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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Irene Paterka

My Name is Kathleen and I am a Fatty

Ever wake up in the morning, dreading the thought of having to face a brand new day? I know the feeling.

I lived that way for years. I’d wake up and burrow under the blankets, dreading the thought of climbing out of bed, having to face a brand new day and a closet full of clothes that didn’t fit because I’d outgrown them. Not because I’d grown too tall, but because I’d grown too fat.

FAT. There it is, the word everyone dreads: FAT. But it is what it is, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I was fat. I was a big baby, a chubby little girl and eventually, a fat teenager. And when I say fat, I’m not talking an extra 15 pounds. I’m talking FAT-fat. Fat-as-in, by the time I graduated from high school, I weighed 300 lbs. Granted, I’m tall (5’11”) and probably managed to carry those 300 lbs. better than someone who’s only 5’3”. But fat is fat, and I know what it feels like to live in society feeling like you’re different than everyone else… simply because of the way you look.

Simply because you are fat. Remember Baby Huey? The cartoon duck from the 50s, with the baby bonnet and

the funny waddle? Baby Huey was my nickname from way back in grade school. Okay, I didn’t wear the baby bonnet, but I definitely had the funny waddle. You would have waddled, too, if you weighed 300 lbs. I’ve never forgotten what it felt like to hear the other kids jeering behind my back, calling me that name. Just like I’ve never forgotten the smirk on that cute sophomore boy’s face (the one I had the big fat crush on), who slammed his locker door in front of me, muttering, “Get lost, Baby Huey.”

Which is exactly what I did. I got lost. I lost myself in a bag of chocolate chip cookies (my favorite). I lost myself scarfing down gooey candy bars and slurping ice cream cones. When the other girls were busy with their boyfriends, I would spend my nights curled up with a good book and a big bag of chips. When prom night came, I tried to forget the fact that I hadn’t been asked by going to the movies and indulging with a big tub of salty greasy popcorn. Stolen teenage kisses in the moonlight? Those were something I read about in the romance novels I devoured… not anything I experienced firsthand. All that food took a toll, not only on my hips, but also on my self-esteem. By the time I started college, I was convinced I would always be fat.

Then somehow, things slowly began to change. I lost weight. It didn’t happen overnight. It took a few years, but eventually I got down to the weight I am today (153 lbs., perfect for my height). I feel good at this weight, and I’ve maintained it for nearly 35 years. And though the outside of me looks different than when I was in high school, inside there’s still that fat little girl who remembers the nickname Baby Huey. Inside me, there’s still that person who thinks ‘yeah, right’ when other people mention how nice I look or how slender I am. My husband (yes, I’m married, and have been for 34 years to the greatest guy in the world) tells me every day that I’m the most beautiful woman in the world. Most days I don’t believe him, but some days I do. It’s been hard to learn to trust my instincts; probably because I spent so many years being judged merely on the way I looked.

I’ll never be able to recapture my teenage years and live them over again at a normal weight, but I’ve made my peace with that and I’m happy with who I am. Baby Huey will always be a part of me and I don’t want to forget her. She’s helped me become the woman I am today.

And thus, from dieting desperation to a desire to share a story of self-esteem and hope, my debut novel Fatty Patty was born. When I finally quit eating, I realized I had a story to tell that many people would relate to. Who among us doesn’t deal with self-esteem issues? Patty Perreault, the overweight heroine, has struggled with self-esteem issues all her life. Her childhood nickname was Fatty Patty. Though she’s now an adult, Patty still remembers the cruel childhood taunts from the very same school playground where she is now a teacher. Although Patty’s journey is not mine, but her very own, I believe the story speaks to truths that all of us face as individuals, men and women alike. Each of us has things we keep buried inside our hearts: secrets we’re afraid to expose, to drag out into the light of day. Some of us will never let those secrets go, preferring to keep our hands in the cookie jar and our hearts clamped shut. But painful as it might be, there’s also bliss to be found in finally admitting the truth. It’s a wonderful feeling to finally be able to live your life free of the fear that you’ll be eaten alive.

So that’s my story, and one of the reasons I wrote Fatty Patty. The other reason I wrote the novel is for everyone out there—women and men alike—who deal with the daily struggle of being overweight. This book is for you. I was a chubby baby, a chunky little girl, and eventually exploded into a fat teenager who never had a date, never went to her high school prom, and never thought a boy would ever want to kiss her, let alone marry her. No one but another overweight person understands the pain of what it is like to live in a society which worships the concept of thin is beautiful. If I can leave you with one truth, it is this: you are not alone. Surround yourself with people who care, and let them be your mirror. Never allow yourself to abandon hope, no matter how you look. Believe in yourself and go forward to live your dreams because YOU ARE WORTH IT.

And if you have any doubts, shoot me an email. Connect with me on Facebook. I’m always around and I’m willing to chat. Remember, overeating is a disease… and it’s a disease that kills. We’re all together in this, and I sincerely mean that. If I can help, let me know.

~ Kathleen

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