“To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself.”
― Simone de Beauvoir
“You’re fat, you know, and that’s not healthy,” some people say, as they take a swig out of their fifth bottle of vodka, pausing only to comment on your weight and smoke a whole pack while they’re at it. “It’s just, you need to take care of yourself more. Health is wealth, you know, we as a society need to stop glamourizing this unhealthy lifestyle.” They say things like this on social media or in real life and pause for a beat, as if expecting a spotlight to be shone on them and their medal of honour laid carefully on their necks with an additional doctorate degree.
You almost want to go next to them and whisper, softly, that it really isn’t their problem.
My weight was always something that dragged me down — metaphorically and physically. And the thing is, everyone, I mean, everyone, always had something to say. It’s like as soon as you’re above a certain weight, you automatically became the entire community’s body to be surveilled and watched. On a Sunday evening when I was maybe eleven, I had to stay in the kitchen to stay with the technician as he fixed our fridge, a lanky man with wild hair. A day or two prior, it had stopped cooling so it needed some gas to be introduced into it again or something like that. I didn’t really know or bother to ask, I was just there to keep watch and make sure everything was fine after he left.
After getting bored for a while, I went and made myself a sandwich and as I bit into it, the technician turned away from the fridge — his actual job — and stared at me, shaking his head as if I’d just dishonoured my family.
“Do you like it?” He asked, his eyes sad.
I assumed he was asking about my snack, which all things considered, was a weird thing to hear coming from him. The mechanic didn’t ask how my studies were going and the waiter at Ikoyi Club never seemed particularly interested in whether the latest drivers on my laptop were installed, so why was he asking about my food?
I shrugged in response, taking another bite, savouring it. The key was to get the right balance of ketchup and mayonnaise and after years of trial and error, I found the golden ratio.
“Do you like it?” He asked again, maybe assuming I was deaf the first time and now with the question hanging in the air again, I would suddenly respond. “Being fat,” he continued. “Do you like being fat?”
I scowled at him. Well, do you like being a fridge technician? I wanted to ask him but even if I had the confidence to say such, it still wouldn’t have given me the satisfaction I needed. The thing was that I’d actually always wanted to lose weight but then, I loved food too so the problem was clear. And working out is actually really hard.
“Ten more! We have ten more to go.” My friend Jumai’s voice blared from my phone under me as we worked out together. She had finished her set and now it was just mine left. She was normally so nice and cheerful but exercise brought out the demon resting in her.
“I’m…trying.” I said, struggling to speak as I went down with my muscles aching to start the other ten. As soon as my face even came close to the ground, I fell into it and just lay there, gasping.
“You suck.” She said before hanging up.
Yup, I would have said if I could.
I found out the hard way that even after doing 20 sit-ups, your six pack doesn’t appear the next morning. But aren’t those the rules? After a while of trying and promptly failing, I just decided, You know what? Fuck it, fuck you all, I really can’t come and kill myself.
While my self-esteem was porcelain, my sister, Rita’s, was made of the coldest steel. It was something I never wrapped my head around. She really, and truly, didn’t really care what anyone else said. She was at ease with herself and couldn’t be bothered with anyone’s thoughts that really had nothing to do with her.
“Ah, Rita, you’ve gained weight o.” A reckless auntie or uncle would say in passing as if it were some sort of greeting along with Hello and Good morning, it’s been long! While I would wince and cringe, Rita just batted an eyelid, shrugged and asked them for money.
Nothing, even my father, could bring her down.
In May 2017, a few weeks shy of my birthday, I was suspended on the first day of my exams from Covenant University for four weeks. My grievous offence being not going to church. Nobody in the house could really run commentary, it wasn’t like I went to church normally. Me being suspended for it wasn’t exactly a surprise. The stupidity of the rule however…
I was home most of the time, most of my friends weren’t in the country and I didn’t even want to talk to anyone. This was a situation I couldn’t control. I couldn’t control the things my father said, or how he looked at me or how I felt.
What I could control, though, was food. So, I ate. I was just all over the place. I ate and ate until I started to feel full and I continued even then.
When I found out I was a 100kg, I really had the guts to feel shocked. This was the biggest I’d ever been, moving was getting difficult and my asthma was noticeably worse.
I had to do something, I guess, and so I started jogging, and then running, coupling it with some Insanity Workout programme from a guy named Shawn T. It was one of those videos that had people in perfect shape and size, doing the same exercises you were doing, only better and faster, making you breathe, “Screw…you,” after every set. I wanted to lose all the weight, feel good about myself, be attractive, wanted.
But the thing the weight watchers and calorie counters won’t tell you is that you can lose all the weight in the world, have the hardest six pack in the universe, get the clearest skin in the galaxy, but if you don’t actually love or even remotely kinda like who you are, warts and all, then it’s really all for naught.
Because one day, you may find yourself almost 30 pounds lighter, lither, with clearer lungs and the person staring back at you in the mirror with sunken eyes and tired legs will, against all reason, still not be enough.