As a child, your clothing size is designed to match your age: 0-3 months; 3T; Medium (6/7). Generally, you hit your teens and move into the Junior section: size 13; size 15; size 17. But once you move past puberty, you’re theoretically pushed back to single digits.
In my case, as I got older I kept climbing up the clothing chart. When I graduated from college, I was 22 years old and a size 22. I look at pictures from my graduation with loathing. How did I ever let myself get that big? That miserable? That unworthy?
The answers, my darlings, are sleeping behind the questions. I was *graduating from college* - the first in my family to do so, and with a GPA of 3.71. My school was an entire day's drive away from my home town. I was very far from unworthy.
As to how I “let” myself get to a size 22 – it wasn’t a conscious choice so much as a visible symptom of the emotional turmoil I’d been living with since age five. Like so many others, I am a child of divorce. I was five when my father left, although abandoned is a more appropriate phrase.
We were living twenty miles outside the nearest town, on land his family had farmed for the past 100 years. Our house was lovingly crafted by the mind and hands of my mother’s father. But that love wasn’t enough to overcome my father’s painful childhood. He had been taught that women were figures to be disrespected and abused (which was also his fate as a young boy). To put it mildly, his spirit had never been nurtured. I imagine the concept of nurturing his family’s land, or his own wife/offspring, was a foreign concept to him. And so he left his wife and two small children to build a home with the object of his extramarital affair. He visited once a year, maybe, until I hit high school and the visits stopped altogether.
My mother was left to pick up the pieces – in her life and the lives of her children. But when you’re broken, with no idea of the potential or avenue to healing, it’s nearly impossible to foster that for your children. And so I was left to my own devices (or vices).
My vice was food. I snuck sweets wherever and whenever I could. Trays of fudge at Christmas? My best friends in the world. The neighbor’s refrigerator? A secret crush I couldn’t wait to visit (when I was supposed to be babysitting). You can see how these habits would be an unhealthy foundation for setting off on your own. In my college years, finishing an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting was normal. I had no exercise routine to balance nights of heavy drinking and days of hangover food.
But even as my weight spiraled out of control, I grew as a person. I built relationships that were healthy, loving, and supportive. I worked the same job for four years and kept my GPA above 3.5. And I accomplished all of this up hundreds of miles from the only home I’d ever known.
Upon graduating, I landed an internship in the bustling metropolis of Portland – at one of the area’s most respected PR agencies. My boyfriend and I moved to a new state with guaranteed jobs, an apartment, and a dog. And we’ve never looked back.
So, as I look at my college graduation photos I will always see an obese girl with a storied past. But lurking beneath that exterior is a determined spirit that, even then, wouldn’t be weighed down.