I distinctly remember the very first time I thought that I was fat. I was five years old and had just started kindergarten. Standing in my backyard, eating a sucker and wearing a (very early 90s) pair of striped overalls, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t be eating this sucker because I am too fat.

And so it began.

Although no one in my family would ever even dream of calling me fat – that is how I saw myself, which meant that very little would dissuade me. In fact, some of my earliest memories involve listening to the people who would never call me fat discussing their own weight.

My grandmother has been on a quest to lose the same ten pounds since before I was born. My mother confided in the personal trainer next door that she “kept the weight off” by adhering to a “strict fat free diet.” If they were fat, clearly I was immense.

And the hits kept coming.

Even if I had managed to make it through kindergarten without a completely destroyed self-image, it certainly would not have taken much longer for the idea that I was too chunky for my own good to surface. You see, I was way taller than the rest of my classmates, which meant that I also weighed more. (Not that anyone explains that to an elementary school student.)

When I was in first grade, the girls on my parks district soccer team told me that I needed to “get in shape” because I weighed more than 60 pounds. (I was 4’9”’.)

In third grade, we had to stand on a scale in front of the class for a bar chart. All I learned that day was that the only person who weighed more than me was the teacher.

In second grade, I told my mother that I didn’t want to take gymnastics anymore. I didn’t tell her that it was because the college-aged coach had told me that “only skinny girls were good on the bars.”

In seventh grade, I made the mistake of getting on the scale at a classmate’s house. “That’s like, disgusting.” The girl said to me, horrified to see a number higher than 150. (I was – and am – 5’8’’.)

This is the face of a child that thought she was fat.

This is the face of a child that thought she was fat.

And so on and so on until one day, I realized that I’ve never been all that fat.

Seriously. When I was at my parents’ house recently, I flipped through some photo albums only to find that the fat little kid I saw myself as never existed. In fact, I was pretty adorable – in that blonde Midwestern-y way. Which is weird and also really sad.

To be honest, I made peace with who I am and what I look like a long time ago. I hit my highest weight during my year as a paper saleswoman and didn’t like how I felt so I made changes. Now, I recognize the importance of good food and exercise and figure that – as long as I’m doing what I should – my weight will stay at a good and healthy level.

But every now and then, I forget all of that.

It’s easy for me to focus on my health and fitness most days, but then sometimes things happen that make me forget. Like my father-in-law will describe a woman’s dress as “ten pounds of potatoes in a five pound sack” while all the women around him nod in agreement. At those moments, I forget about health and fitness and think to myself “Well, shit! What does he say about me when I’m not around?”

Of course, he would never tell me that I’m fat. But would he think it? Do I even care if he does? 

Right now, the answer is probably “Yes.” Yes, I would care if he thought I was fat. But I’m working really hard to change that.