But, if I’m honest with myself, I’ve felt fat since 3rd grade.
I had a chubby little tummy by the time I was 8, which is when I started to revere thinness. I bragged to my parents about my meager accomplishments on our now-dusty treadmill; I squealed with glee in the dressing room of Abercombie & Fitch when, once during junior high, I fit into a size 8 pair of green cargo pants; and I hugged my high school boyfriend when, after a day of “feeling fat”, he put one hand on my back and one of my stomach to physically show me that I wasn’t. As a dutiful, nice American girl, I grew up fearing the power of the F word: you could call me stupid, you could call me a bitch, but whatever you do, please don’t ever call me fat.
Nothing has changed. I’m a 28 year old woman, but I’m still a nice American girl, and if someone called me fat tomorrow, I might curl up in my bed and cry.
The mirror has always been my biggest critic. In high school, I didn’t think I was thin (I weighed 145 pounds); Freshman year of college I didn’t think I was thin (I weighed 170 pounds); After two semesters in Europe, I didn’t think I was thin (I weighed 150 pounds); A year and a half ago in Indiana, I didn’t think I was thin (I weighed 180 pounds); today, I don’t think I’m thin (I weigh 161 pounds).
These days, I could not imagine feeling thin enough until I weigh less than 150 pounds, or at least until I could comfortably zip up the pair of pants I bought in London. But then I must remind myself that I did once make those benchmarks, and I still felt fat.
One day, upon pondering this absurdity, I decided to focus on the deluge of Skinny that usually blends into the white noise of everyday life. For a few hours, I counted the number of Skinnygirl and Special K commericals on Bravo; I studied the Hydroxycut ads in Ok! Magazine; I tuned into the bikini body and baby weight articles online; and I listened to Jennifer Hudson sing to me about "Feeling Good" on Weight Watchers. I even watched the oft-shared Dove Real Beauty Sketches commercial only to hear: “She was thin so you could see her cheekbones. And her chin, it was a nice thin chin.” And “She looks closed off and fatter; sadder, too.”
Then, like slamming a book shut, I tuned it out. In the silence, I laughed a little at the ubiquity of the Thin = Better messages I’d just paid attention to. They were everywhere, obscene in their commonplaceness.
I finally realized that it’s not that I’ve never felt thin; it’s that I’ve never felt fully satisfied with myself. Ever since I became aware of an outside gaze, my body has been a work in progress. In other words, all the Biggest Losers and the Hydroxycuts and the Atkins diets - all of these images have been working in tandem to form a singular, powerful subliminal message that I, and everyone I know has always embraced:
That I am incomplete until I am thinner.