I guess after finally “coming out” about my body issues, I thought of sharing how I arrived at the obsession I wrote about in my last entry. I mean, I wish I could say that my issues just came out recently, and that it took me less than a year to realize I had a problem, but I’ve been struggling with body image issues my whole life — almost 20 years worth of baggage.
My Dad’s pet name for me was “Bonjing” because I’ve always been a fat kid. I never took it seriously before because my Dad loved me, and cuddled me, and said I was his “pillow” — so fluffy daw and sarap to hug. I loved the attention. I loved being his “Bonj”.
But I recall I started getting affected when, on the dinner table, I was told I ate like a carpenter. My plate was overflowing with rice, I helped myself with a second, even a third serving. I don’t know why I ate so much, I guess I’ve always loved food, especially because my Mom’s an excellent cook. But I remember being on the dinner table, laughed with my family when I was told I ate like a carpenter, then cried shortly after I cleaned my plate and excused myself from the table. Then I started becoming aware of my size. I was eight years old.
During family reunions, I remember Titas telling my Mom and Dad, “Ang laki n’yang bata! (She’s such a big kid!)”, as if I couldn’t hear it. And ever since I can remember, almost every family dinner, I was the butt of the jokes for being the chubbiest kid. My size was a regular table topic. I had it the worst, and I just realized how bad the bullying was recently, when during a family get-together, I called out how badly I was treated as a kid, and my cousin affirmed it — “Yeah, Lai. You were really so kawawa.” And during the dinners, I really did my best to laugh along with my family. I didn’t want to be a party pooper, but found myself crying in my room a few minutes later.
In sixth grade, I remember having my first crush EVER break my heart when he called me, “Baboy (Pig).” I will never forget it because I wrote it down on my diary, with the ink all smudged up because of my tears. That’s when I really started believing it. In my mind, I started thinking, “People don’t like fat people.” Then my weight became my worth. I was twelve.
When I was in high school, I remember having a crush on another boy (let’s call him James), and a mutual friend (let’s call him Bobby) played the “bridge”. I didn’t even like James that much; he was just a happy crush. But Bobby was persistent in making some kind of special friendship happen, so he went ahead and kind of hinted to James that I liked him. Bobby came back to me reporting that James said, “Ok na sana si Laika kung pumayat lang siya (Laika would be fine if she just lost weight).” That day, I looked at myself in the mirror and told myself I would have to shed the weight. I skipped breakfast, had some crackers for lunch, then just had water for dinner. I did 100 crunches every morning as soon as I woke up. Then for the first time (and thankfully the last) in my life, out of desperation, I had episodes of bulimia. I lost weight so rapidly, that in just a month, my uniform started falling from my waist. I had to pin it just to keep it from falling.
Since then, I’ve been struggling with my self-image and self-esteem. My weight has been like sticky tar clinging onto my worth. When I’m at a certain weight, I feel happy and fine. But when I’m beyond the “okay” weight I dictate upon myself, my confidence plummets. I’ve had problems with cameras and mirrors most of my life. I wanted to avoid what I looked like because I felt happier not knowing. I disguised myself as carefree, and made people believe I just really didn’t care about my looks, but it was really because I was scared to face myself.
But I’m slowly realizing that this negative self-image I have is like a beast that I can tame. When I’m busy with other things that make me feel happy and fulfilled, I barely hear the voices of the beast. But during moments of weakness, it becomes so tempting to listen. Now I’m understanding that the best antidote is to fill myself with things and activities that are bigger than myself — to get out of my mind before I answer the urges of the beast. But I know I can’t live with this forever — I want to rid myself of the beast for good. I honestly don’t know how yet, but writing about it feels like a step in the right direction.
I’m not writing this to ask for pity or sympathy. And neither am I writing it to spite anyone involved in these stories. I honestly and truly believe that this all forms part of who I am today, and if not for these experiences, I’d be a different person. But writing this is teaching me more and more that we should always, always choose kindness. My Mom always says that if we have nothing good to say, then don’t say it at all. Words are powerful, and if the wrong words land on fragile ears and hearts, then there could be serious consequences. But if we instead choose to treat others with compassion and kindness, I honestly think there would be less sadness, less depression, less violence, and less loneliness in the world.
So today, I choose to accept my past, and look at it with a bit more light than darkness. Today, I choose kindness over anger. And someday, I’ll overcome my issues.
Until then, I remain changing for the better.