Gee, You’re Fat

By Mary Jedlicka Humston © 2012

Gee, you’re fat.

Sitting in junior high music class, I had nowhere to run from those shocking, denigrating words. The accompanying sneer made them more potent. More real. True.

Gee, you’re fat.

As an insecure, young teenager, I sheltered that comment deep within my heart. Too humiliated to admit that anyone would ever say such a thing to me, I never told another soul, convinced I was disgustingly fat. Why else would a classmatewho rarely, if ever, talked to me—have said so?

Gee, you’re fat.

It was spring in the late 1960s. Anorexia was not a commonly used word back then, but years later, after reading my first article about it, I knew I had been a victim of anorexia, unbelievably sparked by those three words. They, along with my already low self-esteem, propelled me into another world where I vowed to prove to everyone I wasn’t fat. Fashion magazines with skinny models gracing their covers further demonstrated this necessity.

That summer brought a regime of exercises. Long before jogging became popular, I ran up and down our country lane and over the hills of our pastures. I became adept at counting calories. 

The pounds dropped. My clothes hung. Even as the number on the scale grew lower, a huge, husky girl in the mirror stared back at me. My school picture that fall showed a thin-faced, pale freshman who weighed 104 pounds and still thought she was fat.

I wonder how much longer this mindset would have continued or how much more weight I would have lost if something hadn’t happened in the girl’s locker room? It was a loud, frenetic time as everyone rushed to change into shorts and T-shirts for outside P.E class. I searched for my gym clothes. Somehow, I had forgotten them and had nothing to wear. A petite classmate offered her extra set.

What was she thinking? Couldn’t she see how fat I was? There was no way I could wear her teeny, tiny shorts. She persisted, so, while everyone ran outside, I decided to humor her. Taking her clothes, I hurriedly slipped one leg through the shorts. Amazingly, it fit. I thrust the other leg in. It fit, too. I doubted they’d zip or button, but they did. The shorts fit. Perfectly. No bulges. No lying on the floor to fasten them. No discomfort. No tightness.

In that second, my world shifted. I stood in front of the full-length mirror. For the first time in months, there was no fat girl. Instead, reflected back was a very, very thin girl who could fit into the shorts of one of the smallest girls in school. I saw me. The real me. How long did I stand there in amazement and disbelief? Did I cry? How did I pull myself away from the mirror and go outside?

I don’t recall those details, but I do remember one thing. I changed. No, I didn’t suddenly develop a new, healthy body image (it would take many years and prayers for that to happen), but I did know one thing. If A + B = C, then thin girl’s shorts + me fitting into them = me being a thin girl. That epiphany was the first step. I wasn’t totally free of worrying about the scale and what I looked like, but I wasn’t as obsessed as I had been that summer. I even gained some weight back.

Gee, you’re fat.

Years later, raising two daughters and a son, I warned them about anorexia, never wanting them to experience what I had. All along, I continued praying for my own health and healing. I learned to respect my body and all the wonderful things it could do. My body image wasn’t grossly distorted when I looked in mirrors. And, the day came when I forgave that person who couldn’t possibly have known how much that remark affected me.

Today, I understand how someone can become anorexic. I understand how a young girl can be too embarrassed and insecure to talk to anyone, even a sister, friend or parent. If I had told even one person about that seemingly inconsequential comment, it probably would have lost its hold over me, and I could have been spared that pain and suffering. I am forever grateful a pair of shorts helped me face reality, and that God guided me through that difficult time.

Gee, I’m healthy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Jedlicka Humston has over 100 publications in newspapers, magazines, books and websites that include Liguorian, Coping with Cancer, Today’s Caregiver Magazine, Cappers, Julien’s Journal, TEA: A Magazine, Farm and Ranch Living, Our Iowa and a cover story for TOPS News. She is a member of the National League of American Pen Women, Besides writing, she loves reading, yoga, drinking tea, walking, and being with friends and family. To contact Mary, email

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