Side Effects of a Chubby Childhood
I have an inner Chub-Scout. Sometimes, on binge days, she gets embraced a little tighter than usual. I use the term to be funny about it, and it tends to get a laugh, but it’s the bane of my existence.
By looking at me, you probably would just be confused by this statement until you saw me on this “binge” or “cheat” day. I’m your average twenty-something: purposefully purchasing jeans that do not induce OSTS, and have even been called ‘thin’ by the rare observer. Which is nice. But in my head, dear reader, it’s sweet but simply not true.
Bottom line is: no matter how I look now, I was the fat kid.
I know what you’re thinking: if I appear to be an average-sized girl now, what difference does it make that I spent my childhood chubby? The weight didn’t stay with me, right?
Not even close.
A fat-kid complex isn’t something you can shed by counting calories and drinking your eight glasses of water a day. Not when you’ve been on a diet half your life, have dealt with the name-calling and — what can actually be worse — being flat-out ignored. You’re stuck with those memories of the gangly girls in your elementary school classes calling you “fat” with that look of disdain, like you’re a failure at life because you’re bigger. You’re ignored by the boys you have crushes on in junior high and high school, convinced that your fate is to go unwanted.
And so it’s been ingrained in your head. You don’t know why it has to be this way, but what you are is not good enough. Period.
So how do you deal? There is no instant fix when it comes to diets and life changes, so you draw the attention elsewhere; you become the funny girl, the nice girl, the smart girl—and you cling to it for all it’s worth, because, without that, you’re the first impression. You’re just fat.
For me the chubscout years lasted from the end of first grade through the end of my junior year of high school. At age 7 a family member commented that I had gained quite a few pounds on vacation with my parents. For the playground version of Aladdin (age 9), I was cast as The Sultan by some skinny b*tch (whose name I definitely remember but will leave out of this) on the playground. Why? Duh – “because K’s fat!” In fifth grade I tried to fake sick to avoid mandatory swim class. In seventh grade I cried at the thought of being forced to go shopping and ask for the sizes I needed. In ninth grade I started asking my doctor not to tell me what the scale said. Even without getting into the unrequited crushes, my self-esteem was a disaster.
At seventeen, over the course of a semester I lost about 30 pounds, having found a diet that worked. (No worries, I was parentally monitored so as not to get too out of hand with my weight loss.) And tah-dah, what a sad, sad difference I noticed! Teachers would comment that I looked good, a former basketball coach marveled at the shape I had gotten in, and it felt great that people were impressed. Yayyy, I worked hard and wait—was I cute? I think I might’ve gotten cute… at least to the guys who graduated high school before I lost weight. Who I legitimately was reintroduced to, as they clearly did not remember me. For once, it was so nice to be normal, complimented even, to not stand out in a negative way to anyone I met.
It seemed like everything would be different. But I soon noticed that it wasn’t.
I was still just as insecure as ever.
Now that the weight was gone, my feelings of insecurity were transferred to my other “imperfections.” I felt too inexperienced for any guy I might be seeing and too much of a “good girl” to try and boost my social life.
The only difference, really, was the size of my pants. It’s hard to be comfortable in your own skin when a) it feels like entirely new skin to begin with, and b) you’ve never been comfortable as yourself. In time, you work on it. You learn to be yourself and to be as okay with yourself as possible. Unfortunately, it’s just not realistic to expect complete comfort with what you are after you’ve hated it for so long.
No matter how good you may look or feel, my inner fat kid is always there.
I could always be thinner; I probably add ten pounds to my reflection whenever I look in the mirror; I cringe when people take pictures at certain angles; and I self-deprecate to the point of commenting on the fact that I’m not in perfect shape before anyone I’m dating can. It’s stupid, but it’s the only defense I’ve got. And still, nothing is worse than hearing random commentary on how fat a person is or any sort of joke, because maybe it’s not me being discussed, but my first thought is still, “Oh God, they mean me.” You don’t forget how hurtful things like that are, or how mean and petty people can be.
I may look a lot different than I did in my chubby days, but I am still the same person I always was. I may have shed the weight, but I will always carry it with me.