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Weight-based bullying

Healing from childhood weight-based bullying

I never told anyone I was being bullied in school but it was very clear with all the other children at my school as many of them joined in with the laughter when the spotlight was turned on me. I was big for my age, I was both tall and overweight but everything about me was targeted, the size of every physical feature and every body part was up for derision, scorn and ridicule, in every way possible, especially the size of my breasts.  


In the school I went to, for every lesson we had to change classroom and needed to queue to go in, this was primetime for bullying, my body would be discussed as it was taken apart piece by piece, trashed and decimated. The name-calling that went with the autopsy of my body was vicious. The chanting of the word ‘fatty’ was common, that was the least of all comments, they got very personal and it was up for grabs to comment on how I used my fat body to perform bodily functions, but the greatest of all was the categorical disgust expressed for my body, which was described as being the most loathsome object in the world, worse than a sewer. 


These boys thought they had the right to comment like this on my body, and even worse, I let them.  


I never told anyone because I could never have born the shame of repeating what they said. The shame was the biggest killer, I carried it every day like a heavy coat over me. I thought this was my secret and buried it deep in my body, but of course, everyone knew, they heard it as loudly as I did, laughed along with the bully or just said nothing. The shame I felt impacted how I walked, what I thought about myself, how low I thought I was in everyone’s estimation. What’s worse, was I agreed with them all, every word. I thought I was loathsome, ugly, and dragged my big body around, every night wishing I would wake up thin in the morning. 


When I was fifteen, I had a friend who suggested I make fun of my bullies, that I turn the tables on them. In that moment I ran after the ringleader and told him I wanted a kiss, I shouted out ‘go on, give us a kiss’ and made kissing noises, he ran very fast with all his friends laughing at him as he went. If I had time to think about it I might never have done it, but in that moment, I knew I just had to do it. 


That was the end of the bullying. It never ever happened again. 


It had been so easy to stop it, that shook me to the core. What made it easy for me to stop the bullying at fifteen was knowing I was being backed by my friend for what felt like the first time in my life. That backing was immense to me, it made me look at my whole life in a different way. My friend was telling me, ‘you’ve got this, go for it’. To know someone has your back, someone who values you and supports you, has such a huge impact on us all.

With bullying there are a lot of bystanders. For example, in my class, everyone could see what was going on, they heard it, they saw it and did not say a thing. Only this friend said something to me because she couldn’t bear to see me being slaughtered in public every day. It didn't occur to me that anyone would back me, yet what I realised, after it all stopped, was that I had to be the one to stop the bullying. It had to come from me. 


If a child can stop bullies in their tracks because they know someone has their back, that’s big. What else is possible when we back each other and stop looking for what’s wrong?

Criticism in families, just as backing each other can have such long-lasting consequences – which would you rather?


Image by Ihtar


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