Twelve years ago I was a freshman in college and I was bulimic.
I would be bulimic with stints of anorexia for the next four years when the obsession slowly faded. There are lots of reasons and feelings that coalesced in to the creation of my bulimia, some of which I may discuss at a later date. There’s been lots of therapy and soul searching; I’ve come to terms with what I put myself through and accepted it as part of my story. Sometimes I can even spin some positive threads around all that I learned from those years of my life. But one of the most ludicrous reasons for losing 30 pounds in a couple months, one that’s never settled in to my understanding comfortably, and one that was at the fore-thought of my mind during the first months of my new obsession was the following: I didn’t want to go back to visit my High School Alma Mater during Christmas break and have my old friends whisper behind my back “She gained the Freshman 15.”
I went to an all-girls High School and cattiness existed, but not as much as you probably think. My friends were amazing, encouraging, supportive, positive young women. Visiting your friends still in High School on the Christmas break of your freshman year of college was something of a right of passage and I looked forward to it. But when I was a Senior in HS, I remember a few girls coming back to visit and, after they left, friends would comment about how much weight they gained. It was out of character for our group which is maybe why it stuck in my head so solidly. I would be damned if I was going to give them that reason to talk about me. I just couldn’t bear the idea of being viewed as having “let myself go” or any other negative connotations attached to gaining weight (and aren’t there so many?)
And so it began. I lost a shit ton of weight so I could allay my fears of being gossiped about. And very quickly, in my head, my weight came to define me and my worth. Energetically, how I’d show up to anything became intrinsically tied to the number on the scale. Lower than yesterday? You better believe I’ll be in the middle of the crowd, laughing and smiling and easily making new friends. Higher than yesterday? I’ll be in the corner, not smiling or making eye-contact, or, better yet, at home in bed.
Fast forward to now. My weight has fluctuated up and down for years and I weigh more than I ever have in my life. Typing that out feels oddly satisfying. Like coming clean on a dirty secret.
But why am I telling you all of this? Why is this coming up now? Well, because I’m meeting a friend from High School next week. One that I haven’t seen in 12 years. And do you know what my first thought was after we set up the meeting? “I can’t wait to see what we have to offer each other and how we click; I’m really looking forward to seeing her.” Nothing about my weight and tying it to my worth, nothing about fear of judgement, nothing about not being good enough because I haven’t dieted enough this month. When I realized how similar the situation and how astronomically different my response, I almost cried. The hope that we would excite each other intellectually and have interesting things to talk about outweighed (haha, get it?) the fear that I wouldn’t be liked because I’m no longer a size zero. My priorities have changed. They will continue to change and evolve but right now, I am so happy with where they are.
Change happens. Progress happens. Hard work pays off. Don’t forget to look back and see how far you’ve come; it may surprise you.