beyond the average persons means can keep me slim and taut. I am twenty five, and sometimes I cry in private. A measly beer, a take-out sandwich, not within my daily calorie budget. A costume party, where I am so obviously the fat one. My friends of similar ages, who seem to have metabolisms that run eight times as fast as mine. I am twenty five, and I am trying.