I was in first grade when I remember feeling fat for the first time. Then, in fourth grade, I clearly remember feeling so embarrassed when I received my school pictures because I thought my thighs looked disgustingly huge.
I can also remember being weighed in late elementary school and being 100 pounds when my good friend next in line weighed 68 pounds. Of course, I was off-the-charts tall, and she was much shorter and more petite than I. But my 10-year-old mind didn’t know how to reconcile all that. All I knew was that I weighed too much.
The women in my family are strong, passionate and driven; however, as I grew up I watched many of these incredible women fight continuous insecurities about their weight (although none of them were overweight by much if any).
Looking back, I wonder if as a child I subconsciously learned that I should to be unhappy with my weight because so many of the women I looked up to felt that way. Maybe I learned it’s just what women do — part of our female heritage. We can’t fully like ourselves, especially if we aren’t a “perfect” weight.
Of course, it wasn’t just something I learned from those near to me, but also from our culture that yells it to us as women with most every image we see: To be beautiful and desirable, you should be skinny (but still have big boobs and feminine hips, of course).
I have plenty of memories of not feeling good enough in terms of my appearance, but I sadly can’t recall any memories of feeling beautiful.
As I entered middle school, my stress levels rose greatly. I began to feel lonely as I struggled to find close friends, pulled morally as I was exposed to things that weren’t all sweet and pure, and very disappointed that I didn’t make the school volleyball team.
Around this time, I started eating more. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think I was comfort-eating to help myself feel better. Although I’d always been big, my height-to-weight ratio was usually pretty even. But as puberty hit, I gained a good bit of extra weight.
My emotional eating continued until I was a senior in high school. At that point, I felt great about who I was as a person but still crappy about my weight and how I looked. I kind of just accepted that I was big and not very attractive — I just wasn’t meant to be that pretty.
Although I was very overweight at around 215 pounds, I had the honor of being our high school student body president, was homecoming queen, had many great friends, and had an overall incredible high school experience.
My weight didn’t hold me back much; however, I never felt very attractive, never stood a chance at athletic activities, and was very intimidated to try things that involved physical ability.
In the fall of my senior year, I began to exercise and in turn started to slowly lose weight. This was followed up by my starting to eat better as I took a great food science nutrition class that taught me for the first time how eating affects weight. It sounds crazy now, but I just had no clue how sugar or calorie intake or anything related to nutrition contributed to weight loss.
So, by the time I graduated high school, I was down to around 180 pounds. It’s funny because I would have dreamed of weighing that amount earlier in the year, but at that point, I had momentum and was motivated to lose more.
I kept exercising, and as I began college I started a crazy hop from diet to diet, becoming increasingly strict with my food intake. This all started so innocently, but before I knew it my “self-control” over food became a monster that controlled me.
By mid-fall of my freshman year of college, I was down to 160 pounds, and by Christmas break, I was close to 150. (I’m 5’11 and have a curvy build so this was VERY skinny for me.)
To achieve this extreme weight loss, I eventually got to where I would have an exact plan of what I would eat at what exact time. The only foods I’d partake of were chicken breast, turkey, egg whites, and green veggies. I ate nothing else: no added salt, no added oil, no added anything. And on top of that, I worked out religiously.
By the middle of spring of my freshman year, I was down to 135 pounds, had lost my period due to my body fat percentage plummeting, and my life revolved around exercising and planning my next 200-calories-a-day food plan.
I was gone. I wasn’t me. I could think of nothing but my weight, controlling my food intake, and exercising enough.
I lived in constant fear of gaining an ounce and with an all-consuming drive to control my situation. I wouldn’t chew gum because of the five calories in it. I was terrified when communion was served at church because that tablespoon of grape juice and the world’s tiniest cracker were not approved on my self-imposed eating plan. I was obsessed with doing everything perfectly and weighing as little as possible.
To be continued . . . .