Fatty Number Two

Words: Alysha Herrmann

 

My body did nothing to you.

 

Does anyone else remember being weighed in PE class at school? Do they still do that?

 

I’m not sure, but I think this is where one of my high school nicknames began.

 

Fatty Number Two.

 

I still don’t know who Fatty Number One was.

Although I don’t remember what I weighed and therefore can’t tell you my BMI or any surface indicator like that – I can tell you that I walked to school every day and I was the second fastest in my class in the 100 and 200 metre sprints. And looking back on photos from that period – I wasn’t fat at all** – I was healthy and beautiful.

 

Alysha, aged 12 attending a school formal.

Alysha, aged 12 attending a school formal.

(**And even if I had been, clearly Fatty Number Two was not an appropriate nickname for anyone to be gifted with!!)

Yet I believed I was fat, because I’d been labelled fat and therefore fat I was. My relationship with food quickly became an unhealthy dance between eating nothing and shovelling in a chocolate bar where no one could see me. My body was a source of shame, something to be covered, hidden and punished.

As I entered the official ‘teen’ years, I hit puberty early and was one of the first girls in my class to have breasts. And even once the other girls joined me, I remained one of the bustier in my age group throughout high school. Cue bra strap pulling and another new nickname ‘socks’. I had a boy in Year 9 date me for a week just because he wanted to confirm that my breasts were real and not a bra full of socks/tissues.

Sigh.

My body just refused to conform. Refused to let me disappear into the background, however much I wanted it to. I spent less time eating and more time pretending to eat. The secret chocolate bars disappeared. Yet rather than becoming smaller, my body betrayed me and I actually started to gain weight.

I felt trapped. Trapped and fat and ugly. Undesirable. Undesirable in a world which told me being desirable was the road to love. My body had become a battleground, though I don’t remember ever signing up for the war.

 

Your name, here.

Ready to stand

Arms raised

Songs spilled

Border to border

With shaking hands.

 

We march, together

Apart, separate

From the skin we live within

The smile lines that coat hands

Faces, familiar spaces.

 

We sing,

Histories into scars

Bodies into boxes

Heroes into holes.

 

We speak,

With lips that shake

Eyes that remake

These models,

To measure by.

 

I intend to write about the turning point in my war with my body next month – but I wanted to ask you all, what has been the turning point for you or someone you know? And if you haven’t found the turning point yet, what do you think would help?

 

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4 thoughts on “Fatty Number Two

  1. Nikki says:

    I remember being weighed in year 2. Everyone sat in a circle in the class room, the scales were in the middle of the circle and one by one everyone had to go to the scales and the teacher would tell everyone how much you weighed.
    I was the second highest too. Only a couple of kilos above most, and well below the person who was highest. Regardless, at age 8 I felt degraded and humiliated about something I had never thought about before. My weight.
    I didn’t realise at the time that I was actually incredibly healthy – playing soccer, tennis, athletics, gymnastics and ballet all at once! I excelled at sport from such a young age. My body thrived and I was very strong, which is probably why I weighed a bit more than the others.
    However it is a memory that has haunted me for a very long time. I’ve had constant body issues from age 8 onwards. My body image has been skewed. There have been some turning points yet, but nothing significant that has changed my view on my body.

  2. Kimberlee says:

    My turning point was when my then 7 year old daughter asked me if she was skinny! Hearing a rather diminutive barely 7 year old say ‘I want to be skinny’ made me feel sick. And as her primary role model it’s my job to set her up with as healthy body image as I possibly can. From that day I have not critisised my body (or anyone else’s) in front of her. I don’t feel the need to hide from her comments about my ‘wobbly tummy’ or ‘big bottom’ instead I say things like ‘that’s where you grew safely’ or ‘aren’t we lucky I have so much food to eat?’ or ‘I’m a healthy woman, skinny isn’t important to me’
    And my internal dialogue still drifts from a level of acceptance to a level of dispising of my own body but it is improving! I’m far more positive about living in my own skin than I have been before, ever!

    • Kimberlee says:

      Seperate to this I remember in yr 10 PE no only having to weigh ourselves but having the male teacher do skin calipers measurements to work out what percentage of us was fat.
      Looking back I wasn’t nearly as big as I thought I was but PE was mandatory and in a class I didn’t choose to attend with many fit sporty people, there was no way I was getting measured!

  3. Julie Brook says:

    I was at the other end of the weight scale but it wasn’t any better there. I was a source of embarrassment to my mother as year after year PE teachers would speak to her regarding my bony body. I was never petite and my large bone structure meant my hip bones poked out and my ribs, shoulder blades and collar bones were easily seen. I would do anything and everything I could to avoid PE and therefore avoid the shame of exposing my body and causing my mother more embarrassment. I was not always successful and the open communal showers in the girls change room often ended with me being escorted to the school counsellor where I was grilled about the food situation at home. There was no lack of food at home. There was an abundance of cheap but filling meals and a forced membership into the clean plate club. I was an extremely active child and this continued into my early teens. I lived a mile from school and walked to and from school every day. In winter I walked this mile every weekend also to go roller skating at the rink for hours. Over summer I would walk to the pool next to the skating rink every day no matter how hot it was. It was only around teachers I felt the need to hide my bones because clearly they saw something wrong with me. This changed the year I turned 13. While lying on a towel in the sun at the pool with my friends, a group of boys positioned themselves beyond my head and one of my friends pointed out that these boys could see into my bikini bottoms. My bony hips had made this possible by creating a tent of the fabric. I was mortified and hated my body for causing this. Everything changed from this point. I begged my mother to buy a one piece for me which ended with me being informed that I was an ungrateful child and we weren’t made of money, so no. I tried keeping my tee-shirt on but in those days wearing clothing into swimming pools was actively discouraged and I was threatened with expulsion from the swimming centre if I didn’t remove it before entering the pool. I lost interest in swimming even though I hadn’t really. I mourned the loss of swimming secretly while insisting I just didn’t want to go any more. I didn’t tell my mother why. She was already ashamed of my bony body and having to talk to teachers about it. She would shake her head at me in dismay and ask “why can’t you be pretty like this sister, or smart like that one, or at the very least helpful like the other?” So I grew up thinking I was useless, stupid, and ugly and that my body was a shameful thing. I left school at 14 as mother decided I needed to help the family by getting a job and I was never going to amount to anything anyway. I left home at 15. I’ve never liked my body but during my late 20′s and early 30′s I was most comfortable with it. Meaning I didn’t think about its size one way or the other. Since 2005 I have been up and down with my weight but each time I start getting close to a healthy weight I freak out internally and gain it all back again. I would like to weigh less, not because of any belief that it is more attractive but simply because it is unhealthy for me to weigh what I do now because I can no longer be active due to my injury. I still have a very warped view of bodies clearly because when I see thin people, I want to feed them!

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