Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy

Column: Big or small, ego still falls

“You’re like my own blanket of chub,” he told me.

This one, single comment drove me over the edge. For years and years, I had endured similar insults from my siblings, family members, and even my friends–but their words had never cut as deep as hearing it from someone I regarded as so special. But to give him credit, it was not too far from the truth; during my freshman year, I gained 20 pounds and pushed myself to the heaviest I had ever been–156 lbs. at 5”1’, putting me in the 96% for teenage girls my height.

The insult forced previous body-shaming moments to replay through my mind: being asked if I was pregnant by a classmate when I was 7 years old; my aunt making fun of my “Buddha belly”; my uncle asking me how much I rode my bike and telling my mother, in Spanish (thinking I couldn’t understand), that I need to ride it more; my brother and sister calling me a “whale”; my godmother basically fat-shaming me in front of my entire family at a nice dinner in London (I left the room crying); not finding a cute outfit at Forever 21 for the first school dance because I did not like how I looked when I was 13; when one of the exchange students at my middle school typed the phrase “Sarah is fat and ugly” in his translator and accidentally played it out loud for the class to hear.

But after that “blanket of chub,” I committed myself to losing the weight I had been hoping to lose since sixth grade. I played two sports–school swim and club volleyball–and had a goal of around 500 calories daily, eating anything as long as it fit the calorie plan. As I started to lose the weight, my life literally seemed to get lighter–I felt better about myself, I got more double-glances on the street, a boy asked me on a date, and even my mom was nicer to me. I mysteriously gained two inches in height (making me look even thinner!), and people overall were so much kinder. Would I have lost the weight and found this ‘happiness’ on my own, or did I need the rude judgments?

I went to a nutritionist in sixth grade and learned all about how to properly fuel my body. And while that worked, it did not work fast enough for my liking. I knew my new plan went against everything I had been taught, but I did not care. I still do not consider myself thin, even though I am healthy weight-wise–is this because of my former fat-kid self?

Yes, I needed the degrading remarks to push me forward and to actually get healthy, even if it was for superficial reasons. And interestingly, those negative barbs have stuck with me in ways that I assumed would disappear after I dropped the weight that I wanted to lose. I still ask the same questions: Will the dress zip? Do I really need to eat the whole thing? How fast can I get changed or jump in the pool without people noticing my body? Why can’t I look like her?

Even without the rude comments from other people, I never realized how much negativity came from myself. The truth is, once you are big, you can never fully see yourself as small. That is my reality, no matter what my body seems to look like.

–Sarah Montgomery