Introducing EveryBody, a series by Yahoo Canada highlighting the people and organizations working to end weight stigma, promote size inclusivity and prove that everybody and every body has value.
Words by Martina Cziraky
FAT [fat] adjective: a word once used to describe a person or a thing that was bigger than the norm. See also: heavy, plump, fluffy, chubby, chunky, cute.
FAT [fat] adjective: a word now used derogatorily to describe anyone over a size 2. See also: disgusting, gross, obese, smelly, sloppy, unhealthy, no reason to exist.
You know how some people have a visceral reaction to the word moist? That’s me with the word fat. “Fat” is my moist. I cringe every time I hear it because it’s usually being thrown at someone to hurt them. It’s usually preceded by, “Wow, so and so got so FAT” or “Why is he he dating her? She’s so FAT,” and my personal favourite, “OMG, I’m so FAT.”
Nine out of 10 times the person is not fat - or maybe they are and maybe people just need to keep their comments to themselves.
I was one of those “OMG, I’m so fat” people. I loved describing myself that way. As a matter of fact, one of the events leading up to me making a change was when I referred to myself as a “fat bastard” in front of my father and he went ballistic. I thought I had overstepped with using the word “bastard” but it was actually “fat” that set him off.
“Where did this come from? Did her friends say something to her? Did someone make a comment?” My father asked my mother.
“No, they wouldn’t say anything like that to her,” she replied calmly. “I don’t know where it came from.”
But she knew. She knew this came from years of fitting room meltdowns, from years of feeling less than my thin friends and family members. Years of feeling like I didn’t fit in… literally. She knew that there was some truth behind every self-deprecating joke I made, a little jealousy whenever I heard that someone was having success on their own weight loss journey. She just knew. Of course, she did, she’s my mom. But how could she tell my father that the apple of his eye felt less than a-peel-ing?
I knew that losing weight had to be a decision that I made on my own. There was no amount of coaxing, bribing, shaming or even dressing-room crying that would get me to do anything I didn’t want to do. For a very long time, I didn’t want to do anything except wake up having lost at least 50 pounds overnight. At the time this seemed totally reasonable. I knew it was going to be a ton of work but I just wasn’t ready to work for it. I’ve learned a lot about myself on this journey and it turns out, I’m full of surprises.
The final straw came in April 2018 after I saw photos from a particularly enlightening brunch with two of my friends. All the time I spent choosing an outfit, doing my hair and makeup, and pulling myself together was for naught. In the photos, I looked like a hot mess. I looked like I was truly struggling. Sweaty, uncomfortable, just gross.
You look like you can’t breathe, I said to myself while shaking my head. Most of this could have been due, in part, to the (many) mimosas I had knocked back but, you know as the saying goes, “When in Rome or at brunch...”
“It stops NOW Martina,” I thought, as I sighed and scrolled through the rest of the pictures.
Later that week I signed up for the program formerly known as Weight Watchers (now called WW) and I haven’t looked back. It might take me awhile to get in the pool, but once I’ve made the decision to jump, I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in. And just like that, a star was born.
At first, I only told close friends and family that I had signed up for WW. My co-workers don’t even know yet. Part of the reason I didn’t tell the world right away was a fear of failure. If I failed, at least no one would know —and those who did would still love me anyway.
After my initial sign-up, I went on an Instagram following spree of WW accounts that would help keep me motivated. I was definitely a bit choosy with who I followed. I wanted people who lived in my general region (the Northeastern United States) simply so that we would have access to the same grocery stores. It might seem a little ridiculous, but it helped. I also appreciate and tend to gravitate to people who either post the point value of the food they’re eating and sharing on social media or at the very least, link or tag who or where their inspiration came from. I’ll hunt for good food and ideas, but help a sister out. We’re in this together!
As an online member, I don’t have access to weekly meetings. The WW app features a Connect portion, which serves as an alternative to a meeting. Members can post their recipe ideas, struggles, scale and non-scale victories (NSVs as they call it). I never use this feature. I’m a rebel, I know, but I prefer Instagram. It’s a younger crowd, for one, and it offers the same kind advice, support, ideas and motivation, if not more. I’ve also tried to break into Reddit but it’s confusing and — frankly — scary. This old dog doesn’t need any new tricks.
Losing weight didn’t feel real until I hit the 50-pound milestone and I felt like I was finally able to see the fruits of my labour. That was when I started to release the breath I was holding. Now, I’ve lost over 90 pounds, which is insane. Ninety. Sometimes I have to remind myself how big that number is. When I’m squeezing past someone or something I repeat to myself, “Over 90! I wouldn’t have fit 90-ish pounds ago”. I still go through periods of disbelief where I feel like I’ve daydreamed the whole thing. I’ll always hold a little bit of breath. Weight loss is more than just physical, it’s almost entirely mental; habits have to change and break. You have to believe you can do it and then believe you did t!
I still remember the first time I saw my collarbone. I was in my bathroom, getting ready for work and I went to put my toothbrush back on the counter, something that I do every morning, but this morning was different. I happened to catch my reflection and there was a dip next to my shoulder. “What in the world?” I whispered as my hand rushed to feel around the area. “Hm. My collarbone. That’s new.” It might sound like a little thing, but trust me, I get excited every time it makes an appearance. Seeing my body change has been a rush. Some weeks I won’t have a loss on the scale, but my clothes feel baggier. My hands look thinner. My feet have gotten smaller. Speaking of my feet, they don’t hurt so much so fast if I’m doing a lot of walking and I don’t get winded as easily either. I’m looking good and feeling good!
I was never bullied because of my weight. When I was younger, there was maybe a comment or two made from some cruel kids, but by and large (no pun intended), my weight was a non-issue when it came to how I was treated. As I got older, I tried to ignore my weight and hoped that everyone else would, too. Almost like seeing a bear in the wild; if you don’t move, it will leave you alone. I hid behind my personality and sense of humour and for the most part, it worked.
I’m only noticing now that people are more willing to strike up random conversations with me. I’m a shy and awkward person by nature so this is slightly excruciating, but every time it happens, I wonder if that person would have talked to me two years and almost 90 pounds ago. What makes me so approachable now? Should I be flattered?
Being shy, it’s easy to curl up inside my shell and hang out there. I find that although it’s not my favourite thing in the world, it’s getting easier to come out of that shell. To be clear, I wasn’t a wet mop wallflower over 90 pounds ago, but I didn’t (and still don’t) initiate conversation. I’ve, however, noticed that I’ve acquired a whole new type of confidence. I was out recently with some friends and, long story short, gave my number to a guy I found attractive. That was something I’d never, ever do before I lost weight. Did it feel good? For a little while, I guess. Would I do it again? I mean, if I had to - but hopefully next time I’m getting someone’s number shoved into my hand instead.
If there were one thing I thought losing weight would magically change, it would unequivocally be men. Specifically finding one of my own. As much as I complain, I actually am OK with being single, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want someone to pay attention to me and send me flowers. I was tired of being seen as just the (fat) funny friend. I wanted to be seen as a viable option.
I know how ridiculous that sounds, especially because deep down, I knew that I would be the same amazing person no matter if my pants were a size 4 or a 24. I just thought that maybe losing some weight would bring some boys to my yard. Spoiler alert: that’s not how it works. I know it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but my insides weren’t doing me any favours. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used a $10 word and watched a guy’s face change when he realized there was something in-between my ears. I’ve been cast into the friend zone so often that I’ve thought about running for its presidency, and I’m pretty sure I’d win by a landslide. Maybe it was never my weight, but it’s very hard to believe that it could be anything else when you’re told how great you are by everyone except who you’re waiting or wanting to hear it from.
Coming into this, I knew I would lose weight. I knew my body would change. My clothes would get too big, my skin would sag — I didn’t realize how much and from where, but I digress. I knew I would start to feel better physically. What I didn’t expect was to gain a new kind of confidence. It’s not an “I can take over the world” kind of confidence, but more of a “I finally fit here” confidence. Literally and figuratively. If I’m with a group, I don’t feel like the biggest person in the room anymore. It’s a new feeling. But it’s also such a natural feeling, like this is how I’m supposed to feel.
I feel more like myself than I ever have, which was unexpected because how could you go from never not feeling like yourself to feeling so much more like yourself? Wild. I didn’t expect to lose my boobs. I didn’t expect it to take so long for my face to slim down. I didn’t expect to be so surprised on how small my new-size pants look when I hold them up. I feel downright dainty! It’s the little things, but also the big things. And the little things that turn into big things.
Am I happier since I’ve lost weight? No, not really. I’ve always been a happy person. There were things in my life I wanted to be different, but I was just too scared to do anything about until I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I’m happy that I took the steps and made the change, but losing weight by itself has not made me a happier person. Am I a better person? No, but, was it the best decision I’ve made in a very long time (let’s be real ... my whole life)? Without a doubt.