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CNN’s new series First Person features personal essays from various individuals revealing how their identities have been constructed based on less-obvious factors. In a relatable piece titled “Fat Girl Getting Naked,” CNN Entertainment Senior Producer Lisa Respers France shed light on what is to be a food addict, giving readers a peek inside the abundant life she long believed she didn’t deserve because of her weight, and the deep-rooted cause behind her size as well as the motivation to change her lifestyle. Here are highlights from France’s essay:

A Plus-Size Woman’s Identity

You’ve met me before. I’m the fat, funny girl who is often hailed for my confidence and self-esteem. The big girl who has “such a pretty face” and who, despite her weight, manages to snag really great looking boyfriends.I “dress really well for my size” and am so much fun to be around because of my outgoing personality.”Don’t call me fat, I prefer the term ‘fluffy’ ” I say and you smile at how I am able to put you at ease about an uncomfortable subject. I’m the first with a “Hell yeah!” fist pump for slogans like: “Sexy has no size” and “Love me for who I am, not what I look like.”

How Food Becomes An Addiction 

These days, food is more like my closest friend than a lover, but its influence is just as strong. It’s a weird place to find myself in given that as a child, my parents had to force me to eat.I was a short, skinny kid who at the age of 4 was so petite that I was mistaken for a toddler. I suffered major problems with my adenoids, tonsils and sinuses and consequently food tasted like snot to me. At age 9, I had my tonsils and adenoids removed. That changed everything. I was just home from the hospital and my parents grabbed cheese-steak subs for themselves for dinner. Upstairs in my bedroom, sipping soup and still nursing the post-tonsilectomy sore throat, I suddenly smelled the most delicious aroma. You know how in cartoons a smell wafts and tickles the character under the nose? That was how those subs smelled to me and I floated downstairs to investigate. As I stood, practically drooling, my mother asked, “Would you like a taste?” I went on to gain about 30 pounds in the months following my surgery and that hasn’t slowed.

Breaking Her Family Cycle

I was in my kitchen, waiting for dinner to be ready when I read this passage and broke down sobbing: “Compulsive behavior, at its most fundamental, is a lack of self-love; it is an expression of a belief that we are not good enough.” At that moment I realized that I have been trying to fill my heart by filling my stomach. But pinpointing the pain means going places I fear. I’m more afraid of delving into what is killing me (and trust me I am so aware that it is killing me) than I am of dying. Every extra pound represents a pain for me, something I don’t like to acknowledge, not even to myself. I grew up in a family where we didn’t talk about our struggles — we ate or drank them away. I have continued that legacy. It’s a neverending cycle; being fat makes me feel uncomfortable and feeling uncomfortable drives me to the behaviors that make me fat. A good friend once told me that I should view the parts of me that need to heal as a younger version of me who I needed to protect. I should talk to “Little Lisa,” she said, and tell her how worthy she is of health, self-love and an abundant life.

To read France’s entire essay, click here.

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