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At the time, I admired both boys and girls (more or less equally) on a purely aesthetic basis and, without anything else to compare it to, I had to assume that this was the same thing as sexual attraction. Why it seemed like such a big part of my friend’s lives, I couldn’t understand. I knew I was missing out on something, but I had no idea how much.
Part of the problem was that I had bigger concerns at the time. My whole life, I’d been trying and failing to fit in with one group or another. I didn’t have the looks, style or bravado to pull off popularity, or the skill to be good at sports. I didn’t appear to have any particular talent to define me, and although I got good grades at school, I was certainly no child prodigy.
Identity crises and adolescence often go hand in hand, but this went deeper. It had started in kindergarten. Even back then, I’d been uncomfortable in my own skin, the awkward pale kid who stood on the edge of the playground watching the others play but afraid to join in. I guess I’ll never know what made me that way, but it sooned made me the target of bullies, and of course that reinforced my outsider status, which led to even more bullying. I was trapped in a vicious cycle. By the time I left school, I was forever convinced it was me against rest of the world. Forever.
Comparing the strength of my sexual urges to those of my few friends – mostly fellow freaks and misfits – was the last thing on my mind.
If anyone complimented me on any aspect of my appearance at that time during my teenage years, I would assume they were either making a joke at my expense or else making a well-intentioned but ultimately patronising attempt to improve my self-esteem. The idea that anyone could give me a compliment and actually mean it was beyond the realms of possibility.
Up until then, the only thing that had ever particularly aroused me was the fantasy of being fat. Of course, as a small child stuffing pillows up his shirt, I had no idea that "sex” or "arousal” had anything to do with it, although I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that what I was doing and feeling was strange and somehow taboo. It wasn’t until I was twenty-one and reading about chubby chasers in a magazine on alternative lifestyles that I made the connection between these fantasies and my previously dormant sex life.
I felt like someone who had finally regained their sight after years of blindness. Suddenly, I was running off to my bedroom every spare minute, locking the door and jerking myself off for hours, whilst fantasising about being tied down and force fed, or gaining weight due to some miraculous potion or even just waking up one day and finding myself completely immobile. My previous "crushes” on celebrities and models now seemed laughable. I now had intense feelings of sexual attraction to men and women of all shapes and sizes – I think I had to become comfortable with my own sexual identity and fantasies before I could even begin to think of other people in sexual terms.
It’s probably worth stating for the record that I was never really fat as a teenager or during my early twenties. I had gained some weight at college (partly because ordering junk food for delivery was such a novelty and partly because I was always hungry when I was hungover) but nothing extreme. I was probably a little chubbier than the average guy, but nobody in their right mind would call me "fat.” As for my fantasies of gaining weight, they were just that. Fantasies.
Then when I was 22, for reasons I’ll never fully understand, something changed. Maybe it was because I was sharing an appartment with people who shared my musical tastes, some of my interests and my off-key sense of humour. Maybe it was because, for the first time, I felt I belonged somewhere without even trying. Maybe it was because I had cut down on my previously legendary alcohol intake, after a string of accidents and near-misses in college. Maybe I was just a late bloomer and my body hadn’t finished changing from puberty. But all of a sudden, I found myself losing weight. And people noticed. As I received more attention from male admirers, my confidence grew, and that made it easier to lose more weight.
It was both gratifying and mortifying. On the one hand, I felt like my life was finally starting. As a teenager I had genuinely believed that relationships were something that just wouldn’t figure in my life. Now there was at least a possibility of that changing. On the other hand, when I was chatting to some handsome guy who was interested in my new body, I couldn’t help observing with a pang of bitterness that these guys would never have been interested in me before I lost weight. I always knew people were shallow, but it shocked me to realise how much of a difference it made that I’d lost a few pounds. Some people were treating me as if I’d survived cancer or some other horrible disease and was now able to be rehabilitated into society.
Perhaps that’s why I became so obsessive about my weight. I craved more attention and the rush of confidence that came with losing weight, whilst at the same time still feeling insecure about my appearance. I was more self-conscious than ever – whenever I looked in a mirror I noticed a stomach that wasn’t flat enough and arms that seemed too flabby at the top. In reality, I was becoming dangerously underweight. Photos from the time show my face looking almost skeletal and my friends and family began to whisper amongst themselves about eating disorders.
Then I met someone. For two years, life was bliss. Well, not exactly. I remember those two years as being blissful, but in reality I was still insecure, needy and entirely at a loss to understand why Ryan was with me and what I’d done to deserve him. My weight increased gradually, purely because I was less inclined to skip meals now I was eating with someone else, although I was still just below the average weight for my height. Ryan had his own problems. He didn’t know what he wanted – one week he wanted us to spend time apart, the next he would suggest moving in together. We argued all the time. The upshot of all this was that I was dumped. It was my first ever break-up and I was completely unprepared for its effect. Suddenly I had all this time on my hands and I knew if I didn’t keep busy, I would just collapse into a heap and maybe never get out of bed again.
Inevitably, one of the ways I would keep myself busy was with food. After all, when you’re feeling depressed and demotivated it takes far more energy to go for a walk or embark on a new project than it does to order a pizza. In a way, it seemed like the sensible and noble thing to do. What was the alternative? Give up and drown in misery? If something cheered me up, I would be crazy not to stick with it. And the thing that cheered me up most was food.
Eventually my broken heart was repaired, but the overeating was now a compulsive habit. It wasn’t just comfort eating anymore. I would eat to celebrate good news. I would eat to drown my sorrows. I would eat because I was bored. I would eat because it stopped me craving cigarettes. I would eat because the food was free. I would eat because the extra food would be thrown away otherwise. I would eat because I deserved a reward for working hard. I would eat because that was what I always did.
I had never really had a very balanced diet, but now my food intake made my former 20 year old self seem like a health-freak in comparison. I liked the warm, satisfied feeling I got from junk food and the sugar rush I got from cake and chocolate. The more I ate these things, the more I began to feel that I needed them. If I wanted to order food late at night, there was a minimum order amount for free delivery. So I would order more food than I wanted and I would eat it all, even if I was painfully full halfway through. I had never wasted food and I wasn’t going to start now (the bags of fruit I occasionally bought notwithstanding).
So I was gaining weight rapidly and it was hard not to notice. I went from 150lbs to 225lbs in just two years, despite the fact that I was constantly making resolutions to diet and exercise more often. I went through a several clothes sizes and found myself buying cheaper things because I knew they might not fit me for very long.
And my fantasies? Well like it or not, some of them at least partially had become reality. Were the two things really unconnected? Was it really possible that I had gained all this weight unwillingly despite the fact that I would fantasise about a more extreme version of this situation nearly every night?
The truth is, I didn’t particularly hate my rounder, heavier body. I hated the fact that I couldn’t deal with my problems without resorting to food. I hated the fact that people responded to me differently. I hated the fact that I felt defined by my new shape. I hated the fact that it was harder to buy nice clothes. I hated myself for having an addiction that people wouldn’t understand, as opposed to alcoholism or drug addiction. But I didn’t particularly hate my gut, or my ass, or the man-boobs or the increased lovehandles. I didn’t think my face looked all that different. I would often have one hand on my belly as I jerked off at night, enjoying the soft flesh under my fingers.
I had a serious decision to make. I could either keep fighting this or accept it. To a fat admirer, it may seem like an easy choice, but this was about more than body shape. If I gave in on this, would it permanently damage my faith in myself? If I accepted that I had failed in my quest to control my weight, would that mean I never had the confidence to achieve what I was capable of in my career or my lovelife? Was I going to accept defeat so easily, at the risk that I would end up abandoning all my life’s ambitions as a result?
I came to see that this wasn’t about my weight. It was about control. Whatever happened from now on, whether I lost weight, gained weight or maintained my current weight, it had to be my choice. And yes, to some extent it had always been my choice – nobody had ever forced me to eat all that food. But I had to feel like I was able to make a decision and stick to it, regardless of what forces (real or imagined) were pulling me in one direction or another.
My lovelife wasn’t suffering because of my weight, it was suffering because I lacked confidence. So I decided to confront the issue proactively. It was a risky strategy, but I had nothing to lose.
I decided to take some photos of my body (neck-down only) and post them on some of the websites that catered to the gay fat admiring/gaining/encouraging community. I hadn’t expected much of a response, but I was surprised by how many people who’d never spoken to me before were contacting me with complimentary messages. At first, I felt vaguely uneasy about receiving these compliments – I was just as uncomfortable with the idea of guys liking me purely because I was fat as I had been with the idea of guys liking me purely because I was thin.
But then it occurred to me that, in all my time lurking in these online communities, I had never taken the opportunity to contact any of these people myself. How was I any different to them? We all respond more to people we find attractive. It’s human nature. How could I resent people for liking the way I looked now?
It was a big confidence boost to know that people still found me sexy – some of them quite sexy men themselves. After that, I made a concerted attempt to rehabilitate my social life. I had lost interest in going out because I felt that strangers would define me by my body shape – "look at that fat guy dancing” or "look at that fat guy checking you out.” But I had never wanted to be with shallow idiots anyway, so why worry about what total strangers thought? I found that if I went out and didn’t even think about others’ opinions – just concentrated on dancing and chatting with my friends – that I was more likely to be approached than I was when I went looking for attention.
The newfound confidence spread to other areas of my life. I’d been keeping my head down generally, afraid to draw attention to myself, but I soon put a stop to that. I looked out for new opportunities at work, went out of my way to try new things and even did some volunteer work. It all helped boost my sense of self-worth.
One day about a year ago, I realised that my weight had stabilised. After years of my weight creeping up constantly, I had managed to go six months without any weight increase. I was not sure that I actually wanted to lose weight at this point – by working on my confidence I had realised that the weight was never really the issue – but I was curious to see if I could so I drew up an exercise plan and set a target for myself. I wanted to see if I could lose 10lbs.
Within a month, I’d achieved that target, but I had no interest in losing any more weight. Recently I went on a vacation where the food was included in the accommodation price and I managed to regain the 10lbs I’d lost plus a little more. It didn’t bother me in the slightest.
So after years of blaming my weight for my unhappiness, I’m finally happy despite being bigger than ever. I can’t take all the credit for that. My boyfriend Craig has certainly helped. We met in a nightclub – on one of those nights out where I was just dancing the night away and determined not to care what strangers might think about me. It turned out one stranger was having very flattering (and vaguely lewd) thoughts about me. A couple of dates later (one very civilised date and one very drunken date) we were an item.
Craig knows everything. He knows about the pale, weird kid I was at school and the dangerously skinny guy I was a few years ago and the self-loathing fat guy I was a couple of years ago. And moreover, he knows about the other me. The one from my fantasies. And it turns out he likes all those versions of me.
We’ve talked about the idea of me deliberately gaining some more weight. Nothing huge to begin with. I think we’re both more interested in the process than the results at this point, but who knows what will happen once we get started?
Whatever happens to my body and whatever happens with this relationship, I’m done wishing I could be skinny again.
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