The topic of weight is something I’ve been composing in my head for the past few years. Literally, for years. This isn’t easy to talk about. It’s not so much the telling itself, but the anticipation of possible reactions. It just never seems like the right time. I’ve never ended up regretting anything that I’ve posted here, so hopefully it’ll be the same with this. There are other strong, female bloggers who have spoken out about their feelings on this topic and I really admire them for it.
My issues with weight didn’t develop until my early 20s (usually eating disorders tend to develop in adolescence). Weight and body image were never important to me when I was growing up. I was homeschooled for most of my school-age years, so that might have been a factor — I was largely separate from the angst and competition of other girls during that formative period of my life.
When I was between the ages of 18-20, I remember hanging out with my friend Dana and walking to the convenience store, where we’d each buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and go back to her apartment and eat the entire container. I wasn’t skinny, but I also wasn’t fat. I was fine with how I looked — it wasn’t something I ever really thought about.
In 2000, I decided I needed to lose a few pounds. This was the first time I remember consciously thinking about dieting and changing my eating habits. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2001, when I had back surgery, that the weight loss started in earnest. It wasn’t the surgery itself that caused the weight loss, but I knew I’d be out of commission for a few months while my back was healing — and since I’d already lost about ten pounds by that point, I didn’t want to risk gaining it all back.
That was when the calorie-counting began — the first time in my life I’d ever tracked nutrition information — and although I’m not as obsessive about it as I once was, it still continues today. (There is nothing wrong with calorie counting in itself — indeed, it is a smart thing to do, to be conscientious about what goes into your body — but there’s a difference between calorie-counting and calorie-obsessing. I’ve mentioned that I wouldn’t take certain things in the past that I knew would be good for me, like flax oil, because I thought it was too high in calories.)
By the time 2002 rolled around, I was at my lowest weight. By restricting calories I had managed to — and I stress this part, because I was never on a crash diet that caused me to lose a bunch of weight all at once — gradually lose another 15 pounds. That meant I was only losing about 1-2 pounds a month after my surgery, but the fact was I didn’t need to lose it, so it was obvious. My weight was low, and so were my spirits. Since I was underweight, I didn’t have a lot of energy. Relatives and friends were asking me if everything was okay.
There is a tape that I believe still exists — I’ve only seen it once. My friend Chris had a birthday in March 2002, and all of his friends got together and recorded a video-message for him. I remember watching the tape at his birthday party, seeing myself on TV, and I was shocked that I looked so skinny. “Oh, God,” I distinctly remember thinking at the time. “That’s not how I look in the mirror.” It was a big realization for me, but it wasn’t until later in the year that I started to regain some of the weight I’d lost.
I don’t remember exactly what my weight was when I watched the tape, but I do know that I was at my lowest weight when I went to California for the first time a few months later. It was May 2002, and I was going there to visit a friend and then see my aunt, who were both living in/near Los Angeles. I have some pictures that were taken during that time, which are at the bottom of this post, to illustrate what I’m talking about.
Here is where I give the numbers:
I don’t know if this is the “correct” thing to do, since most people don’t give out this type of information, but I’d rather do it this way than try to be vague. (If I were to say that I was once 10 pounds, 20 pounds, 30 pounds from where I am now — well, where is that? What does that mean?)
So here it is: when I first decided that I need to lose a few pounds in 2000, when I was 20 years old, I was 5’9″ and weighed about 150 pounds. Even at that weight I knew that I wasn’t fat; I’ve never worn jeans larger than a size 10. According to the CDC’s BMI chart (Body Mass Index), at a weight of 150 pounds, and for my height, I was squarely in the range of “normal” with a BMI of 22.1 (the normal range is 18.5-24.9).
At my lowest weight, during the spring/summer of 2002, I weighed thirty pounds less than that — I had gotten down to 120. (I was weighing myself practically every morning, and the lowest number I ever saw was 118.) I pretty much stopped having a menstrual cycle; for a few years I had a period only about 1-2 times a year. At 120 pounds, my BMI was 17.7. Underweight, according to the charts. If I accidentally hit the side of a door when walking through, or did something else that normally wouldn’t have caused me any harm, I’d get a bruise. My hipbones jutted out, so I had almost constant bruises on my hips during that time.
In the years since then, I’ve returned to a more normal weight. It can fluctuate, depending on what I’m eating and how much I’m exercising, but generally I’m somewhere between 128-132 (BMI of 18.9-19.5), and the highest my weight has been since since then is 135. That BMI range sounds low to me, but the mirror is still where I’m at my most critical. In the mirror I see a rounded stomach, and thighs that I wish were thinner. At the same time, I hate feeling this way and I am the first advocate to tell other people — absolutely truthfully — that they are beautiful just the way they are.
Why am I writing this? Why now?
Like I said, this is something I’ve lived with for over five years, and it has changed me. Even though I don’t obsess about food and calories and weight as much as I used to, the feelings have never completely left. The Skinny Monster found me one day when I was least expecting it, and he refuses to let me go.
I think part of the reason for the drastic weight loss was my tendency to be a perfectionist. When I started to lose weight, even though I knew in my head that I didn’t need to lose it, I also didn’t want to gain it. I felt that if I gained the weight back, it meant I was weak and I had failed.
I don’t know if what I’m saying right now is adequate. I don’t think I’ve said everything that I want to say — all the things I thought I might say once I finally got up the nerve. But this is a start. I’ve put it out there, and hopefully it shouldn’t be as hard to say things in the future if they come to mind. If anyone has any questions or input, I’d be happy to hear it. Maybe it’ll help spark what I forgot.
Hoover Dam, June 2002.
Grand Canyon, September 2002.
Laughlin, NV. June 2002.
Las Vegas. June 2002.
Charleston, SC. September 2002.
Maymont Park in Richmond, VA. March 2002.
Me and Dana, March 2002.