Insecurities stop girls from doing a lot of things, like walking into Topshop or River Island. I couldn’t buy clothes in those shops until I was 18, because I was born with a genetic weight defect that makes it practically impossible to lose weight.
I think most girls know what it feels like to be insecure about the way they look. To constantly find something wrong with them when they look in the mirror. For me, it’s always been my weight.
I was six-years-old when I started to put on weight, a phenomenon my mother couldn’t explain. Having battled with her weight her entire life, she always made sure to cook healthy meals and made sure I didn’t binge on junk food like other kids my age. Growing up in the 90s, I wanted to follow one of the most horrendous trends of all time – wearing flared trousers with a skirt. I can still see the matching-separates hung up in the shop window that I wanted so badly. But, because of that awful nylon fabric that pulled in all the wrong places, it was a trend that I missed out on because of my weight.
It was a month before my 19th birthday when I finally got an answer. Cambridge University’s Metabolic Clinic had been sent some of my blood after a full blood count and they had found something interesting, as it turns out, I have a rare genetic defect more commonly known as the obesity gene. This defect is also hereditary. So, if you think it’s bad that I found out at nearly 19, imagine finding out at 53, like my mother did. I’m going to explain it simply and without exaggerating. It is three times harder for a person with this condition to lose weight. So, if I eat a chocolate bar with 200 calories, I’d essentially have to do 600 calories worth of exercise to burn off that chocolate bar.
I cried when I found out. When you have spent your whole life being called “fatty” by strangers and having doctors make you see nutritionists – because it’s always YOUR fault – it was a relief to find out that it wasn’t MY fault. I’ve spent my whole life on a diet, eating salads and fruit while my friends ate crisps and chocolate. Every insult and dirty look I ever got, melted away in that single moment.
I know there are girls out there who understand what it is like to walk into Topshop or River Island and get that intimidating stare from the sales advisors with that “you don’t belong here” look, the one that makes you feel ugly and fatter than you are. I used to hate going shopping with my friends, they were all skinny size sixes and eights and could walk into those shops and know whatever they tried on would fit. While me, I would walk in behind them and just sink into the background, hoping nobody would notice me. I didn’t belong in those shops, nothing would fit me, shops like that never stocked plus size.
I don’t even know if I could call them friends, some of the things they said to me, still affect me to this day. Over the summer of 2009, I’d gone from a size 24 to an 18 (I did a lot of walking that summer). I was feeling quite good about the weight I’d lost, confident even, and a “friend” turned to me one day at school and said (about another girl): “She’s a size 12, she’s fat!” Those words shattered me in a second. If that’s what she thought about a size 12, then what was I? I think about those words all the time and it takes everything I have not to cry. I’m a size 12 now. So, I’m still fat.
I hit rock bottom after I left secondary school. I was a size 16 by the time I left, and I knew I needed to make a change. But, when you have a gene condition that makes losing weight three times harder, it wasn’t easy, and at that point I was still three years away from finding out what I even had.
There were days I got so depressed I’d exercise until I vomited. Other days I’d just cry because I never saw a change in the mirror.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and it took me years before I saw real change (to see the type of change normal people see in a few months). Nobody will ever understand what I’ve been through and I can’t talk about it with anybody because they just don’t get it. Losing weight is easy for you. It’s not for me and there is no cure for what I have. Just blood, sweat and tears.
At the end of the day, when I look in the mirror I still see that size 24 girl staring back at me. I’ll never be thin, because in my mind I’ll always be fat.
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