To Change A Lightbulb

There is this running joke between my sister and I. Whenever we’re too lazy or tired to do something, we whine, "I can’t. I’m too fat!"

This joke came from our lovely mother, who one day asked my sister to change a lightbulb for her.

"Do it your bloody self!" snapped my sister.

"I can’t, I’m too fat!" was her pathetic reply.

It’s become Mum’s trademark phrase. Every time she wanted us to shift some furniture or make her a cup of tea, and we told her to bugger off and do it herself, she’d pull the "I’m too fat!" stunt. So now my sister and I say it when we’re fighting over who should do the dishes or who should nip round to the shop for some milk. "I caaaan’t. I’m too fat!"

Seriously though, I can think of a bazillion things I didn’t do because I was too fat. Or rather, things I held myself back from doing because I was too fat. I even did this when I wasn’t bloody fat at all.

I grew up with the belief that I was always fat. Consequently, I avoided all sorts of things because of my supposed lardiness. I took drama classes as a kid, but wouldn’t audition for any major roles because I was certain they wouldn’t have costumes to fit me. I was good at hockey, but when I got to high school I didn’t try out for the team, because I felt I was so disgustingly huge that they’d take one look at me and laugh me off the field.

One time my friend was having a birthday party, kicking off with a swim at the local pool followed by a BBQ at her house. I pulled this elaborate lie by pretending I couldn’t get there on time because my parents had car troubles. Finally I showed up at the pool just as everyone else was getting out of the water. I even had my swimmers on under my clothes, I carried my beach towel, I had them all convinced that I was crushed that I didn’t get to swim with them. All this orchestrated because I was too ashamed to let them see me in my swimming costume.

There was something potentially life-changing that I didn’t do because of my weight. When I was 16 I was selected by my school to go to Japan for a year as an exchange student. At this point I was top of my Japanese class and thoroughly enjoyed learning the language. The exchange would mean a year in Japan, immersing myself in local life and culture, and returning to Australia fluent in the language with a whole host of career options opened up for me. The exchange spot was highly competitive, but when I was selected I panicked and bailed. Why? Because I thought I was too fat. The thought of being a fatass whale amongst tiny Japanese people was utterly terrifying. I was convinced noone would like me or consider me worthy of being there.

Fast forward a few years til I am at university, where my body had finally caught up with my perception of my body. I’d spent so long loathing myself that I’d started to eat eat eat and finally I WAS actually fucking huge. Now I was really holding back because of my weight. In three years of uni I went to bar night only once. I didn’t go see my favourite bands in concert because I was too fat for a mosh pit. I didn’t join the university radio station, even though it had always been my dream to work in radio, because I thought my lardy presence would be sneered at amongst those radio hipsters.

Fast forward to 2000, when my sister says she wants to move overseas in a couple years time, and was I gonna come with her? I gave a weak little laugh in response. "I can’t do that," I said. "I’m too fat."

So many things I did not do because I perceived myself as this worthless butterball. A lot of the things I didn’t do was because I was physically too fat to do them. But most of the damage came from within, that incredibly crippling force of negative thinking and self-loathing.

I have to tell you, I am in tears writing this now. It’s dragged up all these feelings of just loathing myself, feeling so fucking unworthy that I would deprive myself of opportunities and cut myself off from my dreams. It was so incredibly exhausting, being so fat. So exhausting to keep coming up with the lies and excuses why I couldn’t do something or go some place.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get angry about the past, that I never get a case of the "coulda been’s". I coulda been fluent in Japanese. I coulda been on the radio.

But how about this one? I coulda been dead. If I’d kept going the way I was, I could have eaten my way into an early grave. So I guess all you can do is keep looking forward. You can screw up the past but it’s never too late to change your future. Just look at Erin and her triathlons. And I made overseas, didn’t I? A distant dream that I thought I’d never achieve because of fat and fear.

"I’m too fat" is no longer an excuse.

[written for Weigh-In Wednesday]

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