When I was in seventh grade, a sixth grade boy at my bus stop teased me frequently about lots of things – my clothes, my glasses, my Winnie-the-Pooh backpack – and my thighs. This kid’s mouth was probably the first place I heard the term “Thunder Thighs,” and since my elementary and middle school years were, quite honestly, filled with almost never-ending teasing and harassment on many levels, the Thunder Thighs thing never really ranked high on the hurtful words list. At twelve, I was self-conscious about my glasses, my thick, wavy hair, my crooked teeth (and eventual braces), and the fact that I felt like I didn’t dress well enough. But I never really worried about my weight.
My mindset definitely changed over the next few years. While I never really thought I was “fat,” I knew I wasn’t “skinny.” As my friends and classmates started buying their first bikinis, I stuck with one piece bathing suits. And I was very aware that I still had a bit of baby fat or “pudge” in my middle section, rear end, and yes, thighs.
Until about ninth grade, my weight was at the bottom of the list of things to worry about.
That changed once I hit sophomore year. At sixteen, I was the heaviest I’d ever been. Clothes shopping was impossible – the only jeans that fit me came from the women’s section, and it’s a miracle my mother didn’t strangle me after hours of heavy sighs, slammed dressing room doors, and piles of discarded pants from Macy’s, Kohl’s, and JC Penney’s.
Things weren’t improving with my social life at school, either. My friends were starting to date and get their first kisses, while I just mooned over cute boys and wondered why none of them would so much as glance in my direction. (As an aside, I know now that my weight was only part of the problem – I had zero confidence and no sense of self. I blended in entirely too much and was afraid of speaking up or branching out in a social aspect).
I have one particularly painful memory from algebra class. We were sitting around waiting for our teacher to re-enter the room when a kid I had a little crush on plopped himself on top of the AC return. The cool air rushed under his oversized t-shirt, making it balloon up around his small frame. “Hey!” He laughed, catching my eye. “I’m you!”
That summer, I decided that I wanted to lose some weight. I didn’t tell anybody about my plan, mainly because I didn’t really have one. I figured I’d start taking my dog on longer walks, lift some of my mom’s pink hand weights, and pay attention to what (and when) I was eating. These little things actually made a big difference. When I started my junior year, I was shocked to learn that I had lost fifteen pounds! For the first time in a long time, school shopping was fun again. I liked the way fitted, fashionable clothes looked against my body, and I had just the tiniest bit of swagger when I walked into school that September.
By the time I was a senior, I had lost a total of forty pounds. I was still what most people would probably consider “curvy” – my thighs and butt were still the biggest parts of me, but I had lost my baby fat and learned to dress my body in a flattering manner. I finally started dating, collected a couple of kisses, and felt more confident than I ever had before.
The Fat Came Back
Inevitably, a few years after graduation, my weight started fluctuating again. Between being a part time student with a part time job, drinking and partying on the weekends, and dealing with some pretty heavy emotional issues, I put on a few pounds here and there. But it never really bothered me because I knew how to curb it – if I felt my jeans getting tight, I cut back on eating junk food for a few months and voila – five or ten pounds slipped away almost effortlessly. This pattern went on until I was in my late-twenties. Shortly after I got married, I found myself gaining weight faster than Bruno Mars was pumping out number one hits.
Even though I was happily married, planning a wedding and buying a house had been extremely stressful. I was also working a job I hated and was on the verge of getting fired. I was so tense every day that I was literally having nightmares about work. While any one of these things could have easily derailed my diet and exercise routine, I also had to start taking antidepressants, which I still believe were a big contributor to said weight gain.
Once I finally found a new job that didn’t make me crazy, I figured I could go back to my tried and true diet and exercise plan that had been working for me for ten-plus years.
But I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG.
I was officially the heaviest I had ever been in my adult life. None of my clothes fit, and buying new ones seemed impossible. The worst part was that NO. MATTER. WHAT. I ate or didn’t eat, or what exercise routine I tried, I literally could not shed a single pound.
I spoke with a nutritionist, went off the carbs, drank so much water I could have floated away, and even tried that Garcinia Cambogia supplement. I even tried running, something I never even did when I was thinner, and the only thing that got me was unbelievable pain in both of my knees.
I was so worried that something was wrong with me – I got tested for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, hormone imbalances. I was convinced that something had to be horribly wrong with me to cause such a significant weight gain. But all of my test results were normal, if not healthy. While this probably should have made me happy, it only made me more frustrated. I wanted to know what was wrong with me!
You Are Not Fingernails
Fast forward two or three years to the present. I’ve kind of accepted that there is nothing wrong with me (at least not physically). I’ve managed to lose about ten pounds, but I am still a big girl. A plus sized girl. A curvy girl. My jeans size is a double digit number. And you know what? I’m okay. It’s okay. My husband loves me. My dog and my family love me. I like my job and I’m pretty sure they like me. I pay my bills, have fun with my friends. My writing is back on track. I take long walks often. I use my hand weights. I like exploring parks and kayaking. I don’t have any serious health problems, which is always the most important thing. Overall, I’m pretty happy.
What I’m trying to say is that I think I’m finally making peace with myself and my body. Sure, there are days where I catch a glimpse of my arms in the mirror and shudder. And I’m just a tad worried about scaling the two-hundred-plus steps in the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse this September.
But I’ve stopped all the extreme thoughts and actions. I don’t pretend to be a health nut. I love pizza and chocolate. I simply cannot bring myself to like kale or green tea. But I also don’t smoke, I seriously limit my caffeine intake, and I refuse to put artificial sweeteners and certain fast food items in my body. And believe it or not, there are plus sides to being plus sized – like having cleavage for the first time in my life. And as big as it is, I still love my ass.
When I’m having a down day, I think back to a fabulously true meme I first saw posted by the one and only J.K. Rowling: “You are not fat. You have fat. You also have fingernails. But you are not fingernails.”
So yes, I do have fat. Maybe more than some other people. Maybe more than I would like some days. But it does not define me. It is not me.
I am so much more.