I wrote these vignettes because I want to know why I have such an obsession with my own weight, which is, after all, just a number. I find this obsession pretty irrational considering that I don't judge people based on their weight and certainly don't feel very influenced by culture about weight. I think women can come in all shapes and sizes and all those sizes are beautiful. I have never wanted to look like the women in fashion magazines and I was never raised to care about weight. I also have never been a heavy person. So why do I have an unhealthy relationship with my weight? And why does a number mean so much to so many women?
First time I knew how much I weighed:
When I was 12, the summer before I got my period, I went to the Oregon coast with my family. We stayed in a really big, old beach house with my mom's family and all us girl cousins spent the week playing in the sand, swimming and gossiping through the night. All the girl cousins shared a bit attic room and we were all around the same age.
One day we were talking and one of my thinner cousins asked how much I weighed. I had never weighed myself, so we both weighed ourselves on the scale to compare: She weighed 95 lbs and I weighed 105. We were the same height and I remember being embarrassed that I weighed more and wishing that I too was 95 lbs.
First time I realized that others might notice my weight:
During junior high volleyball games, we had to wear short red shorts and long sleeve red and white tops. And during each game my face would turn red when I had to bump the ball because I couldn't put my arms completely together because of my large chest. And all I could think about was everyone looking at me and noticing how "chubby" I was.
There was this one very tall, very slender, very pretty blond girl, who with her impossibly skinny arms and flat chest was our star player. She was the forward, I was the setter. I was short, curvy and brunette. She was what I was not.
First time I was proud of my body:
After I trained and ran a half marathon when I was 25. I remember thinking that my body was absolutely amazing.
First time I was not embarrassed to wear a swimsuit:
I went to Hawaii with some girlfriends right after running my first half marathon. It was the first time I felt comfortable wearing a swimsuit. We spent the week walking around in bikinis and not being surprised at the attention we got. I held my head high and didn't think once about what I looked like. Because I looked good! :-)
First time I went on a diet:
The first time I went on a true diet was when I was 24. I don't count the million 1-2 day diets I've had before and since. I ate only 1200 calories a day. I didn't focus on eating healthy food, though a natural consequence of the calorie restriction was that I did eat healthy food because it was more filling. I lost 10 lbs and then another 10 after I started running.
First time my mother commented on my weight:
First time I really felt ugly:
One of my only male friends in high school and someone I thought was smart and mature drew a picture of me and gave it to me. It was really unflattering. When I first looked at it I thought it was a really funny joke. Like haha, you drew this horrible picture of a hag that so obviously isn't me and said it was me; what an awesome ironic, inside joke. But he didn't laugh "with" me as much as "at" me about the whole thing. And for a long time afterwards I was sure that was really how he saw me: as a hag. I kept that drawing for many years in a box. Which was WAY too many years and way too painful a lesson on how even when you're sophisticated and distant you can still get hurt.
First time I really felt pretty:
When I was a junior in college I went to my school's junior/senior banquet and wore a black velvet knee-length dress and Anne Klein strappy leather shoes. I did my own hair and liked my date. I don't recall him ever complimenting me but he was pretty nervous about his too-tight pants. But I knew that I was pretty.
First time I felt absolutely gorgeous:
First time I met my husband.