By: Claire Cook, Regular Contributor
I am a former fat girl (#FFG). Below is a picture of me at age 8 or so. I’m pretty sure that my mother got the bowl cuts at a two-for-one price for my brother and me.
At this age I was blissfully unaware of what people thought of me. I loved my family, singing, arts and crafts, my pets, ice cream (obviously), playing ice hockey, and baseball (both boys’ teams). I didn’t know I wasn’t “pretty” or “cool” - because both are mutually exclusive, of course.
When I was 11, my mom and I went to Bloomingdales in New York City to buy a dress for a holiday party. This was BIG deal. For anyone who lives in New York City or has visited, you do not leave Bloomingdales empty-handed. After trying on what seemed like the entire girls’ department, we realized that I was too large for any of the dresses. Feeling defeated, we left Bloomingdales empty-handed (faux pas) and went across the street to grab something to eat before heading home. My mom and I each had salad for dinner to be healthy. That’s when I learned what “dieting” was and from that moment on I became very aware of what other people thought and said of me.
I ended up losing all of my baby fat naturally before I entered high school. Unfortunately, at 5’2” and 100 pounds, I was labeled the “anorexic” girl rather than the perfectly healthy and normal 14 year-old. I ended up believing everything my classmates said about me and became obsessed with my weight.
Every day after that shopping excursion at Bloomingdales was a struggle with self image. Accepting compliments about my looks was always difficult because I never believed them to be true. I spent more time counting calories than doing homework. I would cry if I gained a couple pounds or if my size 2 clothes felt tight. I lost friends because I refused to let them help me. A summer spent studying opera at an elite program was actually spent purging everything I ate and battling my nonstop sore throat. What a missed opportunity.
So, when did it all change? A year ago, I had traveled for two months straight and was so busy that I hadn’t had time to calorie count and plan every meal around whether or not it would make me fat and ugly. I also hadn’t spent any time during those two months in front of a mirror obsessing over how I looked. During that time, I had experienced significant professional success and actually felt REALLY content with myself. My professional success was worth more than the “success” of being a size 2.
Today, I am still content with who I am. I work hard to stay in shape and maintain a healthy diet, which is key to a healthy body image, but I don’t allow it to run my life. Are there days that I look in the mirror and struggle with how I look? Absolutely. When clothes feel tighter than usual, I make the choice to not obsess about it. I like French fries and I enjoy drinking beer with friends, and if that means I might not ever be stick thin, I’ll live with it. I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously and wave my former fat girl flag with pride. Now that my days don’t revolve around body image and weight, I am able to have a lot more fun in everything I do. As a result, I’m more confident professionally, socially and romantically. That’s what life’s about, right? I think so, too.
About Claire: Claire “Bear” Cook is a regular contributor to I Am That Girl who spends her days working in marketing at a multimedia company in Los Angeles. Having lived in New York City for 3 years and grown up on the East Coast, she moved to LA in 2013 on a leap of faith to build her career and broaden her perspective. Claire is passionate about travel, running, music, karaoke, walruses & wine and enjoys spending her free time with free-thinking, creative & positive people.