History of a “Fat Girl”

A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from a woman named Mindy, who had been my best friend at nerd camp when I was 14. We lost touch somewhere around senior year of high school, but she recently stumbled across a link to this blog and realized I was that Kate Harding — and that we live reasonably close to each other — so she got in touch. We’ve hung out a couple of times now and still get along like a house on fire. How awesome is that?

So Mindy, being a much more organized nerd than I am, shows up to our first drinking engagement with a photo album. Including, among other gems, this:

Wonder Twin powers, activate! Form of: fashion catastrophe!

Don’t even ask me what’s up with the leis.

Here’s the thing: in the almost 20 years (gah!) since that was taken, Mindy and I have both gained some weight, gotten better haircuts, and learned to dress ourselves — but we both still look pretty much just like that. (I sent this pic to Al yesterday, and he replied, “Which one are you?” Smartass.) When I say she’s gained weight, I mean she’s got boobs and hips now (though she would argue that she still doesn’t). That’s about it. I’ve gained substantially more weight, but of course, if I hadn’t spent my twenties dieting, I’d probably still be a lot closer to that weight now.

And here’s the other thing: that weight? Was like 130-135. Maybe 140, but I don’t think I cracked that until sophomore year. Yet, as you might have guessed by the fact that I am wearing cut-off sweatpants and one of my father’s shirts, I was so desperate to hide what I thought was a gigantically fat body at the time, I made myself look 40 lbs. heavier. I was already a DD cup and probably only had like a 28-inch waist under there. Anyone familiar with my thighs can see a big difference between then and now, but other than that, I currently give the impression of being not much bigger than I was in that picture — except I’m actually a hell of a lot bigger.

And a hell of a lot happier with my body, I might add. In fact, if this makes sense at all, even as a self-identified, semi-professional Fat Chick, I don’t think of myself as as fat now as I did back then.

There are a whole lot of reasons why I thought I was huge when I clearly wasn’t, but one of the biggest is that I was awfully precocious in the tits and ass department. I was a C-cup by age 11; it was downhill from there. For years – only about 3, granted, but that was a significant percentage of my life at the time — I was just about the only girl in school who actually needed a bra, and I was surrounded by a sea of girls all built like Mindy, the way I saw it. And the way I saw it was, they were thin and I was not. Period. I wasn’t thinking about who had gone through puberty and who hadn’t yet, let alone about natural size diversity (whaaa?). I was thinking about who had the thinnest legs. Who could still wear children’s sizes. Who had visible pelvic bones (which I thought were cool) when we were forced to put on swimsuits in gym class. Not me, not me, not me.

Meanwhile, Mindy — undoubtedly just like most girls built the same way — was busy wishing she had curves, wishing she’d start to look like a woman already, wishing she looked more like… me. I was intellectually aware that girls my age who wanted boobs must exist — they were the subject of lots of Very Special Episodes in the late eighties, and of course I’d read Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret a billion times. But still, every week, I’d watch the opening credits of Life Goes On, and when Kellie Martin would look in the mirror and say, “Come on, where are you guys?” I’d be all, “HAVE SOME OF MINE!” I would have gladly shared with Mindy, too, but of course we never discussed this when we were 14. We just had the, “Wait, you hated your body, too? Just as much as I did?!?” convo a couple weeks ago.

And unfortunately, we weren’t just talking about when we were 14. We were talking about well into our twenties. Somewhere in there, Mindy got depressed and spent a long time sitting on the couch eating, just like I did. That got her up to 140 lbs. at 5’8″; it got me up to 190 lbs. at 5’2″. And then Mindy dieted herself into oblivion, just like I did. That got us both down to 114 — but on her, that weight was absolutely skeletal; on me, it only made a couple people raise an eyebrow and ask if I was eating (which I barely was). Now, we both seem to be in our setpoint ranges: 120-130 for her, 160-180 for me. She’s smack in the middle of hers; I’m at the top of mine (thanks, Lexapro!). And you’ll note that the middle of her natural range is only 10 lbs. more than absolutely skeletal. Not so for me, to say the least.

Mindy got behind the idea of fat acceptance/Health at Every Size pretty quickly when she started reading my blog, in part because it occurred to her that if the world turned upside down and size 14 became the ideal — let alone size 26 — she would be every bit as screwed as fat women are now. There’s no way in hell she could change her body that much just by changing her diet and exercise habits. So it makes perfect sense to her that naturally fat women can’t perform such a miracle either. She’s got a degree in genetics, by the way. Just sayin’.

So, Mindy has rheumatoid arthritis. She told me she went to the doctor not too long ago, weighing 124 at 5’8″– BMI of just under 19. She complained of knee pain. To a rheumatologist. Who knows she has ARTHRITIS.

He suggested she try losing 10 lbs.

I have a feeling I’m going to be telling that story everywhere I go for the rest of my life.

Anyway, seeing that photo of Mindy and me reminded me that I scanned a bunch of old pics a while back, intending to use them in a post about how I was utterly convinced I was fat when, in retrospect, I can see that I really, really wasn’t. And Elastic Waist’s Pictures of You Photo Project reminded me again. So here you go. I’m putting them under a cut, since there are a ton of them. (They’re also mostly really crappy quality, but the point is to see the size and shape of my body, not the detail.)

Here’s me at around age 6, with most of my immediate family; Dad was apparently taking the picture.

 

I’m the tiny person in front. The old folks are not my grandparents (who were nowhere near as thin, of course), but friends of theirs. To my right is my sister M., who would have been about 10 — you can see she’s already well on her way into puberty, with the added indignity of a boyish mushroom cut. (She was also on the swim team at the time and used to run around the yard like a maniac. Didn’t keep her from getting fat.) To my left are my sister J., age 20, my brother, age 21, and my mom, age 44 or 45. That would have been right around the time when she was diagnosed with diabetes and lost 65 lbs., which she kept off for the rest of her life — she might even have already started losing by then. (J., M., help me out?) The catch was, she never got below a size 14, even after religiously restricting her diet and losing all that weight. The other catch was, she barely ate anything for the rest of her life. And she died anyway, 7 years ago today.

So that’s the fam. They were fat. I wasn’t. That’s where it started.

Here’s me around 8 or 9, I think. Still runty as ever.

Here’s me on my 10th birthday. This is the latest photo I have that I can look at and remember not feeling fat at the time.

Next, we have shots from the night of my eighth grade graduation dance. That would be the year after 7th grade (yay, math skills!) — which was the year when I was assigned to a lunch table where a bunch of mean girls told me how fat and fugly I was every. single. day. Not coincidentally, it was the year when puberty hit me like a goddamned truck. And from then on, I thought I was fat, period.

So, here’s me a year after starting to think I was fat:

I mean, really, hopelessly fat.

Here’s sophomore year in high school, about a year after I met Mindy — I’m wearing an uncharacteristically body-skimming outfit, so you can sorta see how big I actually was.

By that point, there was no point in even trying to tell me I wasn’t fat. I knew I was gigantic, and no boy would ever love me because of it. In retrospect, it’s obvious that no boy ever loved me because of the fucking glasses, but you couldn’t have told me that at the time.

I don’t have any pics handy from college or the thin phase immediately after, natch. But here’s me at my fattest ever, or thereabouts (can’t remember if I started another diet right before or right after this):

The friend of mine who took that one gave it to me for Christmas in a frame, because she thought it was just a cute pic of me having fun with the dogs at the lake, all very happy things for me. At the time, I wanted to fucking kill her for that. I thought I looked disgusting here. How could she not see that? How dare she say she thought it was “cute”? Did she really think my baseline was so revolting, this constituted “cute” for me? Every time I looked at it, I couldn’t stop staring at my thighs, which of course are expanded there because of the way I was sitting. I could not fathom how anyone could look at this picture, see my thighs right there like that, and not just want to burn it. (Al: “And now you realize the real problem was the hair?” Me: “Fuck you.”) All I could see in this picture was fat.

Now, of course, I’m almost exactly the same size as I was there, and I think I look perfectly normal in that picture, if a little goofy and in need of a decent haircut. It breaks my heart to remember how much I hated looking at that girl just a few years ago — almost as much as remembering how I felt about my body in those eighth grade grad pictures.

Here’s me at a wedding in 2005, after I’d lost 45 lbs. and gained a little back. This dress was a size 10, pants size at the time was 12.

I’ve posted this recently, but for comparison, here’s me this past June:

Almost exactly the same size as the lake photo. (In fact, looking at them side by side, I think I look bigger in this one.) Whole different attitude, though.

9 pictures. I’m fat in 2 of them, and only just. I thought I was fat in 6 of them. Too fat to really deserve love. For over 15 years.

That’s why I write about this shit every day, among other reasons.

74 thoughts on “History of a “Fat Girl”

  1. I had a therapist who talked me into doing this once — in her presence and with lots of tissues. I believe it’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.

    Although it did trigger some serious “Mom” issues, and a bit more therapy. :-)

  2. The first photo really makes me want to upload a photo of me and Sweet Machine at nerd camp. When we also both thought we were huge, especially me… I’m not sure I was bulimic when we met in 1994, but it started that year, and I know I spent much of the 95 session taking diet pills. Plus I don’t remember eating a proper meal while at camp… I drank coffee and ate bagels and frozen yogurt. And we were probably about your size there, Kate — an 8, maybe a 10.

    I didn’t have the boobs then, though. In fact, I vividly remember my mother consoling me that when I grew up, I’d be glad to have small breasts, because it would make people think I was thinner.

    Oy, I always find these photographic excursions to be incredibly poignant. Thanks though… this stuff needs to be said, and seen, and also now I am sure to recognize you when I see you in just a few weeks. :)

  3. I didn’t have the boobs then, though. In fact, I vividly remember my mother consoling me that when I grew up, I’d be glad to have small breasts, because it would make people think I was thinner.

    Not necessarily. My family keeps buying me size L in shirts even though I have told them repeatedly that I wear a S in knit garments. I’m flat-chested to beat the band. They think I’m big on top ’cause I’m big (ish) on bottom.

    (Sorry for the 2 comments.)

  4. Me too Stephanie! I’d gladly split mine with my sister!

    That post is sad =/ I was always a scrawny kid, even after I grew the boobs I was a skinny girl with big boobs. In high school I always thought I was too thin (Which was actually true for my body, I was thinner than I should have been because I was depressed and therefore didn’t eat). I didn’t start thinking of myself as fat until I hit the gargantuan weight of 130 (there is this perception in our society that higher than 120 is fat for a woman, and always having been small and light myself I believed it) and the enormous size of 8. Now that I’m 170 and a size 14, I look at pictures of myself at that size and think: “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe how thin I was!”

  5. I INSIST THAT YOU DO.

    If nothing else, I will show you when I see you. If I have them. I have to have them somewhere. (Laura does too, but they might be in North Carolina.)

  6. I’ve done this a few times. Looked back, remembered how fat I thought I was only to realize I was a damn skinny kid until the breast fairy visited seemingly overnight and “blessed” me with DD in 8th grade earning me the name “the big titty bandit”. How sad that what other’s thought of me, including my father, altered how I felt about myself before then.

    I realize now, yes I am a fat chick but I am an awesome person to. There is more to me than a stupid number and I’m fighting the mentality of magic numbers in my life with a passion that burns like a thousand suns. I don’t want to be that sad girl who thought I could only earn abusive boyfriends. I’m worth more than that!

    And to my father who will never read this: People in glass houses man!

  7. Your comment about wearing clothes that hid your body just brings back floods of memories of me. My dad is a big man…tall, broad shouldered and meaty. He’s always been that way, in my memory. In high school, I took to wearing his old black winter trench coat, hugely baggy sweaters (sometimes his, too) and baggy pants. My parents used to call me a bag lady…but it hid my body quite effectively. I now look at me in high school and wished I’d realized just what a hotty I was! (Although I, too, had similar glasses issues…)

  8. A boob exchange program would be wonderful. My mother & sister are both well endowed. My chest was THE source of humor for my family. For the longest time the majority of cards I got referred to the fact that I have no boobs (card companies love to make fun of a small breasted gal).

    I also used to wear my dad’s clothes. In college all I wore were huge flannels and gigantic clothes (yes, it was the ’90s). I still wear his winter coat (thanks, Dad – you sure don’t need it in Florida). I think a lot of younger women tend to cover their body. As Kate said, we want what we don’t have. I wish I could wear shorts without people gawking at the bird legs that I possess, but other women would love to have these twigs. Brunettes want to be blonde, curly haired wants to be straight… why aren’t we ever happy with what we have? that is why I love the body acceptance movement – love what you have, no matter what the rest of the world thinks!

  9. I love these photo posts for a couple of reasons.

    1) It provides ample opportunity to comment on your FLUFFY HAIR!

    2) The photos EXIST. There are practically nothing other than school pictures of me once I hit about 7 years old. There is one picture of me on a boat with my incredibly lanky cousin and one picture of me with my dad, when I was 16 and 18, respectively. Those are the only two photos I have up until I did the naked photos for the Lime Project. And I wish there WERE photos. I can’t remember most of my childhood and teenage years and those two photos bring back a wealth of memories.

  10. First reaction: *Masculine Voice*

    “The younger Kate!” :)
    Nice trip down memory lane, and another nice example of the blown minds of our societal health care. “You know… if you would like lose x pounds: You would not get the common cold ever again.” *Rolls Eyes*

  11. I have a similar problem – I was a skinny little girl – cute, but was constantly told I was ugly by other kids.

    My mom commented when I was nine or ten that I needed to start watching my weight which hurled me into 7 years of not eating and wearing baggy clothes because I thought I was fat.

    I was not then, but am (working on) being happily fat now!

    I hate body dysmorphia and the society that causes it.

  12. I can relate to so many things in this post. I was blooming early and so quickly that I ended up with stretch marks on my boobs. I used to hate getting undressed for gym class. When I did start dating and it ended in bed, I would NOT take my bra off for fear of what this guy would think. It wasn’t until much later in life that I noticed them on other women too.

    And Tink, I can relate to the father issue. My dad still looks at me in disgust. Like it’s hard for him to believe that anyone could find me attractive. It still upsets me to this day and I VOW to never do that to my children. I’m his daughter for godsakes, what does it matter if I have a flat stomach or thin thighs? I’m still capable of being hurt and I do have feelings. He has a long history of ragging on my mom about her weight and recently came across a photograph taken when I was about 7 years old. He told my mom he couldn’t believe how much he pressured her about her weight because she WAS NOT FAT, but he sure told her she was as often as he could.

  13. I love the retrospective. Also, I love that last picture of you: you are so fucking foxy in that dress. Yowza!

    I was a little chubster in elementary school, so I don’t have any memories of not thinking I was fat. But when I look back at photos, I definitely understand now that I was not a fat teenager. Every time I do that, I think: If I had had more confidence, imagine all the sex I could have been having!

    Also, Kate, if FJ posts/shows those pictures, it’s really important that you are forewarned of HOW MUCH HAIR I HAD. It’s really incredible.

  14. I love photo retrospectives. This is, like, the fourth one I’ve randomly stumbled onto today, and it is funfunfun. I love seeing the way people grow up and get taste.

  15. I was never a fat child, though genuinely “big-boned” – you can see in pictures where I’m by myself that I do not look fat at all, but in class photos I’m about 30% wider than nearly all the other kids (while not being any taller). This meant finding school uniforms that fit was a pain, and a source of humiliation for me. I had to wear ones meant for girls in 6th grade when I was in 3rd, just so they’d fit around my shoulders. The uniform was basically a tent dress in green and white plaid (not flattering on anyone ever), so you can imagine the result.

    Then when puberty hit at 11 (film at 11?) I gained plenty of womanly fat and was berated for having stretch marks. I had no idea until I was in my 20s that most women, even thin ones, have them. Stretch marks were obviously part of my punishment for being faaaaaaaaaat.

  16. Wait, puberty causes stretch marks in most women? I did not know that. My adolescence might have been different if I had known it then. Damn.

  17. Yeah, I think everyone gets stretch marks when their boobs and hips suddenly expand! And even if you weren’t growing T&A, you’d still be growing. I wouldn’t be surprised if guys get some stretch marks at puberty too.

    And yeah, Kate’s fluffy hair is nothing compared to SM’s former coif. It was truly prodigious. She probably got stretch marks in her hair.

  18. Kate, your post is so serendipitous. Last month I spent a few days scanning hundreds of photographs. It is something I’d been meaning to do; i.e., get photographs onto my hard drive.

    Then, I decided to re-direct my screensaver to cycle through this folder of photographs of myself. It has been a healing thing to see myself from infancy to the present (in random order). Daily I see 60 years of this beautiful being. I was so ashamed for most of my life – for no reason whatsoever.

    And, with no intent to hijack this thread – I must make this valuable comparison. Age. When I (like you) look at myself when young and see how wonderful I look, I realize I need to very consciously stop any negative thoughts about how I look now – either fat or old. I know for a fact that at 80 I will consider my current visage both vibrant and beautiful.

  19. Wow, Kate…you could have been describing MY experiences. I, too, as a child was hassled, harassed, berated, etc. about my weight by my family. I can’t remember a time after I was 10 that I didn’t hate my body. Like you, when I now look back at pictures of me, I see a normal sized girl.

    Luckily, I’ve come to realize that I AM the total package and besides, really don’t give a fig about what anyone else thinks of me anyway. However, I get very angry thinking about all the experiences I missed out on and the time I wasted hating myself because of all that negative influence.

    Let’s all make a vow to put a stop to this crap now and make sure that all the cherished young women in our lives know that they are valuable and loved, regardless of their size!

  20. I just laughed out loud, woman. This is an awesome post, but what makes it are those leis.

    PS – I’ll never forget how awesome you looked that night in Arkansas, baby.

  21. Kate,
    I have a question about the time stamp. I am in So. California, but this time stamp seems to be somewhere in Europe or the Atlantic Ocean. What gives?

  22. Kate, I’ve commented a couple of times on other posts, but it’s only just occured to me to say thank you. It’s posts like this that have turned my thinking around significantly in what (I think) is only a couple of months.

    I’ve been looking at old pics too, and though I only have one standout memory of another kid calling me fat (and certainly no one in my family ever has, fatty boom bahs the lot of us) I always thought I was huuuuuggggeee – and of course the pics show I was larger than my friends, but not OMFG OBESE!!!!

    So thank you. Now I just have to work on my proselytizing for the whole FA/HAES things.

  23. I’d just like to add to the chorus of, OMG, me too! I have this picture of myself in 6th grade, taken by a friend, of me reaching out to take back my camera. I hated having my picture taken — still do — but every time I see it I’m struck by how cute I actually was back then. All I remember is feeling enormous, fat and awkward because I had just started puberty, was one of the tallest kids in my class, and I had no clue how to deal with it.
    I weighed 130 when I started 7th grade, at 5’6”, and I remember being horribly ashamed of it — I was several inches taller and alot heavier than my petite Asian mother, and that was when the perpetual mantra of “you really need to lose weight” started. Well, I certainly didn’t lose any! Only gained it.
    To this day I’m still amazed by the fact that despite depression and bipolar disorder I never developed an eating disorder.
    While it’s heartening to know one is not alone, at the same time the fact of all these other women going through the same thing at puberty is so depressing. *sighs*

  24. I’ll never forget how awesome you looked that night in Arkansas, baby.

    Laurs, you’d better be writing me a country song that begins with those words right now.

    (And holy shit, I just now figured out the Loz/Shaz/Kaz nicknames, and why they go with names that have Rs in the middle, but only in Britain and Australia. Loz = Laurs [more or less] if your accent doesn’t require you to enunciate Rs. DUH.)

    ANYWAY. Back to stretch marks… I’ve totally got ‘em, too, and I totally thought I was the only one. The first time I realized I wasn’t was when a very thin friend of mine, age 19, bitched about hers. I called bullshit, but she pointed out she’d had a baby at 17, so I had to admit she probably did have ‘em. And even though I thought that was an exceptional case, it really changed the way I thought about mine. If SHE could have them, then it wasn’t just fat freaks like me!

    And of course, the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized TONS of women, fat and thin, moms or not, have stretch marks. (Ditto cellulite.) The difference now is, we’re not all too self-conscious to talk about it. That is one of the really nice things about getting older. (On a sort of related note, as I said to Sweet Machine and Fillyjonk recently, has the incidence of IBS skyrocketed in recent years — given all the people we know who seem to have it — or have we all just finally gotten old enough to talk about poop?)

    And katecontinued, I love what you said about aging. That is an excellent reason not to be so hard on ourselves.

  25. “I wouldn’t be surprised if guys get some stretch marks at puberty too.”

    FillyJonk:
    Yes they do. I have 2 sons, with wildly different builds and they both have stretch marks. The older one was a larger boy (6’3″ 240 at graduation), he had a growth spurt at about 14 that gained him almost 6 inches in a little less than seven months. He ended up with stretch marks on his sides, upper arms, and thighs.

    The younger one was built much slimmer (6’1″ 170 at graduation) and he got them across his back, and sideways at that. I think his growth spurt was more about his shoulders stretching than his legs and torso.

  26. Interestingly enough, I had a very different experience. I was an over-the-top tomboy (played a lot of sports, hung out for the most part with guys) and a certified nerd, and my parents had always pushed me to excel in those realms. For those reasons, I think, I never really thought much about my size. I look back at photos and see a fit, healthy, happy child and teenager.

    It wasn’t until a disastrously damaging relationship in my very early twenties that I ever thought about weight and body size. I became clinically depressed and eventually (years later) went into therapy. It was then that I started obsessing about my weight and appearance, and it was then that I started gaining weight, about 50 lbs in two years. I’ve since worked out A LOT of issues, gained perspective and have gone back to what I consider about my set weight, but it wasn’t till I stopped focusing so much attention on my “hideous body” and instead focused on appreciating myself that my weight changed

  27. Kate, this is another great post. I really identified with it. What is really sad is that nothing seems to have changed since I was a teenager in the late 50s and early 60s and now. I will be 63 tomorrow and I have spent my life avoiding having my picture taken. I avoided it when I was 16 because I was fat – 5′ 2″ – 135 pounds and 38-26-36 and ongoing because I just got fatter during my 20s when I dieted my way up to 190. When I was 29 I stopped dieting because I finally realized that diets don’t work but I never accepted that my body might just be beautiful. What a waste!

  28. Another fabulous post, and many fabulous comments, too.

    As for stretch marks – my husband (6ft 6in and all of 175lb) and my brother (6ft 7in) both have terrible stretch marks on their lower backs from growing so tall. I remember when my brother first had his, they were dark red and he looked like he’d been whipped.

    So boys have stretch marks, too. Only, they don’t write letters to magazines asking what to do about them because, umm, they don’t care.

  29. Yeah, I asked my boyfriend if he got stretch marks at puberty. He said “I have stretch marks.” I said “but you’re fat, baby. I want to know if you got them when you started growing taller.” He was like, what? I have no idea when I got them, why would I notice something like that?

  30. So glad I read the comments today! I got stretch marks too and also thought it was because I was so fat. Mine were all my breasts and that spot just under your neck (I guess from the breasts pulling down). I honestly, until this very moment, didn’t think anyone else got them unless they were also fat and had big breasts. Skinny girls got them too? Small breasted girls? BOYS? Seriously, I needed to know this 20 years ago.

    Thank god by the time I had my kids I was starting to make friends with my body. Now I have a stomach full of stretch marks which don’t bother me in the least :-)

  31. It is heartbreaking to me how much energy and time we’ve all spent hating ourselves. The Pictures of You photo project is all about airing that to show just how fucked up we all can be. If it’s out in the open, instead of inwardly focused, maybe we can stop being so fucked up about our bodies.

  32. I can’t believe how wonderful this post is. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have a lot of pictures from my childhood and teens that I need to stop being ashamed of.

  33. Kate, I am starting to succeed in finding my body attractive. One of the benefits of being fat is that the round face with the double chin is late to wrinkle! My husband of 41 years has always found me to be sexy no matter what I thought so that’s always been a help. Even though I avoided having my picture taken, most of the time my feelings about my body were more neutral than negative.

  34. Oh my. I’m sure you get this all this time but… I totally relate to everything you’ve said. Completely. It’s a little scary. I, too, was an “early bloomer.” I was wearing my sister’s C cup bras in fifth grade. I, too, was convinced by seventh grade that I was hopelessly, unlovably, fat. And, I, too have only recently looked at pics of myself from those days and thought, “Why was I so hard on myself? I wasn’t fat.” .. all the while, continuing to beat myself up about my weight to this very day…. heck, to this very minute. Anyway, I just came across your blog on the WordPress main page and I just had to comment. I’ll be reading a lot more of your blog. Thanks, and keep on writing!

  35. Wow. If you threw in a gymnastics coach telling you that you were getting fat, in the fourth grade, and an addiction to kickboxing in your 20s, we could be the same person…

  36. Another lurker chiming in. This post is really fabulous and some of the comments totally struck a chord with me because I too have had “picture issues.”

    I’ve never been fat (I’m interested in FA primarily because several friends/family members have battled fat hatred or eating diorders or both) but I’ve always avoided having my picture taken because I thought I was “ugly” and, of course, fat as well. Like, since I was 5. So there are pictures of me when I was 4, and now (I’m 33), and very few in between.

    I finally realized I’m not ugly, but that’s not even the point. Honestly, who the hell cares? Lord knows the point of 99% of photos is not to show that you’re “beautiful” – it’s to preserve a moment or an event to look back on. And I am royally pissed that I don’t have a picture of myself in a goofy 80s dress going to my middle school dance, too! (No offense, Kate H. The 80s were all about goofy fashion. And I’m sure my dress was way goofier than yours.)

    So now I’ve made a vow to mug for the camera every time someone shoves one in my face, for the rest of my damn life. :-)

  37. Another Kate, you won’t regret your vow on the pictures and neither will the people who love you. We don’t have to be “perfect” or “beautiful” to be in a picture. We just need to be there.

  38. It’s more specific, but there’s also a site called “portrait of a mother”, I think, that is all about being proud of a post-baby stretchmarked flabby body, thin and fat alike. People put in pics and stories. My luck it’s already been linked to, the way I’ve been lately. :) That would be good, because now I can’t find it. I used to have it bookmarked but lost it in a browser crash.

  39. Oh, and there totally needs to be an “unfortunate glasses choices of our youth” post. I had some that would really give yours a run for the money!

  40. Kate, thanks for this post. I, like many others, identify with this so much.

    I do hope that your friend found another rheumatologist! I’m more than double her weight, and I also have a form of arthritis. I’ve seen three different doctors over the years for this. Two have said nothing about my weight at all. The other one assured me that I would not make it to age 30 if I didn’t lose weight. Surprise, surprise — he also ran a weight loss clinic! He ignored my symptoms and wasn’t planning on doing anything to further my treatment, the bastard.

    Of course, I’ve got the best revenge. I turned 30 two months ago, and I now have a doctor who respects me and actually *treats* my condition.

  41. Oh seriously… mine were also huge, but they were TURQUOISE.

    Mine might have been navy in that pic; I had both navy and tortoiseshell at the time. Also had red and purple at other times. *shudder*

    Jeani, so glad you found a good doc! Mindy might even be interested in a recommendation — Mindy?

  42. sweetmachine: “But when I look back at photos, I definitely understand now that I was not a fat teenager. Every time I do that, I think: If I had had more confidence, imagine all the sex I could have been having!”

    Same here! I look back at photos of me in 10th grade, shocked to see that I wasn’t anywhere as monstrously huge as I thought I was.

    (Truly horrifying in those photos, though: ugly fucking glasses!)

    What I wish I knew then was that there were boys (mmm… and girls!) who liked me because I was smart, funny, intense and even sort of mysterious (in a geeky way), regardless of my looks. But I was so brainwashed– by my parents, especially– to believe that no one would ever want me if I was fat that the attention I *was* getting from interested boys just didn’t register. I will be kicking myself until the day I die over all those missed opportunities.

  43. Caprice (about 10-12 posts up), that’s so sweet of you, thanks!

    And not to derail, but I think I have you all PWNED! in the ugly ’80s glasses wars. Not only were mine giant and purple, but the purple plastic had glitter embedded in it. Multicolored glitter, my friends.

  44. Oh my god, AK. I really thought my enormous turquoise specs (that’d be BRIGHT turquoise opaque paint, by the way, lest you think it was just turquoise plastic) were going to win this thing. But yeah, I think you’re taking the trophy home.

  45. To be fair, I was 7 or 8 at the time. If you were much older, Fillyjonk, you still get the win.

    See, now I wish I’d let people take pictures of me, so I could show everyone the total silliness glasses from third grade. But by then certain family members had ruled on me – “she’s no beauty” – and I had learned to duck out of the photos.

  46. See, now I wish I’d let people take pictures of me, so I could show everyone the total silliness glasses from third grade.

    Me too! I know there’s a school photo of me in them, but I haven’t got it myself.

    I had glasses until I was 11, and I never got different frames, so I’ve got a couple years on you.

  47. Also, SPers should be warned that the majority of the pictures on the Pictures of You project are people’s WLS/WLD “befores” and “afters.”

  48. School photos…man, that was the most stressful day of the year. Give me a final exam any day over that. I think I faked sick for about half, and I’m sure I always took off my glasses (because squinting like a naked mole rat with my 20/600 eyes that could barely see the photographer is so much more attractive).

  49. Thanks for the warning, Fillyjonk. I plugged it and agreed to participate because Sarah e-mailed me, and there’s no resisting Sarah. But yeah, people heading over there from here should be aware that the photo project as a whole is far from fat-positive.

  50. I have no real idea of what my body was like when I was in middle and high school–I was a skinny kid but gained a lot of weight very quickly when I hit puberty (and also started eating away from home more often–rebelling against my mom’s hippie health-food-store ways, my favorite things on earth were processed white bread and Soft Batch cookies, ugh). I wore everything about eight sizes too big, even correcting for the fashions of the early 90s and did everything I could to hide my body, including refusing to have pictures taken of me. It’s only a few years ago that I cut off the wall of hair and started wearing awesome, adorable, more form-fitting clothes, and, not coincidentally I’m sure, started being a total camera hog.

    I still have no idea whether I’m fat though.

  51. Heh, add me in among those who thought they were sooooooo huge as teens. In reality, I was a bit chubby, definitely not skinny, but I wasn’t nearly as fat as I thought. Plus, I was pretty fit as I played a lot of sports — softball, street hockey, ice hockey, biking, running around with friends. All those sports didn’t get me skinny, but I could hold my own with others.

    My problem, aside from looking younger than my age even then (I have a video where I’m 17 and look about 13), was that I had poor fashion sense and zero self-confidence. Sometimes I wish I could time-travel 15 years back in time and bitch-slap a makeover to myself (both in terms of fashion and of attitude — you see, I was also a total nerd and an intellectual snob on top of being a tomboy).

  52. I *was* fat but still . . . I look back at pictures and can’t believe I felt I was so ugly because I was what, 10 or maybe 20 lbs “overweight” at the time. I was 5’5″ and 145 lbs in High School and thought I was “fat and ugly”. And now here I am 20 years older and what, 70 lbs heavier, and now I like what I see in the mirror. Weird. Good, but weird ;)

    Puberty sucked. School sucked. The 30’s rock and I’m guessing it will just keep getting better and better :)

    Glasses – let’s not speak of that . . . . LOL!

  53. thank you, thank you, thank you, for talking about stretchmarks. i struggle every day with accepting my body with its roadmap of silver lines (i’ve got them everywhere, just about) even more than i struggle with my weight. i know the stretchmarks are likely just as hereditary as the weight, but for some reason i am so ashamed of them.
    i’m currently trying to lose weight for my health, because my very dear and excellent mother passed away from breast cancer and my excess fat is increasing the likelihood that i will get bc*, but i see that even as my body changes shape those marks stay with me. the word i most often use when talking about my body? “ruined.”

    (* or so the most recent studies say. basically i’m scared shitless that i may have already lived half my life, as my mother and grandmother had by this age, and i’m doing just about everything i can to change that. bc sucks.)

  54. Pingback: Always Been Fat « Ottermatic

  55. Yeah – I wasn’t fat in high school or college, either, although my *&**>:@# grandfather paid me to lose weight when I was 10. And my mother practically forced me to go on the Scarsdale Diet with her when I was a senior (because she was a hefty 14 and I was a gigantic size 12). Oh – and I hate that I identify myself as a size. I really started gaining weight when all the supermodels started saying “Oh, I eat tons of pasta” and the low-fat diets were popular. All they did was make me hungry all the time and give me migraines. Thanks for sharing your pictures. You are (and were) a hottie (even though your hairstyle has improved a bit since you were a kid).

  56. Pingback: damn elephants and their bizarre, unnatural heft! « vorare

  57. Yeah its kind of sad how we think we are so fat and look back and realize we weren’t (btw in those pictures even the ‘dreaded’ 8th grade ones you look so tiny)
    But I guess thats just how we judge ourselves. Oh well I say lets battle our insecurities and shout to the world “Yes I have a Rack of Doom and I love it- and I know you love it too!” :)

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