Like most, my story starts off the same; I started gaining weight as a child; I’d say around the age of 7 or 8, which was a about two years after I had my tonsils removed (the only surgery I’ve ever had!). I was raised by my grandparents and had a happy childhood. I never wanted for anything, including food. There was always food around, whether it was leftovers or snacks granny would buy just for us kids. Our lunch boxes were always full, because we participated in the after school care program, so Granny always packed extra snacks for late in the after noon after school. A normal lunch could consist of: 1 whole ham sandwich, ½ a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, apple/orange slices, pudding cup, fruit gummies, and two fruit juice boxes. THIS is A LOT for an 8 y/o girl. I don’t blame my grandmother, though now as an adult and an aunt of a 6 y/o niece, I do realize that maybe our grandmother gave us these things to appease us. We were active to an extent, and maybe she thought it would be ok. I think this was the age where I gradually began to put on weight. It was noticeable, but I guess not enough to really bother me.
I knew I was bigger than the girls in my class. We attended a private school where we had to where uniforms daily and during PE. So, when buying PE clothes and having to get an “Adult Lg/XLg”, it dawned on me that I was a little bigger. When I reached the 5th grade my weight still didn’t hinder my childhood, but it was obvious that I was going in a downward spiral. I tried out for cheerleading and I made the team, but I couldn’t wear any of the uniforms that the squad already had. They had to order one specifically for me because I was larger. Some would see this as an embarrassment, but at that time in my life. I felt like I was meant to be the way I was. I wasn’t worried about getting bigger and in my mind, I felt like I was special because I got a “NEW” uniform. (I was obviously in denial) I played volley ball and basketball 6th and 7th grade. Still the chunkiest girl in class, but I didn’t let this bother me. I never had any incidents with bullying or name calling in school (thank GOD), and I always had plenty of friends.
Summer of 8th grade was an eye opener for me. My family owns a funeral home, so one day I went with my Dad to pick up a body from the airport. While waiting for him to sign paperwork and talk to the “man”, I saw a large scale used for boxes and packages to be shipped. Making sure no one was around; I stepped on the scale only to see that I was 220llbs. I was mortified! Here I was all of but 13 years old, and I was 220lbs, not much less than my 40 something year old dad. I believe this was when I started to NOT weigh myself anymore. From this point on when anyone asked me my weight “I didn’t know…” nor did I want to know out of embarrassment. Buying uniforms, I realized that we had to special order my uniform skirts. I remember an incident when the lady was measuring me and gave my waistline as somewhere between 40-44 inches, and my grandmother making an “oh my goodness” sound under her breath. Of course my head was hanging low and the lady must have noticed this. She said, “Don’t feel bad, that was another girl in here and she needed a 48!” I guess she told me this to make me feel better, and I suppose at the time, it did; knowing that I wasn’t the only one.
Like I said 8th grade was the turning point. I didn’t want to participate in school functions as much. Going on school field trips to theme parks was embarrassing because even though I could still fit the roller coasters at that time, I would be forced to sit on certain rows that were made to accommodate the “larger” rider because it had two belts instead of one. In the end of the year 8th grade program where we performed the stages of the cross, I readily jumped for a speaking role, because I didn’t want to go through the embarrassment of not being able to fit any of the costumes. When it came time for us to give our height and weight for cap and gowns? Well, of course I “didn’t know” my weight. After graduating 8th grade I wasn’t all too excited about high school other than the fact that the braces I had from 6th through the 8th grade, were coming off before my 9th grade year started. So, in my mind I said, “I may be fat, but at least I have an awesome smile!” Once again I didn’t have any issues with being made fun of at school, but I still felt out of place. I could barely fit into the desks (the kind where the seat is connected to the desk), I was still wearing size 40-44 waist pants/skirts, and just felt like… not a normal teenager.
The summer following my 9th grade year, but grandmother decided to take a stand. She told me I’d be spending 6 weeks at a weight loss camp for teenagers. I was mortified! I refused to go, but in the back of my head I remembered seeing an episode of the cartoon “Wait Til Your Father Gets Home” and the daughter on the show was over weight, she happened to go to a “fat farm” and came back looking “HOT”. LoL! I laugh now, but I believed that if I didn’t come back svelte, that I would’ve at least lost a little weight. So, I went to the camp, and I learned a few things (I didn’t retain the info, though), met a few friends, lost a few inches, and lost enough weight to where I could notice a difference in my face and the way my clothes fit; my family noticed too. I was happy to be home, because I’m definitely a homebody/family oriented person. I was able to share a few “diet” recipes with everyone; who were more than obliged to try. I went back to school, and no one noticed. Which I think took away my drive for losing weight. My friends and teachers didn’t notice. So in the end, nothing stuck.
We were your typical African- American family. Most family functions revolved around food, so whatever weight/ inches lost were gained back, plus more. From what I can remember, I’ve never bought clothes made for people my age. I was always in the next section over. Whether it be huskies, plus sized teen, or women’s. If memory serves me correctly, I’ve been wearing anywhere between a size 20 – 22/24 since 7th or 8th grade. I think about this now at the age of 24 and I realize that being that size at the age of 13 is just horrible and wrong. As I’ve gotten older, it sucks that if I decide to go shopping with friends, that I can’t shop in the same stores. When going out to clubs, I sit in the corner and drink my drinks, even when I know I LOVE to dance. I don’t feel comfortable in the clothes I wear 75% of the time. You know that feeling when you’re walking into somewhere and you’re just constantly pulling down your shirt or pulling up your pants, making sure you look ok in them, when you feel huge?
I remember being in either late middle school or a freshman in high school, when Carney Wilson went public with her RNY surgery. It seemed like an easy fix in my head. To be honest, I thought about doing it for about 30 minutes, and just wasn’t interested. And I figured being as young as I was, that they wouldn’t approve it for me (which they hadn’t at that time, approved this procedure for young teens). It seemed scary and invasive, so RNY was an awesome tool for WL, but it wasn’t for me. A few years later, my mom mentioned the lapband after seeing a few infomercials. At this time in my life I had accepted my size. I didn’t think anything was going to change. I had had at least one boyfriend so I knew men liked me as I was. I wasn’t an ugly person, so why couldn’t I be happy with the size God made me? I again brushed the lapband idea aside as well.
In 2008 I began working at my local hospital. As I’ve gotten older in life, my friends and family are starting to settle, and I still feel as though I haven’t done much. Like something has been hindering me this entire time. I found out that I have PCOS, which was likely due to my obesity. I started developing hair on my face (sideburns) and hair under my chin. I didn’t realize then that this is also attributed to obesity, I just pushed it off on our Cuban heritage. After getting health insurance, in what had been years without, I went to see a doctor for an annual and learned about all the things that were wrong with me. I’ve developed high blood pressure. Not to the extent of having to take meds, but I’m on the tipping point. My glucose levels have been testing high, which one doctor states may be causing my irregular periods and PCOS. So now I’ve been medicating that issue with Metformin…
As I get older I know my problems will only get worse if I don’t do something about them now. Both my parents and grandparents suffer from Adult onset Diabetes. Both my parents have high blood pressure, both are over weight, and my dad uses a BIPAP machine to sleep at night. I decided to change because I don’t want to live this way. I want to be able to have kids, and not worry about being too overweight to play and spend time with them. I feel as though I’m young enough still to correct this issue. I still have a life to live! My main issue with accepting that this is something that I WANT to do, is worrying about what my family, my friends, and my peers will think. I’ve already discussed loosing weight and I’ve had negative comments like, “you wouldn’t look good smaller”, which is mind blowing. I want to do something to better my health and you say “I wouldn’t look good?!”
I don’t want people to think I’m doing this for vanity reasons. Though it would be nice to say I went shopping in a store that I never thought I would or to be able to wear a bathing suit without shorts AND a tshirt on (LoL), but it’s not about how I look, because I know I’m pretty. It’s about how I FEEL! I feel fat, I feel overweight, I feel like my body is stopping me from doing the things I want to do. I’m a summer baby (Zodiac: Cancer), so I feel like I could be this active person, I already have a bubbly personality; I just need the body to go with it. So, my reason for doing this is my health, and my future children. I want to be there for them… HELL I just want to be around period! So I’m going to make this effort and hopefully everything will work out in the end.