I never really realized how much I loved 320 me.
I don’t think it was until I was about 11 years old that I even realized that I was bigger than most girls. That’s around the age that people started calling me fat, or singing the Jenny Craig jingle to hurt my feelings.
I had size 11 shoes from 6th grade on, and my dad took me shopping in the women’s section at Target starting in 7th grade (before Target was a place to find the cutest stuff).
All of that aside, I never looked at my body with disdain. I never felt like anything was wrong with me, and I never felt like my life would somehow be better if I were skinnier.
Fast forward to high school, where kids are a little more brutal, but at least I dress well and typically get the “You’re pretty for a big girl,” or “You have such a pretty face!” Full disclosure? Pretty is better than skinny to me.
I’d rather be nice, kind, smart, pretty, talented, popular, and loved than skinny. But all of these people pointing this “flaw” out made me start doubting that conviction….maybe I did need to be smaller. Maybe all I needed was 100 pounds lifted off of me to make up for everything I wasn’t.
I wasn’t completely happy. I went home everyday to an alcoholic father who would “borrow” my babysitting money to go to the bar until the early hours of the morning, and wake me up upon his arrival to slap me around because there was lint on the floor, or a dish in the sink.
I was disconnected from my mom, and jealous of all of my friends who had mani/pedi dates and trips to Cancun with their mothers.
I begged my dad to send me to an expensive “Fat Camp” at the beach, hoping I’d be the smallest fat girl there, (and that they’d have karaoke) and my dad always said no. But then he’d criticize my weight, telling me I needed to “do something about my problem.”
I moved to San Bernardino my Sophomore year of high school after running away from home the last time my dad hit me. I was determined to be more than “the fat girl,” and it worked! Then, I fell hard for a guy I couldn’t have, and felt like maybe if I was skinnier, it would be different…but that wasn’t enough for me to break my neck trying.
I loved getting ready every morning. I color coordinated my outfits with my makeup and lived for each compliment or praise.
I loved me. I loved being me. And I figured that with most everything being pretty awesome in my life (for once), I could deal with being bigger than most girls. Didn’t bother me.
Then I got out of high school. And into college. And then I became responsible for my own life…housing, feeding, clothing, providing for myself.
I was going to school full time, and working four part time jobs simultaneously. I drove more hours than I slept.
At that point, my health became a huge concern: I don’t want to doom myself to a fate of diabetic issues, heart problems, or general decreased quality of life…and my weight could potentially cause ALL of those things.
I tried Phentermine pills, Atkins Diets, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, The Military Diet, and The Best Life diet. I skipped meals in the hopes the loud gurgling noises would mean if finally lose five pounds. FINALLY.
I struggled, because most 18-21 year olds don’t count calories or hide Little Debbie snacks under their beds to make their stomachs be quiet in the middle of the night after a day of eating only pickle spears and sugar free jell-o cups. I didn’t feel carefree. I didn’t feel like I had any control over my eating, even though that’s what all of these programs promoted. And I never lost much weight, especially not long term.
Almost 5 years ago, at 23 years old, I had weight loss surgery.
Before my eyes, I started shrinking. I went from 320 lbs to about 260 in the first 4 months. A year out, and I was 85 lbs down and running my first 5K without an asthma attack.
I went to Hawaii in 2014 and wore a bikini that I bought at Victoria’s Secret, after having a tummy tuck and thigh lift covered by insurance because of all the excess skin I had after losing the weight. I celebrated the achievement, but not necessarily because I was genuinely happy with my new reality…It was mostly because I could say I did it. I booked an amazing vacation, wore a bikini, and spent six days on a beautiful beach in a different bathing suit everyday. But everyday, I felt self-conscious about the back rolls, or the looks I just knew I was getting from people on the beach, or people on the streets as I walked the streets in a bathing suit and a crochet cover-up, with my thighs occasionally slapping together loudly.
I had a really hard time with the thigh lift, because I wasn’t able to “bounce back” like I did with my other procedures. My incisions kept splitting open, my drains had to stay in a week longer than planned and I couldn’t drive myself around or walk very far without pain. It took months to get back into my fitness ability, and by that point I could barely find my motivation.
This was the person I became. A person who was no longer concerned with her health, but how skinny she could LOOK now that she lost this weight. I could only see the sagging skin, the back rolls, the cellulite on my thighs…I lost focus of that bigger picture. I was healthier than ever, and couldn’t find that authentic happiness anywhere.
Ironically, the more obsessed I became with my body’s new image, the more weight I regained. I was my own biggest distraction. I slept less, because my mind raced with what I was or wasn’t doing. I skipped meals out of convenience, hoping it’d make a difference. I would think to myself, “Getting sick wouldn’t be the worst thing ever…maybe I’ll drop ten pounds!”
I stopped going to yoga, because I started feeling like I didn’t belong there. I didn’t feel small enough to be on my beautiful mat, in that beautiful room. I avoided exercise that sounded fun, because I felt like I wouldn’t fit in or be able to do it. I began to eat my feelings again, graduating from Oatmeal Creme Pies to gourmet cupcakes and $15/ lb tri-tip.
And here I am now, fighting for my independence from this mindset that cripples so many people everywhere.
I am eating organic food and trying to ignore anxiety-induced sugar cravings when they hit. I’m taking Pilates classes and ignoring the fact that I’m 5″ taller and 100 lbs bigger than everyone else. I’m looking for a therapist to help me check these negative emotions and dangerous behaviors. And all these changes led me to realizing that I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY miss the 320 pound version of myself who did, said, and wore what she wanted before she decided she wasn’t good enough for all the good things happening to her.
It’s not easy. It’s my reality. And I don’t mind admitting my failures and defeats, as long as I can share them with people, maybe help them see they have someone else with a similar struggle.
320 pound Sondra loved herself so much, despite moments when life didn’t always love her back. I tell everyone they are beautiful. I genuinely believe it. I mean it each time I say it. I exist some days merely in the hope that I can change this mindset in myself, and in others. I plant seeds of love and compliments and affirmations for others, for the peace and love I feel inside myself each time I do it.
I’m working on being that girl again. And while I do, I’m hoping you’ll hear more from me. And I invite you to share what makes YOU cultivate and maintain that oh-so-important self love on a daily basis. I’m in a constant state of self-evolution and always looking for new ways to live happily! But I’m learning more and more every day that it can be a lot of work, and work worth doing!
Until Next Time!