This may not come as a shock, but I was a fat kid. Behold! 9 year old Ali.
Being a fat kid is not any kind of fun time. I got the message that something was wrong with my body and with me. I got it early, and I got it hard.
I remember times when the entire class would get candy, and the teacher wouldn't give me any. "That's not for you."
I can almost still feel the sensation of having a teacher pull a cookie out of my hand, in front of the entire class. "You don't need that." I remember the sick crawling sense of humiliation. And I remember the never-ending, relentless bullying by other kids.
I was weird. I had moved there in the middle of a school year, and I had a weird accent. And I was fat. Fat fat fat.
When I came home one day at age 7, crying to my parents that no one liked me, no one wanted to be my friend- my father said, "Well, it's because you're fat." And they put me on a diet.
I would be on a diet every day for the rest of my life in that house. Everything I ate was monitored, and when I didn't lose weight, my father said I was defiant. I was rebellious. I didn't obey. My family is evangelical, Protestant Christian of the fire and brimstone variety.
To not obey is a sin against your father and the Lord. Sins get punished. And my father didn't have time to wait for the Lord to do His punishing so he hurried the process along. I can't remember a single day of being small where I wasn't being punished in some way. And I can't remember a single day when I wasn't hungry.
I used to wake up in the middle of the night and sneak into the kitchen to steal food. Because I couldn't sleep. Because I was hungry. Because what I was allowed to eat got smaller and smaller, but my body never did.
Stealing is a sin. And sins get punished. "You never listen to your father". I never got thin. And no one at that school ever liked me much.
The rules always change. You can eat this but not that. No, wait, THAT but not THIS. Starches are bad. No red meat. Red meat is good, it's fruit sugar that's bad. Drink more water. Thick, disgusting, sickly sweet shakes instead of meals. Drink skim milk. No, 2% milk. Wait, it's carbs that are bad.
Cut all your food into 5 pieces before eating it. Chew everything 30 times before swallowing. Never eat everything on your plate. The cabbage soup diet. The grapefruit diet. Take these herbal supplements. Eat these packaged meals. Take fiber pills. Take laxatives. Take these potassium pills because the diet you're on now doesn't have enough potassium in it by itself and without these pills, you'll get an irregular heart beat.
The worst was the fiber cookie diet. I would choke down this huge fibrous 'cookie' then I was supposed to drink 3 glasses of water. The fiber would soak up the water and expand the 'cookie' on your stomach, making you feel full. And that was a meal.
PE was a special kind of torture. Some schools would weigh all the kids and announce the numbers out loud. My number was always the biggest. Too big. Too much. More bullying.
At one school, they had a fat caliper, which is a special pincher that they used to grab as much of the flesh of my back as they could. The pinching hurt, and when it was done, the gym teacher announced-- Obese.
Despair. I was 13, and I had been living on Diet Coke and pretzels for months. I read fat and calorie counts like the Bible. I prayed to Jesus to make me thin. I ran after school, every day, until my legs hurt. I felt faint and dizzy much of the time, and I was still fat. Still. Always.
When I was in 16, my father used to wake me up every day to go running before school. I ran and ran. I ran until I threw up. I made myself throw up more, after meals. I lost track of how to tell if I was hungry.
My father said if I couldn't get my weight under control, no one would ever want me.
I dreamed that maybe something awful would happen to me, something bad, but not too bad. Something that would put me in a coma or maybe wire my jaw shut so I could lose weight, finally finally.
So I could finally be ok. So I could finally live without being ashamed. Without the despair and pain.
You don't get diagnosed with an eating disorder when you're fat. Disordered eating is how fat people are supposed to act. I was never offered help for purging or severely curtailing my food. I was given diet pills and encouraged to go further. I was still fat, you see. And anything that turns a fat person into a thinner one is good. Even if it only lasts for a couple of months. Even if it wrecks your mental health.
These are difficult memories for me, and they contain a lot of pain. Why am I dragging all this up, to lay it out for people to see?
Two main reasons. I find that I am scalded by the shame of these memories, more so than I would like to admit. But I know there are other people out there who have been through similar abuse. I feel such relief in seeing other people talk about their experiences as fat people. Maybe someone else can feel some comfort in my shitty memories.
And second reason is that I constantly hear people talking about fat kids in ways that make me want to scream. The War on Obesity is a war on fat people. It is a war on our diginity, our sanity and our very lives. Weight loss surgery KILLS PEOPLE. A LOT.
So when people discuss the problem of fat kids, that pisses me off. Fat kids endure extreme levels of bullying. Do we know why some kids are fat and other aren't? No, we fucking well don't.
So if you're using kids being fat as a short hand for "I think kids should exercise more and eat better", cut it the fuck out. You are shaming SMALL CHILDREN. No good comes from shaming, and especially little kids! YOU should be ashamed, if that's your attitude. What the FUCK is wrong with people??
If whole foods and exercise is good for kids, then it's good for ALL kids. It seems like people think that bullying is super bad, until it comes to fat people. Then it's just 'motivating'.
Fuck that. And fuck you, if you think that.