Playing the Weight Game

Weight issues have been a constant companion for a good majority of my life. The pandemic and quarantine have not helped in stamping down my loathsome views of my body. 

Thanksgiving came along last Thursday to remind me how much my life is dictated by food. I was getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner, fixing my hair and appraising my outfit. 

I stared at my face with a growing sense of disgust. A face turned round with a slowly growing double chin. An expanding body where arms hold abundant fat to become cumbersome, jiggling objects. One could call them wings if my body were light enough to allow flight. 

I imagine myself as the fat hen in Disney’s “Robin Hood,” Lady Kluck. A round, matronly and comedic fowl who helps in the love life of others but not her own. 

My pants have begun to play the game of how tight is too tight. The question to the game being, how long will she wear these jeans? Buttons desperately hold onto one another as they cut into my belly fat, leaving indentations. The closest bet wins the prize of reducing my self-esteem just a little bit more.   

 I’ve been a fat girl all my life. Being fat is one of the key ways I identify myself. I’ve been this way for so long, I struggle to see myself in any other way.

In my youth I didn’t really pay attention to my weight. It didn’t define who I was. Sure I was heavier than most of the other girls, but it didn’t mean I was any less smart or funny than they were. 

It wouldn’t be until I was in middle school that the objectification and self-loathing would hang above my head, creating a life-long friend in the form of a shadow. This cruel friend who would whisper degrading words to my young mind while taunting me with the elongated and thinner forms of myself splayed upon the school blacktop. 

A better version of myself reflected on the ground that followed me everywhere. Unable to reach it, I admired it from above and ate food as a remedy to my fragile sense of self. A vicious cycle that knows no end.

Since the discovery of my shadow friend, I have struggled with understanding my body and its weight. Plenty of people would argue that it’s not that complicated, go to the gym and eat less so you won’t be so fat. 

I’ve played the weight game on and off for many years. The game where calories, scales and exercise dictate your life so much that nothing else matters. Numbers being achieved is the sole goal of the day. Unfortunately for me, math was never my strong suit. 

I remember exercising with my mother to ’90s workout VHS tapes and drinking god-awful meal replacement shakes. Two fat women sweating in the living room hoping to look like the thin leotard wearing women on the TV screen. 

These tactics never seemed to help to reduce my weight. Did I feel healthier — absolutely, but health wasn’t what I really wanted. What I wanted to see in the mirror everyday was a beautiful version of myself. Or more adequately put, I wanted to see someone completely different from myself in the mirror, someone worthy of adoration and affection. 

As I got older my body kept betraying me. No luscious curves to be found on my hips or chest. In its stead was a boxy, fat body that lacked any femininity I was deemed by my sex to posess. My genitalia and menstrual cycle were the only feminine qualities that tied me to my gender in my young mind. 

As my friends began having boyfriends, I began reading young adult books and fanfiction to help fill the void of romantic interests. Early on I decided no boy or man could possibly find me attractive so I was doomed to a life with no love.   

It would be during my early 20s that I would discover that love can exist in a multitude of forms and that I would be capable of receiving love. As I write this, I feel extremely loved by a lot of people, but not the type of grand love I read about in so many novels.

I wanted my Mr. Darcy or Gilbert Blythe to come sweep me off my feet — a heavy load to carry — and tell me how much they loved my mind and soul. Fanfiction often helped fill that void, but the self-worth question was always on the back of my mind. 

Then Roxanne Gay came into my life like a shining beacon of feminism. I read her book “Bad Feminist” and never looked back. Her words, the words of another fat woman, helped to bolster my sense of self and worth.

For many years these words would help to chase away my shadow who heckled my body with cruel words. I’d eased into a safe space where I accepted my body for what it was and put all my energy into things I loved. 

It was as I looked in the mirror this last Thursday that that safe space was ripped apart. I stared at my face and body with renewed eyes of judgement. A body that has only expanded since the beginning of this pandemic. 

Suddenly all this armour I’ve obtained over the years to face the world have shattered into a thousand pieces. I’m left naked, vulnerable and filled with shame. 

I stand there for quite some time just analyzing all the things I hate about my body. I stare at it for so long that my body doesn’t look like a body at all. Large, gelatinous shapes that float in close orbit of one another forming some hideous constellation. 

I throw on a big sweater in hopes of hiding my growing distaste for my own body. I drive to my friends house where I enjoy my Thanksgiving, laughing and eating my way through the evening. 

Everyday that has proceeded since then has been filled with a loathsome type of anger. A reestablishment of my beliefs in the wrongness that is my body. 

I’m working on stopping those types of thoughts, the ones that make me want to stay inside and hide the body I hate. It’s going to take time with a lot of physical and mental health. 

Erin Holve can be reached at [email protected] and @Erin_Holve on Twitter.