Thursday, March 8, 2012
I'm going to get a little personal (eep, this idea sounded so much better at 2am).

The biggest challenge in my life has been (still is) my weight. I used to be an average-sized kid until age ten when I ballooned.

(Disclaimer: Jewel is not fat, but I won't hold it against her)

Despite playing sports (hockey), riding my bike for miles, climbing trees, hiking, canoeing, etc, I was put on one diet after another. I remember having to weigh out portions of food for myself and giving up pepperoni on my salad along with the zesty Italian dressing (tragic!). But mostly I remember the days after school where I would come home and eat an entire bag of Doritos. And nothing else. Food was the thing. I thought about food all the time.

When I was twelve, I decided to sign up for Adventurer camp, which warned that I would have to walk a few miles each day to prepare for a twelve mile hike on the Appalachian Trail. In my imagination, I was ready. Then reality hit somewhere mile marker nine when I was pouring with sweat, my lungs were on fire, and I said to the nurse--who stayed back with me while the group buzzed by on the trail--"I can't do it."

I did finish the twelve miles that day. Later the park rangers picked me up in a Jeep and took me back down the mountain. I was dehydrated and my legs were jelly. I couldn't stand up until somewhere around noon the next day. It was humiliating that my body didn't do what I thought in my mind that it was capable of doing.

After that I let my mind and body live separate lives. They're much happier that way. No more arguments. No tears being shed or things said in the heat of the moment. It's amicable.

Of course there are always reminders of what I actually look like: When I see a picture of myself. When someone says, "You have such a pretty face." (I try not to think of the implication being that the rest of me is ugly...because I have some seriously cute toes). Each and every time someone asks me "Have you lost weight?"

I always think, "Nope. You just remember me fatter."

But here's the thing--at some point I found a way past my tragic flaw. Okay, I was built for farming, but I eat healthy now (have done for fifteen years). I could do better with the exercise (farming would help). I have a really beautiful family that loves me and a "Cameron Quick" who sees the real me and thinks I'm adorable--not my toes, though. We've agreed to disagree.

I'm always going to struggle with my weight, try harder to lose, give up, try again, etc. But being fat is not everything there is about me. It's taken me a while to come to this conclusion. Recently, I read some books that I wish I had as a teenager. It would have made things so much easier.

In SWEETHEARTS, Jennifer (Fattifer) actually invents a whole new persona for herself to escape her unhealthy past. She finds an "out" until Cameron Quick--the boy who knows her best and loves her anyway--comes back into her life.

In IF A TREE FALLS..., Kirsten has put on thirty pounds in three months. Her parents are fighting all the time and she copes with food. Later, she sneaks into her garage to her mom's stash of junk food and overhears a conversation that changes everyone's lives.

But let's not forget THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, (GOFAT) which also has a character who is lacking in self esteem, not realizing her importance, struggling to look past her weight problem, eats some really decadent food to cope...and after enormous trials has the strength to come into her own.

All of these stories show the possibility for change and success. The main characters are seriously strong despite their weaknesses. Man, I needed this message at thirteen! As a fat girl, I'm thankful for these characters/stories. For seeing a way through. For self-acceptance. For perseverance. For Cameron Quick.

Okay, being fat is not as tragic as losing your parents in a car crash or teen suicide or drug addiction or sparkly vampire love. But as a teen, it was everything I thought about. It was tragic enough to take up residence in my psyche and burrow in there until I made my mind and my body share custody. Sometimes divorce can be messy. But most of the time I don't like to involve mediation. My body accepts the limitations, and my mind lords it over.


Emma said...

This post is MARVELOUS, but I kind of want to challenge you on the idea that being bigger means your body is limited. You eat well, you're well read, you write a great blog. That's more than many thin people do. Your body and mind are capable of many things. I'm not saying that it's easy living in this world and being more than, oh, a size 4. But you're obviously cultivating parts your spirit, mind, and body in ways other people - thin or not - aren't. Basically, in this culture, your weight is perceived as a flaw. But I'd like to think it isn't, as long as it isn't getting in the way of your dreams. I wish our culture would value nourishment and health over skinniness. People like you should be prized. Keep on writing, I really must read Girl of Fire and Thorns.

Unknown said...

@Emma...thanks so much for your comments! I guess I didn't mean to cause a rift between "fat" and "thin" as that's a bit of an oversimplification. There's much more to anyone than that. I accept your challenge with gratitude!
And, yes, get your hands on a copy of "GOFAT" :)

Cass said...

Thank you for this personal post! I have always been big and always judge myself but the truth is, I will always struggle with my weight, but its not all there is to you said :) Thank you so much for sharing, I will check these books out!

Mary @ BookSwarm said...

Beautifully written post. I, too, have struggled with my weight since I was a teen and, sadly, my metabolism and body are totally at war with my mind. Still, you're right. There is so much more to all of us than our body shapes and sizes.

Some excellent points and excellent books, too!

Unknown said...

@Cass and @Mary...thanks for commenting. It means a lot that you can relate to what I wrote. Personal essays are scary because there's so many possible outcomes/reactions. My point, though, hopefully comes through. For all three books, the MC has some weaknesses with food and body image, but it's nothing compared to how cool they are in other ways.

Raimy from Readaraptor Hatchling said...

great post, I struggle with my wieght as well and am horrendously unfit, Im definitely going to check out these books!

Stephanie Mooney said...

I don't really have anything to add. I just love this post, Sarah! I'm reading The Girl of Fire and Thorns right now and loving it. :)

Unknown said...

@raimy and @steph ...thanks for commenting, ladies. raimy, the weight thing is secondary to health, I know, and some people just have to keep working at it. My husband is tall and thin and I tell him every so often that in our next life, I get to be the supermodel. :)

steph, GOFAT!! I want to read it again, now. xx

Michelle Santiago said...

my weight is also a challenge for me. thank you for the book recs. a couple are on my list but the others i'm not really familiar with. i'm especially interested in sweethearts as i've read and enjoyed one of the author's previous title before.


Kristan said...

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. This is such a wonderful post and I wanted to make sure I took it in fully and had something thoughtful to say.

"It was humiliating that my body didn't do what I thought in my mind that it was capable of doing."

That. That is so powerful. And applicable to ALL of us. People who struggle with weight, illness, or even NOTHING at all, can identify with that statement at some point in their lives. That's why essays like this, and stories like the ones you suggested, matter.

Having loved SWEETHEARTS (as I discussed a couple weeks ago) and really enjoyed GOFAT, I definitely want to read IF A TREE FALLS now. Thanks for the recommendation. One for you: IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME? by Mindy Kaling. She's a writer and actress for The Office, and it's her memoir. Funny and warm and true. And she discusses her weight very openly and realistically. I loved it.

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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.



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New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
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