Many women believe that true happiness can be achieved if they can just lose those 10 pounds. But, for Kim Brittingham, years of dieting and self-loathing caused her to gain more weight than she had ever expected. Nevertheless, it also helped her to gain the self-love and happiness that she had always longed for in her life. Who said being thin means being happy? Kim learned to accept herself and found a new identity, no matter what the scale read.
By Kim Brittingham
I can remember hating my body as early as the fifth grade. It seemed to me all the other girls were appropriately Tinkerbell-like, with wispy limbs and tiny little torsos, sporting pastel doll clothes.
It was never in my destiny to be tiny. I was tall for my age, and genuinely big-boned. My hands could splay the whole of a keyboard with ease. I don’t remember ever being able to slip a bangle past my hand. I had womanly hips and thighs, and my mother had to buy me special jeans at Sears, for fat kids. They called them “Huskies.” I never wore juniors’ sizes in anything; I skipped right over to ladies’.
I learned to especially loathe my hips, and by the time I was 15-years old, I was fully convinced I was deformed. My hips were ridiculously disproportionate to the rest of my body. It was like living in some goofy Fruit of the Loom pear costume. I was humiliated by them.
I made a shocking discovery about my high school hips years later, when I was in my thirties. You can hear that story by watching the official trailer video for my book, Read My Hips.
Meanwhile, in my teen years, I started dieting. My mother and I joined Weight Watchers together. We practiced a diet from the back of a calorie-counter book. I joined Nutri-System. I even went to work for a national chain of weight loss centers because I thought it would get me, and keep me, finally thin.
But here’s what nobody wants you to know. Diets fail. Even when a diet is called by some other name, like a “weight loss plan.” They fail about 98 percent of the time – and that’s a substantiated fact. Not only do they fail, but most people end up putting on more weight beyond where they started their diet.
That’s what happened to me. I ballooned from a self-hating 128 pounds to 310. It took several years of loathing what I saw in the mirror and in photographs to yo-yo diet my way that far up the scale.
But here’s the ironic part. It wasn’t until I was at my highest adult weight when I finally learned to love myself and love my life.
Kind-of funny, isn’t it?
Here’s what becoming a truly fat woman did for me. It put me in the path of more daily hatred than I ever imagined possible. People shout cruel things out of their car windows at me as I crossed the street, minding my own business. They come up to me when I’m shopping and tell me I should be jogging around the mall instead of shopping in it. On the bus in New York City, they tell me I should have to pay for two seats.
Many thin people think it’s okay to declare open season on fat people, to unleash hatred on us. The assumption is that we deserve it for being so greedy; for failing to follow the rules of polite society that say you shouldn’t take up so much space. You should have to make the same sacrifices as everybody else. Who are you to eat whatever you want with abandon?
They don’t consider that I got fat trying to get thin. They don’t realize I’m a world class expert in weight loss tactics. They don’t want to know that perhaps I eat more healthfully than they do. They don’t want to think about the irony in what they say, how much their own greed is evident in the amount of debt they carry for their multiple vehicles, state-of-the-art electronics, and closets full of still-tagged clothes.
When you’re considered an embarrassment to your own society, you have two choices: you can either buy into the hatred, which is a suicide, or you can harness your personal strength, recognize your self-worth, and live a joyful life in spite of the ignorance around you.
I went with the latter.
Fat prejudice has been a gift to me in some ways. For example, I recognize ignorance, intolerance and unkindness in others more readily – the junk food of humanity. By the same token, I recognize those who are made of the best stuff more readily, too. I have also been given the gift of seeing myself beyond my outward appearance, beyond mere physicality. I have learned what makes me curious and passionate. I have learned to follow those things, and have found a rich and exciting life.
Being fat also made me question why we assign certain physical features such ugly labels. Take cellulite, for example. When you think about it, cellulite looks a lot like those beautiful patterns left behind in the sand when the tide rolls out – dimpled impressions made by tiny frothy bubbles in the surf; soft parallel ridges etched by the surf. It’s lovely and endlessly fascinating in the sand. Why do we loathe it so much when it’s on the back of our thighs?
Maybe I wouldn’t have thought about it if I’d never gotten fat. I would’ve missed an insight that has freed me from a very deep place.
I wound up fat, but I have never loved life more. I recognize beauty in myself and others, of all sizes and shapes. I dive into life without worrying about how my body looks to other people. I behave as healthfully as possible and let the pounds fall where they may.
Instead of piloting my decisions from a place of fear, I live from a core of love. Can anyone live happily and healthfully without it?