I hate talking about my weight as much as the next girl—unless she’s a Victoria’s Secret Angel, in which case never mind. Actually, I take that back. I don’t know these models personally, so I wouldn’t know if they, too, feel insecure about their bodies. What I do know is that tomboyish, feminist-of-sorts, all-embracing me doesn’t need to hear your “fat” or “skinny” comments. No, thank you. I’d rather you talk about my hair (both wanted and unwanted), height (or the lack of it), flawed skin, crooked teeth—just don’t point out how you think I’ve lost or gained weight. Please.
I wasn’t always as body-conscious as this. I was slim for most of my childhood, and I never noticed when or how I began putting on weight. No one pointed it out either, until the first day of high school, when a boy classmate asked for my number and sent me a picture message of an overweight lady in a swimsuit lying on her side, flab hanging out. It seemed random until he laughed and cited the supposed similarity: “Kamukha mo yung nasa picture. Pareho kayong mataba.”
I felt angry and embarrassed at having someone else point out what should’ve been obvious to me. Why did I leave it up to this boy to break the news? And it’s not like he was the only one. In the years to follow, I would be known as the fat girl in class. Well, I wasn’t the only one, but I was neither the “sexy” nor the “baby fat” kind. I was just… fat. Or “chubby,” which didn’t really sound or feel any different. It didn’t help that I stopped growing at 5’0” (5’1” if I bargain hard enough) and had awful breakouts. Most of all, it didn’t help that I was surrounded by all those girls who I thought were just as smart, funny, and sweet as I am—only they’re pretty and skinny.
I first tried dieting when I was 14. There were times I’d eat very little or skip meals. The lowest point was probably the brief and inconsistent periods of sticking my finger, or sometimes a toothbrush, down my throat. I usually did it at home when I was alone or when everybody else had gone to bed. It was only years later that I discovered how dangerous that was. But what was an angst-y, fat girl to do? Not that any of it worked, anyway.
You know how they say it’s shallow to equate self-worth with attractiveness to the opposite/same sex? I knew that, but it didn’t stop me from feeling bad whenever a crush turned out to like someone else, someone—surprise!—tall, pretty, and skinny. Short, acne-faced, fat girls like me seemed only good for friendship; I had been a “friendzoned abanger” long before the terms were coined.
College was kinder, except when it’s not. I remember a boyfriend pointing out how my waist wasn’t at all curvy. Once, he pinched some of my belly fat and told me, “We have to get rid of this.” We. Like it was he who decided when and how my body should change. Rid. Like having a flat tummy was vital to our relationship.
I learned about Eve Ensler’s V-Day campaign during my sophomore year. I then took active part in events that raised awareness on gender equality, violence against women and girls, and body-image issues, among others. I was determined to help women in my circle and around the world fight any and all forms of devaluation. I was on fire. I wasn’t going to allow anyone to feel bad about their being women. Well, almost. While I was busy championing the cause for others, there I was still secretly hating (and punishing) my body.
It’s been nine years since I realized—or was made to realize—I’m fat. I’ve tried countless weight-loss methods and the numbers on my scale have been fluctuating since. I’ve never fallen short or over my normal body-mass index, but “normal” just doesn’t feel right or enough. I can tell how my friends sometimes get annoyed with how much I complain. Some probably think I’m only tweeting my #fatgirlproblems to solicit attention or compliments, but that can’t be any farther from the truth. I genuinely feel fat. I honestly wish it weren’t so, but it’s something I can’t help, something I see when I look at myself in the mirror. I feel awful knowing that by complaining publicly and online, I may be responsible for somebody else’s low body image. For that, I am truly, deeply sorry. I would never want anyone to feel they’re less beautiful than they really are.
I’m not going to lie: Even in my moment of self-awareness, I still mind being called fat. I hate it and I hate myself more for being affected every time. But, more than anything, I hope we try to be kinder to each other even when it comes to superficial things such as looks. What may be mindless teasing can cause scars uglier and more permanent than acne and stretch marks combined. I hope womankind understands and forgives me for the times I’d hate my body. I can’t boost my self-esteem overnight, but I can always work on it.
Finally, I hope that whoever’s reading this acknowledges how beautiful s/he is from time to time, if not always. Send out that kind of energy to the world and fat girls like me just might catch on. This I pray in Victoria’s Secret Angels’ name. Amen.
Mariekhan S. Edding, 22, is a communication arts junior at Miriam College.