Then I lost 30 pounds four years ago, and suddenly I became the poster-child for disordered eating.
It might sound counter-intuitive that losing weight and keeping it off would perpetuate such a problem, but it did. In four years, I went from a “fat” girl with great self-esteem, to a thin girl with amazing self-esteem, to a normal girl unhealthily obsessed with body image.
Looking back on my pre-Weight Watchers years (i.e., the first 24), I don’t think people looked at me and saw “fat”; at least I never felt they did. I knew I was always bigger than my petite friends, but not by so much that it made me uncomfortable to be around them.
I fit into the cool labels—just in a bigger size. Years of dancing kept me from being flabby, and by high school, I was fit and firm from competitive cheerleading, which kept me physically active for two and a half hours a day, five days a week. And even the first few years of college combined, thanks to running and awful dining hall food, I only put on a couple pounds.
But a semester abroad my junior year in Buenos Aires, Argentina added another 10-15—who can resist dulce de leche, empanadas, chocolate caliente…? And before I knew it, I was graduating college heavier than I can ever remember.
I didn’t step on a scale back then but I have pictures and those pictures tell a story all their own. I was chunky. I was a 12 for the most part, sometimes a 14, and I had a thin, taut younger sister whose clothes I coveted but couldn’t get over my left thigh.
But … I was happy.
I wasn’t your stereotypical fat girl—I wasn’t Barthe De Clement’s character Elsie from Nothing’s Fair in the Fifth Grade, sitting solo in the cafeteria or picked last in gym class (every girl’s fear). I had an incredibly supportive family and amazing friends, and I didn’t feel my weight impacted my relationships with men—if anything, guys liked what they saw.
I ate what I wanted, ran when I had time and didn’t fuss about my butt looking too big in a pair of jeans. I had never “dieted” nor did I fret too much about my weight on a daily basis. In fact, when I began dating my now-husband our senior year of college, he loved me and my curves, and even when I’d say “I am getting fat” because I’d stopped running so much in favor of time together, he’d look at me like I was crazy and tell me how much he loved me and loved what he saw. (see next post)