My mom is decluttering and cleaning out her house, and she called me the other day and told me to come get my crap. (I have not lived in her home for over 20 years but a bunch of my stuff sure did.) So I did. And what I found of any interest, was a bunch of photographs.
Now most of them were photos I had taken in High School. I went through a photography phase. And it was fun to see pictures of old friends. And it was particularly fun to realize that, while at 16 I was eternally unsatisfied with the quality of the photos I was taking, in retrospect, I was excellent at portraiture.
But there were also a lot of pictures of me from that time. And for the first time in my life, I looked at those pictures without disdain for the fat body I had when I was younger.
I think that I destroyed a lot of photos of myself from when I was fat, while I was fat. And I certainly hated having my picture taken or seeing myself in pictures. Because for me it was one thing to know that I was fat, which I did every moment of every day for most of my life, but another thing entirely to see it. To have it displayed. The only thing I did do with them was keep a handful of pictures that I would use as before and after weight loss photos. A practice I have been doing less and less of over the years. I used to think it was the perfect illustration of the change in me. Now I just see it as promoting fat phobia, rather than expressing the relief of having my sugar addiction under control.
Those pictures were me showing how I defeated my fat self! It was like I was showing you how I killed off the unworthy me. But 16-year-old Kate needed to like and love herself, not be killed over and over in photographs to show that I knew that everyone had always been right about my worthlessness.
While I was fat, I hated being fat. I hated fatness. I had internalized so much of society’s fat phobia that I hated myself. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I thought my fatness had been a moral failing. And even after I got my eating under control, and my body got smaller because of my eating boundaries, it took over a decade for me to stop looking at my fat younger self as someone else, not me.
I had somehow convinced myself that skinny Kate (back when I was actually skinny) was the “real” Kate and that I had finally ditched that loser, fat Kate, and left her in the past.
But 15+ years of having my eating under control, my head clear, and my moral compass pointing in the right direction, I can separate my addictive eating from my body, and from the rampant fat phobia in Western society and culture.
I am not sorry I put boundaries around my eating. Whatever my weight, I don’t want to eat simple sugar or carbohydrates anymore. I am done and I am happy to have given them up. I am happy to have my addiction arrested a day at a time. I love my eating boundaries for the freedom and clarity they give me. And I still love to eat!
But now, when I see those pictures of myself from almost 30 years ago, I see how beautiful I was. I was gorgeous! And also fat. For most of my life, I wholeheartedly believed those things were mutually exclusive. That being fat made me ugly and unworthy, disgusting and shameful. That fat cancelled out any redeeming qualities about me.
What I figured out pretty quickly when I got my eating under control is that very few people from my past noticed any difference in me other than my body size. While I shifted my inner life, my confidence, my conscience, my consciousness, to such an extent that I felt like an entirely different person, people like my husband, who was a childhood friend, or High School friends whom I had not seen in many years, said that I seemed pretty much the same to them. Aside from maybe my parents, nobody really noticed that much of a difference in my personality. Even though my new and improved level of self-love and self-acceptance led to an unprecedented sense of inner peace and contentment, most people still saw the same old Kate.
The sad truth is the world cares about fatness. And not in a good way. And it took a long time and years of inner spiritual work for me to see the distinction between my addiction that was causing me to ruin my own life, and fat phobia, which was allowing others (and myself) to ruin my life.
Fat phobia allowed people to say cruel and hurtful things to me, to comment on my body, to comment on what they assumed about my life and my lifestyle, to make me the butt of jokes without consequences. Because my fatness necessarily meant that I was lazy, stupid, gluttonous, greedy and shameful. The idea being that I brought it on myself. That if I weren’t those things I wouldn’t have been fat, and nobody would be able to make those jokes about me. That it was my own damn fault. And if I didn’t want people remarking on my body I should just push away from the table, have some self control.
I am grateful that I got to see and keep those pictures of myself. I am happy to have the clarity to see the truth about my teenage self. That I was sad because I was sick. That I was beautiful. That I was worth knowing. That I am still basically the same person, fat or not. And that I don’t keep my eating boundaries to be skinny (which is a good thing since I am not skinny) but to keep my head and my conscience clear, and to have the confidence to make bold life choices.