A Lifelong Journey to a Healthier Me—With Help Along the Way
I know there was a time in my life when I was a normal weight—maybe at 6 or 7.
I know because I have seen the photos!
But what I remember is being overweight. I cannot tell you exactly when it happened or how. I just remember still feeling like me and not really feeling different, but I began to be treated differently. And that is how I found out I wasn't good enough anymore. I remember people being so blunt and saying things like, “Oh, you have such a pretty face, why are you so fat?” “You know, you are going to have a very hard time meeting a nice boy.” “People aren't going to want to be your friend if you stay looking like that.”
It was so awful; I could not understand what I had done. I was still me. Why will people not like me now?
I remember eating healthy foods. My mom was not about you eating junk food. When, and if, we had soda growing up, it was a party or a big family event. And if they saw you going to fill up that cup more than once, they would send you to the sink to get some water. Fast food was also not allowed. That was something we got to do with daddy on his weekends after mommy and daddy divorced and even with him, it wasn't an automatic thing. I think my downfall was snacking.
I have learned that I am a stress eater and when I first started to gain weight as a child, I did not handle it well. All of those negative comments had the adverse effect of their intention. These things were being said to deter me from eating and I was eating because I was hurting.
So I snacked. Mommy would hide snacks from me in an effort to help, but it really didn’t. It just made me want it more. Perhaps I should have talked to someone about how and what I was feeling, but we didn't do that back then—especially black folks. You know how we are when it comes to therapy.
Then, I remember being about 14 and I was about to be a junior in high school. That summer, I decided I wanted to be different. I wanted to go back to school and be able to dress more like my friends. So, I went on a very strict diet that I found in a book and I exercised. I lost about 20 pounds and I felt pretty good. I wasn't skinny, but I felt less out of place. I had more confidence. Still didn't have a boyfriend, but part of that was because I was in high school at such a young age and I looked even younger. I didn't understand that at the time; I just thought it was because of my size.
Struggling with my weight was a lifelong thing. At first, I was trying to be a certain size and a certain number instead of focusing on health and how I felt. When I was about 19, I started to take African dance class and I loved it. I was never a sports-oriented person. I hated gym, but I did not hate exercise. I did not know this about myself until I took the dance class. Up until that point, I had not realized that I was strong, had stamina and that I could challenge my body.
(For more, read Part 2 next week)
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