Thinky Thursday: When did you realize you were fat?

I’m going to start posting questions in my blog on Thursdays. I want to hear your thoughts! Post your answers in the comments section and I’ll take samplings of your responses and put together a collective post at the end of the day. :)

Thinky Thursday Question – Thursday, 9/23:

For those that this applies to, when did you first realize you were fat? Who, if anyone, pointed it out to you? When did you first hear this as a derogatory statement, if applicable?

My answer: I was a relatively skinny kid. I was tall and sunkist, mostly legs and braids and teeth — an active kid who rode her bike all over the place, loved rollerskating, was always outside rummaging through fields and “playing pretend.” An extended illness when I was young, and the steroids I had to take to treat it, changed my eating habits and patterns in a way that stuck around long after the drugs did and started a slow and steady weight gain. Both of my parents were fat, so I was pretty much destined to follow suit genetically. That was just the jumpstart. Even still, I don’t remember being self-conscious until the summer before 5th grade.

I remember being at the store with my mom, buying clothes for the school year. My options were polyester bell-bottom pants and too-tight t-shirts in last season’s style. I remember being mortified when my mom explained to me that nothing else fit me. It was my first realization that I was larger than other people in a way that excluded me from something. This also marked my entrance into two years of fairly traumatic bullying — the kind you learn about in after school specials.

I realize as I’m writing this out that what I’m feeling is an overwhelming wave of gratitude for the fact that I got to go through 9 or 10 years of my life without being focused on my body or carrying around any shame about how it looked. I’m remembering the hot flush of shame that washed over my face that day in K-Mart, but I’m also remembering the freedom of playing dress-up, of gliding through the water without worrying how my body looked in my swimsuit. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could stave off that introduction into body shame indefinitely? Everyone should get to live in their bodies as joyfully as we do as children.

  1. This posting follows a posting made by someone very close to me. That posting shows a picture of her daughter at 3 months old and talks about how premature she was and so as she got bigger, everyone accused her of being fat because they thought she was younger. The end of the posting tells her 12 year old daughter that she is not fat and that anyone who say’s so should be flogged. I see her intent, but I wish I could figure out how to work with her message.

    To answer your question, I am not fat. I did, however gain 30lbs in less than a year after being excessively skinny all of my life. No one said anything about it until I went to Texas to meet my mother for lunch. Dana and I walked into the restaurant and my mom stood up and after 4 years of not seeing each other say’s, “Wow, you have really gotten fat!” to which I responded, “Hi, mom. It’s good to see you too.”

  2. I probably went on my first “diet” around 6 or so. Looking back at childhood photos, it’s just intensely strange. I see a child who is taller than everyone else, strong-looking, a bit on the stout side through the middle, but in no way large enough that any reasonable parent would have told her to diet. (Not that I think there is really any reason to put a child on a “diet,” with all the meanings our culture has imparted on the word.)

    Anyway. That’s when I knew I was fat. When my mom told me.

  3. I realised I was fat when I started infant school (aged 5 or 6) I was the tallest in my school and bigger than the girls (and boys)! So I stood out. Then I wanted a dress exactly like one I had seen a schoolmate wearing. So my mum ordered one. It didn’t fit. By the time I was 8/9, I was a size 18, wearing a bra, having periods. I used to try and disguise wearing a bra under the vests I wore before I had to start wearing bras! And got ridiculed because I was wearing both. I also got bullied by older kids, Maybe because they thought I could handle it. I couldn’t. I felt enormous pressure to be grown up, sensible. All my report cards said I set an example because of how quiet and well behaved I was. So I thought I had to conform to this image. I hated it. Now I’m 38, size 22 and I’m beautiful. I wear gorgeous clothes and even more gorgeous shoes. I have lots of gorge handbags and I don’t take myself seriously. In fact, I’m more childlike than I have ever been – and I like it that way!

  4. I recognized that I was fat very early on. Although, I was just a lil chubby kid; I had a chubby face. But I remember being picked on early on–some or most of that being about fat. Some of which I might have attributed to fat, though it was not about that. So that was very young, 3 or 4 even.

    In elementary school I remember it being hell to ride our crowded bus, trying to find a place to sit. Sometimes kids would have to sit three to a seat and I remember no one wanted to try to cram me into theirs. I remember sitting with my ass hanging off the edge, uncomfortable, having to stabilize myself.

    But even at that point I don’t remember having problems finding clothing. It was as I approached 5th grade that I think that happened and I started raiding my mom’s closet for clothes–thank goodness I had a bit of a thing for retro styles and being an oddball.

    It’s hard looking back, thinking about how I did really feel everything boiled down to my fat. I always felt that’s why people made fun of me, why I felt excluded, why I didn’t fit in. But when I look back I have to wonder how much of it was fat, and how much did I self-consciously impose. How much of it was about me having bad teeth as a kid or being so she and easily embarassed? Being a tomboy? Dressing weird (even for the 80’s/early 90s)? But at some point, even if it was all separate at one time, everything came to be about fat.

  5. I started to think of myself as fat somewhere between the ages of 4 and 7. I was bullied for it in school, and my parents may have had some of those quiet, concerned conversations that parents have about things like that. Maybe the doctor said I was above the growth curve for weight. I don’t know. What I do remember is that I loved to dance. When I was 4, I’d pretend to be a ballerina and listen to a record I had – with Swan Lake on one side and the Nutcracker on the other – over and over again. I asked my mom if i could take ballet lessons, and she said I was too young.

    When I was seven, my mom said I was old enough for dance lessons and wanted to sign me up. But, by that time, the idea of wearing a leotard in public terrified me. I thought I’d look awful and the other kids would laugh at me. I thought of myself as too fat to take dance lessons, not because I didn’t think I’d be good at it, but because I was ashamed of my body. After that, I stayed active at home and with my friends (I was good at rollerskating, gymnastics and racket sports) but never dared to sign up for a sport in school. I took some figure skating lessons when I was ten and took some tennis lessons as a teenager, but that was it. Oh, and of course I took swimming too, like everyone did. But, I was terrified of doing anything physical in front of an audience after the age of six or seven. I didn’t even begin to get over that fear until I was in my twenties, and I’m still nervous about exercising in public.

  6. Fat? It is all tied up with other physical aspects of my life. My sister was born when I was 4. She was so cute. At about that time my mom gave me an ugly haircut (and continued to do so until I was old enough to protest. I had buck teeth. I was NOT the cute one. I have known, as far back as I can remember, that I was not attractive. It was just a fact of life. I did not resent my sister. I thought she was great. In our house, we needed protection, and so I became her protector. I never seemed to dwell on Fat or Ugly. They just were and that was life. Too much other stuff sucked to worry about that. I do, however, remember sitting in the car while my dad went into the store. I scooted down so “they” could just see my eyes. I thought someone might think I was cute if they could just see that part of me. No one, however, even noticed me.

  7. I don’t ever remember a moment when I realised I was fat…..I just always ‘thought’ I was. Thought being the operative word…. with hindsight I wasn’t actually fat until high school and even then not really massively overweight until my twenties.

    However I had a plumpish Mum who had a skinny mother who had inherited food and body obsession so my childhood memories are full of my Mum on diets, my parents on diets…the cabbage soup diet, the cambridge diet, weight watchers…. I was so aware of it all. Then my Granny and Mum went on a diet and I wanted to join them – the fact they let me is comical – a 7 year old girl eating crackerbreads and lean ham and weighing herself! But then again – both of them were only about 10 pounds overeight so comical they were so wound up really!
    So I guess growing up in a household where body shape and dieting were such an obession made it my own obession despite only weighing about 126 pounds at age 12 or 13 and at 5ft 8 – well within normal weight. However I was always the tall and more developed girl so I felt big and clumsy and remember my boyfriend at 13 taking me a walk in his neighbourhood and his young friends obviously put out by this shouting over he didn’t tell them I was fat – in a UK size 12 (US size 8 ) pair of jeans I was anything but, however the comment stuck and added to my body image paranoia!

    Now I am a UK 20 (US 24) and feel so much better about myself at 33 than I ever did at 13, 19 or 21 when I was smaller. I wish I could go back and tell that girl how fabulous she looked and take her body image woes away but I can’t. However I can break the cycle and I won’t pass on the paranoia to any children I might have. My Mum finally got a gastric band and is still not happy despite being 130 pounds. I am nearly double her weight and she makes comments all the time – but you know what – it’s water off a ducks back. I love my life, love my clothes, love the attention and compliments I get and I excercise and eat as well as I can….and ion my book that is ok! I am happy and fine with being fat – if I ever amn’t thats fine too!

  8. OMG I’m fat?!

  9. I remember my mom telling me that I was fat as soon as I began eating food. I always knew I was fat, but didn’t respond to the world the way culture wants a fat girl to respond until I was about 16, and fell in love with someone who wasn’t attracted to me but stuck around nevertheless, making the relationship all the more terrible.

    For most of my life I’d been ballsy enough to go after what I wanted, and while rejection never feels good, at such a young age it didn’t leave me hating myself or my body.

    I have a few memories from elementary school that stand out as moments in which I was acutely and painfully aware of my fat, and one from preschool:
    1. I wanted a bikini when I was four or five. I wasn’t allowed to wear one because I was fat (though I’d argue I wasn’t). I would wear two pairs of undies, one in the normal way and one as a bikini top with one shoulder, a leg hole around my ribs and one arm, the waist from one shoulder to the opposite armpit, if you can imagine. I remember my dad pulling up in the driveway and running out to tell him that I’d found an old bikini.
    2. In third grade I was on a diet that my parents had informed my teacher about, in the interest of monitoring. I would sometimes get another kid’s dessert at lunch because she didn’t want it, and once my teacher called me to her desk and asked me if what I was eating was on my diet. I tried to lie.
    3. I was one of the slowest mile runners and my gym teacher seemed angry/self-satisfied when I had a doctor’s note of dismissal.
    4. One pair of stockings. They fit me but not my best friend. She said she knew why but wouldn’t tell me. It was because I was fat.

    At the same time, I was on the swim team and placed in every meet, and often got third place because I forgot to touch the wall. Yep- so many people yelling down at me, ‘Touch the wall!’ that I couldn’t discern what any one voice was saying. I played tennis. My young body could do so much even if running a mile wasn’t one of the things at which I excelled. Still, it wasn’t until my sexuality became manifest that my fat became such a heartbreaking experience. And it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I put an end to the heartbreak.

  10. I actually can’t remember a time when I didn’t know I was fat. I remember my mother telling me I should ask one of my skinny friends to help me exercise when I was 8 years old and I remember her asking me if I “really needed that” when I opened the fridge when I was about 6 years old.

  11. I can’t remember ever NOT being told I was fat. We’re talking pre-kindergarten here.

    The first specific derogatory remark I remember was from kindergarten, where the other 5 year olds called me fat as an insult. I was wearing my favorite red and blue dress, and I had thought I looked great. The other kids apparently thought otherwise. (I wore that dress for my kindergarten school picture and I still think it was a great dress for a 5 year old.)

    This was in 1969.

  12. I’ve always been fat and other kids in elementary school pointed it out every single day in the nastiest ways they could think of. But I didn’t put much weight in their words because (1) they always said the meanest things they could regardless of whether they were true and (2) until I read Shapely Prose 20 years later I thought of “fat” as such an incredibly horrible word that it could never apply to a real person. Until I read Shapely Prose I might have admitted to being “overweight” but I never would have put up with “fat.” Shortly after I started reading SP I also started getting it from doctors because I had to see some doctors who were not my family doctor (who is pretty awesome).

  13. The first time someone told me I was fat was before I started kindergarten – I think I was four.

    A bunch of us were playing in a common area between houses in the family section on the base we lived at near Bad Kitzengen. I remember being confused by it, because I was about the same size as most of the other kids I was playing with, but I was taller than a lot of them, even the ones that were older than me. It sounded like the kid was calling me a bad name, so there was a big fight, and I kicked arse, which got me in a lot of trouble with my parents, because the other kid’s parents called them and complained. When they asked me, I told them what the other kid had called me, and both of them essentially agreed with the fat statement. I was remember being quite shocked by this, and suddenly feeling like something was wrong with me. .

    There was a lot of hassle from the other kids after that, until we were transferred to another duty station, where I was able to go to the village (catholic) school instead of a school on base. The German kids were much nicer to me, and I didn’t feel so out of place with them – the post-war cultural difference that being fat apparently meant you were prosperous enough to eat regularly was not lost on me, but coming back to the US was extremely unpleasant, especially since we were stationed in the South for the first two years, where (on reflection) everyone seemed to be insanely weight-obsessed, while eating tons of greasy, fatty food that didn’t have a lot of actual food value.

    Then I had an accident when I was 8, and I spent a lot of time in the hospital over three surgeries, and I couldn’t go out and play with the other kids, so I wasn’t getting anything like the normal level of exercise, so I got lots bigger – they kept up with the giant farmhand breakfasts and Italian family meals, in spite of my perceived size. The really messed up thing was that my mother never stopped telling me I was fat and ugly (and anything else she could think of to make me feel bad, but that’s a different story) while constantly shoveling huge plates of food at me, even after I refused to eat meat at the age of 12. I’ve never had a taste for sweets, and I’m not keen on the taste or texture of fried foods, or anything else my mouth perceives to be “greasy” – there was always plenty of that sort of thing to go around, but there was real food too – it’s just that you got into trouble if you didn’t eat what was put on your plate, or if you refused something. It never made sense to me to tell someone they were fat but not let them refuse food, but they would go on and on about your size while they were shoveling in the cake and fried things that I didn’t want in the first place,

    I gave up for a long time after I tried to get on the schools intramural basketball team… that was not fun. I was a good player, but you had to have a physical by a doctor the school assigned. It was a disaster, and I didn’t get to play – I was nervous, because it was a male doctor, and my blood pressure shot up. This was the first time I’d ever been told I had high blood pressure, I was only 14. He said it was because I was fat, and he wouldn’t let me play, even though I protested that it was high because I wasn’t comfortable with him… so I got cut out from the exercise I would have gotten, on top of being freaked out by the doctor who was such a jerk.

  14. I’m not fat, but I have a huge (and gorgeous) bum, that is not at all typically proportioned to the rest of my body. One of my earliest memories (where I must have been younger than 4, judging from the house I remember living in at the time), was of standing on the edge of the bathtub, trying to look over my shoulder into the mirror, to see how big my bottom really was, and sucking in my stomach, contorting in various ways to see if I could make it look skinnier.

  15. I was actually skinny in an knees-and-elbows kind of way until I hit puberty, around 5th grade. Up until that point I played outside and rode bikes and such, but around that age I started having some crippling emotional issues (only compounded over the years) and I started staying indoors and reading constantly in an effort to forget the problems. My mother and the doctor put me on a diet, which I hated; meanwhile i started sneaking food. Looking back at pictures, I was never very big at all; pudgy and ‘solid’ yes, but I wish I hadn’t spent so much time hating myself because I really was (and AM) beautiful.

  16. My parents never told me I was fat. They just kept on telling me how beautiful and marvelous I was. I was their little princess, and everyone in the family was saying the same thing.

    I’ve been very sick when I was 5-6 years old and wouldn’t eat anything because I always felt nauseous, thanks to all the antibiotics I had to take for various illnesses. So, when I stopped being sick after one year, basically my parents were letting me eat anything, as long as I ate. By anything I mean making special foods for me (sometimes more expensive and high quality food, even if they were poor). I mean also cookies, chocolate and bonbons everyday, every meal, between meals. (Given the choice, we kids will always get the sweets. So I guess Division of Responsibility + rationing the sweets is a good idea. Say, one child-sized portion.) So, I fattened very quickly.

    I got fat. Shopping for clothes started to be a burden. I wanted all princess-like clothes that did not fit anymore. My mum did not have a sense of fashion at that time. My haircut was horrible, very short (practical, said my mum, and it was true because I NEVER wanted her to touch my hair or comb it or anything). People have been calling me ”nice little boy” when I was wearing jeans. So I did not wanted jeans anymore, even if leggings made me look fatter. But still, I was not aware I was fat, nobody told me so clearly (and I’ll always be thankful to mom for that. My dad, when I was a teen, started to tell me I had a serious weight problem even if he was 250 pounds for 5’8”).

    In grade 2, kids started bullying me and telling me I was fat, calling me a fat pig and all sorts of names.

    I never liked my body again, in spite of my family best efforts to convince me I was. As a teen it became worse, my breasts were huge and I was made fun of. Boys were asking me if ”they” were real. I never got asked out.

    My gym teachers were mean, so were the doctors who told me I was ”abnormally fat and will die young”.

    I hated my body since then, trying all diets (but I ditched diets two years ago, yay). Even if I got boyfriends who told me I was beautiful, and with who sex was a great experience ( calling me sexy, irresistible, sensual, graceful, I was in delight) I never found myself beautiful again. I can’t. Everything I see is FAT FAT FAT, FATTY FAT, FATTTTTTTT!

    It’s sad, there is so much suffering in the comments. :(

  17. I remember being 4 or 5 and trying to stand in a way that made me look less fat.

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