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  • Carmela Vecchione

The Fat Consciousness | Awakening

I can’t complain about my childhood. Being an only child has its perks, and even though it isn’t all flowers, I acknowledge my privilege. I was a very picky eater, I ate very little when I was a child. My parents then realized I responded well with sweets in general, and from that point on, my weight derailed. I sincerely don’t remember being bullied - I sometimes was called silly names like “whale”, which I never really cared about. 


In school I was always the fat friend. Paired with the fat boy ‘cause that seemed “proper” as we were “alike.” I remember seeing my school BFF weighing 25 kilograms while I was 42. Back then I couldn’t understand exactly what was going on. But according to my parents, the plan was clear: when I grow taller, the weight would balance out, I just shouldn’t gain anymore. Needless to say I gained more as I stretched out.


My trauma with my weight didn’t come from school. It came from home instead. When my parents were with my school friend’s parents, I would always hear “oh, she already lost a couple kilograms, she will soon be like Vanessa, skinny too!” Those words always carried a weird sense of relief. I wasn’t doing much to lose weight, but still I had it done? Wow! I was getting somewhere, I guess. 


Then the awkward moments came. Nope, this t-shirt is too tight - better loosen up because THEN nobody is going to know how my body looks like underneath. As if my face didn’t look round enough or my fingers weren’t chubby enough to giveaway the fact I was growing up as an obese child. I recall my parents calling me beautiful, praising me as the great daughter I was. I was an easy kid, shy, polite, dedicated to studies. I loved to dance, to play, sing along with the Spice Girls. But I can’t say I was ever encouraged to be confident as a fat kid. I had a good waist, potentially a great figure, but my skinny friend was happier because she had less weight on her knees. I had a beautiful, remarkable face, but skinny girls would find partners more easily, they were more prone to being successful in life because of their whole figure. The duality by which I was treated woke the fat consciousness in me and it has always haunted me, making me vulnerable and insecure. More than that, it made me doubtful. Which I honestly think it’s worse, because it made me struggle internally between embracing my body and hating it and second guessing my worthiness. 


Growing up, I was always learning about a new diet, in a never ending quest to unlock “skinny happiness.” I was always listening to my already skinny friends trying to lose 1 or 2 kilograms, and I was so far from their reality… It never seemed tangible for me to reach them. “It’s easy, just watch what you’re eating.” Well. At home, the offer for food was endless. Nobody was really being strict about creating great eating habits and if you recall, I am an only child. And yes, I was spoiled. I wanted it, I got it. And that was heavy (pun intended) on the sweets. So now we have the second duality my mind had to go through. I had to lose weight, but I was eating unhealthy food at home. Even worse, food was a reward at home, so the emotional appeal it had was impactful to how I dealt with it. 

At 11 years old, my parents decided it was a good moment to join Weight Watchers. I was very obese, like a Botero character. My mom, who also struggled with weight, joined WW with me. I somehow saw it more like a game (at times even like a competition with my mom!) rather than an actual lifetime change. I learned how to swim and first tasted the “skinny happiness”, which led to momentarily “skinny glory” moments like fitting clothes that were actually proper for my age. But it somehow never felt it was enough. The doubtful thoughts would come rushing as in “is this it?” or “does that kid like me or is he joking?” I wasn’t enough. There were always more kilograms to lose. There was no finish line. Then what was the point of pursuing happiness if I couldn’t see the end of the road? More than that, I thought I was happy being fat and eating what I liked. So why was I raised to feel so contradictory about my body and self?


Because society praises beauty standards, and people want to fit in. It is easier when you fit in rather than when you stand up. I now get why my parents would be concerned. But they could have raised me to be confident in my own skin, teaching what the standard was and pointing out our differences rather than giving me mixed signals. Leading me to lose weight because I should be healthy, made better food choices and have mobility like the other kids in school. So parents and caregivers, please beware and don’t replicate this duality I’ve experienced. Your judgment can impact how a naive mind perceives their sense of worthiness. Nothing wrong in not wanting your child to be fat, but implying they need to be skinny to achieve greatness or happiness is not only misleading, but potentially harmful. Being fat doesn’t mean anything other than having extra weight on your body. And your worth is way too valuable to be measured by your body size.

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