I was raised in a weight-obsessed household. It shaped my relationship with my body, food, and even my sexuality.
- I started dieting when I was just a girl, wanting my body to take up less space.
- I later made dieting my identity in an attempt to appeal to the male gaze.
I kept my tippy-toes to the base of my chair, training my brain to never allow my feet to rest flat on the ground. This way, my peach-fuzzy thighs didn't spread across the chair like melting butter.
The importance of taking up less space, the noting of my jean shorts thinning where my legs rubbed together, the idea that men wouldn't "see me" unless my body looked a certain way became mantras in my household.
I was programmed to fixate on my appearance so often that I decided to restrict what I consumed. I was in the second grade.
I was following in my mother's footsteps
When my mother traded her standard breakfast for a powdered drink that clung to the sides of her glass for dear life, I did the same. I gave away my lunch to my classmates, keeping only the fruit cocktail. And when my stepmother patted her belly and puffed her cheeks at me when she saw me reaching for the jar of green olives after school, I abandoned it on the counter, feeling hunger give way to nausea.
My mother took up space, both physically and with the way she laughed. I would lie across her bed and watch her get ready for dates, fearless in her outfit choices for a plus-sized woman in the '90s, choosing crop tops and jeans that accentuated her hourglass figure.
While I pretended to be asleep next to her in her bed one night after a date, I listened to her voice crack to her best friend. "He wouldn't stop teasing me about how wide my ass is. I don't think he'll see me again."
My mother was beautiful to me, her softness and her curves. However, I listened repeatedly to how size does matter, especially when it came to female-presenting bodies.
I started dieting
I started covering mine more. I traded my favorite halters for hoodies, even in oppressive Minnesota summers. I refused to wear shorts or things that clung to my behind.
When my daytime dieting became too much and I could feel my stomach turning on itself, my eyelids heavy from lack of sustenance, I found myself ravenously eating on autopilot as soon as my backpack hit the floor. What felt like my reward for doing a "good job" dodging meals throughout the day developed into a binge-restrict cycle I would carry with me well into my late 20s.
I had made it my mission — going as far as to make dieting my identity when I became a certified nutrition coach, losing close to 100 pounds — to take up as little space as possible, all in the name of appealing to the male gaze.
I wanted to be seen
It wasn't until my daughter, at just 2 1/2 years old, stepped onto the scale, raised her arms in victory, and said, "YES" — something she had witnessed me do for the better part of her life — that I looked at her with both shock and shame and began to understand that I was doing the same thing to her that had been done to me: placing worth, confidence, and sense of self into a tiny, weight-obsessed box.
I picked her up, allowing my tears to soften the curls on her head, and promised her that she would never watch me do that again.
I have identified as queer for eight years — something that felt intrinsically part of me but somewhat out of reach when I was hyperfocused on weighing all my
I lost big parts of my identity and creative brain, knowing I was tethered to the idea that the way men viewed me mattered more than how I viewed myself. These days I'm most interested in collecting memories of meals shared with my kids, my lovers, and myself. Collecting pounds lost feels like several lifetimes ago.
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