This Is What It's Like To Be 'The Fat Kid' At School

My mum was a feeder, my dad used to call me 'seven bellies' – I had overwhelming sensations adults didn't like me, as though it was my fault
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I was an obese child.

I was five stone by the time I was five years old. My mum was a feeder. My older brother was skinny and so was my dad. Mum was always ‘watching her weight’, and remained at a steady nine stone, achieved by practically starving herself. As both my brother and my dad were not that interested in food, she could feed me. I was interested in food. I just loved to eat, and I ate everything in sight.

My dad used to call me “seven bellies” when I was in the bath. I hated that – there’s nothing worse for a fat kid than being teased. And years later I realised that my dad and his three brothers, who teased me mercilessly, had no idea what they were doing. Now and again I would burst into tears, and I could see on their faces how surprised and sorry they were. Their intent was never to hurt me. My mum never teased me too, but she was in denial. She’s Italian, so you might say she was a cultural feeder. She would just say I was big-boned.

I have many memories of being fat. One particular memory was in infant school, when we used to wear red knickers for PE. In time, new blue shorts arrived in the school office, but I just knew there wouldn’t be a pair that would fit me. I was right but I can’t even remember being really embarrassed. I was fat and I knew it, so the fact that there wasn’t a pair of shorts that would fit me came as no surprise. I was upset though, that I can remember. I can remember feeling sorry for the office staff all flapping around ripping open the cellophane wrappers, saying ‘there must be a pair big enough to fit you, Susan’. There was not – as a consequence, my little fat body continued to run around in hideous red knickers while all the other average-sized kids got to wear brand new blue shorts.

As any other fat kid will appreciate, lunch time was the highlight of my school day. No bad memories of school dinner food for me! I do remember though one day when one of the kitchen assistants came out with a tray of chips to offer us seconds. I must have gobbled up the extra portion quite quickly and put my hand up for more. She refused, saying ‘Susan, you know you’re not supposed to have thirds of chips’. No, I didn’t know. I wanted them, and I remember feeling really embarrassed when she shouted at me. As a child I had overwhelming sensations that some adults didn’t like me. You could almost see the disgust on their faces. Like it was my fault. My best friend was skinny, very skinny, further highlighting my fatness. ‘Oi, fatty!’ was regularly shouted out to me as I walked around the estate where we lived.

At the age of nine, I went to the doctors and was given my first diet sheet – within a year I was a ‘normal’ weight. At the age of 16 I was a very healthy nine stone. Then I met a boy who told me I looked fat.

Within a month of going out with him, I barely ate and weighed 7st 12lbs. I realise now I was on a slippery slope toward a condition like anorexia or bulimia. I tried to vomit, but didn’t get on with that and somehow I emerged and began eating more sensibly, although I remained wracked with guilt when I ate something indulgent.

More needs to be done to help educate and support fat children and their parents so that the children have a chance of becoming a healthy weight before they reach adulthood, ideally before they hit secondary school.

I believe that parents don’t set out to have fat children, but the hard fact is over feeding a child is abusive behaviour and needs to stop.

Now at the age of 55, I am just on the fringe of normal and overweight on the BMI scale (10st 10lbs at 5ft 4in). I live a fairly healthy lifestyle and eat mindfully. I am a happy person, and enjoy life. I have a very positive outlook. But, this could so easily not be the case.