(originally posted 02/09 at wordpress)
By Olivia Jarratt
"You know, a lot of girls are as big as you but at least they hide it." My brother poked my belly as he told me this after picking me up from ballet when I was in the 8th grade. I felt ashamed when he said this, because I knew it was true. I was not hiding my flaws well enough.
Growing up, I was always taught to be my true self. I accepted my quirky behavior and had as much fun as I could, even though my actions were often 'weird'. My mother allowed us to dress ourselves, as soon as we were able, how ever we wanted. My outfits were loud and creative and I embraced it. It wasn't until I hit 6th grade that I began thinking about my belly or my double chin or my bulging arm fat. I was never very big, just chubby, but as my classmates began caring about their appearance and clothing, I found myself tagging behind. I cared about making sure I had a ring on each finger and prided myself on the 6 handmade necklaces I would make and wear everyday. Peace, harmony and love love love is all I cared about.
In junior high, more girls started reading teen magazines religiously. Somehow it was an induction into womanhood, a training bra of sorts, preparing us for Redbook or Cosmopolitan. Along with this rite of passage, I was also introduced into the feelings of shame and guilt about my body. Bombarded with images of deathly looking models and tips on how to stay thin, I couldn't stand the way I looked. To make things worse, no boys liked me. My quirky nature was no longer fun, it just cast me in the role of sexually undesirable. My girlfriends were desired by all the boys while I was cast as a lesbian feminist, my loud opinions and lack of a boyfriend determined my persona, despite possible contradictions.
I did get a boyfriend junior year, and by that time I was thin...finally. Yet somehow, even though I had finally reached what I thought to be the appropriate size, I still felt too big. Between my tiny pooch on my belly and small breasts, my boyfriend seemed to never be satisfied. Although he once said I had 'kiwi boobs' and wanted me to take 'enhancing' herbs, he never called me fat. Regardless of the language, I knew I needed to cover myself up.
Looking back on that part of my life, now that I am almost 50 pounds heavier, I am amazed that I was ever that person. Looking at pictures blows my mind, I was so little, yet in my mind, I was big. Although I never developed an eating disorder or worked out 2 times a day (I barely went 2 times a week) I still refused to accept my appearance.
I remember thinking to myself that there was nothing about my body that I liked. Not my eyes, not my fingers, not my feet. Even though I still get down on myself about how I look, I know that I am hurting myself and wasting time that could be spent enjoying life. Thinking about my weight still takes up some of my time, but now I am trying to focus on acceptance. And when I forget, I now have a man that will remind me how beautiful I am. My body is now expanding to take up more space, my hips are shifting and I am finding a new sense of womanhood. This isn't quite what the magazines preached, but for the first time I am on solid ground.