I can tell you how much I’ve weighed every year since I was six years old.
It’s pretty messed up that a child would even have any awareness of weight. In kindergarten, we made a paper doll cut-out with our picture and added our weight ad height on the doll. I noticed right away that my number was quite a bit higher than the other kids.
Ever since I can remember, I was a bigger than my peers. The relationship that I had with food was also different. While other kids were picking at their plates, I pretty much just liked all food in general. While other houses always seemed to have a plethora of treats, ours was pretty slim in those regards. We also very rarely ate out, opting for more cost-effective and lower-calorie options.
I was active, but was never particularly coordinated for most sports. They were also terribly boring. I didn’t care to learn all the rules and wasn’t particularly competitive. Gym class was pretty much a nightmare. When it came to the annual torment of the rope climb or mile run, it wasn’t happening for me. I was able to find a few good years on the swim team. Then puberty came along and donning a swimsuit wasn’t as comfortable as it once was.
I Learned I was “Fat”
The vocabulary surrounding my weight started early. While I perpetuated it myself, so did my peers at school. The very first time a girl called me “fat” in the first grade, this cemented in my head what I already knew: I wasn’t like everyone else. I was a big girl.
Once the moniker of “fat” was accepted, the next one was “diet.” My mom was under the impression that she, too, was “fat,” and had been most of her life. One of her bigger sources of pride was how she had dropped a lot of weight in her twenties. One of her biggest sources of strife was that she couldn’t get back to that weight after having babies. I heard her refer to herself as fat at least a few hundred times in the last 33 years, but honestly never once thought that. I always admired how beautiful she was when she was dressed up for work or church. She was even radiant in a bathrobe on Saturday mornings while cooking breakfast.
When I look back on photos now of our family, I don’t see adults and kids that were unhealthy or inactive. I don’t see a family who needed to “diet.” However, I feel like the media and the toys I had indicated that I was the exact opposite of what I supposed to be. The Disney princesses were always slender with long, straight hair. My Barbie dolls were unreasonably proportioned. The models in the teen magazines always had long, beautiful hair, perfectly straight teeth, tanned skin, toned bodies, and clean skin.
Trying to Be Someone Else
This unrealistic view of women seemed so very unattainable. My dark blonde, curly hair would never have been the waist-length blonde locks. The gap between my teeth wouldn’t be fixed because we couldn’t afford braces for both myself and my sister (and she needed them much worse than me). My pale skin, inherited from my fairly recent ancestors from the United Kingdom, had only two shades: stark white or pink. The slightly excessive amount of fine, blonde body hair and broad, German shoulders weren’t reflected in those magazines. And the fact that I was on chubbier side was definitely stacking almost all odds against me.
Childhood turned to adolescence and the body issues intensified. Sadly, the comments of my peers and comparisons I made between myself and others eventually took a toll. A few extreme diet attempts in my Junior year in high school turned into disordered eating, including purging, starving, excessive exercise, and abuse of diet pills. At my peak, I was so proud of myself when I was keeping my calories under 1000, my carbs under 20, and my exercise at least 1-2 hours a day. That went on for a whole summer and I lost a grand total of 10 pounds. My lowest weight was still 25 pounds heavier than I should be based on the BMI scale.
Winning the Diet Battle
After high school, I moved away from home, got engaged, started nursing school, and had a significant knee injury. The combination of those factors led to a 70-pound weight gain in a very short period of time. Since that time, I have battled that 70 pounds numerous times and won. The biggest victory was the last time I lost it, I got pregnant after a 4.5 year battle with infertility, a PCOS diagnosis, and endometriosis. My biggest setback was gaining it all back when I was pregnant. And then gained another 20 more during the lockdown stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So here I am, back on the “struggle bus.” But this time, things are very different. I have a three year old girl at home now. I have vowed, absolutely, to never pass my body insincerities on to her. She is perfect and I never want her to feel less than that. We play with Barbies, but I will say, “Most women don’t look like this doll.” We watch movies where the character’s other admirable qualities, like strength and intelligence, are more of a focus. When I’m trying to lose weight, I say, “We will make healthy food and get more exercise so we can all feel good.”
Most importantly, when we go to the beach or pool, I don’t hesitate to don a swimsuit. I don’t try to cover myself up. This summer, even at my highest weight, I wear colorful swimsuits because I’m tired of hiding in the background.
I Will Never Be on a “Diet”
Society is coming along way towards body acceptance and health/fitness at every size and shape. I want my daughter to be able to live a life where intelligence, bravery, growing spiritually, self-esteem, mental health, and a healthy lifestyle are priorities that far outweigh the aesthetics.
While I have some big hills to climb with my weight and fitness, my daughter will never hear me make a negative comment about my weight or any other person’s weight. As far as she is concerned, I will never, ever be on a “diet.”