sometimes, i look in the mirror and wonder what people might make of me, my face, my body.
for much of my life, i felt hyper-visible, even while i tried to disappear myself, because, for much of my life, i was overweight. it was something that was made a Thing of because to be fat was to commit the worst offense. i was called names, mocked for my love of food, told that no one would hire me because of my size, that no one would date me, that, essentially, my life wouldn’t begin until i was thin enough to be accepted by the world. i couldn’t wear dresses or bright colors, anything that would bring attention to me and show off or accentuate my body in any way — the point was to hide, to mask, to cover.
the point was to disappear.
when you spend so much of your life, your entire adolescence and young adulthood, attaching value to your body, hating your body and detaching yourself from it, that kind of thing seeps into every aspect of your life. i see that consequent insecurity, that complete lack of self-esteem, in everything — how i conduct myself in the workplace, how i approach relationships with people, how i regard myself. it’s in the way i regard food, in the decisions i’ve made throughout my life, in the lack of confidence to pursue the things i love and want to do. it’s in the fact that i didn’t start dating until last year, haven’t had sex, haven’t pursued any kind of intimacy because i’m afraid of touch, of being considered repulsive, of not being attractive enough to be wanted or desired. it’s been easier to retreat and pretend to be indifferent than put myself out there to be rejected because of my size.
my history of being body shamed is what makes my recent diagnosis of type 2 diabetes so agonizing. on a cognitive level, i acknowledge that this is not the end of the world; there are worse things with which to be ill. i can manage it by managing what i eat, taking my meds, and exercising. i can bring down my sugar levels and reintroduce foods into my diet, and these limitations don’t have to destroy my life.
however, i have spent much of my life obsessively controlling what i eat (or trying) because i was always on one diet or another, always trying to lose weight, always reading labels and counting calories and logging gym time. i would hate myself when all that effort came to nothing because i would inevitably dive off that diet wagon and binge and gain weight instead, caught in a vicious cycle that just reinforced all my self-loathing and self-hatred and reminded me that i was worth nothing — i couldn’t even maintain the discipline or find the willpower to lose weight; what could i do with my life? if i couldn’t even have the perseverance to maintain my body, then how would i ever accomplish anything professionally? personally? relationally?
and this is what has made this type 2 diagnosis so fucking painful — that i have spent the last four years letting go of all that, of healing, finally learning to love myself, at least to respect and appreciate my body if i couldn’t love it, to be generous and kind to myself. it’s been a process to unload all that self-hatred, to stop conflating my ability (or lack thereof) to lose weight with everything else in life, and i’d finally reached a point where i was fairly comfortable in my body and didn’t hate myself for everything i put in my mouth and was finally able to wear what i wanted, be who i wanted, and be okay with me as i was in the present moment, flaws and all.
to have to come back to a place, then, where i need to read labels and obsess over what i eat, where i feel so guilty when i miss a single workout or eat a bite of something i shouldn’t — i don’t think words can fully express how devastating that has been. no matter how much i try to remind myself that this is okay, this is necessary for my health, this feels like disordered eating.
of course, this restrictive diet means that i’ve been continuing to lose weight (hilariously, the weight started coming off once i stopped giving a shit last year), and, of course, that brings with it the expected chorus of delight around me — omg, you’re getting so pretty! you’ve lost so much weight! — and i hate it all. i wince every time someone compliments me for how i look; it makes me twist and rage inside; and, even now, as clothes fit better and i feel lighter, still, i hate my body.