In my mind I can still hear my step-father singing, a distant memory but sharp and clear, "Fatty, fatty two by four, can't get through the bedroom door!" while my cheeks blush red and tears sting at the corners of my eyes.  I want to ride on the bottom of the grocery cart.  Mommy always lets me.

"You're too big!" he says angrily, shoving the cart so that I hit my head on the underside of the basket.  I hold in the tears and climb off.  Abruptly, it seems, I am not a little girl anymore.  Nobody's pet or baby.  Just a fat...thing.  Not to be loved or held or cuddled, but to be ridiculed and teased and left out.

I was five.

My mother used to say it was baby fat.  "Leave her alone.  It's just baby fat.  She'll grow out of it."  Her words didn't matter, he teased me mercilessly.  I learned that eating was something that, though it felt good, I should be ashamed of.  Food became my shame, my friend, my foe.  My addiction.  I learned to hide it.

When I see pictures of myself at that age, I want to go back and pick up that little girl, barely rounded in the cheeks, and tell her that she is beautiful.  Not as a favor, but because she is.  Because she deserves to know that she is loved and that she should be loved.  And that, whether or not she is or will be overweight, she deserves the best that life that has to offer.

I see my step father differently now.  In his crude way, I really believe he thought he was helping me.  What he didn't realize was that he was taking an awkward phase of childhood and blowing it totally out of proportion.  That he took my self esteem and pushed and pulled and punched at it until it was so thin that the slightest touch could burst it like a bubble in the summer air.

To be clear, I don't blame him because of my weight.  That relationship was just the first knot in the string of bad experiences, poor choices and reinforcers of my negative self-image.

Thirty two years later, I still have the same twisted relationship with food.  I have a twisted relationship with my body.  I have said, jokingly, it might be easier if I were addicted to something like heroin.  I could quit it altogether and never look back.  Learning to moderate an addiction, well that is something different entirely.  When I was five, I was maybe 5 pounds overweight.  At age 37, I am 150 pounds overweight.

I can look at thin people and understand the biology of losing weight.  I know what healthy foods are.  I know what exercise is.  I even like these things.  What I don't understand is feeling full.  I don't understand a life in which food is not the constant background noise to my every waking moment.

I rarely eat out of hunger.  I eat almost purely from emotion, the equation going something like this:

I am angry = I need to eat
I am sad = I need to eat
I am happy = I deserve to eat
I feel uncertain = I need to eat

Next week, I am going to try and break the cycle.  I will go to a surgeon and he will place a band on my stomach.  He will build in the stop mechanism that I no longer have.  I will do this not because I want designer jeans or because I want to look prettier, though those will be happy side effects.  I will do it because that five year old girl deserves to live a long, happy, healthy life.  I will do it because her daughter deserves to have a mother who lives into old age.  I will do it because my knees hurt and my back hurts and my pride hurts every time I move. 

I will do it because I am worth it.


  1. Powerful. I want to hug and kiss and protect that baby girl and any other kids who hear harsh words like that. But do I really stand up and say something when I should? I don't know.
    This had to be a long hard thought process for you and I support you 100%. Of coarse, I want all of the details and want to know how we can help support you.
    (I feel like I'm saying support too much, but it's the best word i can think of...)

  2. This is making me cry...and I just want to hug you! You are strong and beautiful and wonderful! And worth it, absolutely. You should be so proud of yourself for taking this step!!

    I've had a stepfather erode my confidence with little comments day in and day out, and I KNOW how each of those comments can stay with you forever. You are so right to take a stand for that beautiful five year old baby.

  3. You are worth it. I'm proud of you for taking this step, even though it might be scary. You and your sweet girl are worth it. Stay strong, friend.

  4. You are worth it! Much luck to you! xo

  5. Oh Mel! I read this yesterday and then I was interrupted by three kids needing attention before I could comment.

    You are definitely worth it! You can do it!

  6. My youngest is slightly overweight (by medical definition anyway) and I am constantly telling people not to mention it, not to make fun or light of it, and never to make him feel bad about it. We have him on a monitoring system, meaning we watch what he eats, or how many times he eats, but other than that I try so hard to let him live regularly.
    My biggest fear is for him to develop a complex...Thank You for posting...

  7. This made me cry. My oldest son is overweight- for genetic and medical reasons- and recently came home saying a kid in school called him fat. It broke my heart. He is the funniest, most compassionate, friendliest kid and he was genuinely shocked that someone would be so mean to him. I have food issue, I have had them all my life and I so desperately want better for my kids. Thanks for your post, it really hit home for me.

  8. I admire your take charge attitude, something I seem to have lost lately, when it comes to food....
    My sweet granddaughter is short and round, she has a thyroid condition that is supposed to be controlled by medication, but still she has so much trouble keeping weight in control.
    I've mentioned this approach to her, and would love to see what your opinion is, of the whole outcome.
    Good luck with your decision, I'll be following you.\

  9. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will work out well for you. I'm sending you good thoughts.

    Be well. You deserve it. Just for being you.


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