The Fat Girl


Carla never liked me.  She resented that she had to work, and the fact that she answered to a seventeen year old girl as her manager at a mall retail job exacerbated her bitterness.  

She compared me to her own kids, while making tiny jabs that picked apart the relics of my teen angst, the black nail polish, the buzz cut, the quasi-goth clothing.  "I would never let my Gabby go out of the house in that."   

Nightly, at closing time I would remind Carla to straighten her area.  "You don't have to remind me," she'd snap  But if I didn't remind her, it wouldn't get done, and I would have to stay to finish the clean up.    

One weekend, Carla was ten minutes late coming back from lunch.

"I was at the new burger place.  The line was out the door.  You have to try them!"

"I would but I'm a vegetarian," I answer.

"Oh, I thought vegetarians were thin," Carla said, eyeballing me for a moment before strolling back to her register.

I felt my cheeks redden.  How does an awkward overweight high school senior, with no date to her prom, respond to that question?

She wasn't telling me anything I didn't know.  I was aware that I "wasn't thin." I had been aware of this from my earliest memories. Because people reminded me constantly. 

The grandmothers who told me I had such a "pretty face." 

The mother who offered me my first Diet Coke (well, it was TAB back then) when I was six years old so I could "save on calories."

Sure, some kids were mean to me about my weight, but certain children view it as their job to be mean.  Remember, this is way before the days of anti-bullying or political correctness. But the adults made their comments under the premise of being helpful, of wanting what was best for me. Not to be mean. 

Not only was Carla's comment mean, it also hit upon the thing I hated about myself. This was the thing that made me hate myself.  And it was the thing I couldn't control.  On a good day or good week or good year, it was under control.  I would diet down to a normal weight, if not a below normal weight, and as added motivation to stay thin, my mom would give me money to buy a new pair of Guess jeans.  And then, on the off day or off week or off year, I would wind up gaining it all back.  I knew how to eat healthy.  I knew about calories and carbs and proteins and fats.  But knowledge avails nothing when you have an addiction.   

For decades, my weight continued to go up and then down, up, down,  up, down, but even during the "down" years, when I was wearing skinny jeans and cute tank tops. maintaining my weight was a struggle.  

By my thirties, my weight began to stabilize, and it did so without that struggle of wanting to go to the fridge and having to sit on my hands to stop myself. Noting much else had changed. I was running,  but I had run through the "fat" years too.  I was still a vegetarian. So what made the difference?

I was happy. 

I had embraced the doctrine that happiness is not dependent upon our external circumstances, and  it was through this doctrine that I became less reactive to life and more responsive.  When I made this shift, I no longer felt the need to eat to soothe my stress, my anger, my wounded ego.  I became able to stay in the moment longer, even when the moment felt uncomfortable  – without feeling the need to hide behind a bag of tortilla chips or a few extra scoops of peanut butter – at least most of the time.

It wasn't all as smooth and easy as I make it out to be in the paragraph above. This was a long process that took years, inward focus, and honest soul searching.  This was a slow and gradual life shift. 

Sure, I sometimes still have "fat days," but they have nothing to do with the number on the scale and everything to do with what is going on in my head.  Fat is a metaphor.  When I'm feeling "fat," I am not believing in myself.   I am not having faith in life.  The weight is just a symptom.  It always was.

I'm not suggesting that everyone who has a few pounds to lose suffers from compulsive overeating.  We have kids.  Our bodies change.  We juggle families and work and put ourselves last. Maybe we need more exercise.  There are many reasons why we put on a few pounds that have nothing to do with our ability to handle our emotions.   But if you're a lifelong yo-yo dieter, maybe it's time to ask yourself some  "tough questions." 

Also, if you are a lifelong dieter, please do not delude yourself into thinking you will be happy once you reach "that number" on the scale.  That's not how it works. I have seen a size zero and have been miserable there.

If you are going to get to your goal weight and stay at your goal weight, you have to learn to be happy now.  Exactly at the weight you are.  And you need to accept yourself, exactly the way you are, whatever weight or size that may be.  If you don't accept yourself  the way you are at this moment, I can assure you that you still won't accept yourself once you reach that "perfect" weight. 

Every now and then, I still come across a Carla, and although the Carlas don't accuse me of being fat anymore, they find something else to pick apart. Mean people always do. Sometimes it gets to me and sometimes it doesn't.  It depends on the day.  It depends on where my confidence is at.  Because "mean" can only hurt you when you think there is truth in it.   

Just remember, if you don't like your "truth,"  you have the option to change it any time you want.

Namaste, Divas!

©2012 Ilene Evans 

This post was inspired by the following writing prompt from

"Share something mean someone said to you once, why has it stuck with you after all these years?"

 Mama’s Losin’ It


The Fat Girl — 10 Comments

  1. This was a timely reminder of choosing to be happy. I really believe in that and try hard to make it my reality. Some days are easier than others.
    I love that you found your way out of that vicious cycle.
    Wonder if Carla is happy now?

  2. I needed to read this today….as I sit here kicking myself for the extra 10lbs the scale says I’ve added and the ice cream I may have eaten for breakfast, it’s nice to remember it’s a choice and I can step away from the munchies. Thanks for the reminder that the number on the scale really doesn’t matter all that much, it’s how we feel about ourselves…As for Carla sadly she’s probably still just as bitter and miserable as she was back then, you def came out the winner! :):)

  3. Oh, yes, some days are definitely easier than others to choose happiness – and it’s definitely a choice – day by day – moment by moment. Thank you for your kinds words. I am so lucky I found may way out. As for Carla – are mean people ever really happy? That’s rhetorical of course!

  4. No, that number on the scale doesn’t mean a thing. Though as women – even the most well adjusted women I know – use it to club themselves over the head. Yes, sadly, Carla is probably the same she was back then. I agree, I am the luckier one among the two of us!

  5. What a beautifully written blog this is… When I first read the title, I was thinking to myself, who is Ilene talking about? Who is the little girl? Is that Ilene? And I am thinking that little girl looks perfect in my book. When I think back to our growing up days, I never, ever, ever thought of you as “fat”… never. I went roller and ice skating with you, the beach, soccer games, to me, you were perfect- a beautiful, normal, healthy generous, and extremely brilliant girl- the word fat never came up in my mind. So for me, this is an eye opener- Isn’t it interesting how others view us? Not always as we think about ourselves.
    You bring to light what most of us experience- the great war between food and happiness and every day being a battle. You are so right about weight being a symptom.
    I’m sorry that Carla was so mean to you.. she was jealous of you- and she was downright cruel. I’m glad you were able to take that terrible experience and turn it into something positive and that you were able to reflect on that experience and grow from it. It’s those awful defining moments when we find out “who we are” and “who they are.”
    I still see you the same way as I did when we were ten- and I thought you were amazing. And now I see you as the amazing Diva you are… a gifted writer, wonderful mother, Dedicated Yoga Teacher, and cherished friend-( who happens to look incredible with a gymnast’s body and Tina Turner arms)- still being amazing.
    So many “Carlas” to deal with in this world. So blessed to have an “Ilene” in my life. You rock!

  6. You are right about those defining moments. The awful ones feel awful at the time – but we do indeed need them to grow! Thank you for such lovely words. You have been one of the kindest people I have ever known – and it does not surprise me that during all those years, when I saw the ugly, you only saw the good. You made my morning earlier – and now your comment is lighting up my afternoon. xo

  7. I was an overweight child who ended up spending most of my life carrying around way too many extra pounds. I was constantly struggling with losing weight, unkind words and a shattered self-esteem. Similar to you, I had good years and bad. In HS I was so fed up with it, I took drastic measures to maintain a size 7 until graduation when it all came back.
    I’m sure this will sound terrible, but by my mid-20’s I took a long hard look at my mother. She is morbidly obese. Horrible eating patterns, not in the least bit active and at a stage in life when she was beginning to develop every ailment in the book. I looked at my mother and got scared about what I would be like in another 30 years. That wasn’t going to be me. Ever. It took me a year to lose over 50 lbs. The scale dropped gradually, but this time I did it right. Proper nutrition, portion control and regular exercise. I had to forgot everything I knew about eating and learn it all over again from virtually a child’s level. Almost 10 years (and two babies!!) later, I’m still within the same weight range. I honestly believe that the reason why it worked this time was because my decision to do it had absolutely NOTHING to do with my weight/size and everything to do with the quality of my life. This was a change I made for my health not for my jean size. I can say confidently that I will never go back to the lifestyle I once had.
    Obviously, I was moved by your post!! Well said 🙂

  8. I am so glad to hear about your story and to hear that your weight has stayed off after doing it the “right” way.
    And I am very moved by what was behind your motivation! Those “Drastic measures” are about self hatred (been there, girlfriend!), whereas “quality of life” is about love and self respect. I find that “love” always wins – it honestly doesn’t matter what the issue it!
    It sounds as if your new lifestyle suits you much better. I am so glad to hear that you have made this gradual and lasting shift!

  9. look at you ! you are a success story. my life is a constant battle between loving food too much and trying to keep fit. but the more i learn about fitness and nutrition, the awareness has really helped to form a healthy take on what i do to keep myself fairly fit. there are always challenges, especially when i was diagnosed with compartment syndrome about a year ago. it dampened my spirit and put me through quite a depressive state as i love running but i’ve slowly come to terms with it and currently trying a new approach to my exercise regime.
    great blog. followed !

  10. Oh, honey, my success story is a day at a time. The most important part of my fitness regimen? My attitude. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s lacking, to say the least. Awareness is a great step. Awareness helps us make good choices and I’m so glad you have found yours. Compartment syndrome is a tough diagnosis. I wish you good health and hoping you find a fitness regimen that is safe for condition and satisfying. Thank you so much for coming by!

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