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Redefining Fat: A Struggle With Crohn’s Disease, Rape, And My Own Sense of Worth

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at BU chapter.

Some of the words to describe the size of my body: fat, curvy, plump, round, plus size, chubby, big. Some things people say to compliment my body: that dress is very flattering on you, those jeans are really slimming, and you’re really not even that big! What I hear when people say these things: that dress doesn’t make you look that fat, those jeans suck everything in, and I’m definitely fat but not as fat as I probably think. My weight is an easy jab for people that don’t know anything about me, which is why it hurts more than any other insult. 

It took me years to realize that my elevated weight wasn’t the result of boredom, mindless eating, or just a basic enjoyment of food like the health books I read had suggested. It went deeper and further to a place I was too nervous and terrified to explore until very recently. After a lot of grappling with these reasons, I have decided to push myself each day to attack them head on, and this article is one of those pushes…

Enter me, an apple faced, cheeky four-year-old girl. I sat in my dance class surrounded by twenty or so pint-sized four-year-olds doing our ballet stretches. Point, flex. I looked around at the other girls and noticed that their tummies were flat in their black leotards. Point, flex. I glanced at mine and saw how it jutted out a bit, like there was a deflated balloon in there. Point, flex. That was my first memory of feeling fat and inadequate.

Fast-forward six years to the sixth grade and see me, taller with funky glasses and wearing the ever-fashionable gaucho pant. I felt a painful bump in the inside of lip but wrote it off as a canker sore. Little did I know that it was one of hundreds of ulcers that lined my entire gastrointestinal tract as part of my newly discovered Crohn’s Disease. It was months of doctors’ appointments, stress, stabbing stomach pain, uncontrollable vomiting, and serious malnourishment that landed me in the hospital. 

I lost forty pounds in less than three months, and as awfully unhealthy as I knew it was, I felt secretly relieved that my body was rid of those forty pounds. Forty pounds I didn’t really need to lose. 

I quickly began an intense medical regimen, including an intravenous treatment every four weeks and several oral medications, one of which was a very high dose of Prednisone- a steroid. Despite my attempts of maintaining my weight loss which sometimes danced on the line of unsafe, the weight came back with some other side effects of the steroid, like two-week periods, increased testosterone, major mood swings, and hair loss. Once again, I felt fat and, even worse than inadequate in my opinion, I felt disgusting.

Skip four years to my freshmen year of high school where I came in contact with a nightmare of a man who was six years my elder. He took advantage of my naivety and manipulated me into thinking it was not only something I wanted, but something I deserved.

I plummeted into a depression after the incident and lost many friends after the news spread like wildfire through school. I faked a relapse of my Crohn’s and stayed out of school for almost two months so that I didn’t have to face the judgmental people in my school who told me that I asked for it, it could’ve been much worse, and worst of all, asserted that I lied to sound “cool,” a rumor I played along with due to my misplaced shame.  

In this all time low, I turned to food for consolation, abusing it and relying on it to make me feel whole, something it never did and can never do. I realize now that I packed on the pounds to create a physical boundary between myself and any man that would ever even imagine touching me, liking me, wanting to get close to me, or even scarier: loving me.  

I never wanted to be vulnerable again because I thought vulnerability was where I was my weakest. I put my assaulter on a throne and let him alienate me from myself, the wonderful people in my life, and from other people that would try to know me in the future. I acknowledge now that when I am vulnerable, I am my strongest and deserve to give myself the chance to find a meaningful relationship with a great man, and that great man deserves the chance to know me because I am a great fucking woman. 

I have spent the last six years keeping quiet because I, like all women, have been trained to believe that we are alone in these struggles and that these kinds of stories are excuses that are too intense to impose on people. There are millions of women walking around this world swallowing their stories and letting them fester when really sharing it can change not only their life, but also the lives of those who listen.  

It took me until I was eighteen to trust my friends with my story. It wasn’t until that conversation, four years after the assault, that I realized I was raped.

I didn’t realize I feared physical contact with men for a long time. Now when I cringe from the touch of a male friend, I notice. When I binge eat, I take the time to think of why I am compelled to do so. When I feel discomfort in being both alone and in large groups for extended periods of time, I consciously reflect on that insecurity. Just getting to this point of understanding – one that isn’t all that advanced – took years of uncomfortable and forced self-reflection.  

I would be seriously remiss if I didn’t take the time to acknowledge how truly confused and lost I would be without my close friends from home that stuck with me through all of the insanity, my amazing and supportive friends here that always make me feel valid and heard, my fellow Vagina sisters from the Vagina Monologues that not only listened to my story but looked me in the eyes, crying, and told me I am worth the world and I didn’t deserve the hand I was dealt, and most importantly, my family, specifically my superhero mother.

Next time you see me and label me as fat, remember that judgment shouldn’t be passed without an understanding of that person’s circumstance, and even then, who are any of us to judge instead of accept? Do not pity me or wonder how I could possibly let myself look like this because sometimes the one thing we can control in our lives proves to be a task too daunting despite how hard one tries.

So, some of the words to describe my body: beautiful, voluptuous, sexy, unique, majestic, and a palace.  More importantly, some of the words to describe my soul: compassionate, caring, sarcastic, loud, demanding, passionate, and real. I am not at all trying to say that I am some wonderful example nor am I trying to put down women of any other body shape.  Quite on the contrary, I am saying that we must all be kinder to each other and to ourselves. Demand honor and respect from all who are fortunate enough to be a part of your life. 

Finally, sometimes the hardest work to be done is the most miraculous. Rise to the challenge with the help of those around you and never be afraid to reach out for help elsewhere, such as from therapists. We are all bonded by our experiences, regardless of how dark or bright. You are a precious temple of worth and meaning and should treat yourself as such.


Every girl made to think she didn’t deserve compassion




BU '18

BU Contributor