From the time I was little, I was always aware that I was overweight. Well, that’s what it was called when I was younger. Today, I look back at photos from the time and thought, “I really wasn’t fat.”
As my body grew and changed, I knew I had to cover up my thighs, my arms, and my stomach because “No one wants to see that.”
I’ve never worn a two-piece swimsuit that exposed my stomach. I have always wanted to because I wanted to know what it felt like to be completely out there with my body.
To be completely present with myself and my body.
My mom put me in figure skating in my elementary school and middle school years. I wasn’t as thin as the other figure skaters. I was always getting second place at skating competitions, and my mom told me that they didn’t give first place to “fat girls.”
After figure skating, I discovered theatre. When I decided to become an actor, I became hyper-aware of what my body looked like. I could tell you what my chin was doing when I spoke a monologue. I can tell you what part of my body jiggled when I sang.
This inhibited me as a performer. I couldn’t move like I wanted too because I didn’t want to look “fatter.”
Even with all of the dance classes I took to be more comfortable with my body, it only intensified what I already knew about myself; I was fat.
I was bigger than the other girls in my dance classes. I wasn’t as thin as the other girls in my acting classes.
In elementary school, I had a bully who called me “Fatsuo.” The crazy thing was that she was shorter than me. She was tiny. I could have stood up to her like a force.
But I didn’t.
She only validated what I was told every day by others around me. I remember after my physical for cheerleading, the first thing my Mom looked at was my weight. I can still hear her voice in shock saying, “One-eighty?!?!” I weight 180 pounds at 14. But I had just come from years of ice skating, working out every day, and eating a reduced-calorie diet. I was a size 12 and doing it right. I had a lot of muscle. But it’s all a numbers game. I looked at the number on the scale instead of my measurements.
At one point, my father force-fed me broccoli and took away my cup so I couldn’t chase it down with water. Of course, weight was always a conversation peppered in with gym visits. My identity was surrounded by diet and exercise. It was like I wasn’t a person because I was fat. I wasn’t his daughter yet, because I was overweight. It went against his healthy physique and lifestyle.
In middle school and high school, I went through years of yo-yo dieting, eating disorders, binging, throwing up, starving myself, water fasts, Hollywood juice cleanse…the list goes on. I did a lot of damage to my body to fit the mold I felt obligated to be a part of.
In college, I remember my Mom did a Google search on me and found a comment from one of my classmates on MySpace. He was responding to a photo of a morbidly obese woman that was posted in his comments. He said something to the effect of, “If you ever post a photo of Alex Matsuo again…”
Instead of sympathizing with me, or just keeping it to herself, my Mom called me and told me off. Apparently, Bobby was in the right, and this was my fault because I was overweight.
Today, I’m paying for that damage to my body.
Had I been able to enjoy myself and enjoy my body at the weight I was at, who knows what I would have weighed today.
What I would give to weigh 180 again and fit in a size 12.
I also used my fatness as a defense mechanism. It was like a protective cocoon that made me feel safe. I was safe from the hurt, abuse, and any threats to my wellbeing. After going through physical trauma in my teen years and early twenties, my weight was a comfort instead of being who I was.
The only boyfriend that ever had a problem with my weight was always comparing me to his ex-girlfriends and how much skinnier they were. He actually convinced me to join Jenny Craig, and I had to report my weigh-in results to him. When he broke up with me twice, I was devastated. I had made so many sacrifices to fit into his definition of what beautiful was as a condition of our relationship. It broke me.
In defense of my Mom, it seemed that having a fat daughter was one of the worse things she could have. I don’t think she believed it, but I think she was so wrapped up with what other people thought of her, or what one man thought of her, she must have thought she failed somehow because I was overweight. Don’t get me wrong, my Mom loved me and she was very proud of me. She grew up extremely insecure about her body as well. A certain man didn’t help with her confidence either because he made comments about her body that destroyed her self-esteem. She wouldn’t ever move on from them.
I love my Mom dearly. I think a lot of how she treated my weight struggle was from her own experience with her own weight as she was navigating through her life. She didn’t want me to go through what she had to go through. She didn’t want me to feel the rejection and pain she felt. I’m so sad she felt so inhibited to open herself up to someone she loved because of a few cruel words. That was the turning point of my life.
That stuck with me. I’ve been with wonderful men and women since who reminded me that I was beautiful. We were in awe of each other. My relationships since the “Jenny Craig Ex” were beautiful. I’ve met and connected with extraordinary people in my life who didn’t see past the fat, they saw my fat as a part of me, which was beautiful. Why couldn’t I see myself in that way?
One day, I took off all of my clothes, and I looked at myself in the mirror.
This was me.
Even with all the angled selfies and different styles of clothes to try to hide my fat, this was who I am. This was what people saw all the time. People still cared about me…they accepted me for who I am.
So, why couldn’t I do that for myself? I didn’t want that mindset for the rest of my life.
Looking Forward with Fat
As I mentioned, I’m now paying for all I put my body through. Even as my body continues to change because of hormones and medication, I’m celebrating the person I am right now. If I don’t fall in love with my body now, I may never get a chance to. I’m eating healthier than I ever have in my life. I exercise and slowly falling in love with it.
Guess what? Still fat. So it’s who I am right now. Not every plus-size person is overweight because of food. It’s going to be a slow process. But instead of trying to lose weight, I’m trying to be healthy.
Probably the most incredible thing happened; once I started truly loving myself and my body, I started eating better for my health’s sake…not for the number on the scale. I want to keep my blood sugar in the normal range, so my eating habits reflect that.
So, if someone has an issue with my double chin or my flabby arms…oh well. That is their issue and not mine.
Just because someone is uncomfortable with my body, it is not my obligation to change myself for their peace of mind.
To mark this new mindset, I decided to do something I had never thought of doing at my current weight.
Wear a two-piece swimsuit.
I’m no longer going to cover up my arms for anyone. And I’m going to wear that two-piece swimsuit and show off a bit of stomach for this last bit of summer.
If anyone has an issue with that, you’re welcome to look the other way.
I’ll be over here having the time of my life.