You Said It

Out of (My) Body

I totally wanted liposuction—until I got it.

When I told my dad I was accepting my mom’s graduation present, he said it was fine by him as long as I felt absolutely certain that that was what I wanted. I was. Any trepidation I may have felt about going under the knife was quickly replaced by excitement. I watched shows like The Swan and Extreme Makeover and saw the “magic” that plastic surgery could work for unhappy people like me. The people on those shows became so sexy and desired after their operations; their past selves were unrecognizable. I thought I would be transformed that way, too. I pictured myself in a line of women, like on a reality show, and thought, If I were smaller, maybe someone would look at me and say, “I want that one.” I obsessed over a future free of “thunder thighs,” dressing-room meltdowns, and bathing suits with T-shirts over them. I was moving from Michigan to California for college the following fall, and I thought after I had lipo, no one there would have to know I was ever fat. In mere months, I would be lying on the beach in a bikini, waving at surfers as I dug my toes into the hot sand.

At my first pre-surgery consultation, the doctor told me the procedure wouldn’t change my actual weight by much; it was more about “shaping”—a push in the general direction of thinness, as opposed to an instantaneous Swan-like transformation. But as the doctor drew circles and Xes on my body with a blue marker, all I heard was that I was about to get rid of fat. Even when he warned me about the potential health risks—including death—that came with such an invasive surgery, I wasn’t afraid. I was ready to do whatever it took to make my visions of thinness and the emotional fulfillment I thought would come with it a reality.

The surgery removed fat from my thighs, arms, and stomach. But guess what? It didn’t make me happy. For one thing, I didn’t look the way I thought I would after liposuction. My arms were the same size, but with extra skin flaps, little white stretch marks, and oozing scars. My stomach had loose skin in new places, and I couldn’t see my belly button without moving folds of hanging flesh away with my hands. My thighs were smaller, but my knees now looked swollen instead of just chubby. The physical post-op pain was extreme, but it was nothing compared with how heavy my insides were with confusion and regret. After all I had hoped for, I felt worse about myself after liposuction.

I recuperated for a few months at my dad’s, who still lived in our family home after my parents split. I thought I would feel more comfortable healing in my childhood bed, but my sister’s family was staying with us as they moved houses, and so was my brother—along with, mortifyingly, his best friend, who was working for my dad. This guy was incredibly attractive, funny, and kind, which deepened my self-consciousness, especially when he saw me in my post-surgery compression garments (tan spandex shorts that hugged my thighs and stomach tightly while my wounds healed). Before my operation, I’d imagined that I would soon feel sexy and desirable; now the very thought of a guy wanting me seemed ridiculous. I stayed in my room as much as possible and cried myself to sleep. On the rare occasions when I would venture out and interact with my family, I pretended everything was fine. I was supposed to be old enough to make this choice for myself, and I tried to prove that by showing no signs of regret.

After my body had healed a bit, my mom came around to take me shopping for new clothes. I don’t remember her saying I looked beautiful or thin, but she was proud that I could fit into a smaller-size shirt. I didn’t tell her that I thought my body looked weird—that although my arms, legs, and stomach fit into reduced sizes, they didn’t seem to fit me, and that I was more embarrassed about my body than ever. I reluctantly bought a short pleated skirt from Old Navy, which I never wore once. Instead of the tank tops I had fantasized about, I wore long-sleeved shirts that covered my new stretch marks.

I moved away for college that fall. At parties, other people talked about making out and having sex, but I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to kiss me, let alone have sex with me. But I laughed along with everyone and tried to fit in, partially by drinking heavily. Since I was suddenly was free to eat whatever I wanted, I went overboard with the foods that had once been off-limits. Inevitably, I gained weight. As I watched the number on the scale go up, that old childhood fear came back: What if I keep getting bigger? I told myself that if I ever reached a certain specific weight, I would kill myself. I can’t stand living in this body, I thought, and if it gets any worse, I won’t. I never reached that number, so I don’t know if I would have acted on this urge, but it felt very real to me at the time.

My college major was acting—which is kind of ironic, given how looks-focused that field is. During my second year, I got a note from a professor following a practice audition. It said I looked like I was not “in” my body. Of course, I interpreted this as a criticism of my weight. Stung, I talked to another instructor, one I trusted, about it. To him, the note seemed like it was about the way I was carrying my body, not its size. I probably looked insecure during my audition, he said. Being comfortable in my body didn’t mean losing weight, according to him—it meant not apologizing for my physical presence. You guys, I was legitimately baffled by this. How could I be comfortable in—even, as he suggested, proud of—an overweight body? What would it look like to be OK with my body the way it was? What did it mean to be “in” one’s body?

He urged me to stop being so mean to my body and instead to try to care for it and, by extension, myself. This was seriously a revolutionary notion to me, and I was a little bit scared to think about it, but also excited to take it on. That’s when I decided to make peace with my body. The first step was to catch myself whenever I started an internal stream of negative commentary about my shape, my weight, my personality, my value. The second was to let go of long-held resentments, the most pressing being the ones I had about my mom.

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52 Comments

  • Flossy Mae March 25th, 2014 4:40 PM

    I love this article.

    Recently I’ve been feeling really secure about my face, and I’ve been telling myself that so long as my nose and mouth are ‘fixed’ I don’t care about anything else, whether I’m overweight, whether my hair looks awful, whether I’m covered in spots…and I know this isn’t helping. I think I’m slowly getting better, but basically my point is that I think everyone is insecure about certain parts of their body. I think that even if you did ‘fix’ a part of your body, you’d find another thing to dislike.

    It’s a hard thing, but I think the only solution to feeling unattractive is learning to love yourself.

    * Ps this article has come at a mind-readingly crazy time. Just before I came to Rookie this eve I was looking up plastic surgery options for my disgusting lips. But you’ve talked me out of it :* xxxxx

    • Katie McMahon March 25th, 2014 4:56 PM

      thank you so much for reading it and sharing your honesty! learning to love yourself is HARD and it’s a lifelong process.

      it is very true that everyone has their own insecurities, but they don’t have to rule your life. just sharing your feelings and being understood by another human being helps tremendously. :)

    • strawberryhair March 25th, 2014 5:12 PM

      Hi, Flossy Mae :) Since I was really young (like maybe seven), I’ve had problems with body image. They’ve been getting a lot better recently, and one of the most helpful things I’ve done has been to make a list of all of my perceived imperfections and find someone really beautiful who has those same “flaws”. For instance, I used to have a gap between my very prominent front teeth, which I hated until I saw a picture of Georgia May Jagger, who has gorgeous gappy teeth.
      Maybe it’s something that could help you with your feelings about your mouth and nose?
      I’m really glad you feel like you’re getting better, and I hope you continue to.
      Lots of love x

      • Flossy Mae March 26th, 2014 1:40 PM

        that’s a really good idea! Thank you so much x

      • Flossy Mae April 16th, 2014 1:11 PM

        Hi,

        I just wanted to say, thanks so much for that suggestion. After I saw your comment I started scrolling through pictures of my celebrity girl crushes, trying to look for some that had my traits and rocked them, but to no avail. Sure, I found plenty of people with big/crooked noses, but for a while since I’ve still been uncomfortable about my mouth (basically, my bottom lip sticks out more than my top lip).

        The other day someone told me I looked like Freya Mavor and I didn’t know who she was, so I looked her up – to discover she had exactly the same bottom lip thing going on (and she’s sooo beautiful)! She’s the first person in the whole world I’ve discovered who has this same trait as me, and I’m so pleased you suggested it. I feel so comfortable with my appearance.

        If anyone else knows of any super hot girlies with massive bottom lips, please let me knoww! And thank you, strawberryhair xxxx

  • Badlands March 25th, 2014 5:04 PM

    Super good read, I’m really sorry you had to go through all of this. I’ve worked in women’s clothing stores before and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen mothers shopping with/for their daughters and the negative stuff some moms say to their daughters. A person could be trying something on and feel really great about themselves and the clothing but the second they show their mother, BOOM- “You look fat” or “Maybe with Spanx.” I think they think they are being helpful but it is usually just straight up hurtful.

  • puffling March 25th, 2014 5:07 PM

    Why do our mothers do this to us? I have stories like this of my own, and I’ve heard them from so many other women.

    • Emmie March 25th, 2014 6:43 PM

      Because society trains us to loathe ourselves and unfortunately, it’s difficult to overcome, even for daughters. it’s almost innate to feel this way, and the self-awareness and control it takes to never show insecurities/body hatred is an overwhelmingly difficult task. However, I do feel so lucky my mom (and dad!) did an amazing job. And didn’t poison us with TV.

    • Katie McMahon March 25th, 2014 6:52 PM

      I can’t really explain why, but I do know that I will do anything to deal with all my own shit so that I don’t project it onto any future daughters (or sons) that I might have.

      I know it wasn’t done on purpose or to be mean and hurtful, but it still isn’t okay. Fortunately, I get to retrain my brain as an adult and share my story with others, so they too can take a step to ask for help or share their own thoughts and feelings.

  • blueolivia March 25th, 2014 5:11 PM

    this is a beautiful piece, katie. thank you for sharing your story! ♥

  • hemngway March 25th, 2014 6:01 PM

    Great articke thanks for sharing!

  • oldelectricity March 25th, 2014 6:39 PM

    oh my gosh, katie, seriously, thank you. this is a beautiful piece, and it’s bringing so much light into the world. what you went thru as a kid was so shitty — and i recognized, at so many moments, long-suppressed shards of the family comments and pressure and perception i’d heard myself, as a chubby-to-pretty-overweight kid (my extremely obese and not-very-kind great grandmother pulling 8-year-old me aside at family gatherings and telling me “you’re like me. we can’t just eat what we want …”) these things sting and they STAY; and your witness to your own living with these things as a beautiful badass is so inspiring to hear <3

    honestly, i'm way past 8 now, and i still struggle with my weight, and, more than that, with body image: am i skinny enough? am i beautiful? can i believe what *anybody* says? i'm lucky, because i'm in a wonderful and supportive partnership, and my partner thinks i'm lovely just how i am; but because of a long life-time of getting bullied about weight, it's still hard for me to believe that sometimes — or to know what i want to believe.

    it's hard, too, because there's body-image, and there's size, and then there's health. i feel, in my ow body, that when my stomach bloats up like it so often does, that i need to majorly rehaul how i am eating and treating myself. i have a whole ton of food sensitivities, and eating lots of raw foods and eating vegan help me feel healthy and whole and in balance. on raw kicks like these, my partner often expresses his concern: don't i know that i don't need to change anything? and, on the one hand, i do:

    • oldelectricity March 25th, 2014 6:58 PM

      (cont.) i’ve lived enough and been blessed with good friends and counsel enough to know that my body is fine, beautiful — loveable, even. SISTER, DON’T CHANGE A THING, and on and on and on with hearts and moons, &c., amen. still, though, i always find myself bristling whenever i hear anyone commenting on my eating regimines — a huge part of my feminism and my being-in-my-body and my life’s work to nurture myself even, especially, in the ways i wasn’t nurtured, means to take care of myself, help myself feel good, pay attention to what makes me feel gross or luminous.

      at the same time, part of that bristling comes from being scared: scared that that i don’t know. that part of me still *does* want to change my body, and believes that it’s ugly and not-good has correlated that all up with feeling good and health.

      ah:it’s a process. for those of us who grew up in bodies about which folks felt like sayin’ stuff — and i think that’s most of us — there are always going to be wounds to navigate, demons to face, moments of confusion: whose voice is this? great-grandma velma’s, or mine? and that’s shitty. but it’s also true and therefore fine and real and beautiful. and thank goodness for you lovely ladies of rookie for making a space where here these real things and we real girls with wounds and bodies and hopes and all, can share and celebrate and bear witness to it.

      the world changes slowly, babes, but, here, look: it’s happening <3 thank you, katie, for being so brave, and TELLIN' IT. i hope you know the healing and power you've just made possible for others <3

      • kelsey March 25th, 2014 7:39 PM

        Amen about the thanks to Rookie for being a safe space where we can be confused and have real problems with true complexity.

        I totally know where you’re at – years of telling myself I was ugly and fat and no one would love me never motivated me to loose weight. Now that I focus on being healthy (I’m vegan too), it’s a lot better, and i’m so much more confident – but I still am not looking forward to buying a new bathing suit. I still hate going bra shopping.
        I think no one on the planet is ever going to have perfect body image – even the most fit person on earth.

        Thanks again, Rookie. You’re the only magazine that seems to get that acquiring healthy body image isn’t easy or quick, and that it may be a struggle we face our whole lives.
        I’d much rather hear that people are going through the same things I am than reading about, “ten killer moves to get sexy for sumer!” and trying desperately to measure up.

        • Katie McMahon March 25th, 2014 7:53 PM

          This past year, I realized that it IS a struggle I will have to go through probably forever, but it doesn’t have to be horrible and traumatic if I don’t want it to be.

          Growth around this or any issue is HARD WORK, but it’s really cool to look back and see that growth, whether it be something small or something huge. I’m still in the process of trying to be nice to my body by exercising and eating healthy, but also not beating myself up if I eat a cupcake or a cookie–a cookie that might taste really effing AMAZING!

          Today, I want to be SANE and HAPPY, and for me, this doesn’t mean a certain size or a certain weight anymore. It’s not easy and somedays I’d rather revert to that unhealthy way of thinking because I’m more used to it, but I’m still learning too tell those mean voices to shut the eff up!

          I’m seriously overjoyed about the responses I’ve been getting to this. You guys are all so strong and amazing. I’m glad that Rookie wanted to publish this piece because I couldn’t think of a better platform to share it on.

          XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO!

  • mansi101 March 25th, 2014 7:07 PM

    Thank you so much for the inspiration I have always been so insecure and got bullied a lot but im learning to accept myself thank you so much once again and keep inspiring

    • Katie McMahon March 25th, 2014 8:20 PM

      you inspire me right back, thank you! you are strong for wanting to learn to accept yourself. it is hard, but definitely worth the work. :) xoxo

  • TrishaBrs March 25th, 2014 7:17 PM

    i just read this and i feel ok, because i have weight problems and is difficult to loss weight for me bc i have big hips :’( hahahaha, but this make me feel alright and i want to start do more excersice for feel better and loose some pounds.
    I love rookie for articles like this! rookie is different and that’s why i like this mag :)

  • delaxyannie March 25th, 2014 7:29 PM

    I loved this piece so much and it makes me happy to hear that you’ve grown secure in who you are. I pray I can grow into someone as secure as you are. I have much love and respect for you for sharing this. <3

    • Katie McMahon March 25th, 2014 8:22 PM

      it is sometimes a struggle, but every day is worth it. you will continue to grow and learn and see how amazing you are! xoxo

  • kelsey March 25th, 2014 7:30 PM

    Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this. The feels! I can hardly believe this one post could help me so much with my own body image journey, but I can already tell it’s going to. Accepting that there are going to be bad days… ahhh, I need to do that.

    Also, this is so shallow, but I LOVE your haircut. Totally adorable.

  • Abby March 25th, 2014 11:06 PM

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. It’s taken me so long to get where I am in loving my body, and I’m still really working hard to banish the thoughts that say, “maybe if you lose weight more guys will talk to you and want to go out with you.” It’s an every day struggle.

    This is lovely, you are so strong.

    • Katie McMahon March 27th, 2014 1:19 AM

      it’s an every day struggle, but it’s worth it!

      thank you so much for your comment. if someone doesn’t want to go out with you, then they are just not the person for you. you are strong and your growth is remarkable. xoxo

  • fluorescentyesterday March 25th, 2014 11:23 PM

    Thank you so, so much for this. Growing up, I’ve always been chubby. My parents always made it a point to make me feel miserable about my appearance. One minute my mom would be like ‘you’re beautiful’ then ‘you really need to lose weight’ the next. I’m trying to be more confident but every time I look in the mirror I get this sick feeling inside.

    The point is, thank you for this. It really helps a lot on my journey of self love. x

    • Katie McMahon March 27th, 2014 1:22 AM

      thank you so much! it is difficult, but the most amazing and awesome thing is that you are on a journey and you will look back later and see how much you’ve grown.

      I’m sorry about the mixed messages you receive from your mom. you are worthy and lovable and rad and beautiful.

  • thatsbreathtaking March 25th, 2014 11:30 PM

    Wow this was so powerful, a great testament to the damage of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ bodies. I hope we all learn to treat our daughters(and peers!) with love and acceptance!

  • Maki Unicorn March 26th, 2014 2:00 AM

    The story has two sides and that’s what makes it more interesting to read/analyze.

    On the one hand, telling the one you love about his/her flaws in order to make them fixed is good. For example, if I was too lazy to wash my hair on a regular basis, and my boyfriend told me that I would look more attractive with my hair clean and shiny, I would probably thank him for pointing out the imperfection that I can fix and simply become prettier. It’s ok to try to help people we care about to become better.

    BUT!

    On the other hand, it can be this kind of situation when defective people (from the society’s point of view) live their lives happily not knowing that they’re “defective” until somebody comes and starts to instill that there’s something wrong with them. This, of course, is not ok. And sometimes it’s really hard to distinguish these two.

  • Zoe March 26th, 2014 2:41 AM

    I’m so worried that my sweet nine year old cousin will experience the awful body shaming described in this article. Her body shape could be considered fat, which i don’t think is a bad thing at all, because she eats quite healthily and everything, but my (extended and immediate) family constantly makes comments about it when she’s not around. I wish they’d stop, because I’m so worried that she’s going to start paying attention to what they say, and start feeling ashamed of her body. Any tips to get them to listen to me and stop making comments?

    • Katie McMahon March 27th, 2014 1:25 AM

      maybe you can share this piece with them. or if there are any articles or essays out there on body image that you really like, maybe you can pass it along to them. I’m sorry you are having a hard time getting them to listen :(

      I feel like the way I ate was always fine until I heard negative comments about my body; that’s when it started to get unhealthy and obsessive.

      good luck with your family. you are a great cousin. even if they don’t listen to you, at least your cousin will have you to look up to and confide in.

      • Zoe March 28th, 2014 2:52 AM

        They’re good ideas, thank you very much

  • Isobelley March 26th, 2014 4:17 AM

    Thankyou! I remember when I was in 9th or 10th grade, I was always considering taking a knife from the kitchen and cutting off the fat on my thighs. I had always been friends with short, sporty girls at school, and as I was tall and unathletic I always imagined that I looked like Shrek compared to the normal townspeople. I thought that if only I was smaller I’d be acceptable. I was surprised to read here that you don’t instandly look like they do on the Swan show.

    • Katie McMahon March 27th, 2014 1:27 AM

      I was surprised too, even though they told me to my face!

      thank you for your comment. you are amazing; leave the knives in the kitchen!

  • Berries March 26th, 2014 6:59 AM

    Wow, woman. That is quite a story. I would love to give you a huge hug!

    Personally, I have been bullied that I was fat when I was 12. I had been in a wheelchair due to a traffic accident, so yes I gained a lot of weight. But I was a kid, so I was not aware of this at all (lucky, lucky me). And… the bullying only started when I lost all that fat. I have seen pictures of myself – I was tall, and slim. This was very confusing for me.
    It backfired when I was 16 and my size became a size 8 instead of 6 – I was convinced that I was fat (crazy, crazy!). My mother started dieting and I did the same. Well, the conclusion was – I was hungry for 1,5 years and in the end I fainted in class because during the day, I ate only bread and apples. When I was 18, I decided I was fed up with it and decided never to treat myself like that again.

    I do know that I am generally very lucky with my attitude towards my body. Because I had been in a wheelchair, I value my body partly for what it can do. On the other hand, I do compare myself to thinner and/or prettier girls most of the time when I walk down the street and often that does make me a bit sad. But – when I look in the mirror I think I look good. I really do.
    What also helped me in loving my body better, is to be fysical, because it helped me embracing my body. Since 6 months, I started exercising and experiencing that kind of adrenaline again. I also realized I REALLY love cooking, and to be honest I’m pretty good at it. So I can say that – enjoy your body, it is wonderful.

    And yes, you do have a great smile <3

    • Katie McMahon March 27th, 2014 1:31 AM

      wow, thank you for sharing. I remember almost fainting in class and having huge headaches all the time.

      when I’m really down, I try to remember the functional things my body does for me. one time, I was crying about really bad knee pain I was having for awhile, and I turned on the radio and there was a guy talking about how his legs had been blown off in combat! And then he got prosthetic legs and learned to play soccer again! WTF?

      It’s hard not to compare ourselves, especially when these unrealistic images are EVERYWHERE.

      Once I started exercising just to feel GOOD and energetic, I totally started feeling more confident too.

      thank you again, you are awesome and inspirational!

  • eva-stark March 26th, 2014 2:40 PM

    It always amazes me to see how many people deal with body image issues. Ever since I was a kid, my family and everyone else, even strangers, praised me for being so skinny. It was all fine until I actually started gaining weight. And I felt like no one would like me anymore. I thought that skinny was the only good thing I could be.

    Everyday’s still a struggle. I try to overcome these negative thoughts but something always brings me back down.

    And sometimes I hear about other people’s struggles, like your story, and how far they come…It really does give me hope. Thank you so much for sharing this Katie. Love <3

    • Katie McMahon March 27th, 2014 1:33 AM

      I promise you, if you keep trudging along, it will get better! it takes a long time to retrain your brain and tell yourself positive thoughts–even when it feels uncomfortable.

      you give me hope too, it’s not easy to do this stuff alone. I really appreciate your response.

  • izzywayout March 26th, 2014 9:54 PM

    I started getting conscious about my body and how I wasn’t really skinny when I was six. Some boys were lifting the girls’ shirts up and saying if they were fat or not. I started sucking in my belly that day, and I have for everyday since that. And I’m seventeen now.

    • Katie McMahon March 27th, 2014 1:37 AM

      WTF? those boys sound awful. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

      just know that you are not alone. people can be awful sometimes, but there are also a lot of people out there that can help you learn to love yourself. you are totally worth it and I hope you realize it!

  • Violet March 27th, 2014 9:37 AM

    Katie that was such a beautiful article, thank you !!!!
    It makes me realize even more that protecting the mental health of children and their capacity to accept their body image is so so important, yet so many adults will just stampede on all that because they need an outlet for their own insecurities.

    Also it seems that the world is crying for MORE visibility in fashion and everywhere, or people of all shapes. It’s INSANE that there is roughly one way to be (ie skinny). Shopping should never have to be a bad experience.
    Actually when something doesn’t fit we should all say that it is the DESIGNER’s fault.
    Seriously. Good designers should make everybody and EVERY BODY look great.

  • greeneyedgal March 27th, 2014 6:33 PM

    Please visit an accident rehab center and see how patients there are dealing with real body issues: none existing body parts, not (well-)functioning body parts.
    It is not important what your body looks like, but how it functions.
    My mother – truth to be told, one of the most beautiful people most have ever seen outside the movie industry – gave me a calorie table when I was 11, telling me I would get cellulite, not knowing what that is at the time.
    I had an accident nearly five years ago, which left a pretty bad and long scar on my leg, when some muscles had to be removed, which prevented my leg from getting amputate. While I work daily to get the strenght back in my leg, my mother is concerned about the scar !
    It is all just an image, a look in the mirror. Be glad you are healthy and your body can perform its work.
    I understand what you are going through, but please get to know some people from an accident rehab center and then write another article what you have learnt for yourself and what having a functional body means. This is something that is not talked about publicly, but you meet pretty amazing people there. Good luck!

    • Katie McMahon April 2nd, 2014 6:20 PM

      I think that is so important to focus on… the fact that my body functions and does all these things for me that I take for granted. Thank you for sharing.

  • Katie McMahon March 27th, 2014 8:37 PM

    Thank you Violet. You are awesome and I totally agree! There definitely needs to be more body positivity in the world and I’m glad to be a part of the fight.

  • Mazarine March 30th, 2014 10:31 PM

    I cannot tell you how much I like you after reading this article. I’m older than you, but I wish I were as smart. The thing I’m most inspired by, and will take away with me TODAY, and start doing TODAY, is your way of talking to yourself about your body. I am always so angry with myself, and always telling myself I’m failing, I’m not disciplined enough, asking myself what on earth is wrong with me?? But reading your words about finding ways to be kind to yourself, to care for yourself, has really touched me. I really do wish you the best, Katie. Thanks for sharing.

    • Katie McMahon April 2nd, 2014 6:19 PM

      Thank you so much. You are smart and strong!

      It takes a long time to create healthy and loving thoughts about yourself. It is really easy to beat yourself up for not being perfect today, but progress is more important. I will never attain perfection in any form, but I can grow a little day by day!

  • Sherrybaby March 31st, 2014 2:41 AM

    Great read, I know exactly how you feel. I was 13 when my mum took me to gloria marshall. It was then I realised how unacceptable I was. That was 20 years ago and back then in Australia there were no plus size shops for teenagers so finding clothes was a humiliating experience. My mum never really took the time to help me she always worked she was much happier having someone else deal with it. My dad was just as critical, if I ever have a child I will never be as critical I would teach my child to be healthy not thin. At least I learned that from them I dont know parents think its ok to tell their child they are fat, if your parents wont accept you how can you accept you.
    Im a lot older now im still overweight but this year I joined a gym and I really enjoy going, I take it a day at a time. I want to be fit not skinny. You cannot control your weight but you can control how much exercise you do and what you eat. I once considered those stomach surgeries that halve your tummy but I thought how will that help the emotional part. All I want is happiness and health we are have things about ourselves we dont like but I refuse to only focus on that there is so much more to life!

    • Katie McMahon April 2nd, 2014 6:17 PM

      Thank you! I think it is so important to take it one day at a time, just like you said. Otherwise it gets too overwhelming. But today? I can do today!

  • Lozzie April 1st, 2014 5:04 PM

    Hi Katie, I loved your piece and had to hold back tears whilst reading it; I had a similar experience growing up, however the negativity towards my appearance came from my father (as opposed to your mum, my mother was an angel, always trying to shield me from the hurtful things people would do and say to me- but as I got older, her protection just made me feel pathetic).
    My father, on the other hand was abusive, cruel and actually enjoyed belittling me (particularly in front of his side of the family- I guess he was ashamed of me). By the time I turned 12, I weighed over 120kg- the doctors scales couldn’t weigh me and I had to go to the Animal Clinic across the road. I still remember that walk with my mum and GP over to the Vet. It was the most embarrassing thing for a 12 year old girl to go through. I felt so ashamed – so worthless….
    By this stage, thoughts of suicide were a regular daydream (I never realised until recently, suicidal thoughts when you are 6 years old are NOT normal!)… and they engulfed me. So I just stopped eating….I ate one apple every 3 days for over 18 months….by the time I turned 15, I was too thin and I began to get very ill. My body hurt, BUT the abuse let up for a while and were much nicer to me now and actually talked to me. Further cementing the worthlessness I felt as a person; If I wasn’t attractive on the outside, why bother.
    I realise what horrible values this instilled- but even now, at 30, and after numerous therapy sessions, I can’t seem to shake them. As you might imagine, my upbringing has also resulted in a disgustingly skewed view of men and how I approach relationships- all kinds of stuffed up!
    Your piece was honest to a degree I haven’t seen before, it made me feel a little less alone and I thank you.
    Was there anything else you found helped you to feel better about yourself?

    • Katie McMahon April 2nd, 2014 6:14 PM

      Lozzie, I don’t know what’s right for you, but I know there are a billion things that I do, and I still feel crappy sometimes. I go to therapy, I have a program that I go to, not specifically for eating, but with a lot of really supportive women. I am also reading a book called “Intuitive Eating” that’s been helping me look at food and exercise in a different light.

      The most important thing for me is accepting where I am. You were abused and your brain was trained to think a certain way for a huge portion of your life, so it will take a long time to retrain your brain to be kind.

      About a year ago, I created a jar and filled it with strips of paper. On each piece, I wrote a behavior I didn’t want to have anymore. One of those was, “volunteering for unrealistic relationships and pain” which is something I did A LOT with men and women. On the other side, I wrote something to the degree of respecting myself and self-love. So each time I take out a strip, I decide to practice the opposite behavior for that full day (or sometimes that full minute… I can’t always remember throughout the day). So, self-loating = self-love, judgment = tolerance, etc.

      I think what HELPS me the most is just talking to other women who share a similar story (maybe not the same events, but the same feelings). This shit is difficult, but sharing it is what has helped me the most. You are strong and brave and thank you for sharing your experience with me!

      • Lozzie April 2nd, 2014 7:06 PM

        Thank you Katie, I think I even felt about 30% better just writing to you! I have never talked about my experiences before… but yours seemed so similar I couldn’t help it!
        So, thank you, thank you….
        And I LOVE your idea with writing behaviours down and making a conscious effort to recognise and attempt to do the opposite.
        If anything, I think I have realised how much getting it out on paper (or on screen) helps :-)

        I am so looking forward to reading more from you; You really make sense in a practical and relatable, non-airy-fairy way.

        Thank you :-)

  • kbea_love April 5th, 2014 7:05 AM

    Thanks for writing this article Kate. This motivated me to lose weight for me, not because of other people. I wrote an entry on my blog based on my weight experience too. I hope you read it :)

    http://goo.gl/NDs26c

  • midnightcall April 12th, 2014 9:42 PM

    “The way my body was affected by it tells a story of emotional pain and damage, but that story ends in survival and perpetual growth.” Aw ok I’m gonna go cry cause I’m both so happy for you and I’ve never thought of things like that before, so insightful :)