I've always been a bit on the big side in terms of belly. I am not particularly tall, but I am heavy, and have been since I can remember. I carry most of my weight in my belly and breasts, and very little in my hips or thighs.
While reading Let's Move Part II on Shakesville (trigger warnings for abuse, disordered eating and fat-shaming), something occurred to me: I find comfort in food. I've not thought about it a lot, and certainly never thought about why. I think it has a lot to do with my dad. Yes, I was large before he died, but in a baby fat, big-boned sort of way. My dad and I were really close, and his death devastated me. At a time I needed him most, he was- obviously- not there. My mom was broken up and not dealing too well on her own. She took his savings and we lived off that for a bit, and most of it was spent on junky food.
I'm not blaming my mom, but she is an awful cook- she knows it, too. My dad was the cook in the house, and with his death, my mom began to resort to tv dinners and pre-packaged foods. I associate good food with great family times before my dad's death. Every Thanksgiving, we would go to my Aunt Do's house, where cousins and cousins' cousins from the South would fly in and we would have amazing food. I loved my Aunt, and when she died, everything changed. That year, we had Thanksgiving at my house. While my dad's friends were showing up, he died. That night, I had tv dinners at a friend's house.
My mom doesn't process emotions well. Hell, I probably don't process emotions well- I like to pretend they are not there, because feeling them hurts. That Thanksgiving, I lost my dad- but I also lost my mom to a certain extent. What I had left was food and the memories of being with large, loud, loving family that I associated with food. Therefore, food=good.
As things went along, I was teased more and more for my size. I was unhappy. I ate junk food that my mom bought. I got bigger. I was teased. You can see where this is going. The school lunches certainly didn't help, but they were free, and we were poor (still are, really).
Then, I was diagnosed with depression at 15. I had threatened to kill myself, and my mom had promptly found me a therapist. She put me on anti-depressants. Every time I went to see her, she would make me remove my sweater, empty my pockets and take off my shoes, and then she would weigh me. I was struggling with my gender identity at the time, and I didn't feel like I could talk to her about it. I started eating only jelly sandwiches and sleeping a lot. I weighed 180, and was 5'4". I got better on the anti-depressants, and stopped taking them. My weight went back up, but I was happier.
I became a vegetarian, and took dance classes 3 days a week. I weighed 220 and was 5'5".
Because of my family's current state of financial affairs, I cannot take dance classes. I eat whatever is handy, usually from a box. I weigh 275 and am 5'6".
I am looking at attempting to transition, but I am afraid that my weight will be an issue. I'm afraid that the doctor will see my size and warn me about diabetes, that that will be the obstacle that postpones transition indefinitely. I'm afraid that no one will find me attractive. Some days, I worry that I am too fat and ugly and emotionally fucked up for anyone else to love me. I am afraid that I am incapable of being in a romantic relationship. I have sex with people who want to, even when I'm not sure I want to, because I think that I should feel lucky anyone wants me. Some days I am fine. Some days I am really not fine. I still suffer from depression, and that voice inside that tells me I'm too fat. It's a voice internalised from 8 years of abuse at the hands of children and youth, from media telling me I'm not good enough.
Mrs Obama, not all obese children will be fixed with exercise. Please do not tell parents and society that fat-shaming is okay- it's not.