by Grace Ellen
My 5 foot body weighed in at 150 pounds when I stepped on the scale at my first pre-natal doctor’s appointment. I’d only been knocked up for five weeks, so I couldn’t blame my weight on the blob that was already cooking in my belly and making me miserably ill.
A week later, 149. Three weeks after that, 147, then 145, all the way down to 138 somewhere in the fourth or fifth month. I knew I was supposed to be gaining weight, and I in no way wanted to harm the little terrorist causing me to spent 15+ minutes each morning with my head over the toilet, but I was secretly pleased when my face looked a little thinner in the mirror. My arms didn’t feel quite as suffocated in my sleeves. It was the second easiest weight loss I have ever experienced.
The easiest weight loss came in the days after my child was born. I was amazed when I took my first shower, a coworker told me. I looked down, and even though I knew I wasn’t skinny, I still felt so skinny. It was great. The shower wasn’t my magic moment, but within two weeks, I lost all of the pregnancy weight, plus 15 pounds. I was lighter than I’d been since my wedding. And I hadn’t done anything other than not sleep, feed the baby constantly, and not have time to eat, as all my time was devoted to a baby who never wanted to be put down. Once the baby began to mellow, I began to eat again. I ate, and I watched a lot of TV in those first few months. My weight yo-yoed. I kept buying clothes that were too tight, telling myself that I’d soon be thin enough to fit into them.
In December, my sister-in-law started Weight Watchers with great success. I mentioned this to my mom, kind of offhandedly as maybe this was something I was interested in doing, and she handed me her credit card. I was stuck. I signed up and began starving. I counted points diligently for two weeks, then counted them half-heartedly for several more. I lost 15 pounds and stagnated.
Then I started taking medicine for ADD, and the pounds disappeared. For the first time in over three years, I broke 130. My wardrobe expanded, as I found myself able to fit into clothes I’d clung to in the hopes of someday. I got compliments at work every day, people asking me if I’d lost weight, what I’d been doing differently, telling me how great I looked. My body shrunk, but my ego swelled (I love compliments). I felt attractive, or would have had I not still had a wardrobe belonging to a frumpy troll, and I felt thin. Not only did I feel like I looked good, other people acknowledged it. They validated my weight loss and occasional hard work. Then it hit me: If all of these people are telling me how great I look, how skinny I am, exactly how fat had I been?
Wow, I must have looked awful, I thought, and chastised myself for being prideful over my medicated weight loss. I wondered: Was it recently had a baby fat? Was it needs surgery fat? Was it could possibly be mistaken for an elephant or Hummer with uncontrollably curly hair fat? The compliments, still rolling in, began to have an edge to them, an edge I’m certain the giver never intended. Each time someone mentioned my weight loss, or told me how great my outfit looked, I felt self-conscious. I did that thing that girls do where they kind of smile and look down and blow it off in a strong showing of modesty and mild self-deprecation. It’s nothing, I said. It’s just cause of my medicine.
I told my husband about my new bout of self-consciousness.
So now I’m wondering, I ventured, how fat was I?
Well, you were pretty fat, he replied without hesitation. I squinted up at him. Um, but it’s hard for me to tell. You know, cause I see you every day.
Humh, I mulled.
I guess I just didn’t know. I didn’t see a fat girl when I looked in the mirror, but in fairness, the only full length mirror is in the baby’s room, so I don’t really use it, unless we are visiting The Baby In The Big Mirror (one of my kid’s favorite games). Plus I’m no good in the morning, so the vision I see in the mirror first thing is quite different than what I see when I look in the mirror halfway through the day. I’ll often think my hair looks okay, good even, and look in the mirror a few years later and realize it’s done its best to mimic Medusa’s head of snakes, angrily refusing to do its mistress’ bidding. My pants told me I was getting fat, but I solved that problem by wearing skirts or changing into sweats as soon as I came home from work or simply not breathing for the duration of the day.
My husband always tells me I constantly look for the worst in people, in what they say. I’m pretty happy with how I look, even though I know I’ve got about 20 more pounds to go. I’m not taking my medicine anymore, so I’ll have to actually work for those last 20. And it’s possible that people will again comment on the weight loss. I hope that if that happens I won’t look for the edge in what they say. I won’t immediately go for the hidden insult and start to question how I look at this moment now. I hope I can manage to simply smile, look down, and choke out a quiet “Thank you.” And mean it.