My Obsession With My Silhouette

Photo credit: Larm Rmah

I’m not obsessed about being fat, I’m obsessed with my silhouette.

It started from a very young age. I was a gangly, lanky teenager who was called names like ‘Pote’ (paws) and ‘Skenkels’ (shanks), because of how thin my legs were. I was also mercilessly teased by the boys and called ‘Plankebors’ (shelf board), a reference to my flat and underdeveloped chest at the age of 13.

If I think about it, I was of average proportion through high school and university and it was only while teaching that my weight started yo-yoing. I distinctly remember walking in the Main Road, Bellville in the 80s when a municipal worker on the back of a truck looked down at me and said: ‘Rond soos ‘n bôl.’ (round like a ball).And then he and his buddies laughed like hyenas. It stung like someone threw acid over me. It burnt the skin of my soul.

I started looking at my shape. My breasts were now fully developed and dominating my silhouette, my stomach was still flat, my derrière (my butt) ok, and my legs still stick thin. I didn’t have a shape. I also remember taking three months leave to work on a musical for a school in Mitchell’s Plain, and in the time we were writing and rehearsing I lived off chocolates and red apples. There was no time to eat. My weight dropped to a size 27. I felt good. I became addicted to the way my clothes body-hugged me in all the right places, I got looks and stares like never before in my life. For a girl who was never regarded as pretty or look-worthy, it was a dangerous and intoxicating space to be in.

I started starving myself to remain a size 27. I had a white Levi 501 that fitted me like a glove and I worshipped it. I was 27 and wearing a size 27. It was at this point that I started sticking my finger down my throat to vomit everything that I ate. I love food. I enjoy the act of eating. But eating everything that’s good and delicious led to weight gain. So how could I eat whatever I want and remain a 27? I vomited.

For 10 years I vomited to retain my weight of 47 kilograms. For me, 50 kilograms was fat. 60 was bordering on obese. And 70 was unthinkable. Don’t mention dress sizes. Anything over 34 was fat. Church aunties wearing size 40 floral dresses were fat. If I entertained the idea of gaining weight, 36 was the highest dress size I allowed myself. Anything over that I would starve myself to regain at least 34.

But for ten glorious years I was sub-34. How did I do that? On the one hand I craved food and overate on most occasions. And on the other hand I couldn’t stomach the fact that I would gain weight. My girlfriends and I were the belles of the balls, and they were all thin. How could I be the fatso, the one that resembles a ball?

Attention was my drug of choice.

I would stuff myself and declare my delight in the good meal. Then I would excuse myself to go to the bathroom and then just vomit it all out. That meant that I could have another bite, maybe another desert. And if needs be, just vomit it out again. I became very clever at this. I learned all the tricks. I thought no one was watching. I completely forgot about the sour smell clinging to the corners of my mouth, the sour smell in the bathroom …

I was about to be busted.

I became obsessed with the way I looked, simply because I loved the attention it brought. Yes, I suffered from low self-esteem. Something many young women suffer from, and in many cases, it’s attributed to looks. If I could control my weight by any means necessary, I could control how the world viewed me and how they interacted with me. First impressions. For 10 years I fed the beast. For 10 years I deluded myself.

I fell pregnant at the age of 37 and after giving birth I lived for the moment I would wear my size 27 white Levi 501 again. Two weeks after giving birth I hauled it out. I was so excited. It didn’t fit. It could not even reach my knees. I was devastated. I wept for weeks. No post-natal depression here, just vanity. And I’ve never been able to shed the weight again.

My beautiful silhouette was gone. My breasts were balloons, my inner thighs live in close proximity to each other like council flats, the Caesarean cut turned into a floppy drop top. But a few things stayed the same. The size of my feet (that’s why I always clad them beautifully) and my perfectly toned upper arms. My wedding ring doesn’t fit anymore, I wear loose fitting clothes to hide the bulges. This said, I love the life stage I’m in. The fuck-that-shit stage. It’s ok to be messy.

So how did I get here? I knew that I was not anorexic, because I worked with someone who had anorexia. So was I bulimic? If I look at the definition, then yes. Was I ever diagnosed by a doctor? No. I became very self-aware after an aha moment watching Oprah talk to Eckhart Tolle about his book A New Earth. It’s the book that changed my entire outlook on life. Just not so much my yo-yoing weight. That’s another discussion. But I self-corrected the way I looked at myself. I morphed into who I am today.

Who busted me? My 8-year-old daughter one day asked why I vomited every time after I have eaten. I lied and said I was feeling nauseous. It shocked me to my core. I’m sure that there were others who noticed and never said anything, never confronted me. Whatever their reasons.

I stopped. Did I stop completely? Sometimes I fail. And then I purge. But mostly I’m in control. I do not like my flabby tummy. I don’t like my clothes clinging to my arse, interfering with a sleek looking silhouette. My breasts are ballooning and dominating my view down towards my perfect size 4 feet. Do I hate being fat? Yes. Can I live being fat? Absolutely. Is my fat aligned to the way people view me? I don’t give a fuck how people see me. When I feel uncomfortable, I go on a fake diet to shed a few kilos. But mostly I’m ok. I’ll maybe sing another song when I join the over-40-size-and-over club. Do I have low self-esteem? Not since I turned 30.

It becomes a little self-indulgent to purge your problems, so I’m with Tupac when he said, ‘You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve, would’ve happened … or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the fuck on.’

I’m not brave sharing my truth. It’s just who I have become. I respect honesty and truth and living an authentic life. That in itself is a journey I try and walk every day. If we all speak up and out more, we will heal sooner.

I receive a lot of inbox messages from young women about being a role model to them. I’m no role model to anyone. I’m a messy human being. It becomes a heavy burden when people expect certain things from you, see you as torch bearer. I’m too flawed to be one. All I am and all I can be is honest. You ask me a question, be prepared for the answer.

But maybe one more of us will speak about what we go through. That’s a win.

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