I have always been the “big” girl. I’ve played that role, though against my will, for most of my life. I’ve been the biggest of my classmates, my church friends, my coworkers, my (ex) husband’s friends wives. I was always the person others observed while exhibiting an expression of disbelief and horror. As if I had leprosy. Or worse. They rejected me for my outer wrappings. And had pity for my ex.
I was the freak. The one who didn’t fit in. Because I was big. And that made me ugly. Unworthy. Disgusting.
The first time someone told me I was fat, I was 7 years old. They told me I couldn’t be the princess. Princesses were little and pretty. Dainty. Adorable. They weren’t big. They weren’t a fatty. Like me.
Big girls never get the prince.
I hadn’t considered my size. Not until that day. I still remember where I was. In my grandparent’s driveway. Riding my bike around in circles as we haggled for a star role in our pretend game. And when they told me I was too big to be the princess, unacceptable to play the role of the fair maiden the prince would rescue and fall in love with, I rode away with tears running down my cheeks. Hidden away in a quiet place, I thought about what they said. I started to compare myself to them. And I realized they were right. I was bigger, taller, looked older. There was nothing spindly or fragile about me. I was not petite, girlish or cute. Certainly not worthy of being rescued or loved.
By the time I graduated from high school, I was well on my way to being seriously overweight. My band uniform pants were the largest size they made for junior girls. Even my feet and hands were big. And though I was no longer the tallest in my class, what I lacked in height, I made up for in bulk. If anyone saw me at all, they quickly turned away. To talk to the cute, popular girls. The girls who were a size 3. The princesses.
My parents told me I would be such a pretty girl, if only I would lose weight. My great hair was my only redeeming feature. And your hair can only buy you so much acceptability, even with your parents.
When you’re the big girl, you’re nothing at all. And nothing can compensate for your repulsiveness.
I went on a diet for the first time before I started Junior High. And my life has been one long diet ever since. An endless battle, shunning the foods I enjoy and eating salads without dressing instead. Of eating very little, yet still gaining weight. Of watching others devour in one meal at least three times the amount of food I consume in a day…but they were still princesses because they never got big. I ate only one healthy meal a day and still packed on the pounds. Denied and starved myself only to be transformed into the wicked witch.
When you’re overweight, people don’t believe you when you tell them you don’t eat that much. They think you’re lying. They smirk and assume you eat in secret; eat massive amounts of fattening foods behind closed doors. But it’s not true. If only they would be forced to exist on the quantity of food I consume! Then they would understand. Wishful thinking. Where is karma when you need it?
I have only been princess-sized twice.
In my late twenties, I began to strictly control what I ate because I couldn’t control anything else in my world. I started walking. Then running. And then, I was running 13+ miles a day. I weighed and measured my food, counted every calorie, refused to eat unless it was at times I deemed to be acceptable and only allowed myself small quantities of food, none of which was enjoyable. I even counted calories in the gum I chewed.
Miraculously, I lost weight. When I hit 90 pounds, I started to feel really good about myself. For the first time ever, I wasn’t a big girl. I didn’t have to be ashamed because I took up too much space.
But it only lasted 6 years. I broke my hip in two places, the result of the strain from all the exercise. Turns out, I didn’t have big bones. Turns out, my bones were on the small side. You could see them pretty clearly at 86 pounds, the lowest weight I reached as an adult. And I loved to look at those bones. Because it meant I could be the princess. It meant I wasn’t a big girl. Nor an abomination.
I had never heard of anorexia. Wasn’t until much later that I learned about eating disorders. Took even longer before I realized I just might have had one. One that abandoned me when I needed it the most. For after I was forced to stop running, I started to gain weight.
I got bigger and bigger and bigger. No matter how little I ate, how much I walked, the pounds accumulated. I hated myself. Was buried under layer after layer of shame and self-loathing.
My ex was ashamed of me too. After years of living with his rejection, disgust and shaming, he finally decided to do some running himself. He left me for someone younger, blonde and much, much thinner.
The switch suddenly flipped again a few years after he dumped me. But this time, I learned a new trick. I ate like a lumberjack, but threw up everything I ate. Sometimes 5, 6, 10 times a day. And I lost the weight; it all but melted off. This time, I was older. My body wasn’t as resilient. I began to have some major physical problems about the time I hit 92 pounds. Problems like not being able to stand up or walk without falling over. Crazy cramps from potassium depletion. Irregular heartbeat. Unable to control my muscles.
I slowly realized how dangerous my new friend could be. It took a while because I hadn’t had any physical problems “before,” during my first encounter with anorexia. But I didn’t care. I downed electrolyte enhanced drinks, ate teaspoonfuls of salt and kept losing. Staggering along the treacherous precipice while attempting not to fall off.
Just as suddenly, after 10 blissful years of freedom, the switch flipped again. And when it flipped, I gained. My greatest fear became reality. I was nothing but a big girl in disguise. And I was being unmasked in spite of starving myself. Can’t fight who you are. Can’t hide it forever.
The ugly, worthless, disgusting big girl revealed herself once more. The despicable, stupid, piece of crap fatty began to take control.
But I can’t. I don’t have the strength to keep fighting. I simply can’t. I can’t be THAT girl ever again. The girl who is too big to be the princess. The girl who is repulsive to the prince. The 7 year old on the bike, rejected and teased for her size. The big girl. I can’t. I can’t live in that body. I have reached the end of my ability to deal. I can’t go back to that place. I can’t go back to being that person.
If I can’t be small enough to be the princess, I would rather die.