Have you ever been called fat? Overweight? How about too skinny? Anorexic? A stick? Twiggy? I have.
I was always underweight and when I say underweight, I really mean it. My mum laughs when she tells people that in the late 80’s/early 90’s I was the only kid whose bike pants were baggy. At dance concerts there was always this one tall, blonde stick thin little thing with arms and legs going in all directions. I stood out like a penguin at the Olympics.
Before my growth spurt it wasn’t quite as obvious because I was small all over. When I was out with my babysitter and her daughter, both of us 4, people used to exclaim to her “Your youngest is so smart! How old is she, 2?” They were always so disappointed when they learnt I wasn’t really smart, just really small.
Growing up how thin I was became a running joke. Every time a strong gust of wind went by someone would yell out “Quick, grab Tamsin!” Any time I was seen eating junk food or a big plate someone would say “Careful, you might get fat!”
After my growth spurt I found it really hard to fit in. It was hard to find clothes that fit, or things that looked OK. I was the girl whose pants didn’t reach their ankle. In grade 7 I got voted “Skinniest” and “Flattest” in my class. In grade 11 I was told my school uniform was too short, even though I tried to explain it wasn’t the skirt that was short – it was actually longer than most – it was my legs that were long. I ended up having to lengthen it so much the pleats bent in the middle.
I wanted desperately to put on weight. I tried everything I could think of to gain weight and none of it worked. In grade 8 I weighed only 27kg. I had strangers come up to me and ask if I was anorexic. It sounds awful, and it was, but they really believed they were being helpful. One or two even went on to inform me that no matter what might be fashionable, I looked skeletal and should really put on some weight.
I always remember fondly the time I was standing with my cousin at the local train station and a school friend of hers walked up to us. She introduced me and her friend replied “God, you’re so skinny! Are you anorexic?” My cousin, without missing a beat, replied “That’s nice, would you call me fat?” She stammered… “No, but that’s different.” “No, it really isn’t.”
Often I was assured that people only insulted me because they’re jealous. Really? Maybe that’s true but I didn’t believe it then and I don’t believe it now. I don’t know anyone who looks at Calista Flockart (in her Ally McBeal days) and Twiggy as the ideal body type.
A couple of years ago I put on some weight. It wasn’t much, I got up to 54kg (at 176cm tall), but it was enough to give me boobs, a bum and a closer figure to the one I always wanted. And you know what happened? People started calling me fat. One person even said “I thought you were doing this *blows up cheeks* but it was just your fat face” while grabbing the skin under my chin. I walked away and I cried.
You know what I’ve learnt? You can never please everyone else. No one will ever think you’re perfect just the way you are. You know what else? They don’t need to. Even the world’s most beautiful women got teased. They still get bullied, have you ever read a trashy magazine?
In the year leading up to my wedding I went to the gym twice a week to train with a personal trainer, one of my closest childhood friends. I put on 10kg and got to 61kg without changing dress size (although I had to change clothing style). I have to tell you, the feeling of standing solid on the ground, of feeling strong and being able to lift things I could never lift before was amazing. When my brother was in a motorbike accident and I took him to the hospital, I was able to support his weight. I was able to be there, to be helpful and to be of use. I have never been so proud of myself.
You are you. Being the best and healthiest you can be is the most you will ever be. And it’s beautiful.
Photo 1: My high school formal in 2003.
Photo 2: Photo of me by Linzi Aitken