I was the freak. I had known my label at a young age. People called me whatever name suited their purpose. Fat girl, while original and classic, was nothing that I hadn’t grown accustomed to. It had started when I was in second grade. I knew that I was not like the other kids. They never had problems controlling how much they ate. They never had to worry about not fitting in to normal kid’s sizes and they especially did not have to worry about exercising to get thinner. I had been chubby for as long as I could remember.
To my mother’s side of the family, this seemed like an unspeakable sin. My dad’s side of the family was more forgiving. They said I just had a problem. Sneaking food was just a cry for help or attention. Whichever you prefer, I’m sure will do. By second grade I had learned that being chubby was not normal. In fact, being chubby meant that you were not fit to be labeled a person. No one would ever come out and say it. Most of the time they did not have to. Being a kid was not easy when you did not look like the other little girls.
Being chubby only got harder as the years progressed. As a little kid no one cares what you look like. They don’t care if you aren’t as small as them. They don’t mind if you cannot fit into the same dress up outfits as them. They just want to be your friend. At least that is how it was before we started to grow older. The older we got the more cruel people became. I never used to hate myself. I never used to think there was something wrong with me. Then one day I realized that I was a freak. I could not be considered normal until I was as perfect and as pretty on the outside as the rest of the girls in my class. Until I was perfect, I would not have true friends. Until I was perfect, I would never be one of them.
By the summer going into third grade, my parents had put me on a diet. They were sick of me being teased and bullied for my weight. Since second grade, they had started to monitor what I ate. When we went to burger king, I would have to get a side salad and a grilled chicken sand which instead of the normal kid’s meal. Fast food is never too good for you, but whenever we went to any type of a restaurant I was to order the healthy option. During the summer going into third grade, I was put on the Atkins diet. This diet is a no carb diet and is designed to help you lose weight fast. I was starting to lose a little bit of weight and, with it, my confidence started to go up a little bit.
Then when school started in the fall, I started to bring cold lunch to school. I would bring a salad with meat or tuna on it, a granola bar, or a banana in my lunch box every day. This did not go unnoticed by the other kids. Soon I was getting teased for bringing diet food to school. Forget the fact that I was just trying to lose some weight. I was teased mercilessly. I had even lost some weight, but that kind of thing doesn’t matter to kids. They only find new ways to hurt you.
One day I only brought an orange for lunch. The teacher did not seem to notice. By the second half of the afternoon, I was starving. I asked my teacher if she had any food. Knowing that I usually brought a salad for lunch, she asked me what I had eaten for lunch that day. When I told her it was just an orange, she started to get angry and yell. I was upset, so I started to cry. I did not understand at the time that this was unhealthy. I just wanted to look like the other little girls. I just wanted to be a normal kid. My teacher was kind and, after she freaked out, she went and found me two granola bars. She took me to the hallway and watched me eat both of them.
Shortly after that I no longer brought my lunch to school. I was back to eating normal food again like most kids. But the teasing never did stop. One little girl in my class decided to make it her life’s goal to humiliate me. I had to sit by her in art class every day. I was scared of the teacher, so I never asked if I could move seats. They were assigned seats and so, from the beginning of the year until the end, we had to sit in the same spots. Every day she would tease me about my pants size. She was always extra creative with the names she called me. She always acted like if I even got my paper close to her, she would catch a disease.
I was very insecure after this. I was too afraid to tell anyone what she said to me and so I dealt with the torture the only way I knew how, eating. Then, our teachers started to notice that the other little girls in my class were not being nice to each other. It seemed like every girl had been picked on, or picked on someone else. We then had a sit down meeting in the class. Much like the style in the movie “Mean Girls,” we had to tell the other girls in our class that we were sorry for the mean things we had done to them. She had to apologize to me in front of all of the girls in the third grade. Although I should have been relieved to hear her finally say she was sorry to me, instead I was ashamed. I was embarrassed that she had called me those things. I knew it was because I didn’t look like everyone else. I was even more embarrassed that everyone had found out about it.
The school year was once again underway, and it was off to fourth grade. I gained a lot of weight in fourth grade, specifically because my two best friends and I were always fighting. As we already know, the girls in my class were mean to each other. Five other girls and I had to skip afternoon recess every day and go to counseling sessions with Mrs. Mertins. For half an hour every day, we had to work through our issues with one another. Two of my best friends and I were in this group of five. Any time the three of us would fight, they would gang up on me and tell the teacher it was all my fault. The teacher believed them both because it was always two against one.
My mother eventually got sick of the head games and one of them finally admitted that she and the other girls had been lying about me bullying them all the time. I wasn’t completely innocent in all of this, in fact, I was just as mean as the other two, but the point is I was not always the one to blame. After that, I grew closer to *Wendy, and we stopped hanging out with *Lisa. My issues with them might have gone away, but my issues with my body were still there. Looking back on fourth grade I laugh because we were just little drama queens fighting about everything. At the time it seemed like the worst thing in the world. But it wasn’t, I would later find out there are worse things in life then a few tiny fights.
Fifth grade passed by in a blur. I had gained even more weight in fifth grade, as I was just starting to go through puberty. When I finally got to sixth grade, our elementary and the nearby town of Walker elementary started middle school together. This meant that I was introduced to all new kids. Some of the girls I knew from playing basketball with them, and softball against them during the summer. This part of my life was really awkward. I was not very cute. No one is in middle school. All I can really say on the matter is, imagine an overweight girl with glasses, braces, and an awkward personality. I was doomed the first day I started middle school, to be an outcast. The thing that made it even worse was the fact that boys no longer had cooties, and we were starting to find out that some of them we actually liked.
I had a crush on a boy from the other town we merged with. He was from Walker, and he was probably the cutest thing that I had ever seen. I thought he had the prettiest eyes. I was in love, or at least I thought I was. Later in the year, the eighth graders told us that there was going to be a dance, as a joke. At that age, most of the kids in middle school were “going out”. Not that we were actually going anywhere.
I decided to ask him to go to the dance as a friend. A lot of the other girls in my class had already found someone to go with. He laughed at me. I can still hear him say “First of all, you are stupid because there is no dance, and, second of all I would never go out with you because you are ugly.” I had always known I was not pretty, but hearing someone else say it was like a dagger to the heart. I remember fleeing from the gym, and running into the girl’s locker room to cry in the bathroom stall. Shortly after this incident, my best friend and he started “going together”. I was crushed. Soon after the two of us started fighting, she became friends with a girl who hated me, *Melissa.
*Melissa hated me for no reason. I later found out that the only reason she did not like me was because she thought I was fat and annoying. When we got older we eventually reconciled, but in middle school we hated each other. I spent the rest of sixth, seventh, and a little bit of eighth being bullied by these two girls. I got called fat, I was told my clothes looked like they were picked out by my grandma, and I was not invited to any birthday parties. The only person that seemed to think I was worthy of friendship was *Anna.
*Anna was a Walker girl. She asked me to sing with her in a talent show because she sat next to me in choir and she soon found out that I had a talent. We instantly became friends, and she made the rest of seventh grade and eighth grade bearable. I would not have made it through without her. As for the guy I had a crush on, even though I hated his guts, part of me still had a crush on him. I know how messed up that is, but I was still over weight so it never really mattered anyway. None of the boys in my class ever asked me out, and I still knew I was a freak. The only time anyone complimented me they told me I had beautiful eyes like my mom, and most of the time, they were older. I never believed them. They were just trying to be nice because they knew my mom and dad.
When I finally did start eighth grade, I decided to go out for cross country. My neighbor, who was older, ran cross country, and I had always looked up to her. For those of you who do not know what this is, it is basically running a two and a half mile race as fast as you can. However, since I was in middle school, we usually only ran one to two miles per race. Mr. Mudd and Mrs. Schmidt were my coaches, and they never stopped believing in me. I was not as fast as the other girls, even though some of them hadn’t run as much as me over the summer. I had run one to three miles every day, and I still had no prayer of keeping up with them. Mr. Mudd knew how hard I worked, and he always made me feel like a valued member of the team even though I was the slowest one.
I lost a lot of weight when I did cross country because we ran three to four miles every night at practice. I was so happy with how thin I was. I was still bullied, but at least now I did not hate myself as much. This was short lived. I gained around forty pounds after aunt flow decided to visit in January of my eighth grade year. Soon after, it was back to feeling like a freak and hating myself all over again. The only person that ever understood, was my mom, and she made sure to tell me how special I was all the time. The only problem was, I could never be completely sure if it was me she was trying to convince, or herself.
After eighth grade high school began. I still remember how nervous I was to start my first day of school. I hated shopping, but my mom made me go to pick out new clothes for school. I hated shopping mainly because I knew there were clothes that I would like that I couldn’t fit into, and I was embarrassed that I had to shop in the big girl section of the store. My mom and I started weight watchers together that fall. I lost fifteen lbs. during the cross country season, but my mom ended up losing thirty and she lost weight a lot faster than I did. She was soon at her goal weight, so I just gave up.
I was really depressed during my freshman year of high school. Part of the reason for this was because I was on an anxiety medicine that I was allergic to. I was friends with people that only took advantage of me and all of my teammates in cross country didn’t like me, at least that is what I thought. I never felt like I could be friends with them because I wasn’t as skinny and pretty as them. My weight situation only got worse at that point. I had gained fifty pounds and, by the time I went into my sophomore year of high school, I had to wear extra-large t-shirts and size sixteen to eighteen pants. I was the fattest I have ever been.
The summer going into my junior year my parents were tired of me feeling bad about myself so they put me on Jenny Craig. I lost about thirty pounds that summer and I was soon wearing my usual size large t-shirts and fourteen pants. I soon gave up on this diet too because I was sick of not being able to eat normal food. When I went off the diet, my weight stayed very consistent. I started working out like a nut job, but that never seemed to help me lose any weight. I still had to shop in the big girl section of the store, and I still secretly hated myself. I never dated anyone because I was never skinny, or pretty, enough in high school. At least now though I had my friends Whitney, Josi, Tessa, Kipp, Amanda and Allyson to go through it with me. They did not have any clue about my inner secret. They never knew how much I hated myself, but they were friends with me and at the time I thought that it was all that really mattered.
Going into my senior year I had gained back a little bit of the weight that I had lost while on Jenny Craig it was only ten pounds, but that ten pounds was a constant reminder of the failure I was. During cross country season my senior year, I was so excited because I was the J.V. captain and it was going to be a blast. Cross country gave me a lot of things. It gave me confidence in my love of running, and it gave me the strength to keep going when I was done. The girls on my team had become like family to me and I was sad that it was my last year. One day at practice I started to feel sick. I quickly ran to the bathroom and threw up. I had a little touch of the stomach flu and so I left practice.
After throwing up that day, I noticed that my stomach had felt a lot better, and it had not hurt as bad. One day the next week I had gone on a binge. I binge ate a lot when I felt bad about myself, food was the only comfort I usually had. It was ironic because food was the reason I hated myself in the first place. After going on a binge my stomach had hurt really badly so I decided I needed to throw up. I went to the bathroom and grabbed my tooth brush out of the closet. I used that to make myself puke, and, as soon as I was done, I felt better about myself.
This became a habit. It isn’t like I threw up after every meal, but anytime that I went on a binge I would go to the bathroom and make myself do it. Soon, it became a way to punish myself for being the worthless piece of shit I was. In the back of my mind it always seemed to whisper you will never be perfect until you stop looking like a fat piece of shit. No one knew about it not my family, not my friends, and sure as hell not anyone else. No one noticed and I liked it that way.
That year, I was throwing up about once or twice a week. I never did it at school because there were too many people around, and I did not want anyone to catch me. It was my darkest secret. Softball the summer of my senior year was the best season of my life. I broke our school’s homerun record and my mom and dad were so proud of me. I didn’t feel like a complete waste of space. For once, I was so excited. I had made the decision to go to Mount Mercy University and start college. I was really nervous about school but college was only thirty five minutes away from home.
After softball season my friend Josi and I started to work out together. We were both going to be going to Mount Mercy in the fall along with my neighbor Taylor. One day she came to my house and we had just gotten back from our run. My mom was supposed to come home that night to take us college shopping, but as usual she was running a little behind schedule. My neighbor up the road pulled into our drive way right after I had gotten out of the shower. He asked to see my dad and he looked pretty upset. My dad soon put his shoes on and they raced out the door.
I started to get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something was seriously wrong. My sisters and my brother felt it too. We sat together in the kitchen waiting for a call from my Dad to find out why the neighbor had come. My dad had been a paramedic and I knew that from the look on my neighbors face something had been seriously wrong. After the helicopter meant for air lifting, someone flew over our house, we realized who it was. My mom had not been answering her phone while we frantically dialed her, and my sister Emily started screaming. “Its mom, I know it.” Dread spread all through me. I knew, but at the same time, I was in denial.
I called my Dad three times in a row and on the third time he answered the phone sobbing. He told me it was my mom and to get out the pickup we were going to be going to the hospital. My neighbor brought my Dad home and we all piled into the pickup. All of us were crying and holding hands. I asked my Dad if she was going to be okay and he told me they had never gotten a pulse back. When we arrived at the hospital a nurse informed us that our mother had passed away. She had been killed on impact when a dump truck didn’t stop at the intersection and t-boned the driver side. She did not suffer because she was gone instantly.
The next two week were the worst of my life so far. I had lost my best friend, and confidant. I did not sleep for three days, and by the third, I was too tired, physically and emotionally, to deal. During this time, our community was with us every step of the way. The outpouring of love was unimaginable. My house was like a super market for four months with all the toiletries, food, plates, cups, drinks, and everything else people brought.
Soon after this I started college. The day my dad dropped me off at college, he cried and so did I. I went home every weekend from Mount Mercy because it was close and I could not go more than five days without seeing my family. I was still throwing up, only it got worse. To cope with the pain, I ate and then I would feel guilty, so I would throw it all up. I lost a lot of friends because they were not there for me when my mom died. However, I hid the pain for the most part, and my freshman year of college, I made a ton of new friends. People did not care that I was big; they loved me for my sense of humor and my personality. None of my high school friends really stayed in touch except for Josi, Whitney, and Tessa.
I am still friends with the girls that I met at Mount Mercy. One of these people was *Kelly. *Kelly, like me, had been struggling with bulimia, and, when she told me that she was having problems again, I told her my darkest secret. She understood, and together we helped each other quit. I still worked out every day, but now I was watching what I ate even more strictly than before. I lost the fifteen lbs. I had put on after my mother’s passing and, soon, I decided to move on with my life. That fall at Mount Mercy, I had decided that it was not for me. So I decided to change my major from nursing to communication and transfer to the University of Northern Iowa.
Over the summer, I hung out with Tessa and Whitney. My Dad and I decided in July that we were tired of working out all the time, and we both made the decision to go on a diet his friend had lost fifty lbs. on. It was through the doctor’s office in Monticello, Iowa, a little town only twenty minutes away from my house. The first week was hell, but weighing in showed that it paid off when in the first week I had dropped fourteen lbs. Soon after my move to college I started to continue to drop weight. I had a boyfriend because, a guy I had met over the summer through Tessa, decided he liked me as much as I liked him.
*Earl was my first real boyfriend and even though I made a lot of mistakes, one of them being dating him in the first place, I do not regret it. I came out of it stronger than I have ever been, and I realize that I do not need a guy to know I am worth something. Far from it. For one thing it made me realize that what I was settling for was less, and it also made me realize that I am worth more than I give myself credit for.
I am now 62 lbs. thinner and happier than ever. I have about twenty lbs. to go before my goal weight. I now know that I don’t need a man to be the best I can be, and I have to love me before anyone else can. I realized something the other night when talking to my friend Emily. I will never be perfect. I still want to lose the rest of the weight because I have come so far, but now I don’t feel like I am a complete waste of space. I realize that the only way to be perfect is to love myself no matter how I look on the outside. I will never be completely happy with myself, but writing this has been the first step. My journey is not over…. The Journey to me being “Perfect” has only just begun.