Our first four months were consumed by my shame because I was convinced that I was their shame.


by Indigo

This essay contains discussion of a sexual assault, fat antagonism, disordered eating, and unhealthy patterned behavior associated with eating disorders.

I have engaged in disordered eating for at least a decade – about half of my life.

I, like most people with eating disorders, never intended to have an eating disorder.

I was just trying to stop being “the fat one” growing up. My thighs were thicker than my friends’. My stomach always poked out over the waistband of my shorts. I never had a sharp jawline. My arms jiggled.

At first, I would only skip a few meals a week. By eighth grade, I had mastered discreet vomiting sessions in the girls’ bathroom in between classes.

The cycles of starving and stuffing myself continued throughout high school. I carried a food journal. I did daily weigh-ins. I hid my body in the largest sweatshirts that I could find.

Though I was unhealthy and unhappy, I was functioning.

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But it all went to shit in college.

A violent sexual assault during my first semester sent me into an intense dysmorphic episode. I was disgusted by every part of me he had touched.

Initially, there was a healthy balance between stuffing and vomiting. Then, it just became stuffing. I had become my worst nightmare, fat. Again.

While my thinner and lighter friends were invited to frat parties and whisked away to the bedroom of the host, I stayed home performing weigh-ins and reading over my food journal.

While they jumped into relationships and were caught in the middle of cliché love triangles, I was poking and prodding at my brown, jiggly, unlovable body in my bathroom mirror.

I was never boy-obsessed, but as time passed, I became more and more obsessed with the lack of attention boys would give me. My size, in combination with my lack of racial ambiguity, eliminated me from the roster of the hottest freshmen to fuck.

No one wants a girl with love handles to ride them.

No one wants to pin down jiggly arms.

No one wants to fuck or love fat, Black bodies.

And then, I really couldn’t stop. On a quest to be loved, I found my entire world orbiting around calorie counting and feeling the vibration on my Fitbit whenever I hit 10,000 steps.

But now, all these years later, I am loved so deeply by someone that it almost feels unconditional.

And yet, I’m still starving and stuffing myself. I have been since I first met them. I want their love to be unconditional, so I committed myself to “earning” it. Every compliment they gave me, even those that had nothing to do with my body, I believed were because of my secret cycle of starving and stuffing.

I believed that, while no one could love a fat, Black girl with so much baggage, someone could love a thin, pretty Black body – one I’d have if I just worked hard enough.

For the first four months of our relationship, all I could think about was how my fat body looked walking next to their thin one.

How in every candid photo they’d take of me, the fat underneath my chin was visible. How every time we would have sex, they couldn’t possibly have been enjoying themselves.

In every great love novel you read, it’s a beautiful thin girl with a petite frame physically embraced by her typically cisgender, heterosexual, male partner. I felt emptiness knowing that my body would never be small enough to be completely consumed by another’s and my skin was much too brown for my partner to ever really notice my blush when they kissed me.

As much as I never really cared for romance novels or relationships, I felt completely useless knowing that there was nothing about my relationship that remotely resembled popular mainstream depictions.

I wanted to be heartbreakingly beautiful. I wanted to be worth heartbreak, period. I wanted to be wanted. For reasons I just cannot put my finger on, nothing my partner did got me there.

Our first four months were consumed by my shame because I was convinced that I was their shame.

I tried to starve it all away, but eventually was able to see that I couldn’t, so I had to tell them about how I’d been living.

It did not change how they felt about me. They even wanted to support me. They’d remind me to eat, to drink water, and to be kinder to myself. That should have helped, but it just made it all worse.

The check-ins only caused me to fixate more on what I wanted to eat, what I couldn’t eat, and whatever it was that I did eat.

I’d feel guilty if I hadn’t eaten that day, but I would still tell them I’d eaten plenty.

I’d feel guilty if I over-indulged that day, but I would tell them that I was really starting to make progress with portion control.

This only became more and more intense. I’d find myself feeling like a child with their hand in the cookie jar before dinner if they happened to notice I was not eating enough or that I was eating excessive amounts.

I fixated more and more on the differences between our appetites, our diets, and our bodies. Whenever my stomach would growl, I’d try my hardest to silence it. For they may love me and my fat now, but no one can do it forever.

I still do not believe that they can do it forever.

And I have come to realize that none of this has anything to do with them – I’m sick.

I was sick before them.

I will be sick after them.

I will be sick whether I blame them or thank them for my relapse.

And if I am not careful, I will only get sicker and then there really won’t be any part of me that they can love because I will never recover.

So, perhaps, it is better if, for the first time in my life, I share my true feelings instead of eating my weight in them.

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Indigo, who uses both they, them and he, him gender pronouns, is a Black Puerto Rican lesbian essayist and recovering community organizer. While pursuing their undergraduate degree, Indigo served as the inaugural president of their campus’ Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition, organizing educational program on social, economic, and political issues impacting primarily Black and Latinx queer and/or trans persons. Currently, Indigo is pursuing a juris doctorate degree at CUNY School of Law.