Thursday, May 21, 2015

Coming Out

I'm officially coming out.

Yes, I've been in the closet for most of my life. It's a big dark closet, and there's a wide range of clothing sizes hung in it. It's the Fat Closet.

I was thinking the other day about what a huge step it is for me to be able to write about my personal experiences with being fat and having an eating disorder, to even admit I've suffered from an eating disorder. But it was an even *bigger* step to boldly call my book FAT GIRL.

What's the big deal, you ask?

Well, I've spent most of my life, since about age eight, trying to disguise, downplay and hide the fact that I'm fat. It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Because, naturally, you only have so much power over how your body is perceived by others. And there's only so much you can do to conceal your blubber. It's not like you can wear a "skinny suit."

But I was in denial.

Maybe if I just didn't draw attention to myself by eating in front of people, they wouldn't know I was fat? I literally starved myself for hundreds, maybe thousands, of meals between the ages of 12 and hell, probably as late as 2014, all because I didn't want people to think I was fat because I ate a lot.

I didn't really do the whole "baggy clothes to hide my fat" kind of thing but I did, have, and still spend way too much money in my endless pursuit of fashion that will accentuate the positive and de-emphasize the negative. Like "Maybe if I just wear the perfect outfit people won't notice that I weigh over 200 pounds?"

And finally, there were years I didn't talk about it. I didn't talk about my weight, dieting, what I ate, how much I worked out (which was often excessively) because all I wanted to do was appear normal, average, medium. When I was at the height of my eating disorder, I wasn't striving to be some size 2 model-thin waif, because I know these thick thighs and big butt will never go there. I just wanted to be normal. I just wanted to not be fat.

It's like being fat was the worst fate I could imagine.

But the older I get, the more I realize that, although my weight may still be above average or more than recommended for my height, I am normal. In fact, I have been normal this whole time, at every weight I've been. I am not, and have never been, some freak with a body to be ashamed of. At every point in that range, from 135 pounds to 275 pounds, I've been a remarkably smart, compassionate, and yes, even beautiful woman.

More important is the other thing I've discovered: the demons I've fended off for most of my life are pervasive and ubiquitous. Though my story is deeply personal, the threads of it are woven through the stories of millions of other people. There's not been one person - man or woman - I have spoken with about my book who couldn't identify with Claire's -- and by extension -- my struggles.

Knowing how heavily the book draws from my own life, several people have asked me to separate out truth from fiction. Claire's family situation and her ex-husband are rather different than mine, but her experiences with weight, dieting, bullying, and fat shaming? Yeah, all of that is me. Those painful memories? Those happened. And I'm still coming to terms with them.

The biggest difference between Claire and myself? She's a hell of a lot funnier than me.

See for yourself:

It feels good to finally be out in the light.