At the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I decided to join Weight Watchers with my mom and sister. We were a family of vegetarians who hated vegetables, so we had all gotten considerably chunky on a diet of pizza and french fries. On my first day at WW, I tipped the scales at a whopping 178 pounds. Based on my height and bone structure, they suggested my goal weight should be 145 pounds, a number which seemed so unreasonable and so unattainable I nearly coughed up the ice cream I had just consumed.
After three months of consistently counting my points, eating a carefully measured cup of Wheaties with skim milk for breakfast, a vegetable stir fry for lunch and a WW frozen meal for dinner, I was down to 145 pounds.
At my new weight, I was finally excited to go shopping with my friends. I remember standing in the dressing room, amazed as I zipped up a size six pair of jeans. Just as I was about to draw back the curtain to appreciate the skinny version of myself, I heard one of my friends cry out, “oh my god, the size two barely fits! I’m going to kill myself it I have to get a size four.” I looked in the mirror, and what had seemed skinny only moments ago was now gargantuan. I rushed to get out of the jeans, crumpled them into a ball, threw them in the corner of the dressing room and swore that I would lose more weight.
My friends were all skinny, and blessed with metabolisms that somehow could turn 2,000 calories of chicken wings into lean muscles. They talked about how fat Brittney Spears was, and how certain girls in our grade didn’t deserve to have boyfriends because they had muffin-top. They would pinch the extra skin around their rock hard abs and complain about how much weight they had to lose. They said all this while eating Doritos and brownies.
I went against the advice of my weight watchers couch and continued to lower my point goal. I cut out breakfast, and switched my lunch to two pretzel sticks and a some red pepper slices. I saved all my points for when I was around my friends so that I could eat what they were having. The only thing that made me feel like less of a fat freak around them was being able to pretend that I could eat just like them and lose weight.
I was hungry and exhausted. I could barely concentrate during class because my stomach growled so loudly. But no matter how little I ate, the scale would not go below 140. I didn’t know what else I could do to lose more weight except never eat again. I was thinner than I had ever been, but I hated my body more than ever.
That’s when my mom’s friend casually said to me, “You could be a model if you lost another 20 pounds. No really, I know some agents, but first you’d have to lose the rest of that baby fat.”
We were at lunch and I had spent the last thirty minutes staring at the bread basket. As soon as I heard her comment I reached for the basket and took the biggest piece of bread I could find. As I chewed that sweet, starchy goodness, I thanked my mom’s friend. I wasn’t thanking her for thinking I could be a model, but thanking her for showing me how ridiculous I had become.
Her comment made me stop and think about who I was losing weight for. For my friends who hated their own size two bodies? For a modeling industry that thought women should resemble hangers? Or for a girl who would always think she was chubby no matter how skinny she got? I realized that I would never be the right weight for anyone else, so it was my job to determine the right weight for my health.
I gained back fifteen pounds by the end of the school year, and I’ve managed to stay around that weight for the last fifteen years. I don’t want to be a model, I don’t want to be a size two, and I don’t want to starve myself. Sure I’d like to lose a couple of pounds every now and then, but I have more important things to care about, and one of them is being careful about the things I say to young, impressionable kids.