As far back as I can remember I have always thought of myself as being the “fat” one. I was born in Jamaica with three sisters, me being the youngest. My sister Mary and I were closest in age, only a year and half apart, and my mother had us together everyday. Practically raised us like twins but there was always a distinguishing fact between us: she was skinny and I was chubby. My mom would dress us alike and introduce us to others and the first thing people would say was “Mary is so pretty and Suraya is so chubby”. As I got older, I got taller and my weight increased. My sister on the other hand, got more beautiful and thinner. What I hadn’t realized was that my weight increased because of my height not because of an increase in body fat but I did not see that when I looked in the mirror. I saw someone who was morbidly obese compared to my tiny older sister. In high school I wore boy clothes three times larger than my actual size. I covered as much as I could and played the “ugly duckling” role for years.
My family migrated to South Florida, where we lived in a Jamaican populated area. The boys were attracted to girls who had large breasts and large derrieres. In high school I had neither and although my breasts were growing, I always had them covered. I was told many times by people around me that I was shaped like a white woman because I had no ass and my new nickname throughout high school, apart from nerd, was “nosatall”, which means “no ass at all”. It was during high school that I realized I was different and would forever be different and accepted my “fate”. At least the one I made for myself, which was I will always be the fat ugly chick.
I was always active in high school, as I played sports, but that only brought on more ridicule from my gorgeously thin sister who would call me thunder thighs because of my involvement in tennis. I would diet quite a bit, always trying something new to see what worked with my body and what didn’t. I went on a rice diet, an all meat diet, no meat diet, only water diet and then the worse of all, an all you can eat and vomit diet. I hadn’t realized how badly I feared getting any fatter until I got pregnant at 18. I was already fat but now I would get even fatter and disgusting by carrying a child. Most women abhor the thought of morning sickness but I embraced it and loved it, especially since it didn’t happen before breakfast but just after dinner, not-self induced. When the morning sickness went away I was devastated because that meant I would now hold in all that I shoved in my mouth. That is when I started my all fruit diet. During my pregnancy, which lasted only seven months, I gained fifteen pounds, five of which I lost at the very end because I was diagnosed with Preeclampsia and I started to not eat anything at all due to my sodium levels being so high.
I believe the media has always influenced the way I viewed myself as well as others, but for me it was more of a “what I would never look like” type of thing. I know my bone structure and how my body is built and I know that I will never be a Victoria’s Secret model nor will I ever be as thin as my sister. I also know that I will never want to look like the actress from Precious because that would definitely bring on suicide. My cultural background also plays heavily in how I view myself. When visiting family back home the first thing that is said after hello is, “you put on weight eh?” I would cringe and will cringe at those words every time they are said by aunts, cousins and even grandparents. No one wants to be the fat one in the family and for those that are, they are the butt of every joke.
I haven’t really given much thought of how others see me. I just know how I see myself: tall and somewhat fat. I know that I am not obese but I could stand to lose some more weight or at least tone up. Have I overcome my negative self-image? Not sure I have because I have no clue what a positive self-image is. Will I wake up every morning and look in the mirror and not see something I would like to change? Probably not because I know I can never be as perfect as I would like to be. I have not and do not intend on seeing a therapist because Jamaicans do not see therapists. *smile* I cannot say the way I look has always determined how I feel but it does play a part at times. I have told myself in the last few years that it matters not what people think but what I believe about me that makes me great. Does that mean I will start stuffing food down my throat and allow myself to get bigger? No. It just means that I care what I look like when I look in the mirror. If I like me the way I am, then others will and I can only accept that.
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