The Fat Kid

Women's Body Image, learning to Love your healthy body, even if it's not a size 2.

I have struggled with my weight most of my life. Part of it is my love of food, and part of it is genetics. My father’s family is obese. Not obese in “a little overweight” sense of the word, but obese as in morbidly obese. All of them.

Every single female in my father’s family is extremely overweight. I wasn’t obese as a child, but no one would have mistaken me for starving. I was teased about my weight, I was led to believe I wasn’t thin enough to be “cool, to be popular.”  This has stuck with me my entire life, and is a huge part of why I am a trainer.  

I also wasn’t athletic as a child. I played tennis occasionally, but I wasn’t involved in a daily structured sport. I didn’t start exercising until high school. I remember the day. I wanted to be an actress growing up, and I auditioned for various agents in the city. I had no intention of wanting to be a model, but I had a pretty face, and I was tall, and the open calls for modeling were easier to get than the open calls for casting jobs.  

It was after a meeting with an agent and he told me to lose weight. I was 15. It started with the Kathy Ireland cassettes, and transitioned into Elle Macpherson’s tapes, 8 minute abs, and Buns of Steel. For me, exercising was a way to take my big-boned chunky body and turn it into a long lean model worthy physique.  

It didn’t work. Yes, I lost weight, and yes I became very fit, but I didn’t have the results I was looking for. My body didn’t morph into a replica of Elle Macpherson’s, the way I had hoped (thought) it would. It took me 34 years to realize that I can have my best body by exercising, but not someone else’s best body.

I would be lying if I said I am ok with this. I’m not. I still look at workout programs, detoxes, diets and clothing and believe “If I do that, If I buy that, drink that, eat that, I can look like that.” I am a marketers dream.

Deep down, I know it’s not true. I know that a drink or a diet isn’t going to magically make my body into something it’s not. I am learning to be ok with what I have, but it’s hard. It is especially hard because I am a trainer. In my head a trainer is supposed to look like Jillian Michaels, or Tracy Anderson. I don’t look like that, yet I workout 6 to 8 times a week. I am very fit, but I am not thin.  

It is interesting because even at my thinnest, I still looked in the mirror and saw “the fat kid."  I suppose that is what I will always see when I look in the mirror, regardless of the size of my jeans. I will never be a size 2, and I struggle with that. I wish I didn’t like food. I wish I liked the feeling of being hungry. I don’t.

I love wine, and cheese, and salt. I love hanging out with my friends and sharing appetizers, and a great bottle of chardonnay. I exercise so that I can enjoy these things, so that I can enjoy life. That’s how I approach my sessions with my clients. Yes, of course most of them want to lose weight, but really that is the food portion of the equation, not the workout portion. The workouts will get them stronger, fitter, even leaner, but it won’t move the scale alone. I really try to emphasize  to my clients that I can help them get their best body, but not someone else’s.  Maybe If I can get them to be ok with that, I can convince myself the same.

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Linda Sadlouskos January 17, 2013 at 02:05 PM
I wonder how many people really find a size 2 woman attractive after a certain age, if they're not on the big screen or a model. Recently on the subway going through a trendy part of NYC, I saw an older woman as thin as a thin teenager. But she really didn't look like one, and I thought an extra 10 lbs would have made her look better.
Jennifer deRemer January 18, 2013 at 01:31 PM
Wow. This is me. Thanks for reminding me that I'm not the only one out here! 'Fit but not thin.' It's taken me a lifetime, and I'm proud of it, but if I ever tried to list the diets and fads I've done in an effort to 'fit in' I'm certain others would be aghast. Glad, glad, glad for your article.
Cindi Cook January 18, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Melissa, thank you for your honest, insightful, and personal story here. Weight is such an obsession in America and it is just tiring. It was one in my family too--more appearance than anything. But isn't it like that in most every family? Isn't it always--not just often--the first comment we hear when we see someone for the first time in a while: "You look .... " Fill in that blank. It's more often than not, " ... great!" But often it's an adjective that's faintly applied, and what if we don't look great? Why can't we be greeted with a more heartfelt, "How are you? And what's going on in your fabulous life?" Granted, it's nice to comment on someone's appearance at times, because people can truly look attractive, pretty, handsome, and it can be nice to hear, but it is so often the starter for our conversation, thus possibly setting the stage for how we might perceive one another. Why can we not take one another on our merits? What if we actually listened to the words coming from someone's mouth rather than looking at the outfit they wear and how they wear it, the hairstyle they sport, or any other superficiality that detracts from what they really are: a human being.
Melissa Sarsten January 18, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Thank you ladies - I am glad you enjoyed it. It is hard to open up about these issues. Weight is such a personal thing, whether it's being overweight or being too thin. Like Cindi said, I just think it would be great if we could judge each other based on our character, and not on our superficial qualities. Melissa www.EverythingFitabulous.com


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