My obsession with weight loss has tormented me for twenty-nine years now.

From the young age of six, I knew that my body looked different than my peers. I towered over them. While their faces were tiny and cute, my cheeks puffed a little more and my chin came down to a point (although I will admit, I still had an adorable six year old baby face). My body had grown out of its tiny stature into a more stocky build with thicker legs and puffier arms. At six years old, I first experienced being “different” from everyone else.

I didn’t like the feeling.

In my adolescence, I watched my single, working mother obsess over her weight. She was an advocate for Slim Fast shakes, downing those nasty, chalky-tasting abominations for at least ⅓ of her meals. On weeknights, I’d be dragged along with her as she went to workout class after workout class. You see, I take after my mother in the body department. I inherited my extra puffiness from her. And watching her try to get rid of the extra pounds on her body taught me that I wasn’t supposed to look or be bigger and should focus more on trying to get the weight off.

Before we move on, let’s be clear: my mother was and is a phenomenal parent. She raised two very different children into college graduates and did it all on her own. She did the best with what she was given. I’m grateful for her and all she has done for me. Now, let’s continue.

The obsession over my weight and being “different” from everyone else allowed for my self-esteem to begin its steep and long lasting descent. Oh, but then I entered my high school years. My body continued to evolve. I stopped growing taller but continued to grow outward. I still felt othered, different. There weren’t many people my age that looked like me.

However, now my skinnier friends were effortlessly being approached by the boys in our class; getting boyfriends, going on dates, getting kissed in the hallways. I didn’t know what that felt like but I wanted to. Badly. In my eyes, my puffier, thicker body kept me from getting the attention I wanted from boys. I craved that attention.

The difference between my earlier years and high school was that I had more freedom and autonomy to take action. And so began my binge eating phase. I’d never been taught proper nutrition at this point so I thought not eating until after school would be a sure way for me to lose weight. However, by the time I got home after not eating anything at school, my hunger consumed me. I would eat the equivalent of three meals in one sitting and then sit at the computer all day playing video games or writing stories. Of course I never lost any weight.

Toward the end of my high school career and into my college years, I began to receive the attention I thought I needed. Now came the intimacy I had been craving for so long. I thought being someone’s private lover was just the same as being in a committed relationship. Actually, to hell with commitment. I could be casual with these people. That’s what they wanted so that’s what I’d give them. At least they were paying attention to me. At least they showed me the love that I didn’t know how to show myself.

I continued this trend of casual relationships throughout college and into my after-college adult years. These bare minimum relationships caused me nothing but pain and additional blows to the already fragile structure of my self-esteem. And it all tied back to my weight.

Through learned behavior, be it from my mother’s view of her own weight or because of media, I had carried the belief that my self-worth is tied to my body and my weight. I believed that no one I wanted would want me because of my fatness and that the people that did show their interest in me deserved all of me.

No matter that these people didn’t claim me as anything other than a “friend.” The people that I dated had full control over the status of our “relationships” and they all turned out to be more casual and mostly private which was not what I truly wanted. I wanted commitment. But I’d settle for less than that for more attention and affection.

In 2019, I had a break-down. I had just broken up with the person I felt that I could actually be with (even though that person spent two years claiming that they didn’t want to be with me for whatever reason). This first time being actually alone felt foreign. It hurt to be trapped in my own thoughts, to actually face my issues with my self-esteem and my weight. I spent that year swimming through the muck of my emotions until I emerged on the other side with a bit of clarity.

I learned that I am not defined by my weight or weight loss.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still unlearning twenty-nine years of fatphobia and weight (loss) obsession. I still struggle with wanting to lose weight every day. However, this year I’ve decided to focus on my own mental health.

Accepting my body as it is at every stage is more important than getting down to a weight that I’ve never been. My body does so much for me: it walks, it breathes, it protects me from illness, it moves when I tell it to. I wasted so much time stressing over my weight that I didn’t thank my body for what it does for me every day.

Our bodies change over time. Looking back at old pictures I noticed that there were times that I looked toned and times that I looked chunky. But there was never a time where I didn’t feel self conscious about how I looked. Well now, I’m working toward building a stronger body and a stronger mind. I’ve always looked great but now I’m actually starting to feel great and that’s most important to me. I no longer allow weight loss to consume me.