I Got Fat

What a title.

A fun fact about me, I graduated high school 9 years ago. That feels a little more like a lifetime ago, but numbers are numbers and I would be just coming back from my winter break of Junior Year right now. And what with the looming possibility of a 10 year reunion, I’m sitting here thinking about who I was and who I became.

I’m guilty of looking at Facebook profiles and comparing myself to other people. I’m human. It’s part of the reason why I stopped using Facebook and started using other social media-I can’t be mentally healthy in a place of constant shame-and-regret-filled comparison.

Because that leads to things like “Jeez, I sure did gain a lot of weight. And X and X stayed so skinny-even with having kids…”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

And yes, I feel that knee-jerk reaction to toss my drink and meal in the trash and go down some dark alleys that I haven’t been down since, well, high school.

But then my social work brain kicks in and I begin to fill that inner monologue with:

“I am healthier now than I have been in years.”
“I have healthier eating habits than I have ever had in my life.”
“I am happier now than I was then.”
And so on.

Because yes. I gained a bit of weight. I see it every day-it’s hard to miss when I look at pictures (and is why there aren’t many pictures, period).

But what I also “got” was:

Educated-I’m nearly done with my masters in social work, I have a BA in Cultural Anthropology, I went to law school. I have certificates in phlebotomy and wedding planning and am an ordained minister who loves doing weddings.

Published-high school me dreamed of that accomplishment. Middle school and elementary school me did too. Lifetime dream being accomplished is pretty dang cool.

Out of Ohio-from the time I could tie my shoes, I knew I would leave home. I love my family, but Ohio was somewhere that I needed roots in, but couldn’t stay forever. I knew I would leave, and I have. Will I come back? Maybe. But I did what I set out to do.

Passionate-I participated in (and helped organize) protest marches against things like DAPL, unfair legislation, oppression, racism and more. Younger me would never have had the nerve. Current me has the experience.

Married-I was always a little afraid that I would die alone. It’s a sad state of our culture that we only see relationships in terms of romantic involvement. I was never alone-I just didn’t value the friendships, platonic squishes and familial relationships as much as I did a romantic connection. But, in the end, I got married to someone I started dating in high school, and knew as a friend, so maybe there’s some ironic joke in there somewhere.

Fat-Yeah. I know. It’s odd that this goes on the list. Before people come at me about health-you can stop. All this stuff that makes up “me”-the fat, the muscle, the accomplishments, all of it, that’s more than a number on a scale. Am I still self-conscious about it? Sure! But in what universe is being fat the worst thing a person can be? I grew this body. I ate foods that made me happy, that nourished me. I learned to respect food, but more importantly, I learned to respect myself.

And it took “getting fat” to get there.

I actually believed it.

I’ve been working away as hard as I can, my folks. I work part time, I go to school full time, I also do my clinical internship in an emergency department. And that’s been such a whirlwind adventure for me that 3 days a week I survive on coffee and fruit flavored water and a granola bar. It’s a wild time, but it’s also the first time I’ve actually felt steady.

Which kinda brings us to this super cool thing that happened.

I was working on a patient case and they’d made a comment about someone they know being able to wear a corset and look like a pin-up model. They then looked at me and said something along the lines of “not to make you jealous, life isn’t fair sometimes”. And I immediately responded with “hey, no judgments here”.

And from the outside, it might have looked like I brushed it off, that I wasn’t going to let it bother me and that I was otherwise not going near that subject of conversation.

I’m a big person. My tummy is a fluffy thing that I grew myself. And from the outside looking in, I take up space. It’s not like I’m unaware of this.

But as I drove in to school this morning (and it’s an hour drive-I have a long time to think), I processed what it was that I’d been feeling in that moment. I replayed it in my mind a few times, thought about how I was feeling this morning and realized that I wasn’t offended. I wasn’t embarrassed. I wasn’t any shame or guilt based emotion.

I was relieved.

I’ve spent the better part of 20 years trying to convince myself that I don’t have to look like a movie star to be valid. That skinny and pretty (by society’s standards) are not the price I pay to exist. And for so long, it was going through the motions. Saying things I didn’t believe, laughing things off and then immediately running home to work out or skip dinner or eat nothing but salad for the next three days.

And this time?

This time is different. I’m healthy. I sure do eat salads. And I drink less than a soda a month. I drink over half a gallon of water every day. I’m more active now than I’ve ever been. And I’m still a big person.

But the thing that changed, was me. For the first time in my whole life, I love who I am. I’m not ashamed that I take up more space than other people-because that is not the ruler to measure my self-worth. I am kind, I am hard-working. I am sincere. I love coffee. Those are the things that make me up-not other people’s perceptions.

I’m gonna be honest. I didn’t think I’d ever reach this part. I always assumed that I would lose a bunch of weight and then spend the rest of life keeping it off-like some disease I had to constantly worry about.

But being fat (there, I said it) isn’t the worst life I could lead. I love who I am, as I am. Right now. No qualifiers, no conditions. I’m doing an awesome job, just being me.

And for the very first time, I actually believe that.