My Big Fat Story

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"Ellie the Elephant" (far right)

The word to describe me these days is obsessed. But then I’ve always been obsessed about my weight. Ever since I was in the third grade and some of my so-called friends called me “Ellie the Elephant.” (Yes, kids can be cruel.) I was definitely chubby, but not obese. And I slimmed way down by the sixth grade, partly by my own efforts (I distinctly remember refusing to eat desserts) and partly because I outgrew my baby fat.

As soon as I became a teenager however, I started to get fat again. At least that’s what I called it. What was really happening was that I was developing a figure. I looked at my flat-chested, skinny classmates and felt like a cow next to them. Because, except for that brief period between elementary and middle school, one thing I never could be called was skinny.

I managed to stay around the same weight all through my adulthood. Which to me meant that I was continually fat. Kim Brittingham in Read My Hips (see previous post) talks about finding a picture of herself as a teenager and being dumbfounded. All her life she had thought of it as her “fat picture.” And here it turned out, she wasn’t really fat in it at all.

That’s what I experience when I look back at all the pictures of myself as I passed through my twenties, thirties and forties. At the time I was convinced that I was gross and disgusting. The few times that I dipped below 120 just served to convince me that the rest of the time I was pathetically overweight. And to make matters worse, I was obsessed with food. I couldn’t go anywhere without thinking about food: what I’d eat, what I shouldn’t eat, how I was going to sneak all the food I wanted to eat without anyone realizing what I was doing. Because I was convinced that people would judge me for eating anything when I was obviously already losing the battle with food.

If only I’d been able to accept myself as I was! But at least it’s a comfort to know that I probably wasn’t making people vomit when they saw me. My secret obsession with weight and food was safe with me.

Until … dum da da dum … I started to go through menopause. At first the weight gain was incremental and I settled into a niche about ten pounds higher than I had been when I was younger. My parents died around this time and I went through a debilitating period of anxiety and depression. I began to take meds that made me gain weight. And when I had to quit working, I gained even more weight from not being as active.

Once menopause was complete I had a terrible time taking and keeping the weight off, but I did have small successes here and there. I was “only” 20-25 pounds overweight for several years. But in the last three years my weight has steadily risen even though I haven’t changed my habits. I now weigh close to 200 pounds and I’m only 5’3″.

I hate being thought of as that “fat” lady. I hate fitting the stereotype of the middle-aged woman who gets “matronly.” And I hate the thought that I might be fat in my coffin. But the fact is, I am fat and I have no choice but to deal with that reality.

 

 

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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