When I was in high school, I weighed (at various times) between 98 and 115 lbs. When I got up to 115, I felt fat. When I was under 110, I felt good about myself.
When I got my driver’s license in early 1998, I wasn’t yet 17. The weight listed was the same as on my permit (back when it was true): 105 lbs. I chuckled to myself because I knew for a fact I’d never get back to that weight again. It was a funny fiction, and something I didn’t bother to change. I had that same info on my ID (including the nearly-identical replacement) until I was 29.
This is what I looked like when I was 17, at about 110, much of which was muscle, because I was in the “best” shape of my life.
I showed that picture to a friend last year, and he said “you look like you were dying.” I responded “I was.”
So much of my self-esteem was bound up in being a pretty girl, in being thin and lanky with perky tits and still able to eat whatever I wanted. When the above picture was taken, I was barely eating, and swimming several times a week. I’d just gotten out of my first serious relationship, and I learned for the first time what people mean when they say that anorexia is primarily a disease of control. Weight is something one can control when the rest of the world is chaos. And I was out of control and, yes, I look like I was dying because I was trying to gradually kill myself.
I gained weight and got somewhat healthy. I was still thin, about 120 lbs., but I wanted to lose weight. Not much. Ten pounds maybe. But I had the tiniest hint of a belly. I thought that if i could start working out again and eat better, I’d be as close to perfect as someone with tiny tits and a shitty jawline could ever be. Of course, I’d never be gorgeous but I could pass for pretty. With some work. Here’s a picture of me and my brother, dancing to “Old Time Rock And Roll” at his wedding in August 2001:
Two days after this photo was taken, I found out that my parents were getting divorced. That summer had been, frankly, horrifying and terrible (my parents’ divorce was just the latest disaster,) and I lost a shit-ton of weight again by that winter, when this photo was taken.
But I got “healthy” again. I gained weight. I was eating badly, and kinda chubby for my weight because I was so out of shape, but I was a size 6.
Around the time I turned 22, the anorexia came back with a vengeance. I went from a healthy-ish 125 (someone described me, at this point, as “fleshy”) to 105 in about six weeks. I’d gone through another bad breakup, couldn’t eat without feeling sick, and got ridiculously thin. There was a lot else that went into it; I was doing a lot of drugs and staying out all night and drinking a lot and mostly eating bran muffins from Starbucks and drinking chai. That’s where I got my calories. My shit smelled like… well, shit. Baby shit. Because I wasn’t eating enough solids, I had diarrhea all the time. I was always cold. Shivering when other people were warm.
This is the time in my life when I really wish that someone had spoken up and seen that I desperately needed help. Some people voiced concern, but many of them just stopped talking to me because I was too much drama to handle. I can’t blame them for that, looking back. Not only was I high all the time, I was sort of a bad person for awhile. And I hated myself, but I loved being thin. I knew I was hurting myself. I wanted to hurt myself.
But, of course, when I hooked up with Mike that next winter, he started force-feeding me. I got ridiculously fat!
The way my thighs kinda… blurp… down in those chubby little rolls was a great source of shame for me. I thought I was ugly and needed to start dressing like a fat old fatty because, well, look at me! I had gotten out of control!
And as the years went by, being with an abusive, alcoholic fucktard took its toll, and when we finally did break up in early 2008, I actually– gulp– was overweight. For the first time in my life. And I was goddamned horrified.
I still felt pretty, still felt desirable… but, y’know, for a fat chick. In that picture I’m probably about 170 lbs. I hadn’t weighed myself in forever, and when I first saw that number, I honestly felt like a failure. I enjoyed the big boobs, but I promised myself that I would lose weight and keep it off and never get that fat again. Over the next six months I lost 30 lbs by dancing, eating better, and not being in a relationship with an abusive, alcoholic fucktard.
So let’s skip to mid-2012. I’m living back in California, but about to move to Oregon. Life has not been swell. I had moved to SF, got dumped by my SF-dwelling boyfriend right after I moved, and then was in a car accident where I sustained a head injury and hurt my back. I was not ok. I’d had to move back to my mother’s, and I’d struggled to get medical care, got laid off from my job, and found out my mom was losing the house and I had to move again soon.
I was, once again, the heaviest I’d ever been. 180 lbs! Holy shitballs, I was wearing size 14! I no longer got skinny when I was stressed out, I ate and ate and ate. This photo was me trying to accept myself. Trying to get it under control again, but safely, smartly, with self-love and all that shit. I thought it would work this time. I resolved to swim all summer when I got back to Portland, to get actually healthy. But it didn’t go that way. Life continued to suck. My job situation remained unstable. I got up over 200 lbs.
And in September 2013, I got into another car accident, which triggered an emotional breakdown, which triggered an inpatient stay at a mental health facility, at which point I weighed 210. My boobs were, and are, HUGE. Well, huge for someone who used to have tiny bumps where other women (my mom included, even at her thinnest) had a RACK. I was always comparing myself to other people. I was always comparing myself to myself.
Which is why I was so shocked when that guy said “You look like you were dying” about that first picture up there. Because I’d always thought it was a great picture. I longed to have shoulder blades that jutted, arms that didn’t pudge, knees that I wasn’t ashamed to show in a skirt. He said something else, too: “I think you’re way hotter now.”
My mind was blown.
Who would want a girl with this body? Stretch marks where there used to be smoothness! Thighs that rub the fabric thin on the legs of my jeans! Arms that don’t fit into some dress shirts! CELLULITE.
I’ve lost something like 15 or 20 pounds in the last few months. I’m eating better. I plan to start exercising. And after almost 33 years of a life that has been, in so many ways, colored by my shame over my body (even when I was super thin,) I think I’m ready to fucking STOP. Just stop.
My self-worth doesn’t depend on which parts jut and which parts pudge. My moral character has nothing to do with numbers on a scale. I’m actually a bit sickened by the fact that I know how much I weighed in all of those photos. Why does it matter? Who cares?
I care, I guess. Some other people might care. But what bothers me now is that my back hurts all the time. I don’t move as well as I used to. Plus-size clothing can be super cute, if you know how to shop, but mostly it’s pretty sad. Trying to buy a cute bra when you’re sporting double-D cups is… hard. They’re all “smoothing” and “minimizing” at that stage. As if fat chicks don’t want hella cleavage too.
When I was thin, I hated my tiny tits, and hated myself for not being more “womanly,” whatever that means. When I got fat, every time I reached THE FATTEST I HAVE EVER BEEN OH MY LORD I hated myself for my lack of self-control. I have always been vain, and I have always felt not-good-enough. These things are inexorably linked.
So now, a bit into the new year that followed the worst year of my life (and that’s saying something,) I’m resolving to just… be okay. Be okay with wherever I am, whatever I look like. Be okay with not being the hottest girl in the room, not having a 26-inch waist, not being “perfect.”
And I have a goal weight. 150 lbs. Because of all the pictures of my body, this is the one that makes me the happiest:
This is me at 29 or 30. This is what I looked like and weighed and how I dressed when I was happy. I had curves, but I wasn’t fat. I had a waist, but I wasn’t skinny. My boobs were a tolerable 36C. I could zip up my Doc Marten high heeled boots. And I went out all the time, and I danced, and I ate a lot of avocado, and while I still thought I was fat and needed to DO MORE so I WEIGHED LESS, I did generally feel pretty good about myself. I didn’t worry about what I ate, but I tried to eat well. I didn’t go out of my way to exercise, but I did get exercise. This is the same era when the below photo was taken:
That’s the biggest I’d smiled in a picture in about ten years.
I no longer aspire to be skinny. Not just because it’s unrealistic, but because it’s unhealthy for me. I worried about my weight so much more when it was close to 100 lbs than I do now that it’s close to 200. I was obsessed. Now I’m merely concerned. I want to be healthy and in less pain and able to move around without having to worry about throwing my back out. I want to have boobs that don’t weigh so much that they yank on my shoulderblades (no longer jutting, of course.) I want to be able to zip my Docs again, damn it.
But I’m willing to be patient. I’m willing to give it time. And I’m willing to love myself, as I am, and be kind to myself. Which is something I never was when I had a model-skinny body and turned all the heads.
I never realized how gorgeous I was, just as I was. I never realized that the prettiest thing about me was the light in my eyes. I thought that my life would be easier, better, happier, if I was perfect, but looking back, I see that I wasted years of my life and so much energy trying to be something that isn’t only unattainable, but illusory. There is no perfect.
And I didn’t write this to solicit compliments, or even moral support. It’s just what’s on my mind right now, looking through all these old pictures and feeling so very sad for the girl in the early ones. In a way, getting fat has been a blessing. Not being anywhere within shouting distance of my old ideas of “perfect” has liberated me, mostly, from the desire to be “perfect.” Because life is short, and I’ve wasted enough of it.
And, well, I think I look hotter now than I did when I was starving. Pot belly, stretch-marks, and all.