I Hate My Body: My Battle with Internalized Weight Stigma

*Trigger warning- This blog post discusses eating disorder behaviors.

I don’t remember the first time I learned to hate my body. What I can tell you is that this belief has been a constant companion for most of my life. Actually, “’companion” is not the right word at all.

Rather, it was more like one of those annoying commercial jingles that gets stuck in your head on repeat for every waking minute for weeks on end. You know the ones I’m talking about- the ones that permeate your brain so much that you’re dreaming about how Stanley Steemer gets your home cleaner.

This idea ran on repeat over and over and OVER again. Every day. From the moment I woke up until the time I would fall asleep.

“I hate my body. My body is wrong. I am wrong. I hate my body. My body is wrong. I am wrong.”

With each year that passed, I would experience constant reminders or moments of “proof” that solidified this belief to be true. And with each experience, the core of who I was gradually morphed and contorted into this new person- a person merely trying to survive being told I was wrong.

Anna, age 8, wearing white, long-sleeve pajamas while hugging a large Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal; in the early stages of learning to hate her body

One of the earliest memories that haunted my childhood happened at age 8. My mother and I just moved to a new neighborhood in my hometown, which meant having to make new friends.

A month or so into the school year, I joyfully ran out into the playground with one of my new friends. She was well liked by the other students in our grade and wanted to help me fit in. We wandered over to a small group of her friends who were playing hide and seek.

It’s interesting, because I don’t remember much of childhood or even adolescence. When I try to remember events or moments people bring up, it’s like the grey static from old TVs- completely fuzzy. But I remember with incredible clarity the moment one of the little boys said he didn’t want to play with me, because I was too fat.

I remember the huge, rushing wave of embarrassment that engulfed me as he said those words. I remember the pain and despair I felt from feeling left out and unwanted. I remember hating my body for making me feel like I wasn’t good enough. I remember wanting to hide to escape those feelings.

And hiding is what I did. I hid within myself. I went from outgoing to shy, afraid to experience the same pain of being othered like I did in that moment. I shrunk my personality, so people wouldn’t notice me- notice how wrong my body was. I didn’t want people to see how wrong I was.

During my preteens, I was pretty active in the youth group at one of the local churches. On a weekly basis, the church would hold social events to help establish a sense of community and faith in their younger parishioners. I loved going each week. I had developed a couple of really close friendships and was finally starting to feel like I belonged somewhere (unlike the shitshow that was school).

One of the activities we regularly did was this game called “sardines.” If you’ve never played it before, basically one person hides and the others have to find them. Each time someone finds the original person, they have to hide with them in the same spot. The idea is to cram many people into a small space without the other kids finding you.

Well, I was really good at this game as a hider, mostly due to my flexibility. One day, I offered to be one of hiders. I knew the PERFECT spot that no one would find. There was an office on the second floor of the church that had a bunch of top and bottom cabinets for storage, like those you would see in a kitchen. I quietly tip-toed to the office, sat on the counter, folded myself in half, and slid into the space between the upper and bottom cabinet.

Time started to tick by- 10 minutes. Then 20 minutes. Then 30 minutes. They still hadn’t found me. Each time someone walked by, I pressed my hands over my mouth, stifling a giggle to keep my spot secret. Around the forty-minute mark, I heard a couple of the other preteens nearing my location.

As they approached, one of the boys in the group snarked, “I’m surprised we didn’t hear where Anna hid. She sounds like an elephant when she walks.” He then proceeded to stomp on the ground to imitate how I sounded to him.

It was in this moment that I learned my fat body made too much noise. When I walked, I practiced moving in a way that allowed me to take lighter steps. If I started breathing too hard after walking upstairs, I would quiet my breathing, even as my lungs screamed for more oxygen. I spoke out less and less in group settings, quieting my voice, so no one would notice me… and how wrong my body was.

As time marched on, I became more aware of what and how much I ate. Family members would tell me that I was eating too much and needed to lose weight to be healthy. They would praise me as my body shrank and scold me when it got larger. Thin friends would make comments about eating too much when their portion sizes were half of what I was eating. I went on almost every diet my mom started in the pursuit of thinness.

Anna, age 14, standing in front of a white door wearing a sparkly, dark blue homecoming dress (actively dealing with an eating disorder)

The summer before I started high school, I was so determined to be thin. I wanted to start this next chapter of my life more attractive, so people would finally like me. I put myself on this super restrictive diet that cut out carbs and slashed my calories in half. I tracked EVERYTHING that went into my mouth. I exercised in the gyms for at least 2 hours every day, pushing myself until I wanted to pass out.

This happened all summer. Ate less. Tracked everything. Compulsively exercised. Rinse and repeat. I did lose weight. I got down to the thinnest I can remember. But as time went on, the diet was harder to follow. I didn’t have the time to push myself in the gym anymore, and my weight started to increase.

With every pound I gained, I hated my body more. I felt like a failure. I learned I didn’t have the willpower or motivation to keep the weight off. If I did, I would do what was needed to be thin. Each time I dieted, I pushed my body even more to “prove” that I wasn’t a failure.

High school was really when I learned I took up too much space. Each day, I would squeeze my body into the desks to write notes or take exams. I would angle my body in a weird position to even walk between the aisles with my back pack on. More memorably, I rocked the business casual look, because I couldn’t find age-appropriate clothes in my size.

One day during my junior year, my teacher split up my class into groups to work on a project. I picked up my things and moved to a desk closer to the other students in my group. Seems normal right?

I learned later that day the student who normally sat in that desk blatantly told his group he did not want me to sit in his desk, because I would break it. Little did that kid know (or really me too) that I was dealing with an active eating disorder. His singular comment would trigger me into a long stretch of restricting and binging, trying to make my body smaller.

Anna, age 17, models her A-line, light green with gold sequins prom dress, excited she found a dress to fit her size 20 body

From then on, I would try to manipulate my body to take up less space. I would fold and twist my arms and legs when sitting next to people on the bus, on stadium bleachers, in the backseat of cars, and in lecture hall desks. I would suck in my stomach and squeeze into Spanx to shrink my round belly. And I went on diet after diet, massively triggering my eating disorder and destroying my mental health, all in the pursuit of making my body smaller.    

These are just a few snapshots in time- a few passing words that had an immense and lasting impact on how I moved throughout the world. Now imagine the accumulation of a lifetime of small moments. Imagine the impact of YEARS of passing words that have been internalized by a person, gradually morphing into their own accepted belief.

That is how weight stigma affects us, especially those in larger fat bodies.

Each time we hear “You need to lose weight for your health” or “You’re eating too much” or some variation, those words have the potential of transforming how we see, how we treat, and how we value both ourselves and our bodies.

The weight stigma we experience can make us feel like we need to hide. That we need to be silent. That we lack willpower and motivation. That we cannot take up space.

We learn to hate our bodies. We learn that our bodies are wrong. THAT WE ARE WRONG.

The most ironic part is- those words, the resulting internalized weight stigma, is what has the greatest potential impact on our mental and physical health. Not the size of our bodies (correlation does not equal causation).

It took me years (and a lot of therapy, effort, and emotional energy) to unpack the weight stigma I had internalized from such a young age. Discovering intuitive eating, Health at Every Size®, and body neutrality allowed me to challenge that inner voice- to rewrite that obnoxious commercial jingle into something with a little more love and empathy.

If you, too, are in the process of challenging and unlearning your own commercial jingle of “I hate my body,” I want you to know that I see you. I grieve with you. I stand with you.

Please know that you deserve to be heard.

You do not need to hide.

The size of your body does not determine your willpower or motivation.

You deserve to take up space.

Most importantly, you and your body are not wrong.

If you feel safe enough to do so, I would love to hear and bear witness to your story of how weight stigma has impacted you. Feel free to leave a comment here, send a message to me on Instagram (@thewittyavocado), or email me at

To read more about my journey living in a fat body, check out my post, “5 Lessons I Have Learned from Living in a Fat Body.”

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