My classmate who claimed that I “wouldn’t be as funny if I weren’t fat” clearly doesn’t have much of a sense of a humor, to say nothing of empathy.
I was always known to be the class clown. I am hilarious, so hilarious that I should consider a career as a stand up comedian. My humor creates a fish eyed effect that magnifies my personality and forces my physical appearance to the periphery. At least that’s what I thought, until my classmate’s comment suggested to me that perhaps I wasn’t as funny as I thought I was. Perhaps my weight was what made me funny.
Since the age of nine, I have struggled with my weight. Even at nine I knew that I was overweight, knew it was unhealthy, and wanted to combat it. I shared my struggle with my parents who worked to help motivate me. At the same time, I was a sensitive child, so my parents would leap hurdles of insults regarding my appearance that they knew would tear me apart had they revealed them to me. My meals felt spotlighted: I can clearly remember them observing my plate of penne alla vodka or warm chocolate chip cookies and censoring themselves, sighing in frustration and sympathy.
But outside the walls of my home, no one directed much attention toward my weight.
It was not until my Freshman year of high school that a peer had directly confronted me about my weight. When waiting for the late bus after school one day, I jokingly stated that I was going to join the winter track team at my school. My classmate (who shall remain nameless) announced loudly that I shouldn’t engage in any school sports because I “wouldn’t be as funny if I weren’t fat.”
I had become a professional at using humor to soothe, to comfort myself, but this came so unexpectedly, so suddenly, that I was stung. I was unable to laugh the pain away. Mentally paralyzed and temporarily defeated, I tried to let her comment roll off me, but privately, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was my weight or my personality that made me humorous. The last time I had checked, being fat didn’t equate to being funny. My fat keeps me warm in the winter, and that’s about its only advantage.
On the bus ride home that afternoon, I decided that I wanted to conduct a self experiment. Somehow, some way, I was going to lose weight; I wanted to see whether others observed a difference in my humor.
After countless hours of diet research, I settled upon the Atkins diet. I was willing to abandon carbohydrates, (which is as torturous as living in the same house as an ex-boyfriend with whom you were still in love, I imagine) for as long as it took to lose a considerable amount of weight.
From January to April of 2014, the Atkins guidelines were my Bible and the gym was my sanctuary. I lived by my highly regimented diet and exercise schedule, and it worked.
In four months, I lost 60 pounds. And it was true what they say: nothing tasted better than skinny felt! As I received a plethora of compliments about my appearance, no one seemed to think that I was less humorous than before. I continued to walk through the halls with my contagious smile and irresistible laugh, only I was a little bit thinner, a little bit lighter.
In May of 2014, when I scarfed down a bowl of pasta at my friend’s birthday dinner, I decided to let loose of my diet. Nothing made me happier than carbohydrates, not even smaller jeans. Those jeans fit for one glorious month.
As I indulged in willful ignorance and turned a blind eye to my former “Bible” as it collected dust on a shelf in my room, I began to gain weight.
While I experienced contrasting feelings of being disappointed in myself but also realizing that perhaps the extremity of the diet wasn’t the answer, I learned not only that even if it’s difficult to remember at times, moderation serves better than extreme limitation, but also that I was able to draw confidence in myself regardless of my increased weight.
In a society that profits from self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act. I guess I’m rebellious, because I love myself, regardless of my weight.
And as for my experiment, the results were indisputable: my weight might have had a significant bearing on my jean selection, on my scale, and on my understanding of myself, but it had none whatsoever on my humor.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.