Growing Up As A Chubby Kid And Body Image Issues
Growing up as a Chubby Kid and body Image:
Chubby Kid – Growing up as a chubby kid had profound effects on my self-esteem and my feeling of self-worth. I was always regarded as the kid that retained his “baby fat.” Consequently, I would always avoid taking my shirt off in public, even while swimming. Clothing that included elastic was my clothing of choice. My parents always protected me from the harsh reality that I really needed to lose some weight. My family members, despite being “health food fanatics”, would be considered obese by today’s standards.
I remember being told by my parents that our family just has a glandular problem, and there is nothing we can do about our weight. I bought into this excuse “hook, line and sinker.” I was just predisposed to be heavy; it was in my genes.
In Elementary school, I was accepted along with my excessive weight because there were certain games in which heavy kids have the advantage. In childhood games such as red rover, tackle football, and dodge ball, heavy weight was an obvious advantage. Through the process of picking teams, I was always one of the first to be picked.
In other games such as tag, baseball, and “hide and seek” it proved to be a disadvantage. I was never a fast runner, agile athlete, nor a graceful gymnast. I didn’t care about girls, as they were infected with “cooties” and were to be avoided as if they had some incurable disease. I didn’t feel bad about myself, as I performed adequately in some of the traditional boy-hood games. The simple truth was that I excelled at some games and not at others. I did excel in the academic arena and was therefore accepted by my peers in these early years.
In middle school, the realization of gender attraction, the onset of puberty, male dominance and gender-based competition shattered any self esteem that I held. My first year in middle school, the rules changed, and girls had been cured of their dreaded “cooties.” The boys or “guys” as we referred to ourselves now, wanted to be noticed by girls. We wanted to hold their hands, we wanted to kiss them, or if we were really cool, reach the proverbial “first base.” The guys were now in competition with each other for the gals’ attention. New words had entered our vocabulary; words like zits, klutz, and pubes. My first year in middle school, as a chubby kid, did not go well at all for me.
I was the brunt of many jokes, and the girls wouldn’t be seen talking to me. I was as unpopular as a zit and regarded with the same contempt. I became somewhat of a loner, as I figured nobody could hurt me if I didn’t allow anyone to get close to me. I began to seek shelter in the comfort of my over-protective family, and this just made my appraisal even more critical. My self-esteem and my feeling of self worth ended up in the toilet. My chubby self began to turn to “comfort food” for consolation, which of course only made my situation worse.
It was at this time in my life when Anna changed my outlook. This came about the first Monday after school had let out for the summer. My two older sisters in high school wouldn’t be done with school until that Friday. My mom and dad both happened to be working, and I was to left home alone. Being at home without supervision, I wasn’t allowed to go out, but the idea of having someone over hadn’t crossed my parents’ minds.
That Monday morning, I had decided to sunbathe and get a jump on my tan, also hoping that the sun would help clear my complexion. I was enjoying the sun when the doorbell rang. Wrapping a towel around me, I answered the door, and there stood Anna.
Anna being a year younger than I, we normally chose other friends. She explained that all the neighborhood children were either away on vacation, or had started summer school. She asked if I wanted to come outside and ride bikes or something. Informing her that I couldn’t go out and play, she asked what I was doing. I explained that I was sunbathing, and that was why I was wrapped in a towel. She asked if she could join me, and we headed out to the backyard. We sat down on the blanket I had spread out earlier, and Anna asked why I wasn’t removing my towel. I explained that I was self-conscious about being overweight and was embarrassed to take it off in front of her.
Anna’s physique was the exact opposite of mine; she was as thin as a rail, with no curves whatsoever. Anna also had a twelve inch scar on her left thigh, which she had received as a baby in a car accident. As we sat in the sun we shared our body image issues with one another, openly and honestly discussing how we felt about our body parts. Anna hated the fact that she hadn’t started to develop, but had resigned herself to the fact that she didn’t care what other people thought. We discussed how both of us were avoided by the kids our own age and how we were both teased on a daily basis.
I came to realize through Anna that we both had our own body issues. In fact, most everyone would like to change some part of their bodies. By discussing our own body issues with one another truthfully, openly, and without passing judgment, we came to be at peace with our “flaws.” We spent the entire week together, each day meeting at my house. We both decided that we didn’t care what others thought anymore. We had freed ourselves from the burden of their judgment.
We realized that some people try to feel better about themselves by criticizing others. If anyone had a problem with our bodies, they owned that problem, not us. By the end of that week, I was able to face my demon that my weight was not due to some strange glandular problem and acknowledge my shortcoming. I have struggled all of my life to control my weight, but never have I struggled to control how I feel about my body.