It was the mid-nineties and I was in my last year or two of high school. I remember asking one of my friends at lunch if she wanted to hang out after classes were finished. “I can’t, she said, “I’m going to the gym.”
“Why?!” I exclaimed, casting a critical eye over her body. She looked fine to me and, at that time, I couldn’t fathom wanting to workout simply for the sake of being active. But she filled me in on the fact that she wanted to lose weight and when I pressed – again, not understanding what flaws she saw in her body – she finally gave in and told me that she weighed somewhere around 190 pounds.
I didn’t believe it! Not for a second did I think she could be that heavy. She looked like me, for goodness sake! She invited me to come along so that she could prove it on the scale at the gym and I accepted. I was sure she was exaggerating.
We met up after school and headed straight to our destination. We arrived, she kicked off her shoes, and proceeded to step onto the scale. She was right, and I was suddenly in a state of complete disbelief. That’s when it dawned on me… I took off my shoes and climbed on.
I will never forget that number.
That was the very first time that I realized I was overweight. Ever.
Somehow, I was one of the fortunate few for whom body image had not been an issue during their adolescent years. Let me rephrase that. Somehow, I was one of the ones for whom the mixed blessing that is ignorance of body image was a reality.
The only other weight that I can specifically recall from when I was a teenager was 109, and that was when I still had an inch left to grow and had just been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia. From 109 to 181: more than seventy pounds had found their way onto my body and I hadn’t noticed.
I am thankful, in a way, that I had all those years of blissful naiveté. I know I probably had a bout here or there with not liking the way I looked, and I do remember purchasing the occasional health magazine to help me learn how to tone up, but somehow I missed being really hateful of my body during my formative teenage years. It is fortunate, I know, but there was also a very serious downside.
My ignorance led to utter complacency. I had no idea that I was putting on weight because I never, ever climbed on a scale nor even took stock of what size clothes I was wearing. I was completely unconcerned with what shape my body was in and, accordingly, I became an overweight girl without even knowing it. I carried on for years inadvertently developing bad habits that would eventually prove to take over a decade and a half to break.
I know I started working out then and I am sure I lost some of the weight, but I don’t remember the specifics at all. Whatever pounds I may have dropped were assuredly gained back shortly after that first stint of attempted weight loss. I am positive that I weighed more when I graduated.
One thing that I do know for sure is that I weigh less today than when I first discovered that I had a weight problem. This is the second lowest amount that I can recall ever being, and I have no intention of regaining my anemic, underweight 109 pound status. This is all new. This is all unknown.
I will still never, ever forget that number.