“I don’t want to be the fat girl who doesn’t eat”, said my friend, Denise, who was about to attend a dessert party for her best friend’s b’day. Denise’s doctor had just told her she needed to lose 100 pounds and she needed to cut out sugar.
I’m not Denise. When I weighed 70 pounds more than I weigh now, I was the exact opposite. I didn’t want to be the fat girl seen eating cake! Most people would make some commenst, “Are you sure you want that?” “Do you think you really need that?” (Funny, now that I’m thin and rarely eat cake, food is so often pushed on me!)
The shame of being fat and eating foods to keep me that way ran through me like DNA. Somehow I thought I had to apologize to the world for my weight, and in particular apologize to my normal-sized family. How embarrassed must my parents have been to introduce fat me as their daughter, I thought?
Here I stood with this family, my much older dad, so proudly the same weight as when drafted into World War 2. My mother, a dieting veteran, so vigilant about every mouthful and so disgusted by any weight gain of her own. And my two thin siblings, brother and sister, happily nerdy genius and popular cheerleader respectively.
And then me, the Fat Child.
I carried the shame of ‘fat” for many years. Running from fat became my reason for living. First came anorexia and then bulimia. I turned to alcohol, hoping that if I drank, I wouldn’t eat. Finally, my life became starving, drinking, binging and then throwing up all night. That was daily life, and I was so miserable that when someone offered me crack, I took it as the best form of relief I could imagine.
I did put them all down – first crack, then alcoholic, then sick food behaviors. I will say, though, that I was never actually ashamed of my alcoholism or drug addiction – I saw them as my acts of desperation. They made sense. I was never embarrassed by them, just very saddened by my wasted years and the pain I caused others.
But the food and the weight. Nothing BUT shame.