To say I have a complex relationship with my body is an understatement. To be one hundred percent honest, I'm still in denial about it. I was thin for most of my life. My weight would linger between 105 and 115. When I was in high school a teacher threatened to call my mom and tell her she thought that I was too thin. I wish I could say that her words had no impact on me, but they did. I had never thought of myself as too thin because I wasn't starving myself, and no one had ever commented on my weight before. I was eating three meals a day, but I was also exercising for at least an hour a day (including karate lessons). I felt hurt, ashamed, and suddenly aware of my body in a way that I hadn't been before. Why had my teacher approached me in that way?
I wish I could say that was the last time someone made me feel uncomfortable in my skin, but it isn't. After hurricane Katrina, I started my first job at 'America's first workplace'. Before working there, I had only eaten fast food about once a week during the weekend, but now I was eating my lunch there every day. I didn't gain much weight, but the weight I did gain apparently 'looked good on me'. I was suddenly getting male attention when I previously hadn't. Sometimes the attention made me feel icky, like the time a coworker informed me that a customer was checking out my rear end, but most of the time I felt beautiful and desired.
Soon I realized that not all the attention was good. Men would become angry when I turned them down for dates, and I got to experience women's jealously firsthand. One memorable account is when a coworker began dating a woman who worked in the department next to ours. I had never held a conversation with this woman before, but she decided to ask my coworker if I was a lesbian and inquire as to why I didn't have a boyfriend. She would also attempt to start arguments with me whenever she came to the department. Her behavior became so toxic towards me that I asked management to keep her out of our department. I didn't know why she was behaving like that then, but now I realize she was jealous.
When I moved to Baton Rouge, I got into health and fitness. I joined a gym for the first time, Planet Fitness, and started counting my calories. I enjoyed working out and wanted to make myself more attractive. I wasn't aware that men went to the gym to find mates, but I soon found out. I had to go to the front desk and report men who'd made me feel uncomfortable more than once (one of these men followed me around the gym, including to the front desk). There were times when I felt truly afraid of these men, but somehow, I managed to maintain my gym membership.
I was neither fat nor skinny when I met him. The him I'm referencing is the most toxic man I've ever dated. It should have been a red flag when he told me that he was controlling. Maybe it was a red flag, and I was just too lovesick to see it. He was soon controlling every aspect of my life. When I was with him, I had to spend every waking minute with him. I couldn't read, couldn't have hobbies, couldn't even watch movies when he deemed the men in them too attractive (Zac Efron). He would praise me when I did things he found 'attractive' like eat salads or workout, but all hell broke loose the day I asked for ice cream.
I didn't snack when I was with him, and I hadn't had ice cream in over six months, but I found myself craving it that day. I asked him if we could add a pint of ice cream (to share) to our grocery list. I thought he'd say yes, but he clenched his fists and an angry expression crossed his face. He didn't hit me, but he did start yelling at me and body shaming me until the point where I was near tears. He later apologized and stated that he thought I wanted to get a gallon of ice cream and eat the entire thing. We ended up getting the ice, but I didn't enjoy it.
The relationship only got worse from there, with him making bold comments about people letting themselves go when they 'settled down', and shaming me whenever I ate something that he thought I shouldn't. I hadn't gained any new weight since the start of our relationship, but he confided in me that he thought I should weigh under 100 pounds. I was only eating one meal a day by the end of our relationship.
After our relationship ended, I maintained the mindset that he had poisoned me with. I was barely eating, and I would push myself further than I ever had at the gym. I also had a job a Harley Davidson that possibly helped to fuel this toxic mindset. One of my male coworkers said he thought we should wear uniforms like the ones the girls at Hooters wore, and the customers would make comments about how attractive I was. It was made abundantly clear that the only reason I was hired was that I 'looked good' and knowing that also hurt my mental well-being.
A few months later, my mindset turned toxic in a different way. I got a new job in a hospital's gift shop, where we could snack while working. We could also charge all our food to our badges, so it was easy to obtain food. I wore scrubs for work, so I didn't notice how much weight I was gaining. I was sooner bigger than I'd ever been in my entire life, and it was worse than I could have imagined. I remember needing new clothes for work and clothes and crying because none of them fit. I realized that finding clothes was every bit the nightmare that plus-sized influencers say it is. I caught sight of myself in the mirror that day and couldn't help thinking about how disgusting I looked. I had become my own worst enemy, but how did others see me?
To be honest, I don't know. Most of the people in my life were people I had met after gaining weight, so while I would get the odd comment about my weight every so often, the negative comments always came from strangers. Sometimes a man who asks me out, and tells me I was 'his type' or that he liked thick girls, and a guy from work who was trying to date me told me that he didn't mind weight on a woman. I had never thought about my weight when dating in the past, but now it was the only thing I could think about. Questions like am I too fat to date and what if he has a fat fetish flooded my mind whenever I thought about dating.
Despite my being overweight, there's only ever been one man who vocally expressed that he would not date me due to this. It was a coworker, who had never had a girlfriend so other coworkers were trying to force us together. I imagine this would have hurt more coming from someone I wanted to date.
I was also more aware of the way people looked at me. Whenever someone stared at me, I wondered if they were judging me for my size. I no longer received compliments about how cute I looked, it was always about my makeup, hair, or clothes but never me as a whole. I stopped enjoying some of the hobbies I once loved (YouTube, twitch streaming) because I was worried people would judge me. I was careful about the pictures I shared online because I didn't want to be fat-shamed, and worst of all, I barely look at myself in the mirror anymore.
I realize that something needs to be done because I miss who I used to be, but I often question if I am strong enough to make changes. It's easy to fall into a negative routine, but I want to better myself, and starting today that's what I plan to do.