Mini Memoir Monday: 20 More Pounds

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.

12 comments

  1. Well said! And I apologize for whoever said that to you. You are, and always have been, magnificent! And for the record, you are, and always have been, one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life.

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  2. I’m 49. You’d think I’d have this body-head game in better perspective by now, but I don’t. I’ve (once again) been on a mission to lose weight. The last couple of days I had that “what’s the use” mentality and indulged whatever I wanted. Losing weight to be healthy and feel good in our clothes and losing weight to fit some ideal are two different mentalities, the latter being so self-defeating and always elusive. Thanks for the reminder to do this for me only.

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    1. It’s a challenge I struggle with again and again. I have to always remind myself that healthy is better than skinny. Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂 Knowing that others feel the same way helps a lot!

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  3. Like it.
    I think ‘dieting’ is so unhealthy. If your attitude towards food has made you put on more weight than you’re comfortable with, then changing what you eat temporarily to get down to a target size, then going back to the way you used to eat is just going to make your weight yo-yo.
    I think the best way to do it is to permanently adjust your attitude to food and exercise with no “target weight” in mind.

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    1. Absolutely! Yo yo dieting seems like the worst idea in the world. Last year I decided to cut out packaged goods. I didn’t do it to lose weight – I just wanted to eat healthier. I ended up losing a lot of weight from that, but the real benefit was how much better I feel. It’s all about your attitude 🙂

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  4. I was always a chubby kid, then in high school, I joined the cross country running team, lost a lot of weight and toned up. Then one day a friend said she was talking to her father about me and he said, “Is she the little fat one?” She only told me about it because she thought her father was absurd, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. I think we should cram him and your mother’s friend into a blender and see what we come up with.

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    1. Haha I love that image of them in a blender. I really can’t get over how insensitive some people can be; never realizing that a thoughtless comment they made can have an everlasting effect on someone’s view of themselves. After volunteering at The Living Course for many years, I’ve heard from countless people in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are still carrying around hateful comments they heard when they were kids. No matter how successful they become, they still believe that hate speech.

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    1. Yes, it really helped me to realize it made no sense to be jealous of people who were jealous of other people – it’s much better to spend that energy on something productive. Thanks for leaving a comment 🙂

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