What “Hunger” by Roxane Gay Meant for MY Body


Left: May 2018. Right: August 2018

“I have been living in this unruly body for more than twenty years. I have tried to make peace with this body. I have tried to love or at least tolerate this body in a world that displays nothing but contempt for it. I have tried to move on from the trauma that compelled me to create this body. I have tried to love and be loved. I have been silent about my story in a world where people assume they know the why of my body, or any fat body. And now, I am choosing to no longer be silent. I am tracing the story of my body from when I was a carefree young girl who could trust trust her body and who felt safe in her body, to the moment when that safety was destroyed, to the aftermath that continues even as I try to undo so much of what was done to me” – “Hunger” by Roxane Gay 

It’s appropriate for me to first start this by saying how amazing this book was. Roxane paints a clear picture of her own story, her journey, and her body. I knew the minute I read the inner flap of the book, I was going to love it since I grew up a “big” girl all of my life. While our stories are very different, I’m inspired by Dr. Gay. I admire Dr. Gay. Because it goes without saying…it is hard…living in a world where “thick” is adored but still has a size limit…where every mannequin in department stores instantly paints a picture of beauty….and it often seems that big=disgusting. We label big women…we toss them away…we ignore them…and we don’t allow them take up space. As if not facing reality that everyone’s body is NOT meant to be the same is enough…we neglect big women. We go straight to their BMI…ignoring their stories. I am a big woman. This is my story.

I am and have been bigger than most…all of my life. I remember growing up, it was just a luxury really-eating. Everything was so readily available to me, I liked sweets, and my family loved feeding me. I didn’t necessarily feel “bad” about being a big girl. It was the world though that changed that. It was barely fitting in the desks in school and being so nervous that students were looking at me or laughing at me. It was the frequent conversations my aunt when bring up when she would visit about me doing more walking…or her micromanaging my eating. It was the things I “wanted” to wear in department stores that were never “big girl” friendly. This is what my hunger did to me, physically.

Mentally, being a big girl set me in this trap of then…just wanting to be pretty. I knew I was a black girl. I was a DARK, black girl. I was a dark, black, BIG girl. The combination of the three, to me…I think internally, they all meant all odds were against me…and that I had to put in extra work to be seen. So, mentally? Being a big girl wasn’t “pretty” for me. So, I had to compensate. I remember, starting in high school, I would wear so much make-up. I envied…everything about me. But with make-up on, I truly felt like my own woman….and most importantly, I could mask my insecurities while secretly envying the girls who were “naturally” pretty. So, while everyone was always saying “You’re so pretty” or “You have a beautiful smile” or “You’re so confident”…I never believed any of those things. Mentally…all I thought I was…was big…never pretty.

My emotions…This is MY WHY of my body and how my insecurities get the best of me, my emotions lead me to eat, and well ya know….with a pear shape, one can only imagine what countless Krispy Kreme doughnuts can do to a body. I’ll give you one word. Men. The picture on the left up there? That was after more than just doughnuts. That was after numerous Cookout Trays, Wendy’s, and any type of candy you can imagine. I was….lonely. I remembered looking at this picture the day before I left for Africa and I laid on the floor…and cried. Because, this was the second time I allowed my body…and emotional eating…to get the best of me…and at the expense of who? A man.

I pinpointed the word this week to define my last relationship, situationship, friendship, disastership…whatever we should’ve called it. Emotional abuse. You know, we often hear the word abuse…and think straight to the physical. And while I recognize that is life-threatening, being abused emotionally…is tormenting. It’s the mind games…it’s the lies, cheating, and deceit. It’s the feelings..that you’re going crazy. This was me. And my only mechanism to cope…was my body-both eating and sexually. And that picture on the left….I can’t even believe that “me”. Because I compromised myself….for the sake of making someone else happy…for the sake of keeping someone who didn’t want to be kept…and because I thought I could do the “changing”…and that…he loved me. I compromised myself and my body….trying to figure out why I was so…unhappy. Let me say this…right here and right now…emotional abuse is not cute, nor is it healthy. The “crazy” girlfriend dynamic. That should NEVER be. Love shouldn’t be crazy.

I wish I could say my previous relationship was the first disaster for my body. But, it wasn’t. If anything, it’s been a wake up call of the price that I set for something that is so priceless. And I read Dr. Gay’s book and also realized that. I’ve spent so much time…boxing my “big” self into where I thought I should be for the sake of being liked, for the sake of having a prince charming, and for the sake of being “pretty”. But, in actuality, I am and have always been ALL of those things…plus more. Looking back on my life, looking back on my summer, and looking at that picture of my body on the right…there’s only one thing that I want to be-happy.

And not the temporary happy…or the conditional happy. I’m talking about the effervescent, joyous, full of life at all times, HAPPY. And I don’t need another being to be that. If I die today or tomorrow, I want to die knowing that my LIFE was beautiful…not that I was pretty. I want to die knowing I meant something. And call me crazy…but I choose that over pretty. I choose that over prince charming. I choose loving my body in every single stage that’s in, so that I always love me.

After all…the first time I lost weight. I got down to 190 pounds and I still looked in the mirror and HATED me…even after everyone said I looked so “good” and so “skinny”. That was before my last relationship. But, there I was. Still unhappy and even then at that time, still trying to put a man in a place where only I should’ve been.

I don’t know if I’d ever write a book about the story of my body. But, for now…this will do. I’m a big girl…who is just another victim of this picture the world creates and a hostage, sometimes if I must admit, to my own insecurities. My “safety” in my own body? It was destroyed the minute I made the decision to put my happiness in the hands of other people instead of healing and working on my own wounds. And now? Well, I couldn’t agree with Roxane even more…I’m just trying to undo so much of what was done to me.



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