Uncategorized

True life: 90s Diet Culture

I am a child of 90s diet culture.

Atkins, weight watchers, Tae Bo VHS. I took step aerobics classes and played sports and constantly felt like I was supposed to be losing weight.

Foods were morally good and evil. I felt shame for eating chips and hid to eat an entire bag of popcorn. At friend’s houses I wouldn’t finish food because no one else was.

I remember once in 6th grade I competed in a poetry festival, and I got too small of a size because I had no concept of my body.

7th and 8th grade I was in school musicals and remember the costumer eyeing me up and down- unsure of what they were supposed to do with me.

(Though, thank god for choir robes).

Going into high school and playing tennis and short skirts and trying to find prom and formal dresses in plus sizes that weren’t grandma style.

(I dreamed of the day to shop in the same stores as my friends).

It just seemed that whatever I did nothing worked and none of the weight stayed off.

Everything felt worse. The doctor felt terrifying (honestly still) because it felt as if every single one of my problems would have been solved if I lost weight.

Shopping for clothes was absolutely no fun. Trying piece after piece on because plus size clothing in the late 90s/Early 2000’s was atrocious (on top of women’s sizing being a dumpster fire).

Looking back on my life from 5th grade to graduating high school, I realized that there are very few moments where I felt strong, powerful, beautiful. The ones that come to mind right away are all from my senior year of high school.

As I went to college, I realized that something had to change. Maybe I had to change? Maybe I needed to be a different person? Maybe I was just boring as my own self? Maybe I just needed to come out of my shell?

So, I tried.

I ended up living with beautiful women, who had all the boys coming at them and quickly fell into step as the fat friend who constantly felt like a third wheel.

I was just never enough. Not talented enough of a singer, not funny enough, not pretty enough, not skinny enough.

Not enough coupled with a helper personality trait led me to try to earn love and friendship and honestly probably be used for my kindness more than I like to admit.

And then, I remember stepping on a scale somehow the end of my first semester junior year.

I hated the number I saw.

I hated myself a lot.

When I came back from winter break, I went head on into losing weight.

Aggressively.

I burned every single calorie that went into my mouth and then some. If I could go back and find calorie counts I’m sure what I would find was that on a normal average day I was only allowing myself maybe 1,000 calories. I was tracking everything I ate. I was starving myself. I was working out at least twice a day and if I didn’t work out-I didn’t eat.

Because I was 19-20 I obviously lost weight.

I continued over the summer and when my senior year in college started, I was the thinnest I had ever been (and have ever been).

And I started to take up some space.

I hated it.

I had spent the entirety of my life being told to not take up space. To make myself as small as possible. Every time I had taken up space in my big, oversized body throughout my life it had ended in tragedy. It had ended in me being made fun of, or being less than, being not picked, not enough, still being too big.

Since my senior year in college, which was at this point 14 years ago, I’ve gone up and down in my weight. I’ve lost weight traveling and living internationally. I’ve gained weight through stress and moves and *cough cough* pandemics.

But now, I’m realizing it’s not about good and bad food. It’s not about fat= not healthy.

It’s about knowing who you are and what you need to do for your own self.

(and honestly what I usually need for myself is to actually eat food.)

It’s still a journey. I’m still not the best at it. But I’m learning. I’m also learning to eat what I want to eat. Like tonight I had a salad in a mixing bowl and two pieces of toast and now I’m eating green olives and drinking a glass of wine.

I don’t currently have a scale. I’m still a little terrified of going to the doctor. I’m still affected by fat shaming.

But if something doesn’t fit- it doesn’t fit.

If I want to eat chips- I’m probably going to eat them.

If I am not feeling beautiful- I try to realize why.

If I want to buy the damn two piece or short skirt…I buy it.

It’s still a journey. I still have food anxiety and have to remember not to call food good and bad.

But I’m learning.

That’s it.

Bottom line:

I am a child of the 90s diet culture and I am still learning.

Honest

but I’ve always been fat.

Before you start reading this I need you to know three things:

I’m a reasonably happy with myself human being; I know who I am, what I’m made of and what I’m about.

I know HOW to lose weight, I’ve done it before.

I know my beauty.

I don’t know at what point in my life I started gaining weight. I remember being overweight in elementary school. I remember it being hard to run at softball practice. I remember shopping in the women’s section and not being able to order from all those catalogs that all the cool kids ordered from. I remember being different.

A lot of things worked against me most of my life (or so it felt). I tried multiple time to lose weight. I had gym memberships in high school and tae-bo VHS’s and I ordered diet pills online and hid them.

My second semester of my junior year of college and through the summer before my senior year I lost 60 pounds. I ate very little and exercised a lot. And then music camp before my senior year I was incredibly overwhelmed. I was in the limelight already as a president of one of the music ensembles. And then I felt like all of these people who had known me for four years were finally able to see me.

Holy hell that was too much. 

No one tells you how scary it is to lose weight.

No one tells you that losing weight doesn’t make you happy.

ESPECIALLY when you realize you don’t actually know who you are.

“Thinner” days in my senior year of college.

Since college I’ve gained back and lost again and gained back and lost 50-70 pounds.

I’ve been told so many different things. I’ve been fat shamed and body shamed. I’ve been shamed for losing weight and shamed for gaining it back. The amount of times and the amount of people who have uttered the words “well let’s not gain it back this time” to me is more then I would like to admit. 

I want you to know that being fat and losing weight isn’t about the physical aspect of it for me. It’s about the mental game.

When you lose weight people notice. They point it out.

You can’t hide.

I’ve learned over the last four years or so that I’m not meant to hide, I’m meant to be known and seen and lead and use my voice.

But, I’ve always been fat.

There might be people who are capable of losing weight and keeping it off after realizing they hate their body. There might be people who find themselves through the process.

But me? I’ve always been fat. I’ve hid behind it, used it as a shield, fended off relationships with it, treated it as part of my identity. It’s not that anyone has outright called me the fat friend, but I’ve stepped into that role, never shopping in the same section as my friends, calling things beautiful that I couldn’t fit over one leg, going shopping by myself at the mall in the stores I can fit in. 

But, I’ve always been fat. And I’ve always learned to love myself. I’ve developed a personal style. I’ve felt beautiful. I know who I am.

Here’s the thing: I know how to treat my body. But, for so long I’ve used this vessel that my identity is in as a wall. It’s easy to get out of things in life, it’s “easier”to be who you are when part of you is hiding.

I don’t know what I am actually going to feel when I lose weight. I don’t know what knowing who I am, and what I am about is going to change. I don’t know what having a firm foundation is going to do.

But, I am going to try.

I’m not going to document anything or post pictures of food. For me it’s not a battle of healthy choices and working out. 

It’s a battle to believe it’s actually not an always in my life.

And it’s not an always in your life either.