I know that I am fat, I haven’t always been fat, but I am now. This is something that I used to be ashamed of, embarrassed about when I was younger. Not today though, I’ve learned to be proud of who I am, it doesn’t matter how much I weigh, what matter is how I feel about it.
My weight gain started when I was 18, after graduating high school, I stopped doing the things that, looking back, had kept me unnaturally skinny. There were no more volleyball games or swim meets, only college ahead of me. At 5’8 and 155lbs I was more than comfortable with my body, I just didn’t know at the time that it wasn’t my true weight, the weight that I was meant to be.
The “Freshman 15” was only the start of my transformation into my true self. I found the dining hall to be my paradise, no longer did I have parents, a coach, or doctor around to tell me that I shouldn’t eat so much, to keep myself at a “healthy” weight. I did well in school those first 2 years, mostly because I was able to cope with the stress of class with the ease of getting food in the dining halls. By the end of my sophomore year, I was 240lbs. Comments started coming in from my parents, old friends, and even my family doctor. “Honey, you should really watch what you eat.”, “How much exercise are you getting?”, “I’m concerned that you are becoming overweight.” Disgusting, all of them. I ended up moving back to my college a month early that summer because I couldn’t believe the lack of support that they were heaping upon me.
The next 2 years I didn’t do so well in school, the classes were harder and I wasn’t eating on campus. McDonalds was usually my first choice for lunch most days. I had plenty of comfort food for supper. By the end of my 4th year in college, I was at 315lbs and I could feel people looking at me when I walked around campus. 2 weeks before school let out for the summer I heard the first remark that really made me feel like I was inferior to skinnies: “Oh my God, who do you think she ate?”. I felt a range of emotions in the next few hours, going from the immediate reaction of crying, trying to run back to my car to go home, to anger, finally to an epiphany: I’m a fat girl and I am DAMN proud of it!
Graduating college a year later was a great moment in my life, I weighed 350lbs and I had a degree in Marketing, I was ready to take on the world and become a real estate agent. Then, I ran into a different type of fat shaming, something I had never experienced before: professional fat shaming. Everywhere I went to ask to apprentice said that they weren’t taking on anyone at the time. The real estate bubble had just popped so I wasn’t too surprised. A friend of my dad’s was a real estate agent for a company about 30 miles away, not what I wanted, but I would take what I could get. I was finally able to start learning the trade.
Most of my time was spent in the office, enjoying the coffee and donuts, studying real estate laws, and watching how the other brokers went about their day. Then, the unthinkable happened, I was asked to go along with a broker to take pictures for a listing, a small, older home with an attic that had been turned into a bedroom. Stairs had always been an enemy of mine since my early years of college, I always took the elevator where I could, but I had a feeling this house built in the 40s was lacking a working elevator.
The stairway leading up to the room looked narrow, almost too narrow. I tried to squeeze by going sideways but it wasn’t working, I tried again using the railing to pull myself up but realized it just wasn’t going to work. Houses built in the 40s didn’t have to be built to certain specifications which would have avoided all this. As I backed down the 2 steps I had gotten up, I felt a strange pain in my right knee. It hurt the rest of the day, enough to the point where I begrudgingly called my doctor the next day to have it looked at. What he told me stunned me: my knees couldn’t handle my weight. My options were to lose weight or start using a motorized scooter. I chose the scooter.
Several days later I was back into the office with my scooter and, just as I had a couple years before, I could feel people looking at me. That mix of disgust, pity, and wonder. I didn’t want to be there with those people, but I was close enough to completing my required hours that I decided to stay. Never again was I asked to go around to houses that had stairs. I fought back tears everyday when I got home, how can this happen to me, professional fat shaming? I thought that was something that only happened to morbidly obese people.
I couldn’t wait to follow my dream to open my own real estate company. I passed the state exams and officially received my real estate license several weeks later. Jokingly, I told one of the brokers at the office “Maybe I should advertise myself as America’s fattest real estate agent!” She looked at me and said “Hun, I’m so happy you have your license, now maybe you can work on getting your life back on track.” I started crying, just as I had when the girls on campus talked about who I ate years before. On my way home I called someone else at the office and told them I was never coming back.
Opening my own real estate service was a dream come true. I didn’t have an office, but I had a license, and that was all I needed. Quickly, I figured out though that people didn’t want a real estate agent who, at this point, weighed 360lbs and needed to use a scooter so that her knees wouldn’t fall apart by the time she turned 35. I ended up closing only 1 listing ever, and all 5 of my buyers ended up not using my services. Last year, I decided to put my career on hiatus. I weigh 410lbs and choose not to participate in a profession that looks down upon those of a certain weight.
Fat shaming in the workplace caused me to lose my job. I am a victim of a set of social standards that are not in line with everyone’s true self. Instead, I will embrace who I am, fat shaming cannot defeat me, it cannot bring me down, I won’t let it, and neither should you.