Ever since puberty, I’ve struggled with my weight. In eighth grade, my body changed fast: I got my period, a four-inch growth spurt and boobs within three months of each other. I went from a gangly kid to a curvy teen before I even knew what stretch marks were. For about a decade, I cycled between rapid weight gain and loss, thanks to bulimia and low self-esteem. After getting my bulimia under control in my early twenties, I was fat for a while. I pretended it didn’t bother me, hiding in giant sweatshirts and sweat pants. I cultivated an “I don’t care about anything” attitude in the comfort of my sweat tent, but I hated being heavy.
As a theater kid in high school and college, I was constantly told that I’m a character actor, which is a euphemism for fat and/or ugly. Stupid high school boys made fun of me. So did some stupid college women and men. The person who was hardest on me was myself. At 26, I moved from Brooklyn to Oakland and began taking my life and health seriously. I worked hard on myself in therapy, changed my eating and stopped spending my life crying in bed. This resulted in a 60-pound weight loss that I have maintained for three years. Though I’m thrilled to be healthier and to finally enjoy shopping for clothes, my significant weight loss has come with unexpected challenges. Here, listen to me whine about it!
1. Scrutiny of your eating habits.
I lost weight by going paleo. Ever since, it seems I can’t win no matter what I eat. When I am eating super strict paleo, friends have confronted me with concerns that I am being too restrictive. When I “cheat,” I am asked: “are you allowed to eat that?” Actually, I am allowed to eat whatever I want. Generally, I choose to eat paleo, but sometimes I want to eat a cookie. When folks find out I don’t eat gluten, I get scrutinized with “do you even have celiac?” My stock response is: “Nope, just an eating disorder!” That shuts people up. PSA here, folks: How about you worry about what you eat (or don’t) and I’ll worry about what I eat, m’kay?
2. Having to buy a whole new wardrobe
Thanks to a magical femme clothing swap in December of 2013, I got a brand new wardrobe for free. I gave away my clothes that were too big and was thrilled to watch them go to new femme homes. I got lucky that I didn’t have to spend money on a whole new wardrobe, but I did have to buy new underwear, bras, and even shoes. Yes, apparently my feet lost weight. I went from a shoe size 9 to an 8. I’m still not sure if I had just been wearing the wrong shoe size for my entire adult life, or if my feet did in fact shrink. I did wear my old too-big underwear for at least a year because I am stubborn and cheap, but don’t worry, I now own plenty of adorable underwear that fits my smaller butt. And the too-big underwear I have left is great for when I’m on my period — you know what I’m talking about, everyone who bleeds.
3. People from your past not recognizing you.
Once, at a clothing store, I ran into someone I had sex with in high school and she didn’t recognize me. She greeted me like a regular customer and went back to folding clothes until I was like, “Uh, hey, remember me, your old friend who you awkwardly fucked in my twin bed that one time?” Her eyes widened as she stammered over how great I look. Generally, people do recognize me, but it sometimes takes a minute and then I deal with the inevitable stutters and gasps. While visiting a former manager at a retail job, she blurted, “You lost a ton of weight! I’m sorry, that’s probably not the way to phrase that.” I just shrugged, because yes, I did lose a ton of weight, whatever. I like to think it’s not just the weight loss but the confidence and self-esteem I gained (from self-care and following my dreams and stuff, not just changing my body) that have changed my appearance. But it is trippy what a difference 60 pounds makes.
4. Guilt/shame in a body-positive/anti-fatphobia community.
As a queer in the Bay Area and a writer for Wear Your Voice, I exist in rare communities that strive to celebrate all types of bodies and minimize fatphobia. I admire and respect folks who are proud of their fat bodies and support the campaigns of anti-body shaming and anti-fatphobia. But sometimes I feel like anti-body shaming doesn’t include folks like me who chose to lose weight and maintain that weight loss. My weight loss does not mean I think others should lose weight: my weight loss is all about me. No one should be shamed for their diet or bodies; I don’t want to be shamed for my choices, either.
Being fat was not healthy for me: I ate out of compulsion and depression. I had daily heartburn and other digestive problems. I realize that some people are overweight due to genetics or illnesses, but I was fat because I was unhappy and ate the wrong things for my body. When I committed to eating paleo, I was no longer fat. I’m still not skinny and am not trying to be: I’ve accepted that I have a curvy body type and will never be a size 2. It’s been a lifelong struggle, but most of the time I think my body is sexy, chubby belly, stretch marks and all. I think I look hot as a size 8/10, and I refuse to apologize for that. My body and eating choices are not a commentary on anyone else’s. Please support my choices the same way you support those who do not want to lose weight.
5. Men treat me differently.
For most of my life, men did not treat me as a sexual object or viable sexual partner. As a dyke, that was fine by me. At times, though, men were unnecessarily hurtful. While hanging with two straight male co-workers one night a few years ago, we discussed sexual orientation. I mentioned that people don’t usually know I’m gay upon meeting me and asked one of the guys if he knew I was gay when he first met me. His response was he didn’t even think about it because he didn’t think of me as a sexual being. At this, my other coworker guffawed (ouch). My feelings were hurt, because, come on, that was mean and unnecessary. Two years later, I ran into this jerk again. I was now 60 pounds thinner and clad in a short dress and lipstick. His jaw dropped as he picked me up and swung me around, amazed at the sight of me. He was a little drunk but whatever, it was fine.
Later that night, with my girlfriend sitting five feet away, he whispered in my ear, “Do you know how fucking cute you are? I wish you weren’t gay, I would fuck the shit out of you.” I froze, not knowing what to do, so I halfheartedly chuckled and hastily escaped the bar. I chalked it up to his being drunk but woke up the next morning to a text from him, in which he called me beautiful and “a fucking fox.” I never responded to that text and have avoided him ever since. This was not an isolated incident, but it was the most shocking. I still see myself as the fat girl in sweatpants, and am often shocked by how aggressive men can be. Like most women, I’ve dealt with gross men my entire life, but was usually not hit on by friends and acquaintances. I’m still learning how to stand up for myself and make men back off. At least I have the perverse pleasure of knowing there are men who want to fuck me and won’t get to. And I occasionally let them buy me drinks. I see it as their misandry tax.