When I was a little girl, I remember being referred to as sturdy, strong, bigger-built, and big-boned. I remember my grandparents commenting on my build, and other people commenting on the physical differences between my sister and me. I did not think about the comments or comparisons when I was a child. It did not faze me. I was in fourth grade the first time someone made fun of me. One of the neighbor boys called me “fat,” and I honestly had no idea what he was talking about. However, after a few times, I started to realize that he was being mean, and I ran home crying to my mom. My mom was wonderful, supportive, and my greatest advocate. She called the boy’s mother, and the boy apologized. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of my trouble with body image.
In sixth grade, I started to become frustrated with my body. Our class had to “weigh in” for P.E. It was the first time that I was embarrassed about how much I weighed. I couldn’t relate to any of the girls in my class. My classmates were sharing with each other how much they weighed, and I was horrified. My weight was up there with the boys’, and I was embarrassed. It was the first time, of many, that I lied about how much I weighed. I ate healthy food, exercised regularly, and took good care of my body. I was active in sports, and loved the feeling of being part of a team. I should have felt good about myself, but I did not. Kids teased me and laughed at me because of my mole on my face and my butt. My mother called my mole a “beauty mark.” I took pride in that, and I felt unique and special. On the bus, boys would tease me about having a “big butt.” I never had a comeback. I would just take it. I did not know what to do, and I was shocked that people could be so mean. It really hurt.
I had great family friends that attended both elementary and high school with me. They were boys around my age, and they stood up for me. They were respectful and always nice to everyone. I will never forget their kindness, and we are still friends today. Other kids were so mean. I knew a girl at school who was overweight. Kids called her “Heavy Evy,” and that made me furious. I remember watching her run into the bathroom crying. I knew how she felt. To this day, I wish I had followed her in there and given her a hug. I still feel bad about that.
In high school, I remember a girl calling me a “whale” and a teacher telling me "you have a nice butt.” I did not understand why people were making such inappropriate comments about my body. I had many friends, and I was active in school activities and sports. It was all so confusing and made me feel self-conscious. I didn’t like to wear snug, tailored clothing or draw attention to myself. I was embarrassed. I tried to cover up my mole with foundation and thought about having it removed many times. I always felt like I never looked good enough.
Every morning, I became frustrated when trying to get ready for school. I searched for something to wear that seemed acceptable, and I would panic and sweat from anxiety. I would become so frustrated that I would throw a fit and yell at my mom. It was horrible. I did not feel pretty. In high school, I constantly asked my mom if I was fat. She always told me “Angela, you are perfect just the way you are.” I never believed her.
I continued to struggle with body image, even though I had my mom as a solid and healthy role model. She treated her body with respect, took good care of herself, and was never controlling about what we ate. As time went by, I went through many different eating habits. I would only eat a potato with mustard or cabbage with mustard. I would eat only salads and no carbohydrates or protein. The only condiments I used were mustard, ketchup, and salsa. I never starved myself, but if I started feeling hungry, I would preoccupy my mind with a bike ride, walk, or run.
My bout with bulimia started right after I graduated from high school. I moved to Hawaii to attend college. I was living by myself in a dorm room, I did not know many people, and I was lonely. I met some friends, and after awhile, I noticed how skinny they both had gotten. I wondered how they stayed so slim. I soon found out. They would eat tubs of ice cream and then throw up.