Sometimes we take other people’s opinions dangerously to heart.
I have always been a light eater. I eat my three meals a day, usually a snack, and I drink water. I dislike the taste of carbonated drinks, and other than lemonade or orange juice, I stick to primarily water. I am relatively active--usually working out three to five days a week. I have played softball and trained for it for a few years. But for almost seven or eight years, I have been unable to lose weight.
Growing up, I didn’t really notice it. Not until I was in eighth grade did I really start to notice my weight. I always found myself pretty--plain, maybe, but pretty. I was fair skinned, average height, my two front teeth slightly crooked, blonde hair that was wildly curly, hazel eyes from my grandfather that changed depending on the weather to green or more of a blue. I considered myself average.
I’ve always been bubbly--loud and talkative--but most people consider me to be kind, funny, perhaps slightly introverted at times, but I do enjoy spending time with those I love. And for most of my life, comments about my weight or my size or even my beauty went relatively unnoticed by me, or perhaps, they simply weren’t made. I was seen more than a dress size or a number on a scale. But on the inside? On the inside, I really didn’t like much about myself.
In sixth grade, I was referred to an endocrinologist--and for those who are unfamiliar with that kind of doctor, they specialize in your endocrine system, which consists of insulin and thyroids and diabetes and essentially your body’s metabolic system. The endocrinologist sent me for a blood panel, diagnosed me with hypothyroidism, and started me on experimental diets and pills and medicines. Not only was I reduced to almost twenty-carbohydrates a day (to put it in perspective, most people should consume between 225 and 335 a day in a 2000 cal diet). I was given experimental shots. I felt, at ten years old, like the only thing that could define me was a number on a scale.
And when the treatments didn’t work, up until mid-seventh grade (when girls are most impressionable) and when they hurt (some really hurt), I was sent to another doctor, who gave me a different diagnosis--hyperinsulenemia, which translates essentially to, pre-diabetes. But it didn’t make sense. I didn’t display the signs of a diabetic. I was healthy. I worked hard. I was routinely working out. I ate like a bird. I saw this doctor until my freshman year, and my mental image of myself deteriorated.
My confidence faded. I lost sight of the young woman I had always wanted to be. I became obsessed with a scale. I became obsessed with counting calories and carbohydrates. I would make plans and give up, realizing that nothing made a difference. At fifteen years old, my world felt constricted to a scale, a calorie counting app, and my disorder (which seemed to change from doctor to doctor).
From my sophomore year to late junior year, I ceased treatments all together. I don’t know exactly how to put the feeling into words. Perhaps ‘hopeless’ or maybe it was just disinterest, but I couldn’t stand to look at the scale, the pills, the diets that made me want to vomit and pass out all at the same time. My parents were trying to keep my spirits up, but it’s hard to want to wake up everyday when you hate the person you are looking at. It’s sad that I felt that way, yes, but it was true at the time. I hated the person that stared back at me in the mirror.
And then, a miracle happened. In November, I met a doctor who took a look. I had a full blood panel done, a scan of my thyroid, and was given a glucose test. And what they found was something no other doctor had even considered. I have a hormone issue. My metabolism acts like that of a 90 year old woman. It runs slower than molasses rolling off an oak. And my insulin with fasting was at .75, when it should be between .2 and .25. My doctor started me on a new medication paired with an old, and suddenly, I began to lose weight.
It wasn’t big changes--little ones. I noticed it in my face, my arms, my stomach. Slowly pounds began to roll off. And my confidence, began to come back. This resurgence of hope is also hard to describe, realizing that I could do this. That I could take my life back. That I could get healthy and happy and I would be able to become the woman I have always wanted to be. That is an empowering feeling.
I am sitting in my new dorm room, coming back from a dinner that I spent with friends who laughed with me, who made me feel loved and supported and I truly could appreciate that love and support. My cheeks are tight from laughing and smiling. I don’t care that my laugh is loud. Or that I chatter on. Or that some of my stories are weird. I am embarking on a new life. And I have never been more proud of that life. And to the boy who referred to me as ‘the heavier, annoying one’, I suppose you are right, but I’m more than a number on a scale. And I have enough positive energy inside of me and around me to shatter any glass ceiling I had ever set for myself, including the one you set for me.