With my parents’ workout videos, and a self-created low-fat, smaller-portion meal plan, I began my quest - to look the way “normal” girls my age looked. I don’t even remember how long it took for me to lose weight - the calendar where I wrote down my weight each day has long since been thrown away. What I do remember is that I didn’t even realize how much weight I was losing until I went to a family reunion and everybody - okay, maybe not EVERYBODY, but quite a few relatives - commented on how much weight I’d lost. I thought that they’d just heard that I’d started working out, I didn’t think that my efforts were that visible. To me, I was the same girl who still had to wear baggy shirts to hide her less-than-desirable shape.
But before long, I grew accustomed to the changes with my body. And with my “new body” I actually started liking the way I looked in pictures again. Before I lost weight, the last pictures of myself I could really stand to look at were taken when I was seven years old. From that time when I was eleven and through the years that followed, I noticed a trend: when there was less of me, I liked myself more.
Fast-forward twenty-five years:
In 2008, I’d just finished serving a full-time mission and had transferred to school out west. The future was uncertain, but one thing I was sure of - I needed to lose weight. Hard to believe that after 18 months of experiences that went beyond the superficial things in life, I thought that I needed to be skinny to be “accepted” in the world - or at least to be considered desirable by guys.
Wherever I looked, I saw girls that I thought had thinner legs, flatter stomachs, and no Jell-o arms. And there was no way I could compete with them, unless I lost weight.
Being a poor college student with no car and not much money for groceries makes for a quick diet. Add in the school’s free gym, and in six months I’d lost twenty pounds (or maybe more, I didn’t weigh myself, as my years of dieting had made me terrified of scales). Pursuing the guy I thought was The One was added motivation to look perfect so that I could be the Perfect Girl.
By the time he finally got around to kissing me, I weight 100 lbs. At 5’0, this was always an “ideal goal weight” for me, ever since I read it in....something, somewhere. I FINALLY, for the first time in so long, really liked the way I looked.
And everybody who knew me wondered if I was sick.
The scary thing is, I was. I just didn’t realize it. I was too busy loving being able to fit into the small clothing sizes at stores and admiring how long my legs looked. I didn’t think that there was anything wrong with the fact that I ate by myself. All the time. And mostly salads. No, not salads - lettuce. And there surely wasn’t anything wrong with running every day - hey, I was being healthy! Ok, so I would freak out or feel like crap if I didn’t get my run in....but that was because I loved the endorphins, right? People didn’t know what they were talking about when they called me too skinny.
I wasn’t going to gain weight. Not even the stress fracture that I got in my leg that forced me to quit running was going to cause me to gain weight. There was no way I was ever going to go back to my heavier self. Because if I did....well, I was pretty sure that everything short of me getting voted off the planet would happen. Certainly the Guy of My Dreams wouldn’t want me anymore. And when he became the Fiancé of My Dreams, the fear only escalated because how could I stay at this weight once we were married? And if I gained weight, he probably wouldn’t love me as much.
But a funny thing happened - one month before our wedding, he called it off. At that time, I weighed around 100 lbs.
I’d thought I’d known pain before, but that experience crushed me, devastated me. Slowly, very slowly, pieces of my life began to come back, and with it, so did some weight.
I was scared. I’d already lost so much; I didn’t want to lose my body, too. When my wedding was called off, I felt like the World’s Biggest Reject Loser, and I thought that gaining weight would just bring more rejection into my life. I didn’t want to be the girl that goes through a horrible break up, gets all fat, and then has people whispering behind her back, “Ohmigosh, did you SEE her?” But as much as being thin was important to me, healing my heart and living my life took priority. It had to take priority if I was going to move forward with my life.
And here I am, three years and twenty-eight additional pounds later. Back at a weight I said I’d never let myself reach again, feeling like a failure at times despite the college diploma and other accomplishments that have occurred. No matter the good things that happen in my life, my weight seems to always find a way to pull my focus and convince me that it alone determines my self-worth.
I wish I could say that I am 100% happy with my body now, that I love the way I look, that the number on the scale doesn’t terrify me sometimes, that I don’t look back at pictures from the days when I was at my thinnest and wish I could look like that again. I wish I didn’t worry so much about what I eat, how much exercise I get, or what people think of the size of my thighs and my butt. I wish I could be one of the people who can say they’ve beaten this once and for all, and because I have, so can you. I haven’t reached that point yet. Right now, I still feel like I’m bigger than I should be, and I would like myself more if there was less of me.
All I can share is an experience I had a few months ago. Around Christmastime, I was going through boxes of old family photos at my dad’s apartment. First I only looked through the ones taken from my birth through when I was seven, but then I made myself look at the ones from the years following - all the years of pictures I hated because of the chubby girl in them. What happened surprised me. I didn’t feel loathing and disgust for the chubby little girl in her awful late-80s-early-90s clothes. I didn’t think she looked fat and ugly. I thought she was beautiful. And I thought that I would be incredibly proud if she were my daughter. But she’s not my daughter - she’s me. For the first time, I saw beyond the imperfections I’d seen for years and saw a beautiful, compassionate, smart, brave girl. A girl who battled insecurities and worries about herself and the future, but always did her very best. A girl who spent her teenage years beating herself up because she thought she wasn’t thin enough, but she actually was at a normal weight. A girl who didn’t know her own beauty and strength. As I looked at the girl in those pictures I’d avoided for years, I felt an overwhelming love for her. I wanted to tell her that she was ok, that she was enough, and to share some of the things that I’ve learned --
That there are people who will hurt you no matter what you look like, or how much you weigh.
That there are people who will love you, no matter what you look like, or how much you weigh.
That being skinny won’t keep bad things from happening to you.
That being heavy won’t keep good things from your life.
That joy, success, love, and happiness have really nothing to do with the number on the scale.
I’m not completely at peace with my body, and I also love myself. It’s a strange place to be, but it’s where I am.