Being a Fat Kid Sucks
“Two things get me in trouble: food and my mouth ”. If you’ve read my best-selling fiction series Big Girls Do It, then you’re familiar with that opening line. What you may not know is that those blogs are partially autobiographical.
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Before I wrote that series I’d read several romances and erotic romances and found myself struggling to identify with the female leads. They just… weren’t people I could identify with. For one thing, they were all described as being thin and svelte, images of the way Hollywood and the marketing industry depicts the epitome of female beauty and perfection. And ladies…that ain’t me. Never has been, and never will be. So I wrote Big Girls Do It Better in an attempt to write a story featuring a hot, sexy, self-confident female lead that also happened to be ‘not skinny’. My heroine was a big girl, and she rocked it. Like just about every woman out there, she also had her self-doubts, her hang-ups and insecurities, but she didn’t let them keep her down, and she didn’t let them stop her from going after what and whom she wanted.
Now, if it were my mother telling this story she would say I weighed close to a hundred pounds at one year of age, and that she was always worried about my size. But then, she also swears that I’m a MENSA level genius, so she probably shouldn’t be trusted too far.
No, I didn’t weigh quite that much at that age, but it is true that my weight is something I’ve always struggled with. But, the truth is, I can’t really remember the first time I realized I was fat.
What I actually remember more is thinking that something was wrong with me. It all started when I was around four or five years old as I was getting ready to start school and my mom told me I needed to go to the hospital for some “genetic testing.” I wasn’t really sure what that meant, exactly, but I was certainly aware that I’d been crowned the tallest four year-old in the state of Michigan you can check it out, I’m in the medical blogs.
Our pediatrician told my mother that he was concerned I might be an actual, literal giant. At that age, one of my favorite things to watch on TV was wrestling. The only giant I knew was Andre the Giant, and I really didn’t want to end up looking like him. At that age I couldn’t even comprehend what actually having gigantism might mean for me, or what medical problems I might have as a result of it. All I knew was that I just didn’t want it.
So I was taken to the hospital and they started doing tests on my growth. I was there for days, and they took vial after vial of my blood. After endless batteries of tests were completed, and I was poked and prodded until I felt like an alien abductee or some kind of medical experiment, we were told that they could find nothing wrong with me, I was just going to be a big girl, with big feet, big hands, a big head, and as I would later discover a really, really big booty.
Having a big booty wasn’t a big deal when I was five years old, but as I continued to grow, so did my health problems. I developed asthma so severe I couldn’t run or dance for very long without needing an inhaler. Despite my physical issues, I continued to be a very active child. I danced, swam, played basketball, and softball.
But the real problem wasn’t too much physical activity, it was food.
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See, fat kids like cake. All kids like cake okay, okay, most kids like cake, unless they’re weird, in which case they probably prefer carrots or something. I was raised in an era when most birthday parties happened at McDonalds, when you tried all thirty-one flavors at Baskin-Robbins, and ate pizza at least once a week. As far as I was concerned, growing up in suburban Detroit was pretty great.
Then the pediatrician decided it would be best to shift our efforts and consult a pediatric nutritionist. What this meant was that I started going to Weight Watchers® with my mother.
And this is when things really took a turn for the worse.
Back in the 80s everyone was afraid of being overweight, and they were afraid of anything to do with the word FAT that word represented everything that was big, bad and evil in our society. Anything that contained “fats” was taboo. Fats were declared to be the enemy. Real butter. Cheese. Cream. Nuts. Oils in food. These are all fats, and these were said to be the problem Fats make you fat, right? That was the thinking of the day but, happily, we now know better.
I remember my nutritionist giving my mother and me a list of “free foods” these were foods I could eat at any time, and I could have as much of them as I wanted. These foods were “free” because they were all “fat free.” I distinctly remember angel food cake being one of the “free foods” on the list. I didn’t even really like angel food cake, but since it was cake, and since I could eat as much as I wanted, I took full advantage. Meaning, I ate about half a cake per day. Free cake? Hell, yeah! And even though I was only in elementary school, I remember thinking this was really weird. How could cake be fat free, and be good for me at the same time?
During that period my weight kept going up and my nutritionist was baffled. I was eating exactly what she had told me to eat; yet I wasn’t losing any weight. When I noticed my weight wasn’t going down, I started sneaking foods that were not on my approved list because what was the point? Why just eat shitty cake all day if I wasn’t going to lose any weight?
I think the most weight I lost in the two years we attended those Weight Watcher® meetings was maybe five pounds. My mom stocked our fridge full of frozen diet meals and desserts, but if the package came with two portions, I would eat both. Why not? I mean, if you’re ten years old and both Weight Watchers® and a nutritionist can’t help you lose weight then why not eat two full meals and half an angel food cake every day? After all, it’s diet food!
As you can see, my health and my mindset were both going straight down hill, fast. I think I gained about a hundred pounds during elementary school. The strange thing was, however, that even though my body was on a downward spiral, other things seemed to be okay. I was pretty funny, I had friends, I continued to dance and sing. Sure, I was the butt of some jokes, because not everyone could deal with me being 5’8” in 4th grade, or wearing women’s size 11 shoes. I remember hearing people yelling out how much they guessed I’d weigh by sixth grade. I was well aware of the cruelty of it, keenly so, but I was also aware that everyone had some sort of trauma to overcome. To boost my confidence, I told myself I was going to rock this body, whether everyone was on board or not.
And then I’d secretly eat an entire box of Pop Tarts in my room after I got home from school.
Helping Your Overweight Child to Lose Weight
One of my most vivid memories from sixth grade was being beaten up during recess by several of the boys in my class. Did they think that because I was the biggest kid in my class it would be cool to take me on? I don’t know, maybe they were all secretly hot for me? Yeah, let’s just go with that. So, as if it wasn’t bad enough getting thrown to the ground and having the shit kicked out of me by seven of the “cool guys”, it was even more humiliating when someone told the principal what had happened. The result was that all seven of those cool kids had to personally apologize to me. God, that was awful. Now they all hated me, and they thought I had tattled on them to the principal. Later that day I was followed home from school by two of the boys who threw rocks at me the whole way. I’d officially been labeled a freak.
That event marked the first but, sadly, not the last time a boy would hit me but more on that later.
In his goodness, God threw me a break even as I was experiencing these new terrible feelings about myself. I had a decent group of friends and I was getting positive attention for my singing voice, so I kept myself busy with singing and music.
Privately, however, my self-esteem was pretty much in the gutter. I’d had a few innocent pre-pubescent crushes but, overall, boys were just scary to me. Food was my coping mechanism I ate away my problems and that helped to keep most of the bad emotions at bay. I made a fortress around myself with Twinkies and Ding Dongs and Pop Tarts.
Now, I’m not saying I didn’t eat healthy stuff too; I never had any issues with vegetables, fish, or salads I would eat almost anything. But my one true food friend, my one constant comfort was always sugar. Sweets were the friend that would never let me down. Part of the problem was that sweet, sugary treats were used as a reward in our family, so my father was always bringing home sweets of one sort or another. Case in point: the day my period started, my dad came home with a cake to celebrate. Thank God it didn’t say “HAPPY PERIOD!” on it, but it did have red roses made of frosting, and I ate most of that cake while thinking it marked the start of me becoming a woman. I was twelve years old, but even then I knew I‘d need a lot more than cake to comfort me on the journey to womanhood.
Looking back, I wouldn’t say I had a bad childhood. My family was middle class, we went on fun vacations, and we had a nice house and a pool. The only thing that makes the memories hard to look back on is the way I always felt about myself: something was very, very wrong with me. Something everyone could see. Something I couldn’t hide, something the doctors, the nutritionists, and my parents couldn’t fix. and it was getting worse every single day.
I think at some point I just accepted my new reality: I was always going to be fat I was Fat Jasinda. So I made a decision: if I was always going to have this problem, then I’d better have smarts, talent, and humor to make up for it. So one day I started talking to God about how we could make this happen. I decided I was going to grow up to be a rock star, a chubby Tiffany or Debbie Gibson. It would be my destiny. So, in the name of taking charge of my life, that day I marched into my room with a box of Pop Tarts and started practicing.
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