“Ballerinas don’t eat Popsicles,” and other ways people have told me I’m fat.

When I was four, I wanted to be a ballerina. I was freaking obsessed. I would twirl around everywhere, and even demanded a ballerina costume for Halloween. I would tell anyone who would listen how I was going to be a ballerina when I grew up.

Until someone reasonably important to me said I couldn’t. Because I liked to eat Popsicles. And ballerinas were thin, which I wasn’t, even at four, and obviously that meant they didn’t eat Popsicles. And since I liked to eat Popsicles, I couldn’t be a ballerina.

I’ve been heavier than I should be since I was a toddler. Around three is when my weight started “exploding,” apparently.

In elementary school, it didn’t seem like a very big deal. I was running and playing with all the other kids, and no one said anything about my size. Intermediate school was the first time I actually felt different, and it wasn’t because we had just moved to a new school district, of which I was the entirety of the Indian student population. I sat next to this kid in my advanced language arts class in the fourth grade, and we had those planners where you wrote down you height and weight and eye color. Even then, I knew to lie, so instead of putting my actual weight, I decided on a “safe” number, which was two digits instead of the three I hit in the third grade. I settled on 99. This kid who sat next to me glanced at my planner, saw my weight, and laughed, going “Really?!” in that derisive way only ten year old boys can do. It stung. Clearly still does, it’s been fourteen years and I’m still thinking about it.

Middle school I definitely felt different. All the rest of the girls were thinner than me, could fit into cute dresses for the eighth grade dance, and I had to get something from the women’s section at Dillards. It was black and shapeless and had these awful frills on the shoulder.

And of course high school was rough. We started learning about BMI’s in health class and every time the teacher mentioned overweight, I caught that barely concealed glance. From not just the teacher, the class in general. Whoever was stuck sitting next to me would shift uncomfortably. Like fat was contagious. And the dances sucked. My mom made my dress for freshman homecoming, because no matter where we looked, we couldn’t find one that fit me and that looked cute enough for a very picky fourteen year old. The dress was pretty, but it didn’t matter, I didn’t have a date. I spent that dance and every other one until prom sitting in a corner fiddling with my bag until the lights came up and it was time to leave.

But high school came with a diagnosis, of Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, of which weight gain and difficulty losing weight was a symptom. That didn’t make it any easier, and literally the only way to control PCOS is to lose weight, but the PCOS makes it hard to lose weight. There’s no winning there.

University was different. I was away from home and could actually control exactly what I ate. Which turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Because while I loved eating fruits and vegetables and could buy and eat all of the fruits and vegetables that I could possibly want, I could also restrict as many calories as I wanted. This spiraled to a nasty point my third and last year at school, where I was limiting myself to less than 500 calories a day, and dropping five pounds every two weeks, and hating myself every single day, but really, no one could tell, because hey, I was still fat.

I had a series of strange conversations that I don’t want to revisit from various people in my life, who all felt the urge to remind me that I was fat, and also, apparently I would never date anyone/be in a relationship unless I lost a significant amount of weight. And while so far that’s held true, that’s not really something I needed to hear at any point, in that sort of accusing tone like I was being fat on purpose.

And I’m still the fat girl at the gym, getting weird looks from the stick thin girls on the elliptical. As if a prerequisite of going to the gym is to be small starting out. It’s heartbreaking and I hate going but I know I need to because the only thing that runs in my family is heart disease and diabetes and like hell I’m going down that path. I’m better about eating now, but I still have days where I have to essentially force myself to eat something, even though I feel horrible and my brain is trying to convince me I don’t deserve to have breakfast. Going to the gym is a terrible, horrible exercise in hating everything, but luckily I have Desiree to send whiny texts to before and after I work out, about that weird middle aged dude who wears too much cologne and collared shirts while working out or the crazy cat lady who tries dancing on the stairstepper.

Adulting is hard.

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