My Neverending Struggle to Accept My Weight

After more than a decade of struggling to come to terms with my body, I finally feel OK.

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Dec 30 2014, 9:25pm

Portrait of the author as a child

I was around nine years old, lying in bed with my eyes closed shut. I remembered counting to 30, chanting to myself, "Please God, when I open my eyes make me skinny." At the end of those 30 seconds, I opened my eyes and looked down at my naked body. God had left it alone.

I tried again, thinking maybe he just needed a little more time. My eyes shut, and in this second attempt, I counted by Mississippi seconds. When that shockingly didn't work, I went for it one last time. In this third and final attempt, not only did I use Mississippi seconds, but I also spelled out the word. "One Mississippi, M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. Two Mississippi, M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I..." Again, nothing.

God was given three very generous chances to magically transform my body to my liking, yet didn't do shit. What's up dude? You can part a Red Sea, and make a boat big enough to fit two of every animal, yet can't remove a few measly pounds from a nine-year-old girl's body? I was starting to understand atheism.

When I was this age, I was obsessed with my weight. I wasn't even fat, but I was consumed with the fear of being fat. Like a lot of people with eating disorders, I got good at hiding it. After eating a slice of bread, I would take to my jumprope and burn off the calories from that indulgence. Instead of eating lunch at school, I would suck on a lollipop, because what's healthier than hard sugar?

One day, I complained about stomach pain to my doctor and found out I was severely constipated. He showed me an X-ray of my stomach and drew large circles with his finger. "You see all that? That's your poop." I couldn't see what he was talking about, but I guess my dad did. From that point on, he and my mom got stricter about observing my diet. After a few weeks, I grew to care less about my body and finally felt good again.

Well, as good as any growing girl can feel about herself. Unfortunately, hating your body is a sort of rite of passage for women. It goes hand-in-hand with getting your period and discovering shower-head masturbation. I went through the initial stage, which is usually the most drastic, at an early age. By the time I got to high school, my fear had come true. Now I was actually overweight, but this time around, I didn't really care.

I was never quite sure what caused my weight gain, but I assumed it had something to do with my period no longer making its monthly visit. Later, I would find out that I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that millions of women have. The cause is not quite known, but it is most likely a genetic disorder.

Women with this condition have a lot of internal issues going on, such as cysts on the ovaries and lack of a regular menstrual cycle. It can also lead to infertility, which, considering my age and annual income, is the only bonus. The most visible effect PCOS has on women, however, is that it makes it easy to gain weight and difficult to lose it. Once my period stopped coming naturally, I ballooned.

My middle period

In high school, I was sort of delusional. Being a teenage girl who was sure of her heterosexuality, the number one thing on my mind was boys. A boyfriend was the only thing I wanted, yet I somehow convinced myself that the way for me to get one was by working on my personality. I didn't care all that much for my appearance and focused on making myself known for the things I looked for in a suitor: a strong sense of humor and a deep knowledge of the sort of things I deemed highly intellectual (Wes Anderson films and Devendra Banhart).

Now, this might come as a surprise to you, but I was wrong. The boys were not flocking to the chubby girl on the school's improv team smugly quoting Rushmore. Maybe I am a complete narcissist, but instead of feeling like I was not good enough, I took the route of feeling that everyone else was not good enough for me, which later resulted in me being extremely picky when it came to dating. (This is known in some circles as a "defense mechanism," but I just like to think of it as good old-fashioned knowing what I want.)

As I got older, by some cruel twist of fate, I ended up being more confident in myself and my appearance. Sadly, for overweight women, this is like winning the lottery. I definitely had (and still have) moments of hating everything about my dumb, fat face and my ugly, gross stomach. What I eventually came to realize though, is that nearly every woman goes through these same feelings, regardless of her relative thinness or fatness.

The heaviest I got was during college. I weighed 175 pounds and stood five feet tall, which is officially obese. At the time, it didn't bother me all that much. I knew that it should have (according to my mom and society or whatever), but it didn't. When I looked in the mirror, I still didn't see an ugly person. I eventually lost some of that weight, thanks to no longer being able to take advantage of my university's all-you-can eat freshman cafeteria. However, I still stayed kind of fat.

The author today

After many years of being forced to try and lose weight by outside forces and not really being able to do so, I came to the conclusion that life is better lived not constantly counting calories and feeling like a failure because I ate a piece of free bread at a restaurant. I still hear the voices shouting at me to just lose 40 pounds already. They follow me wherever I go, A Beautiful Mind–style. Like schizophrenic math prodigy John Nash, I taught myself to not let those voices control my life even though they're still there.

You think I don't know that those 40 pounds could catapult me from sassy best friend in a rom-com to potential lead? You think I don't know that 40 pounds could get me sexually harassed by twice the amount of strangers at bars? You think it has escaped my mind that 40 pounds would make it much easier for me to do a perfect cartwheel? I know all this, yet I still can't find myself to give a damn. Currently, I feel good being moderately healthy and making walking my main form of exercise. As much as I like to tweet about being sexually aroused by pizza, I have kept to a pretty healthy diet most of my adult life. Not strict, but healthier than the average American. I know that is not saying much, but let's just say there's microwavable quinoa in the freezer, and I know what chia seeds are. Kind of.

I'm not going to lie and say that I would hate being thin. That's bullshit. I'm really just saying that I don't hate being overweight. A middle-aged man who frequently touches my vagina with metal objects (also known as my gynecologist) tells me that losing weight is the only thing that could possibly cure my PCOS. That's my only motivation to try and drop the pounds, but I'm not in a rush. It's strange feeling like there's something wrong with you because you don't despise yourself.

Some of you are going to think I shouldn't promote body positivity because you happen to think it's ugly. You also might try to disguise your distaste of fat women by bringing up the health bullshit, as if we are not all going to die one day. That's fine. For every ten of you who think I'm horrific, there's another ten who are down to fuck, regardless of the stretch marks on my boobs and the cottage cheese on my thighs (literal and figurative). And if I can remember that fact, I feel pretty OK.

Follow Alison Stevenson on Twitter.

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