Friday, January 2, 2009

Fat Perception

When I was a kid, I thought I was fat. Well, not as a LITTLE kid... I was pretty slim as I recall..(see photo above).. but around the time I turned 12, I started getting the occasional tease about my fat thighs and/or knees. I was very self-conscious (being shy and all) and had very few friends in school.

There was the time my mother bought me a white, one-piece swimsuit. I was just a *tiny* bit chunky in the legs, and had just started with the whole puberty business. These boys at the pool were pointing and laughing at me. Someone told me later it was because my white swimsuit was rather see-through when wet and you could see certain things not meant to be seen. How mortifying. And some kids were saying if I jumped in I would make a giant wave and drown everyone... so I wouldn't jump in. I got in and stayed in. I felt huge.

I have written before about my Fat Girl experiences (even though I was not even fat). They made me sad and even more withdrawn than I naturally was. Some of the things that happened to me were not really about my weight... but that's what I always thought they were about. Like in 9th grade. I had boobs. I really was not fat, maybe 5 or 10 pounds over the average girl. No boys liked me (I thought because of my fat, when in fact it probably had more to do with how terribly quiet and isolated I was). Anyway, it was 9th grade chemistry class. They had those long lab tables placed in the classroom like a big "U" with the instructor up at the front. We were seated in alphabetical order which is the only reason I was seated by a couple of guys. We were in the middle of a boring lecture and I was sitting there with my elbows up in the table, leaning on my arms, watching the clock. Suddenly, the guy next to me reached under my arm and grabbed my breast. I WAS MORTIFIED. I mean I am sure I turned 50 shades of red. NO ONE had ever touched my boob before, and I had no idea what to do. I turned and looked at him and he was snickering and giving the guy next to him a low five under the table. I was so humiliated I wanted to crawl in a hole and die... but instead, I had to keep sitting by this kid day after day for the rest of the year. And every day I sat up straight with my arms blocking any access to the boob area.

Was that because I was fat? No. It had nothing to do with it. But in my 14-year-old head, it was. I was not attractive/skinny enough for a guy to REALLY want to touch my body. I was just a joke, and they were mocking me.

It all built up in my head to this big blinking sign that said, "I AM FAT." I have an eternal fear of corduroy pants, because when I was in 6th grade, my corduroy pants split open completely up the back when I was on a see saw. My pants might have been a little too small or too tight. No one saw. My best friend gave me her jacket to tie around my waist. But in my head, my pants busted open because I was fat. I think of it every time I see corduroy pants in the store. I won't even try them on.

When I think back on my teenage years, I am saddened that I was so worried about my body all the time when, in fact, I was only slightly chubby. I should have been happy with what I had, but I got it in my head somehow that I was not okay. I don't remember who called me fat first, but it was deeply ingrained at a very young age. Maybe it came from watching my mother diet her whole life, but she never called me fat. Neither did my Dad. But even as an adult, I have this image in my head of me as a not-terribly-fat, but too chubby teenager, because that's how I always felt.

Yesterday, I was going through a box of pictures, when I found this:

My first reaction was, HOLY CRAP!!!!!! I WAS THIN!! I was not the least bit fat! Look at that waist! Look at the nice body! Why didn't I ever see it??

Seriously, if someone had shown my this picture I would have said, wow, what a great body. I would kill to EVER have that body. When in fact, I did have that body and didn't even realize it.

This was such an eye opener for me. It makes me question the blinking FAT sign in my head, because, in all reality, I still look at myself most of the time and do not see any change whatsoever from before I lost any weight. The only reason I "believe" I've lost weight is that I can move so much better now and the old clothes don't fit anymore. Sometimes I put on my old 3x clothes and I swear I stand there in shock at how the stuff hangs off me. It's like some kind of time warp or fabric warp and I am thinking, "how did this shirt get SO STRETCHED OUT and huge???" I still see the same, 278-pounds person that I saw before I started this journey. I don't see the loss. I just don't. And I cannot imagine that I was so much fatter than I am now.

So, I will just hang on to that vision of a thin 17-year-old sitting on the floor talking on the phone, and remember that perception is not always accurate. I'll trust the measurements that I see going down, and the clothing sizes that are dropping. I'll believe in the new levels of comfort and ability I have found as I've lost weight. And I'll try not to be so hard on myself.


Linda said...

Great post! You have done amazing well!

Katschi (Karen) said...

"...And I'll try not to be so hard on myself." ~~
Thank You!
I'm going to have to start doing this, too.

Rachel ! said...

Oh goodness, I rushed through reading this post because I related to it so much. Not that we necessarily parallel each other - I actually just wrote about how I often don't/didn't think about myself as fat even when I realistically could - but just because I've been working through some of the same things.

I still haven't thought through a lot of body image issues I had as an adolescent. I remember this boy I had a crush on grabbing my boob in 7th grade, right in the classroom - a whole heckuva lot like your experience! I didn't interpret it as flattering, or as just a jackass move by a stupid boy, or anything except a deserved unpleasant experience because my body was different and therefore not good.

Sigh. You've got me thinking as usual! But it's a good thing :)

Hanlie said...

I could have written this post! I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was taller than all the other kids for most of my school years and I started developing much earlier than 99% of them. But yes, basically I had a normal figure and the "fat" was in my mind. And I became what I thought I was, which is of course the basis of the Law of Attraction. Now the challenge is to change my deepest thoughts about myself and become that change.

We can do that!

moonduster said...

I went through the same thing at about the same age and now I look back in wonder at how thin I actually was and I wish I had enjoyed it more.

Essentially Me said...

I really hate kids. They can be so cruel.

MizFit said...

so well written, Lyn and I think manymany others have been there as well.

(kinda tangent) have you read the book Fat Camp by Stephanie Klein?
it's on my list.
when I get it and read it (someday. someday :)) Ill send it yer way after.
it's supposed to be great and your writing reminds me of hers.

Vickie said...

I compared myself to one of my aunts - who was under 5' - for all of my childhood. I am 5' 6" and have been since 6th grade. So, I felt like a beast next to her always. My mom is 5' 4" but very small through the shoulders and chest. I am a 32DD even at goal and have a solid set of shoulders.

so, I compared myself to women that were build entirely different for my whold childhood. And always felt FAT in comparison.

My middle child was looking at all of our bone structures several months ago = remarking how differently we are all proportioned.

We talk about this with clothes too - things that she can wear because of her build that I cannot - and versa visa.

My girls watch Tim Gunn's show and What Not to Wear on a regular basis - I have also suggested to my brother that my niece watch them. I think both shows are helpful to girls to see different builds and different heights and how to dress them.

I also wanted to say that I have found all types of different 'perception difficulties' (that I did not learn in childhood or learned incorrectly in childhood). And all of those explain a great deal about why I have had so many problems.

I am not saying that it is someone else's fault. I am saying that I can SEE how I got started down the wrong path on so many things.

I think that this has been one of the key benefits of working with my therapist. She is a good guide to balance/perception.

spunkysuzi said...

Actually it reminds me of the last time i made my weight goal. And i went into a store to buy i believe a pair of pants. The salesperson holding up a pair of pants at which i gasped and said i'd never be able to fit into that size and she laughed and said try them on and they were actually a bit big for me. My mind never could see me as anything but fat!! And i so wanted to be able to.

Anonymous said...

That makes me even more convinced that you cannot see how great you really do look now. Remember showing me some of your "after photos" and saying you couldn't see much difference from the previous ones when I could see an amazing differnce? Sometimes even brilliant women cannot trust their own eyes!!!! You look amazing now and will look even more amazing in the coming months!!!!

Karen in TN

Ron said...

I could write a blog every day about how I was treated as the fat kid in grade school, thank God I don't have to relive that!

p said...

I relate to this so much! I recently spent some time on a weekend scanning in childhood pictures so I could have them in electronic format. What struck me the most was just how cute and how THIN I was a child and it made me really angry at my mother who, my whole life, has been telling me that I am too big, too heavy, too chunky. And I believed it ALL MY LIFE. And even today I hate to have my picture taken because I worry I will look too fat or too ugly or too red in the face or too...whatever. And I worry that 10 years from now I will look back and think I WAS SO CUTE and I never really appreciated it because I was too busy hating my body and the way it looks...

ben's mom said...

I feel the same way when I look at pictures of teenage me. The girl who joined weight watchers because I weighed 140 lbs in high school. And I was athletic! Gosh, to even weigh anything close to that now would be amazing...

Trying not to be hard on ourselves is always a huge battle. I know you'll have an amazing year.

robin153 said...

I could have written exactly the same post, despite growing up in far-away Poland. I don't recall anybody calling me fat, but my mom was always in a dieting-mood, and with a very negative attitude toward food. My dad was overweight, and my mom was hiding food to prevent late-night eating.

I love your blog, and linked it to mine that I am writing in Polish.

Karyn said...

Great post!

I've said it before.... I wish I could be "as fat" as I was 20 years ago. I,too, look back at old photos and am amazed at how great I looked because I remember how much I hated my body (and myself). I truly believe the key for me this time is that I have learned to love myself no matter what I look like.

I hope you can begin to see the real you in the mirror.

CJ said...

I can totally relate to what you are saying. I wish I was as "fat" as I was in high school!!!

My years in high school were similar. I was afraid of my own shadow.

Now, I can't see that I've lost any weight either. My old clothes hang off of me, but I still don't see it. Other people see, but I don't.

Thanks for posting this. Thought I was the only one who thought that way! LOL

David at said...

Wow. You're really opening yourself up here. I think it's going to help a lot of people.

Body image and how people see themselves is fascinating. We all walk around with a mental image of ourselves, which includes physical and non-physical traits. Through experience, this mental blueprint can often get so out of whack with reality that it really causes problems. A good book to read more about this is Maxwell Maltz's "psycho-cybernetics". Thanks again for the honest post.

- Dave

somebodys mother said...

It is amazing how distorted our body image can be. I was taught from the age of 8 to see myself as the fat girl. Because I heard this from my mother, it never occurred to me to question it. My whole life I have believed that a lot of things happened to me or didn't happen to me because of this. What I have begun to realize is that I see myself as the fat girl. The rest of the world doesn't necessarily see me that way. Let me share a story about how I am learning to see myself differently.
In the early spring of 2007 I nearly lost my husband in a car accident. That wake up call really brought home to me how short life is and how important it is to pursue my dreams and live life for today. I went out and auditioned for a play at a local theater as being an actress is what I had always wanted to be. It had been years (15 or 20) since I had done anything on the stage. I was cast in a show with some incredibly talented, experienced and beautiful actresses. I felt like the fat girl, an impostor, and sure that it was a one time deal and I would never be cast in another show again. Because you see after being in one show they would see who I am. I am the fat girl. Since that time I have been cast in 3 other shows, worked on 2 more and have been asked to join the board of directors of the theater.
More importantly, during that first show I became friends with 2 of the other actresses. These are smart beautiful women with lots of performing experience and professional success outside of the theater. Even after the show was over we continued to be friends: have lunch, email often, and get together for events. This summer while in another show with one of these women an amazing thing happened. We were back stage discussing the the choices our costume director made for our characters. Sue was amazingly upset about the choices that had been made for me. She started going on about the costumers complete lack of ability to dress people well. Sue's opinion was the costumes chosen for me just made me look awful and huge. I, of course, thought to myself well duh, they do because I am. She said she w2as going to bring some things from her closet that would be much more flattering. I was mortified. I knew that when she brought them in they would not fit, and I would be so embarrassed. She is of normal size and I am a moose. The next night she came to rehearsal and drug me into the dressing room. I tried on the costume choices she brought for me. To my amazement they not only fit, but were comfortable. And I did not look as big as a house. She went on and on about how much better I looked and that I deserved to look good on stage. I know what she did for me made a difference in my confidence during that show.
A couple of months later I was at an after show party with the other actress, Abby. She is one of those gorgeous put together, fabulous dresser, well accessorized women that I have always wanted to be. Her sister, who is is equally lovely was there as well. We got onto the subject of weight and I said I was working on losing some weight. When I said that they looked at each other then looked at me disgustedly and said they didn't want to hear about dieting from 'the skinny b**ch' at the table. I turned around to look at the person they were talking to because it surely could not be me. I'm the fat girl.
My real focus is becoming treating me better than anyone else treats me. Eating well and exercising are a big part of that. I have started treating myself like a 'normal' person. I'm not to where I do it all of the time, but I'm making progress.
Vickie, I am also learning a lot from the 2 shows you mentioned. I think they are helping me have a much healthier view of myself. Another one I love is 'How to Look Good Naked. All three of these shows are really helpful in helping me grow into a healthier perception of me.

Juice said...

Great post - I had similar experiences as a kid thinking my butt was too big. It took years to get over that! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. (And sorry that someone is stealing your AMAZING writing. Boo!)

Claire said...

This is all so true. I always felt fat (and was told I was by kids at school and horrible adults) then one day I looked in the mirror and I had finally eaten myself to the size I thought I had been all along.

Looking back at old photo's I wasn't fat at all then but I felt it. I'm losing weight now and have a long way to go - BUT I feel thinner now than I did in my teens despite being MUCH heavier.

When I was at school they used to say - 'these are the best days of your life' - I prayed that wasn't true - and it wasn't! said...

Lyn, I totally thought I was fat when I wasn't as a teen. Check out my pic, too. It does help to remember how off our perceptions can be! I can think I'm looking great and looking awful in the same day sometimes!

Anonymous said...

Yep--this is me. Only I really did become the fat girl in middle school. I lost the weight in high school but I never did feel skinny. Looking back now, I realize I looked awesome. But in my mind I was still not skinny enough. My perceptions led to the regaining of all that weight. It's really amazing how much power our minds hold over us...

LastJourneyDown said...

What a great post! Yeah... the "trust" in the measurements and pounds as they go down is critical - and you are doing soooo great! Keep it up - how inspiring!

Winivere said...

Excellent post. We are our worst enemies and our worst critics! Stop it!

Kiki said...

What a great post and so many wonderful comments!

I too had the wrong view of my body in middle school. I developed early. So I had a chest and rounded hips when the other girls were sticks. Because of that I thought I was fat. I ended up eating through the frustration and then TRULY became fat.

Thanks for your wonderful writing.

Meg said...

Same exact thing for me, too. Amazing. Thought I was fat when I was skinny. I just wrote about it, too. What is that!! I know I had that same swimsuit, also. circa 1979.
Big sigh. We'll get there.

Heather Waghelstein said...

You have such a nice bliog. This entry rings true to me. Perception is a major part of the battle. I had lost 90 pounds yet couldn't see the skinny. Then I gained 40. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

Ria said...

What a great post! I can totally relate to both feeling way too fat at times when I really wasn't, and not really seeing the difference between my highest and current weight when I look in the mirror.

rmslil said...

I remember so clearly my first high school boyfriend telling me as we were walking out the door of school that alot of guys thought I was beautiful but would not ask me out because I was over-weight. Needless to say we did not date long and that statement really hurt me. He was trying to tell me he looked beyond but all I heard was that people thought I was overweight and guys did not like me because of that. I know where you are coming from and it takes a long time to put that mentality behind you. Good luck on your journey.

ani said...

Wow - so true for me too. Great post!

I just found your blog and am catching up. You write so well and I can so completely relate. I'm glad I found you. Best wishes for 2009

Anonymous said...

Oh this is a great post. I so understand it. I have pics of when I was younger to. Great job and keep up the good work.

fitforfree said...

I can totally relate!!!

keep up the great work :-)

Kristen said...

Wow. I could have totally written this blog.

Even now, while walking down the street, I often think that people are looking at me thinking I'm chunky. It's sick really. I'm a size 8. Very average, if not on the smaller side of average around here.

The Brown Recluse said...

I could have written this. It's my story, too. I see pictures of me when I was a teenager, and think, "Wow, I was not fat!" But in my head, I was huge. I think I remember when it first became ingrained in me. My older brother started calling me "pig" at an early age... I've struggled all my life with what's in my head and what's on my body.