My name is Casey and believe it or not, we unofficially met today. I went to the gym to do my cardio followed by a sit in the steam room. I don’t like wearing the same clothes after this regimen, so I retreated to the empty locker room to change. I always pick the last row and furthest corner back. You and your friend entered the locker room just after me and proceeded to check yourselves in the mirror, giggling and gossiping. The gossip was pretty juicy in nature, something about one of the good-looking trainers. When I opened my locker, your friend wondered out loud who else was in there. I continued on with my business and you glanced around the corner and let her know, “its just some fat lady in the next row.” Your friend laughed, called you by your name and you continued, “Please don’t ever let me get fat.”
This is not some letter to let you know that bullying is alive and well, beyond adolescence. All you have to do is turn on the news or login to social media to see that it is. This is not a letter calling you out, letting you know that while I may be heavier than you, I can lose weight and your comments make you ugly. Years ago this is the sort of thing that would have left me crying and afraid to step foot in the gym again; which is the unfortunate case for millions of people every day. This letter isn’t about that. This is, however, a little bit about me, the fat lady on the next row.
I was called chubby my first time when I was 9 years old and I never saw myself in any other light until over two decades later. I remember when my family moved to Utah. I was 12 years old and felt very out of place among the sea of skinny tall blondes, with my brown frizzy hair and round face. I never felt like I fit in. When I was 13, I was called fat for the first time by a popular blonde cheerleader. She bumped into me in the hall and she looked back and stated, “Oh, it’s just a fat girl,” to her friends as they all turned and laughed. I became withdrawn and I cried a lot at night. I just didn’t fit in. I danced because it was the only place that I didn’t feel judged for anything but my ability, but I even had the horrible experience of hearing girls on my team talk about myself and others and our lack of fitting the mold. Halfway through my junior year in high school, I learned about this medication that induced vomiting and I remember feeling like my life would turn around. It didn’t. I’ve never been skinny, but I had no idea that I wasn’t fat. In my mind I felt if I didn’t purge, I would be super fat and I definitely didn’t want that!
After high school I discovered the wonder drug: Fen Phen. I lost weight, but I also stopped eating. Even after I stopped taking the drugs, I made it a goal to see how long I could go without eating. Then I got sick. But I still wasn’t skinny. When that didn’t seem like a viable option anymore, I turned to laxatives. Lots of laxatives. I could write an entire novel on my experience with laxatives and the horrible side effects that I willingly put upon my body. Guess what? I still wasn’t skinny!
When I turned 23, I discovered exercise outside of the extracurricular activities that I had chosen in high school. I discovered how to eat healthy on a college budget. I found happiness in life…but I still wasn’t skinny. However, it is my first recollection of feeling cute.
When I was 25, I had my first child. My weight yo-yoed from that time until about the age of 33. I tipped the scale at a whopping 227 pounds on more than one occasion. I had lost motivation for myself and for life – I had just lost myself. One day when getting out of the shower, I glanced in the mirror and it just hit me. It all hit me. My entire life, I had tied my ability to be happy with my weight. “I was fat, so how could I be happy?” As I stared at my body, seeing the pure damage that I had put myself through physically and emotionally, I refused to hate myself anymore and I’ve never looked back – except in the, “man, I’m rocking it!” kind of way.
So Trisha, I need you to know that there is nothing that you could say about me that I haven’t said to myself. In fact, the millions of unkind words that I had said to myself over the years prevented me from seeing myself as anything but “the fat girl on the next row.” Thank you for reminding me how far I’ve come!
I am that person who despite having chronic pain and a million other reasons, gets up and vows to do something active each day. I am that person who has ran 2 half-marathons, does challenging hikes, goes to aerial arts classes knowing that I am getting stronger every day and that is going to lead to awesome things, and I am that person who can’t wait for the next adventure. I love life. I love myself. I am not fat. I threw away all of my scales because my happiness isn’t dictated by numbers and my physical health is gauged on how I feel. If the results of my chosen lifestyle lead to a rockin’ body, that’s awesome! Just between you and I, I am pretty certain that it will! So maybe after reading this letter, next time when you see me in the gym you can say, “Hey, there’s that badass from the locker room!”
I wish you all the kindness in the world, Trisha! I hope that the trainer notices you and that you have a dozen beautiful babies. Most of all, I hope you remember to always speak kindly to yourself so that you can speak kindly to and about others.