I Used to Be Fat

Or so I thought.

It’s a long post peeps, so grab a cup of tea and make yourselves comfortable.

Photo by Elsa Guillet

When I was a kid then teenager, I hated my body. Hated with a passion. I would hide it under piles of shapeless clothing so I would not be seen. I became more aware of it when the signs of puberty appeared, and boy did they, fast and furious style. Let’s just say I grew boobs quickly, and they couldn’t be missed.

The picture wouldn’t be complete without my then-BFFs, two tall, waif-thin girlies. I was the short chubby funny one in the middle. And I would cry at night because no one (read : “boy”) liked me. Oh the cruel world of teenagedom!

Funny thing is, I would hear nice stuff about me and my petite figure, but I wouldn’t listen. I was too entangled in my own perceptions to even start to imagine there could be something “pretty” about my looks. “Self confidence” was not in my dictionary.

Fast forward a few years. I’m 19, second year at university, dating the guy I had been lusting over for years. Years, I’m not kidding guys. And then he stops calling, writing, giving any evidence that he’s still alive for that matter. Ouch.

And my twisted mind tricks me into thinking he dumped me because I was too fat (I wasn’t, mind you). So what’s a shy, self aware, broken-hearted girl’s gotta do? She starts dieting and restricting. I lost 4 kilos in one month (sorry for being bloody French and using the metric / whatever it’s called system – must be about 8 lbs). Being 1m60 (5’3) it shows on me, you can bet on that.

And then all hell broke loose: I couldn’t take it anymore and on my mum’s birthday I stuffed my face with all the things I wouldn’t eat when I was on this effing diet. Welcome to Binge Eating World, I hope you enjoy your stay because you’re in here for a while.

I was a binge eater for about 2 years. 2 years of making myself even more miserable, 2 years of eating anything sweet I could lay my hands on. I remember one day baking a cake and not waiting until it was done to get it out of the oven and eating it straight off the pan, half cooked. Every.single.day I would buy cakes, eat cereal out of the box, empty the kitchen cupboards. And invariably it would end up with me crying, despising myself, feeling bloated, in pain and miserable.

Spending a year abroad (UK) without my parents meant a. establishing my binge eating ritual, b. not having to eat for dinner because I was so full already. Needless to say I had put on weight, but I managed to keep it in check. I also had plenty of time to undergo self-therapy. By that I mean coming to terms with the fact I had a problem and it was an eating disorder, acknowledging that food was just a symptom and not the cause, and finding the root of it all. Funniest part was that blokes still liked me and my curvy (read: “boobs”) figure.

When I got back to France I seeked help, and started dieting. Again. Only this time I was checked upon. I started losing weight very slowly, but it was only after a trip to Germany that it stopped. See for a week, I stayed at a friend’s house in Germany, hanging out with other friends,  on a holiday with no schedule. We would wake up at 12 and eat leftover pizza for breakfast. For the first time in a long long time, I didn’t think about food or what my next meal would be. Or where the nearest bakery was. The fact I had a fling with one of my German friends helped a lot too. Because that was when I really really moved on from that other guy, the one that had never told me straight to my face he wanted out. I let go of food as comfort and shelter.

Then I realized I didn’t need to binge anymore. It clicked. I learned that I could have one cookie and it didn’t mean I was a bad person. I realized I could have one cookie and stop there when I was full. I learned the difference between hunger and feeling like eating just because I was bored or stressed. I dropped the extra kilos (or pounds) effortlessly and learned to accept my healthy weight.

Over the years up to now, I have learned to nourish and fuel my body the best I could. And if that means having a square of rich dark chocolate every day, then so be it. It hasn’t been an easy road of course, but I have come a long way. I have been taking care of my body, I have embraced movement, and by doing so allowing myself to yet again put on some weight, only this time it’s muscle. Obviously going to a yoga class a few years ago for the first time was in retrospect one of the best gifts I gave myself in terms of body acceptance. I have limitations, I am not bendy, I am not tall and lean, I am strong and I still have the boobs, you know. I’m OK with that. I’m OK with myself. This is me then, right? 😉

Yes, there are days when I look at myself in the mirror and sigh because my stomach is not flat, and Holy Shiva these are big thighs and why hello panda bear oh no it’s me with the dark circles under my puffy eyes maybe I should start chewing on bamboo. But this too shall pass, and it usually does without me even thinking about it. Because I can still run, and walk to work. I can lift my body with my own two arms (I can remember the first time I rocked bakasana: “I can do THAT!??! Yeaaaah!”). I don’t give a s**t anymore, I am the way I am.

Why this post? Actually I got inspired by Anna’s yesterday post on Curvy Yoga. It is also National Eating Disorder Awareness Week in the US. Yeah I know, I’m not a US national, but eating disorders are everywhere.

I can only tell you my story. I am not a health professional. If you think you have a problem, please do seek professional help. All I can say is that it’s not a food issue, it’s a self-esteem issue. And thin or thick, tall or short, it can happen to anyone.

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21 responses to “I Used to Be Fat

  1. Beautiful share, and from one petite strong woman to another, I think you’re beautiful too! ♥♥♥

  2. Thanks for the tea break warning at the beginning. I did just that and hunkered down, but with a nice big cup of coffee. Thanks also for being so honest – very brave and beautiful of you. 🙂
    Growing up I had the exact opposite problem of you – flat as a board, and feeling like I didn’t measure up to all the girls with nicer figures. Now I love my flat chest!
    Thank god for the practice of yoga – my body has never felt better and I can eat like a horse!

    • Hey Maria, I guess we all have our struggles and growing up we’re never happy with what we have. Glad we slowly learn to appreciate it – and eat like a horse without feeling guilty, yay yoga! 😉

  3. this? what you just did/wrote?

    i would not be able to do that.

    thank you.

  4. Wow, Emmanuelle. Thank you so much for sharing this. I thought it was brave, full of heart, and very important. I love how you pointed out those times (like your vacation) where we can really just trust our body and see that it will reliably tell us when we’re hungry/full when we’re able to listen. ♥

    • Thank you Anna – like I said, we all struggle at some point with body image and the effect can be devastating. I wish we would learn to listen to ourselves. Thank you for making your voice heard 🙂

  5. So wonderful and open. I love that you know who you are and remember who you were. Powerful!

  6. Thank you for sharing your story, Emmanuelle. It’s quite amazing that you came to all these realizations on your own. Particularly the one that it’s actually not about food. I’m really appreciative that you could share this, particularly because I know there are so many people (especially women) who have or have had eating disorders, but have never been able to talk about them, because they think they’re all alone. In reality, we’re everywhere. Thank you.

    • Thank you Kylie! Yes indeed, we are everywhere, and we should be able to speak up and not feel ashamed. I always say that I think too much but in this case that’s what saved me, this and not burying my head in the sand. I felt no one could help me so I tried to find out why I had started bingeing. And then I realized that I would not be able without talking to someone. I realize I am lucky it lasted only a couple of years, too. Let’s speak up!

  7. Ditto every other sentiment in the comments thus far. Your post is powerful for its honestly and openness. Yoga also helps me to not care how I look, even though I still sigh at my appearance at other times. So let’s do more yoga!! 🙂

    • Thanks Svasti. Indeed yoga is just amazing in that aspect, it’s helped me tremendously in accepting the way I am and the way I look. Yeah, let’s do more yoga! 😀

  8. beautiful post. thank you so much for sharing.

  9. Thank you for being so open and honest about something that so many women struggle with…. Wise words indeed.
    I find that progressing with my yoga practice is hindered by my abundant curves (and sometimes the thinking “I used to be thin”)…

    • Hey Cheryl, thanks for commenting. If I may, I would say that believing your curves hinder your yoga practice is the actual thing that hinders your practice. Only when you embrace what your limitations, any limitations, are, can you truly work with them and go deeper in your practice. Only my two cents, we’ll discuss tomorrow 😉

  10. Pingback: The Power of Yes | Plans On A Comet

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