onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “growing up fat”

My just desserts (spoiler alert: it’s not desserts anymore)

I consider myself to be lucky. I am very happy with the way I look. I don’t love the creases between my eyebrows, or my knock knees, or how big my belly is, but I also don’t hate them. And I feel like that is pretty good for a modern, Western woman, especially one who used to be morbidly obese. I think I am naturally beautiful.

And I think a lot of that peace and confidence in my physical self comes from taking care of myself.

There was this thing I learned years ago. When we wrong someone, we have to justify it to ourselves, or we have to own up and make amends. So if we are not willing to make amends, we have to make the person we harmed appear wrong to us in some way. For example, if I were a jerk to my husband and yelled at him about something, probably trivial, (not that I would ever do something so imperfect!) I would either have to make it right with him, or I would have to really dig my heels in about what a jerk he is. (My husband is most definitely not a jerk.) This is easy enough to see in a relationship like a marriage. (Well…Easy-ish to see. It’s not always easy for me to admit I have done something wrong.)

But what I learned since I got my eating under control is that it works the same in my relationship with myself. Only not so straightforwardly.

When I was eating compulsively, especially because I just couldn’t stop, I was forced to reinforce all of the negative talk about myself in my own head. I was fat, I was ugly, I was worthless. Because if I were beautiful and strong and capable, I would have to admit that I was abusing my body. I would have to admit that I was harming myself. And I would have to make amends to myself. And for most of my life, I wasn’t going to be able to do that. I really could not stop eating. I had no idea how.

When I was harming myself, I had to choose that I “deserved” to be harmed. My “just desserts” were literal desserts full of sugar and flour, that were making me fat, and crazy and miserable. I hated my body, because I fed it junk and poison, processed sugar and carbohydrates that got me high and made me lethargic. I abused it, which only made me hate it more, and made it justifiable to feed it more poison.

Now that I take care of my body, I love it. I love it even though it is not tiny and svelte and “flawless.” I love it with all of its rolls and sags. I love its 41-year-old’s share of wrinkles and moles. It never had to fit into society’s definition of perfect for me to love it. Really, I only needed to start treating it like it was lovable.

And when I started to love it and treat it as beautiful, the world around me started to agree. I don’t wear makeup. I don’t dye my grey hair. I don’t wear shape wear, and I rarely wear heels. But, for the most part, people like me. People are attracted to me. And I think it’s because I love me enough to treat me, my whole body, the way I deserve to be treated. With love and respect.

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Even if I can’t change the world, I can change what I do.

There are two ways both the media and the medical community talk about obesity.

The first is that fat people are lazy slobs who are unwilling to do something about their bad behavior and are subjecting all of the “normal” people to their shamefulness.

The second is that fat people are just fat, and that if they try to lose weight, their metabolisms slow down and they maintain weight regardless of their intake and output. Which, by the way, completely disregards the fact that both nationally, and globally, humans are fatter than they were 40 years ago.

Now, in some ways it is true that trying to lose weight can cause a person’s metabolism to slow down so that they maintain their weight. Depending on *how* one tries to lose weight. And the ways most modern doctors, and “health & lifestyle” articles tell fat people to try to lose weight is a serious part of the problem.

They tell them to eat processed sugar and carbohydrates in moderation. They tell them if they don’t eat that cookie, they will feel deprived, but only the one cookie. And if they can’t stop, they tell them it’s their fault. That they lack the moral fiber that we like to call willpower. They tell them to exercise, often for hours a day. They tell them that exercise has a much bigger impact on their weight than it actually does. (My daily workout burns less than 250 calories. An 8 ounce apple is 130 calories. 2 eggs is 156 calories. So jogging 2 miles a day doesn’t even burn off 2 eggs and a medium sized apple. But fat people are told that if they get out and move, they will magically get thin.) They tell them to fast (starve themselves) and that this does some kind of woo woo magic to their metabolisms. They tell them to eat low calorie processed foods, which often end up having increased sugar and low nutrient content.

What very few people are talking about is giving up processed sugar and carbohydrates. Yes, more people are talking about it than before, but still not very many. We are stuck in the paradigm of “a calorie is a calorie,” and it is killing some of us.

For me, a calorie is not a calorie. I eat a ridiculous number of calories in a day now. I don’t count calories, though I do control my portions. But I do know that eating 300 calories of full-fat Greek yogurt, I mean the super extra fatty yogurt, leaves me satisfied completely until lunch, sometimes 7 hours later. If I ate 300 calories in doughnuts, or a bagel, I would be craving immediately, and continue to eat. I would eat more carbs. And even if I didn’t, even if I could somehow force myself to “be good,” I would still not be skinny.

When I was 25-27, I lost weight by counting calories and working out. I ate sugar and carbs in moderation. I was crazy, I was miserable, and I was constantly hungry. And I was about the same size I am now. But now I am 41, with a slower metabolism, and eating way more calories, and more satiating foods. In other words I suffered then to look like I look now. Because sugar makes me fat, and it makes me crave more sugar.

I understand that not everybody is the same. I understand that there will be outliers. I understand that your aunt may have joined Weight Watchers, and she ate whatever she wanted, including cookies and bread, in moderation for her whole life and maintained a normal weight. I salute her! I am very happy for her. I have people in my life, in my very own family, who have that story too.

My story, and the story of dozens and dozens of people that I know personally, and the story of hundreds of people I am in contact with, is that we could not lose weight no matter what we tried. And then we stopped eating processed sugar and carbohydrates, and we lost the weight and kept it off for years, and decades.

I have maintained a weight loss of half my body weight for over 12 years. I went from a size 28, to a size 8. I have been a size 4/6. My weight fluctuates. I gain a little, I lose a little. I still don’t eat a lot of low calorie foods. I like my meals rich and delicious. I did not exercise in any regimented way for the first 10 years of not eating sugar, and still maintained my weight. Even my current exercise routine is minimal. I am not currently, and have rarely been what you might term “skinny.” Though, skinny in the US is extreme now. But I am not fat anymore. And I have not been for over a decade.

I read an article this week. The point of it was that we need to stop shaming people for being fat, especially the medical community. Yes. I wholeheartedly agree. I still carry a lot of the fear and hatred of doctors that I felt having grown up fat.

But there was something else that struck me in the article. It said that people are fatter now, and we won’t be able to change that back. We can’t turn back the clock to 40 years ago and the obesity rates of the 1970s. This, of course, is true, and wise. Obesity is here to stay and we would do well to stop being jerks to fat people.

But I want to carry the banner for what an individual can do if they want to change themselves. For the past 7 years, this blog has been trying to offer an example of what one person who wants to change their life can do. Give up processed sugar and carbohydrates. Give them up entirely. Treat them like poison.

It can be done. I was fat in the 80s and the 90s when it was still relatively rare. Certainly not the “epidemic” they term it today. I remember what it was like to be shamed. And I did not think there could ever be a solution. But now I live comfortably in a body I love because I gave up processed sugar and carbohydrates.

I am saying that we may not be able to reverse the trend, but as individuals, we don’t have to be a part of it.

Tight pants

Having been fat from childhood to my late 20s made me particularly body conscious. Even now, when I don’t want to be, I am. I just want to eat delicious food within my boundaries and let my body be what it is. (Yeah…because that’s easy.)

About 5 months ago, I started eating soy nuts again. I know that I can be a little obsessed with them. And I know that they make me gain weight. But I had a craving for something nutty and crunchy and they are absolutely allowed on my plan. So I bought some. And I agreed with myself that I would not eat more than an ounce a day. And in all honesty, for the first 2 months, I didn’t eat them every day. I maybe had them two or three days a week. But nothing happened.

And they are tasty and convenient because there is no cooking involved. And they make for a great texture in my homemade ice cream! So I started eating more of them on a regular basis. And after about a week of eating them whenever I wanted and ignoring my one ounce a day rule, I woke up one Sunday and realized I had gained weight. Enough weight for my pants to feel tight. Not “kill me” tight. “Not go buy new pants” tight. But I was uncomfortable. And it really did happen over night. Saturday, pants fit like normal. Sunday, pants are tight.

So I did what any body conscious woman with boundaries around her eating would do. I stopped eating them. It has been about 3 weeks. And I have still not really lost that weight. My pants are a bit looser, but not the way they had been that one Saturday, before I woke up and had gained weight.

I actively try to not care about my weight. Not like I am trying to hide anything from myself. But I keep my boundaries around my eating every day, and day by day, that is enough. I don’t have to worry about the size of my body. That will be what it is. (Again, the not worrying is easier said than done.)

But I want to note a thing that has always been interesting (and often upsetting) to me. It takes 2 days and no effort (for me, and most of us) to gain weight, and 2 months and a lot of work and care to lose it. It always takes more to achieve our goals than it does to destroy all of the work we have put in.

I try to remember that when I don’t “want” to do the things I do to take care of myself. I have the life I have because of the things I nurture, and the habits I practice. But even after years of work and commitment, it only takes 2 days for my pants to get tight.

In defense of sugar. JK! It apparently has enough defenders.

I saw two things on social media this week that frustrated me. Both of them were about how sugar is “not the problem.”

One of them was a tweet from an obesity doctor that said that when people come into his office and say they gave up sugar and lost weight, they really mean they gave up junk food. What they really did, according to this doctor, was reduce fat, starch, and calories, not just sugar. He literally ends his tweet with “It wasn’t just the sugar.”

And the other was an article about debunked health myths. And one of the “debunked” myths is that sugar is addictive. First, the title of the section is “Sugar is as addictive as heroin.” This is the last line of the section:

“So, scientists don’t know what addiction in the brain looks like, yet, and until that mystery is solved we should not be living in fear from something as fanciful as sugar addiction.”

Fanciful. Total silliness! Ridiculous! Go get yourself a cake and hang out in a food coma until scientists agree that sugar addiction is a thing. Or better yet, a diabetic coma. Whatever.

The thing that really pisses me off about both of these is the condescension . If you believe that sugar is the problem, you are an idiot. You are delusional. “What people are *really* doing is cutting calories, but they are too stupid/brainwashed to understand.” “Its fanciful to believe that sugar could be addictive.”

I believe in science. I don’t want to imply that I don’t. But I also believe that science, and our true understanding of the effects of something, can be limited by our biases, preconceived notions, and beliefs. I believe that the food industry has knowingly and purposely propped up sugar as “innocuous” for over half a century. “Food is food.” “A calorie is a calorie.”

But we have paid the price for it. There is more sugar in our diets than ever before, and there is more obesity in 1st World civilization than ever before. And I cannot stand this defense of sugar, and the subsequent shaming of people suffering from obesity, in the name of science.

“It’s not the sugar. It’s you. You are the problem.”

First, I do believe that sugar is addictive, but that not everyone is as likely to become addicted. I happen to believe that I have a predisposition to become addicted in general, and that I am addicted to sugar. But I know plenty of people who can and do eat sugar in moderation and do not suffer from health problems in any way from their sugar consumption. My husband is one of those people. I buy him sugar all the time. I pack it in his lunch. I keep it in the house for him.

And second, I am for freedom. True freedom. If you want to eat sugar all day, I believe that is your right. Even if it means morbid obesity. Even if it leads to diabetes and hypertension and Alzheimer’s and stroke. Even if it means suffering. I am not going to tell you how to eat. That is none of my business. And I don’t think it should be.

But I am not for the shaming of humans in defense of sugar. Nor am I for the belittling of my intelligence because science has not come to a consensus on whether sugar is addictive. As a person with a very clear experience of sugar as an addiction, I do not doubt that science will eventually show what I already know. But even if it doesn’t, that in no way diminishes my experience that when I abstain completely from sugars, grains, and starch, excepting some whole fruits and vegetables, I do not crave more than is healthy, and I do not suffer from food obsession.

But I can’t help but be frustrated that an obesity doctor would be so obnoxious about people, his own patients, who say they gave up sugar and lost weight. Is *he* a sugar addict? Or is he being paid off to downplay the effects of sugar on a person’s health? Otherwise, I can’t see why he would go out of his way to point out his patients’ “wrongness,” to defend a substance. It seems cruel and rude to me.

I will close with this. My whole life, growing up fat, doctors and nutritionists would tell me to eat sugar in moderation. But I cannot eat sugar in moderation. I cannot eat a slice of cake. It is either no cake, or the whole cake. I don’t have a done button. So, as far as I am concerned, any obesity doctor who can’t even consider the possibility of sugar addiction for some number of his patients, is not very good at his job.

Where the love is

On Friday I celebrated my 2nd Wedding anniversary. I don’t really think about it on a day-to-day basis, but it’s a miracle. Certainly to my child self it’s a miracle. I felt shameful and unlovable for nearly all of my early life. I had resigned myself to being alone forever at a very early age. And to my early-teen self, it’s something more than just any miracle. Because I married the guy I had a huge crush on from about 12 to 14, until we lost touch. If you told 13-year-old Kate that she would marry him, she would have told you that you were crazy.

Of course, it took more than 20 years of separation, and a whole lot of personal change, physical, emotional, and spiritual, but it sure did happen.

And that is all thanks to keeping my eating boundaries. All of it. Period. Sometimes my husband says very sweet, romantic things about how he would still love me if I gained weight. And I believe him. Because I don’t think he understands what would actually come along with weight gain. I think he is thinking in terms of physical beauty. And I think he believes that I am just beautiful no matter what. Which I love! And I am grateful for.

But when I am eating compulsively, I am not beautiful for a few reasons that have nothing to do with size. I don’t like myself when I am eating compulsively. I get depressive and ashamed. I second guess myself. Also, I don’t have a whole lot of integrity when I am in the food. I lie, cheat, and steal. I hide truths and manipulate people. I am just generally difficult, angry, and unhappy. And I don’t think about anyone but myself. Everything is all about me.

When I started writing this blog over 6 years ago, it was to open myself to love. It was to stop thinking all of those thoughts I had about not being worthy. And there was something to do about it. I took an honest, searching look at myself, took stock of what about myself I wanted to change, and started working toward being the kind of person I wanted to be in a relationship with. There is a saying: Self-esteem comes from doing estimable acts.

But I could only do those estimable acts because I put sugar and carbs down. When I am eating sugar and carbs, I am only thinking about that. If something I want would impede my eating, I would let that thing, that wish, go. Because eating sugar is the most important thing in the world when I am eating sugar. When I am not eating sugar, my life and my relationships are the most important things.

So at this time of the anniversary of my marriage, I am so grateful for that 28-year-old Kate who decided that a life that revolved around sugar was not enough. That there was something better to be, and something better to be had. And that she was willing to go through the dark, scary world of withdrawal and uncertainty, to get to the other side. That’s where the love is.

I adjust for conflation

I was talking with a group of friends the other day about International Women’s Day, and someone mentioned movements like “fat is beautiful,” and “fat as a feminist issue.”

The truth is that I do think that fat is a feminist issue. I do think that being fat and being beautiful are not mutually exclusive. And at the same time, I absolutely hated being fat, and I never want to go back.

I think that part of the problem with these ideas is that we conflate them. Let me break it down for you. There is a difference between what you, as an individual with a body, want to believe about and do with your body, and what our society and culture tell you about what you *should* believe about and do with your body.

I have had to deal with this for myself. I had to do some serious and painful soul searching. Because I really hated being fat. I was miserable and I felt ashamed. I hated my body. I hated the way that I looked, and the way that I felt. I hated that I could not stop eating. I hated how hard it was to live in that body.

But separately, I also hated the way I was treated by others. I hated that people were given the “right” by our culture, to openly comment about my body. After all, this body is me and I am this body. Whatever its size and shape. If you shame my body, you shame me. If you disrespect my body, you disrespect me.

I have come to really understand, only after years of being in a comfortable body, a body that I am comfortable in, that just because I was unhappy with myself didn’t give anyone else the right to judge me. It was not ok that I was shamed and abused. It was not ok that I was humiliated by others. That I hated myself did not give friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers a pass for being jerks.

My food problem is a sickness. It is not cured by “pushing away from the table,” or “just not eating so much,” or “having willpower,” or “having some self-respect.” I don’t now, and never did, earn my place in the world by being beautiful, thin, accommodating, and feminine. I have always had a place in the world. I was born into it, by virtue of having a body.

And I will say that I consider myself to be incredibly beautiful (and my husband would add humble.) And I love it. And I don’t apologize for loving it. But it doesn’t define me. And I don’t owe it to others. Not to men on the street, not to my parents, not to friends, not to bosses. Not to my husband, either. I do not owe any particular body to anyone but myself.

So in honor of International Women’s Day, let me recommend to you that you love your body exactly as it is right now in this very moment. Remember that it *is* your place in the world. And if, like I once was, you are unhappy with the body you are in, love it anyway. I believe that it is only by loving ourselves first that we can make lasting change. If we are waiting to be “perfect” before we love ourselves, we will be waiting a very long time.

If you are looking for a warm fuzzy, this is not it.

So yeah. Really not looking forward to writing this particular post. In fact, thought about what else I could possibly write about. Anything. But nope. It’s this.

I have gained weight. My jeans still fit, but different. And my arms and belly are bigger.

I am still not weighing myself. And thank God. I don’t do well with numbers. I am bad at rational thought when it comes to my weight. I know that to some people (including myself in the not-so-distant past), knowing the number would be a chance to look reality square in the eye. This is not true for me anymore. When it comes to me and the number on the scale, I lose all sense of reality and it is all about shame. I am sick in the head about these things.

I want to be clear. I believe that knowing things is better than not knowing. I think that most people who are interested in managing their weight and their bodies should get on the scale every once in a while. Before I quit smoking, I got on once a month. And it was fine. Maybe not fun, but not an issue. But since my quit-smoking-weight-gain, getting on the scale has been a kind of torture. So I stopped.

I need to acknowledge that for over a year, I have been waiting to lose the weight I gained. I feel like I deserve it. I feel like it’s due me. I feel like it’s my right.

I am going to be honest. And the Good Girl inside me doesn’t want me to say this. But if I had known that this is what was going to happen to me, I never would have quit smoking.

Look. I quit. It’s done. I don’t have any intention of starting again. But my relationship with my body has suffered badly in the past 2 years. I feel ugly a lot of the time. I feel fat most of the time. And feel like the whole thing is completely unfair.

Perhaps if I really went back and inventoried all the benefits I personally received from quitting smoking, I would see that I would do it all again in a heartbeat. But when I think about how I was once, miraculously, for a time, at peace with my body and now I am regularly unhappy and sometimes deeply ashamed, it’s hard to be objective.

Having been a fat girl, I have always had a strained relationship with my body. It has always been an issue and it always will be. But having had that reprieve from 30 to 35, where my weight was not a constant torment, has made this past 2 years all the worse. Because I have the distinction, and I can’t seem to get back there.

The Good Girl is telling me that this is where I am supposed to tell you about how I am going to accept my body because it is the beautiful vessel for my soul. That as long as I honor myself by keeping my boundaries around my eating, I am honoring Life and the Universe, whatever my size. But the part of me that feels frustrated and cheated says that the Good Girl can go f*** herself.

…But that’s none of my business…

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about what it looks like to let people be themselves. Make their own choices. Fight their own battles. Live their own lives.

It’s a hard thing. I know that it is hard for everybody. And I like to think it is something that I am relatively good at.

Relatively. I mean, it’s not easy. Especially when I love somebody. Or in my pride I think I know what would be best.

And maybe what I think other people should do really would make them happy, or give them peace, or just generally make things work out for the best. But none of that matters.

When I was growing up, a lot of people wanted me to lose weight. Doctors and family and friends. Not because they didn’t like or love me fat, but because they did. They wanted better for me. They wanted me to be healthier and happier. They didn’t want me to get obesity related illnesses. Or be made fun of. Or get hurt and rejected.

But nothing those people wanted for me ever helped me. None of their opinions or advice ever landed as anything but judgment, cruelty, and conditional caring. I am not saying that that is what it was. I am not saying that it was not genuine love and concern. But it did not occur that way. It occurred as intrusion. And for the most part, it still does.

I love advice.

When I ask for it. Because I am choosy about whom I ask. I go to people who have something I want when I ask for advice. When I wanted peace around food, I went to people who had peace around food. I did what they did. Not people who were skinny. Not even people who had lost a lot of weight. I wanted food to stop being an issue. So I went to people for whom compulsive eating was no longer an issue. When I wanted to open my heart and find a powerful relationship, I asked for advice from people in the kinds of relationships I wanted. Not people who happened to be married. Not women who were trying to land a husband. It was about relationships. When I wanted to quit smoking, I went to people who had successfully quit smoking and were empowered by it. Not people who still had a puff every once in a while. Not people who had never had or wanted a cigarette. People who quit so that they could grow.

What I do around food is not for everybody. Plenty of people are not sick with sugar addiction or eating disorders, and can eat sugar and drink alcohol normally and without negative repercussions. Or have other food issues that would be exacerbated by what I do.

And no. Not everybody wants what I have. And I can understand that. I think most people can’t imagine how sweet and delicious my life is. I don’t think many people can fathom what it is like to have found a certain amount of peace. I bet they think that what I have is a dull as can be.

But even more, there are people who do, indeed, want what I have, but are unwilling to do what I do. Almost everybody wants to know how I live with the idea of never eating chocolate cake again. Or never having a glass of wine with dinner. Or they want to make sure that I know that they never could. So many people, when they hear my solution, decide that it’s too much. They want an easier, softer way. Not so hard. Not so extreme.

And who am I to tell them differently? Who am I to judge them for not doing what I do?

And it’s not just food. Food is just the most obvious example to me. My “amazing” weight loss transformation that is written all over my body. (Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I put amazing in quotes because I happen to know that my weight was the symptom of my eating disorders. That what’s really amazing to me is the gift of having my eating under control, which takes care of my weight issues. And that more than amazing, it’s work and dedication and giving myself over to grace.) Who am I to offer advice about any choice. Who am I to tell anybody anything? Who am I to tell another person how to live. Or what happiness is. Or where to find it?

Unless you want to ask me. And then I would love to tell you what works for me. And even then, I give it as a gift. With no strings. To do with what you will. Because your life is yours. And you get to live it for yourself.

Graceful like an elephant

I was thinking today about what I want. And I can’t think of anything. More time in the sun, maybe. But I took a few hours this morning and laid out by the pool. Another trip to Florida. But that will happen. Probably in the next couple of months. But even if it takes longer than that, it’s not some long-term, impossible goal. It’s not a dream.

I used to want things. I used to want to be and do and have.

But I don’t have much to prove anymore. And I like it this way.

I think that what I want most in the world is more grace. To grow ever more graceful at dealing with life.

When I was fat, I was self-conscious about how graceful I was physically. If I tripped, I was humiliated. And often angry at anyone who saw me. Especially if they had the indecency to smile or laugh.

Graceful as an elephant. It was a phrase that was used in my family. And I was fat. Like an elephant. And could imagine how people saw me. Lumbering around. And I was bitter about it.

In retrospect, I was physically graceful my whole life. Even if I didn’t know it. Strong, flexible, with great rhythm. I was not personally, spiritually or emotionally graceful though.

When I lost weight, I wanted to look like a beautiful, confident woman. I wanted to look like I belonged in my body. I didn’t think I did belong in my body and it often felt like I was an “eternal fat girl” conning the world. But I was interested in selling this con, so I started to look around and notice what beautiful, confident women were doing and copying them.

One of the first things I remember taking note of was grace in the face of being ungraceful. I found that beautiful, confident women tripped when they were walking, too. Sometimes they even fell. And do you know what they did? They smiled!!! They laughed! They made some charming remark and moved along! It turned out that grace was not about moving flawlessly through the world, but rather about how one dealt with the flaws.

I started to do this too. I got myself a little shtick. I would curtsy, and say, “You can call me Grace.”

And this was so incredibly freeing. I could let it go. I could have peace. I did not have to feel like a victim. Of an uneven sidewalk. Or my grotesque body. I did not have to feel ashamed for the rest of the day. I didn’t have to lumber around, stomping and snorting. Graceful like an elephant.

This has been a lesson to learn over and over in different ways. Grace is not about perfection, but about my attitude and reactions to imperfection.

And that is the only thing that I can think of that I really want. That is my dearest goal right now. To be ever more graceful. To find the peace that brings the grace. And the grace that brings the peace.

Maybe some idea or intense yearning will come out of the blue and light a fire under my ass one of these days. And perhaps I will have the grace to go fearlessly forward into the unknown with excitement and wonder. I’m not ruling it out.

But it sure is nice to sit here with nothing to wish for.

Glamour is pain. Beauty is something else.

I have been thinking about beauty lately. Not just prettiness, though that too. But beauty. And where it comes from. And what it means. And what it is.

When I was a very small child, I was stunning. No, seriously. At 4 years old, I was positively striking. I had unusual coloring. My skin was on the darker side, and my hair on the lighter. Big deep brown eyes. I was a beauty. And I knew it, but not in an obnoxious way. In an innocent, 4-year-old way. It was just the way it was. And it was nice.

And then I started being told that I was fat, or that if I wasn’t careful I would get fat, or even if I was careful, I would get fat. And then I eventually did get fat. Really, truly, and undeniable fat.

I come from a fat family. In my childhood, the people I grew up around either were and had always been fat, had been fat and would be fat again but at any given moment might not be fat, or were fat, but had once been quite thin.

We were all scrutinized from a very young age. There was no accounting for growing and changing. There was no recognition that growing bodies look awkward. That bellies and thighs plump and elongate and shift as little people grow into big people.

And let’s face it, I would get fat. 300 lbs fat. But sometimes I have seen pictures of myself at some time or another and I see that I was not fat yet. And I can think back to that time and know that I believed I was. In truth, I think that 4-year-old beauty was the last me who didn’t think she was fat. I think by 5 I was ashamed. It’s a sad thought, really.

Because it was also never my experience that my fat family believed that you could be big and beautiful at the same time. The attractive ones were the thin ones. And the ones who went up and down were attractive when they were thin and not when they were fat.

I sometimes wonder if starting out so pretty made being fat such a hardship for me. Perhaps if I had been plain, or even just merely “cute enough”, I wouldn’t have devastated me the way it did. I wished so desperately to be beautiful, and at the same time, shunned all things pretty and girly. I wore men’s cologne and men’s clothes. I hated pink. It infuriated me whenever people called me Katie. Because Katie was a pretty girl’s name. (I still don’t love to be called Katie, by the way. But more because I am Kate. It so obviously suits me better than any other name.)

So yesterday, I had a group of ladies come over to my home for lunch. We are all women who work every day at keeping our eating disorders under control. And we are all beautiful. We are different ages, different sizes, different styles. But we all sparkle.

I remember years ago meeting the mother of a man I was seeing. And she loved me. And I loved her. (Frankly, she liked me more than her son did…) I think she liked me because I sparkled the way she did. I certainly liked her because she sparkled the way I did. And that sparkle was her beauty. She was a very pretty woman too. But it was her sparkle that made her beautiful.

And then I think about the women that I have known or met or just encountered who are beautiful, but not pretty. And conversely, the women that are very pretty, but in no way beautiful. I am very clear that prettiness and beauty are not the same.

So I have a theory about what that sparkle is. I believe it is self-care. Not just the physical part, like eating well, and keeping hydrated and getting enough sleep and exercise. Though, of course that’s a good part of it. But also taking care of yourself in other ways. Like taking care of your integrity. Doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. And being honest. So you can look God and yourself in the eye. And being confident. Not just in the way you look, but in your thoughts and actions. Doing things whole heartedly. Being bold. Knowing that it’s OK to be wrong, and get it wrong. Knowing that all will still be well if you fail. And feeling free to be yourself. Without regard to people and their judgments.

In other words, I believe beauty is peace.

In retrospect, I can see that I was still pretty when I was fat. In a different way, of course. My face was pretty. Rounder than it is now, but still pretty. And I had an hourglass figure. Just a very big one. But I was not beautiful. Because I hated myself. And because I had no confidence. And because I believed I was ugly.

I was not beautiful because I had no peace.

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