I haven’t always been the size I am now. Currently, according to the the scale in my aunt and uncle’s bathroom, I am EE—which I assume is an acronym for Extremely Eloquent. Nailed it!
I weigh 300 pounds—304.1 to be completely accurate.
It is important to note that I have been fighting the urge to write this post for weeks because of my own insecurities. It seems contradictory (read: painfully hypocritical) since I remind my high school students all the time how important it is to be proud of yourself at every stage and to own your insecurities. I explain how much my husband loves me and how powerful my body is for having brought two children into the world.
All of that is true. I believe every word. However, I had to bring myself to the realization that hiding behind layers of jokes and not owning that number; not being my true, authentic self—regardless of what the scale said—wasn’t going to make me any less overweight.
People need to put a face on obesity. We need to be responsible enough to educate ourselves and our children so they can understand and begin to be sensitive to people’s struggles. We teach this with racism, sexism, and even poverty-sensitivity but somehow it is still acceptable to gawk and stare at a person who is overweight eating at a restaurant like they are some circus sideshow. In truth, many people who struggle with their weight are sufferers of disease or survivors of abuse and their weight is merely a symptom–a side effect of what they have been through.
This is 300.
It should be noted that, while I am using my number so that I can begin to own it, many who echo my feelings are much smaller. Every person’s prison looks different.
I wasn’t always the size I am now. Fast forward through a painful middle school and high school career, college where I tried billions of diets, fad plans, pills, drinks, meetings, calorie counting, and starvation. None of it worked. Shocking, I know.
The crazy thing is that, like most of you, when I look back at the pictures from those formative years now, I would pay good money to look like I did back then. I killed it in the gym before getting married and walked down the isle, slaying it if I do say so myself, at a solid 175 pounds. We are so insanely naieve to what real numbers look like spread across bones and muscle that we all assume 175 is the size of a grown man. Not always, my friends. I terrifyingly rocked a bikini on our honeymoon at 175 and would do it again in a hot minute if I still looked like that!
I packed on 50 pounds in our first year of marriage because, well, marriage. I gained 80 more pounds with my first pregnancy since, as a lifetime over-eater, this was a license to eat donuts for every breakfast and wear stretch pants to work because no one could say anything to me. Herein lies my greatest regret in life. No kidding.
The bounce-back from post-wedding weight and two near-death childbirths hasn’t been the rebuilding year(s) I thought they’d be. I mean, how long is it acceptable to wear maternity clothes after your baby is born, really? Like, will anybody really notice if I rock a nursing bra to my daughter’s graduation from college?
This is 300.
What most people fail to recognize is that, when you are overweight, you have to think about things differently every single day. It isn’t only the obvious considerations like seat belt extenders on airplanes or a van over a compact car. Please understand what we see when we look at the world.
In the movie theatre, music venue, or restaurant I have to consider how wide the arms of the chairs are because slamming my hips into them is like pouring Play-doh into one of those spaghetti-making factories, if they have plastic seats because those babies don’t stand a chance, or if they have tables instead of booths because those suckers were made for infants. I refuse to eat at buffets because, even though my large frame usually consumes small meals at a time, I feel like I am on display. It is as if I am loading my plate at a feeding trough and all of the average-sized patrons are watching and snickering to themselves about me getting seconds, failing to notice the first plate had only a small salad and vegetables.
This is 300.
At home, in our tiny bathroom, the floor is riddled with small flecks of white surrounding the teal rug–the remnants of baby powder to ensure that everything moves smoothly throughout the day because, without it, the chaffing that can happen behind the scenes is horribly painful. My husband asked me the other night if I somehow had gotten deodorant on my pants. I lied. Baby powder.
This is 300.
More fit people look at me when we are at the park with our kids and, to me, their glances feel like the weight of 1000 pounds of judgment. Why isn’t she jogging instead of walking? Why did she wear a tank top in public? While their stares may be innocent, I feel the shame of a guilty verdict.
To say that my body is a prison would be a gross understatement. The analogy does no justice to my daily life because prisoners, even those doing time for crimes they didn’t commit, have no freedoms and little idea of the world outside. I am forced to watch it pass by while my mind tells me I should be able to do, run, go, play, but my aching joints, bruised ego, and post-baby belly flap suggest otherwise. If you haven’t lived this life-sentence, please accept that you cannot possibly understand what we are going through. And we wouldn’t want you to feel this. It is painful—all the time.
This is 300.
On some level I wonder if I self-sabotage because I feel like I don’t deserve to be successful. I have gone through every one of those scenarios…most more than once, but here I am.
To those of us who need to lose 100 pounds or more, it seems unachievable. Let’s be real. That is the size of a person. “Set small, attainable goals. Exercise. Take in less calories than you are burning.”
“You don’t say! Well that is BRAND NEW information! Why didn’t I think of that?!”
If you are fit, or even one of those blessed by the Lord Himself with freak-show metabolism that burns off your daily Taco Bell 4th meal so you still make it into your size nothing skinny jeans, I applaud you. But I don’t understand your life. I can smell your burrito and wake up 4 pounds heavier for it.
This is 300.
I hate shopping. No, seriously. It is the worst. I have always hated it because 10 years ago, when I was 175, it was even less acceptable for females to be larger so my size 10-14 may as well have had to be special ordered Big and Tall catalog items. I wore a small or medium back then but folks still pictured a woman nearing 200 as some type of reincarnated Sasquatch.
Now, at 300 pounds, I shop exclusively online and happily pay the fee to return my unwanted items through the mail instead of awkwardly finagling my way around a fitting room only to leave disappointed, feeling even worse about myself.
To the precious women of Victoria’s Secret, it isn’t great when I walk in and you look me over and instantly assume I am buying a gift or direct my sizable self to the lotions and fragrances. I notice. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the stores who advertise their plus-sized clothing on hungry models who look likely to blow away with a swift wind. “Um, thanks Monica (I imagine all Monicas to be hungrier than average), but I won’t look like you do in your high-low top and skinnies on page 28.” If I wear a shirt that is shorter in the front than the back and my lower half has been slammed into skinny anything, I will look like a honey baked ham on top of two smoked sausages. If everything has been suctioned from south to north into denim tubes, it all must overflow somewhere.
This is 300.
Many of us have been told our entire lives that we are different, gross, or wrong. So when the kindness of a well-intentioned friend or husband pays us a compliment, our sensitive minds distort it into some kind of back-handed joke or slight about our looks.
Just as smaller people should learn to walk a mile (okay, like a block) in our Sketchers Shape-Ups, we need to learn to let it go! Laugh so you don’t cry, call it what you want, but loosen up! Odds are you won’t wake up tomorrow miraculously killing it in a supermodel frame so we need to embrace it and decide where to go from here. But let’s at least agree to enjoy the journey…even the bumpy, cellulite-filled parts.
This is 300.
Unlike other addictions, we need food to survive. The reality is—our reality is that we know our bodies shouldn’t run on a steady stream of cream-filled coffee, donuts from the office, and the Taco Bell Happier Hour dollar burrito we bought on our way home from work and trashed the bag so our family members didn’t know we ate it. We have to be honest with ourselves before we can be honest with anyone else.
“Oooh that girl is wearing one of those step counting watches! She’s probably on her way to eat kale and run at the park in some trendy yoga pants and one of those tank tops with the built-in bra!”
Girl, my Fitbit ain’t fooling anybody! I bought that burrito and ate it like a BOSS! What even is kale, other than the name of a kid who I imagine has friends with other pretentious names like Heath and Talon? And I don’t even attempt Spanx, much less spandex yoga pants where other humans could see. Those shelf bras!? HA! They hold up nothing and just spread over my back fat so I look like I am smuggling a pack of sausages.
This is 300.
It is up to us how we move forward from here. Some of us will continue to wallow in our self pity. Some may choose surgery, starvation, or a reality show that works you out 12 hours a day to trick real people into feeling like that is attainable. (You know, those of us watching enviously as we devour an entire bag of chips and imagine what our life would be like if we lost our excess weight.) Many of us will continue to struggle. This is a lifetime sentence, even if you are successful, because twenty years from now french fries will still be more delicious than carrots.
I still don’t know my choice. I don’t want to just see my kids grow up. I want to be a part of that. I want to climb and race and do the crazy things I used to be able to do when I thought I looked like a monster.
I did this to myself. No matter how you slice it, this was a series of choices. And here I am, wondering how I get to where I want to be and only being certain of one thing. The road will be a long and painful one; one riddled with fear, doubt, and disappointment but also with joy, excitement, and victories.
While the endless stream of Pinterest images inspiring me that, “A year from now, you will thank yourself for making the choice today,” and “When you feel like giving up, remember why you started,” plays on a loop in my brain, I am still faced with where to go and how to get there.
What I am certain of is this: I am 300 pounds and I have a face and a name. I am not a monster. I have made mistakes. My life is hard, but not impossible. My days can be happy or sad. Just like bananas over burritos, I have the power to choose. I just hope I can find joy when I make the right decisions and, when I don’t, that I remember how blessed I am to have a husband who supports me beyond what I even understand and that I never forget Whose I am. The number isn’t what we should fear. We should slap that puppy on a flag and walk it around the block. It isn’t the digits that make us feel the way we feel and letting people in won’t make us any smaller.
You aren’t alone. Just don’t be fooled into believing that confidence equals comfortable. Some of our masks are paper-thin and ready to break. Throw those suckers down and own it.
I am the real life face of 300.
*This piece was originally published at themamaontherocks.com