Me and My Scales – Part 3: The Fat Kid

Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4


There’s been a lot of hooha recently (as reported by
Sandy and others) about the parents of fat kids being guilty of everything from irresponsibility and negligence, right through to child abuse. Not to mention all the ongoing OMG! Obesity Crisis! drama that centers around preventing kids from “dropping dead of a heart attack at 10” – involving weighing kids, mandating exercise programs, constant ‘education’ about ‘eating right’ and what not. Somehow this is all framed as for the good of the kids mental health, as well as their physical health.

I wasn’t always fat. I have the photos to prove it. Prior to starting school, I was a petite child – possibly even underweight. I don’t really remember being that thin child. Not really. I don’t remember my transition from thin (acceptable) to fat (not acceptable).


My awareness of my body as aberrant began when the children in kindergarten began to call me names like ‘fatty boom-sticks’. At that stage, I knew I didn’t like being teased and called names, but I hadn’t learned to hate myself. That came later. By primary school, I was well and truly aware that I was fat, and that I was, therefore, unacceptable. I had to get the skirt of my school uniform specially made, as the stores didn’t stock my size and I wasn’t even that big.

By the time I was 10 or 11 years old, well meaning friends of my mother suggested that she put me on a diet, so she took me to a nutritionist. Thus began the daily misery of deprivation. I learned that food was ‘bad’. I learned that I was ‘bad’ for wanting to eat, for needing to eat. Perhaps that isn’t what the nutritionist and my mother intended, but that was what I learned. I began to skip breakfast and threw my lunch in the bin uneaten (since food was the issue, I was afraid to let people see me eat). By the afternoon, I would be ravenous, but wasn’t allowed to snack (since my mother assumed I had eaten well during the day). I remember snitching chicken noodle soup packets from the cupboard, and eating them dry because I was so hungry. My dinner would be restricted to a small, hungry-making size as well. My days were marked by deprivation and hunger. Still I was fat.

I remember one incident in particular when I came home after school. I was ravenous and was looking in the kitchen cupboard for something to eat. My mother was having one of her 3 hour long gossip sessions on the telephone with one of her friends, meaning she was not available to us kids for the duration. I went to grab something on one of the lower shelves and was hit in the head with a jar of peanut butter. I truly thought my mother had thrown it at me to stop me eating – although\, to be fair, she swore blind she had not and it had just fallen at that time. I’m wasn’t and am still not convinced.

By the time of our Primary School graduation, I was bulging out of my school uniform. I came Dux of the School (ie. what is known as valedictorian in the US ), but that meant nothing to me. I remember hearing my mother on the phone to one of her friends, bragging about her brainy daughter. Understandable, right? But I started screaming at her: “Coming first in my class is nothing– it was easy. Why can’t you praise me about something that was hard, that was an achievement? Like that I’ve lost weight recently – can’t you see that my skirt is looser? ” Talk about screwed up priorities.

As I entered high school, I was a mess. I descended into a deep, and undiagnosed major depression (so much was explained when I was diagnosed with depression 15 years later). Since I was the ‘good girl’ who stayed out of trouble and did well at school, the School Counciller didn’t even know I existed. Not that I would ever have asked for help; I wasn’t worthy. My feelings and my problems, I thought, were insignificant compared to other people and not important. Talking about my needs was self-indulgent and, thus, I was worthless and useless and weak and, of course, fat and ugly. I withdrew and isolated from everyone around me, including my family. I avoided the world by hiding behind the pages of the books I read constantly. I couldn’t believe that people, especially boys, could like me. If a boy let me know that he wanted to go out with him, I thought he was having a go at me, and that he would go back to his friends laughing that I actually thought that he wanted to go out with ME. I rejected them before they rejected me. I seethed with unexpressed rage.

PE at school was the ninth level of hell. I remember one teacher in particular singling me out to do more laps because I hadn’t come in fast enough. I was too fat for her liking so she would do anything she could to make PE hell for me. Oh, I am sure that she thought she was doing “the right thing”, getting me active, helping me lose weight, but she was pushing me way beyond my physical capabilities, and all she did was embed a loathing for exercise in my mind.

By 15, I had starved, dieted, pummeled, vomited and exercised myself to the smallest I have ever been (size 12-14 Australian). But that still wasn’t good enough for me, or for those around me. I saw myself as HUGE, elephantine, ugly, hopeless. I felt that I was a failure, because I hadn’t attained the magical goal weight that the charts said I should be. Oh, I had lost weight….heaps of it….but it wasn’t enough. I was never enough. My entire self esteem in my childhood and teens depended on the number on that scale.

My perceived lack of success was rubbed in by my stepfather, who bought me a T-shirt that said:

I try to lose weight, but it keeps finding me

in raised, puffy, fat lettering along side a raised, fat, puffy scale with the needle going off the dial (at the top end, naturally). He would also say things to me like “You will never be Twiggy”. Who wanted to be Twiggy? I felt that he was telling me that I wasn’t attractive and never would be. (This, incidentally, is the same man who sexually abused me in my teens. He is the same man who would not allow me to lock the bathroom door and who bought me a a sexy negligee when I was 13 and insisted I change into it show it off to the family. Manipulative, right?)

Personally, when I look back on photos from my teens, I see a very pretty average sized girl – not fat. At least not as fat as I thought I was.

Unfortunately, I know that much of my story is typical of other people who were fat kids. We lived through and accepted as normal so much psychological torment. I go crazy when I hear people spewing the “OMG! FAT KIDS!” mantra and advocating weighing, regulating and shaming fat kids or finding parents of fat kids guilty of irresponsibility or, worse, child abuse. I go even crazier when people suggest that if fat kids don’t want to be teased, they should just lose weight. Or that the psychological trauma of being a fat kid is caused by the fat and not by the harassment, both sneaky and sanctioned, that fat kids are subject to every day. Gah!

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12 Responses to “Me and My Scales – Part 3: The Fat Kid”


  1. 1 moonchild Friday, 7 March 2008 at 11:27 pm

    You got through it. I think of us as fat kid survivors. :)

  2. 2 Lindsay B. Friday, 7 March 2008 at 11:50 pm

    So much of the story you related here reminds me of my own. The same, “I’m not allowed to feel miserable, because others feel worse than I do”, the same, “I’m a good girl, so no one notices me”…

    I am sorry that your experience was so miserable, and that you were starved through this period. My mother took the opposite route with me; because it made me emotionally dependent on her, she provided me with comfort food during the worst of my depression, even when I was trying to cut it all out of my diet. “Oh, well, it was on sale, and I know you like it…”

  3. 3 Teri Friday, 7 March 2008 at 11:56 pm

    Are we the same person? Change all of the references to a public school in Oklahoma and we could have had the same experiences. I was a very thin toddler and small child but I was put on my first medically supervised diet by the time I was 8 years old. I had weekly weigh-ins and was constantly berated for being too fat by my family. This lasted until I left home. I was told that no one would ever love me and that I would never get a good job. (Wrong on both counts, I am pleased to report.) My stepfather would not allow me to read, one of my great loves, because I was fat and should always be doing manual labor to get my weight down. I am much healthier and happier now but those scars run very deep. I’m sorry and you are not alone.

  4. 4 Lillian Mitchell Saturday, 8 March 2008 at 12:23 am

    I didn’t get fat until I was a teen. I weighed 90 pounds when I was twelve. I was 124 at 13. I was so happy that I gained weight. I was over 5 feet tall. Getting over 5 feet tall was important to me as a kid. So I was so happy that I was 5’2″ and a 124. I was finally adult size, not little and so happy.

    My classmates heard my height and weight and I was treated like I was huge. I saw the height weight chart in the PE office and it was 90 pounds for my height. My doctor told me that I should weight 110 later that year. I dieted down to 113, but I needed to starve to maintain it. So I spent all my teen years yo-yoing thinking I was fat and ugly.

    Your story is too familiar.

  5. 5 kira Saturday, 8 March 2008 at 12:44 pm

    How did you get inside my head? Seriously, subtract the part about being skinny as a young kid – I never was, or never believed I was – and that could be my story. Fat kid, teased by schoolmates, teased in gym (by kids and teacher alike) in junior high when I couldn’t run the mile in the prescribed 12 minutes, put on various diets starting at least by age 10. I can totally relate to your teenage self’s priorities too was always at the top of my class, but that was easy, not worth recognizing (in fact, at my school, that made me even more of a geek).

    Looking back at my pictures, I was a cute little kid w/ a little “baby fat”, but I wasn’t fat – at least, not until high school, after several bouts of yo-yo dieting. But you could never have convinced me of that.

    I’m so glad to be an adult, to have discovered FA, and be beyond that! I like your “fat kid survivor” term, moonchild :)

  6. 6 Deborah Monday, 10 March 2008 at 12:58 am

    Although we are continents away from each other, we are connected by the shared experience of being fat kids. Our mothers were clueless as to how to control our weight. Forced deprivation only leads to an obsession with food.

    I’ve had the good fortune of being consulted by a friend and a sister-in-law regarding their overweight daughters. Their willingness to listen to my suggestions by allowing their daughters to own their own bodies,to set deprivation aside and to build their daughter’s self esteem has helped me heal some very old wounds.

  7. 7 Fatadelic Tuesday, 11 March 2008 at 6:12 pm

    It’s bizarre – and all too tragic – how similar all our stories are even in their differences.

    Moonchild – you are right, we are survivors.

    Lindsay – Mum could do the comfort food thing too, but mostly not. It probably fitted in with her own diet and binge cycles.

    Terri – I hear you on all counts.

    Lillian – I’m also 5’2 but I never, ever, ever got down to 124 pounds (approx 56 kilos). My target weight wasn’t even that low. 113 pounds would have made you a petite 50kg or so. Its awful that you should have been made to feel ‘fat and ugly’ at those weights which are – even by today’s standards – “normal”.

    Kira – sounds like we lived very similar existences. FA has been my godsend too.

    Deborah – that’s a great opportunity; I hope the mothers listen to your advice. I’ve been trying to educate my sister (who has 2 young kids) in HAES, especially with regards to the kids, but she has her own food and body image issues.

  8. 8 Bri Tuesday, 18 March 2008 at 8:41 pm

    I am another voice saying that (bar a few of the finer details) this story could be mine…

  9. 9 Jackie Saturday, 12 April 2008 at 4:46 am

    I know how you feel, I was thin when I was a child too. I think it must have something to do with puberty, I mean it’s natural for women to gain weight so they can have a baby, but it seems everyone forgot that.

    I also had a huge hatred of gym class. I’m not sure if they do this in Australia, but in America they have you run a mile every year. It totally sucked, and then the teacher would say it’s ok if you walked, but made the class wait for you to finish which means either you ran or were humilated.

    I remember hearing a rumor one year that a student passed out running the mile, and they didn’t have to do it anymore. So I was seriously trying to figure out how to pull that off convincingly. Unfortunetly, I really don’t think I could hold my breath long enough to look convincingly passed out. As well, that I didn’t want to freak out my parents, visiting the hospital. I was that desperate to get out of it though.

    I went on Weight Watchers for a year, because I was 180 pounds lets say, after the diet, meaning when I started eating again I was 200 something pounds. Now my setpoint weight is 220 pounds. I don’t know for sure if starving myself to be thin made my metabolism slow down to deal with the starvation period, I’m pretty sure that had something to do with it though.

    My mom had my sister and I go on Weight Watchers, not cause she was concerned about image. She was ignorant and thought it really was what was best for us. Now that I’ve joined the fat acceptance movment, she realizes what a travesty it all is. That it’s just making money off of people’s insecurities. As it turns out, my sister is fat, because she has a Thyroid condition.

    When I was thin in high school, I was running from class room to class room, hardly had time for breakfast let alone lunch. So basically, I was putting myself on a starvation diet, and I was thin. It wasn’t what was right for my body though. Furthermore, I was depressed, so I was one of those thin people who hated themselves for no reason. I know personally, how annoying those can be when you’re fat. So lol, my apologies for being like that.

    Right now I really don’t care what my weight is. I’m very fortunate to live with a family, that could be less concerned about living up to societies expectations. I mean, in regards to weighing the right weight, and dressing the right way.

    Like my dad, has worn nothing but a sweatshirt and sweatpants/sweatshorts since high school. Most people think that’s pretty weird, but it’s his thing. I think because he does happen to look a great deal like Fred Flintstone, maybe he’s a modern version. Like sweatclothes instead of the cave outfit, but it’s still sort of the same idea. LoL

    As for me I really like Nintendo and PC games. I think Nintendo has been the most foward thinking game company, in respects to acknowledging and giving games and consoles that girls want. Even if some people find them somewhat patronizing. You know, lots of pink, sort of thing. I also like what are called Chibi characters in Japan, because they’re cute & chubby. It’s a shame that they’re having a weight crackdown in Japan. I’ve been joking, that I fear this means Super Mario’s going to have to diet! Oh-no, a-Mama-mia!

  10. 10 Ashlee Sunday, 31 January 2010 at 12:08 pm

    wow so much of this rings very true for me too, except thankfully I never had to battle my parents over my weight. They always encouraged me to do what I wanted to do no matter how big my arse was… I remember my mum vigorously telling off one of her friends who said something like “I don’t know why you pay for ballet lessons for her… she’s hardly got the ballerina figure, has she?”. My grandmother and aunts would say things about my size though, but lucky my parents had my back, and so very often it felt like they were the only people in the world who did, even counting myself in that…


  1. 1 Me and My Scales - Part 2: The Spark of Fury « Fatadelic Trackback on Friday, 7 March 2008 at 11:20 pm
  2. 2 Fatadelic Trackback on Wednesday, 31 March 2010 at 3:34 pm

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