Like all good stories, this one started in a bathroom. The Safeway one up next to Nevada Beach to be specific.
I was the ripe old age of 10, pondering the meaning of life and quantum physics while waiting in line to use the potty. (For those of you who know my bladder is about the size of a pea, pun intended, then you know this was a common occurrence.)
It seemed you lived 10 whole years in the darkness, before someone realized it might behoove society to explain to you the actual rules of life. They are as follows:
-Legs need shaving (this becomes optional the older you get).
-Armpits need deodorizing.
-Faces need something with a little more finesse than bar soap.
-Boys are gross, but we secretly kind of like them.
-Don’t ever tell boys you like them, even if it’s secretly. Wait, what?
-Bodily functions must be made non existent.
-Ladies shop in the ladies department (contrary to popular belief that all clothes worth buying are in the boys basketball section).
-Boobies are a pain in the butt.
-Don’t ever talk about your butt.
And most importantly:
-Ladies are pretty and petite.
I digress upon my digression. Back to the potty line.
Standing in front of me was a wonderful walrus of a woman – older, overweight, dressed to impress in sweats and birkenstocks topped off with socks (By the way, whatever I say in the rest of this blog, sandals and socks are NEVER okay).
Walrus Woman did not give a flying fu…dge about anything, and was all business. I watched as she entered the stall, dropped her sweats down to her sock-line, and proceeded to blow up the entire bathroom with eue de methane, which had clearly been rotting in some vestigial region of her intestines for quite some time now. Words fail to describe the sounds that followed, but the point is, she walked out of there (not bothering to wash her hands ← Also, never okay), head held high, unashamed, and unalarmed at the amount of therapy I was clearly going to need after this.
And the worst part is, after the methane poisoning subsided, and my memory returned, and an appropriate fives minutes of being both horrified and nauseuos passed, I found myself completely and utterly impressed by Walrus Woman in all her glory, unabashed restroom usage, and fudges not given.
If only I had remembered this.
Fast forward two years to the beginning of middle school.
I was hungry. Always hungry. I hit my growth spurt early, had to bend down to talk to the rest of the student population, went to three different sports after school, and grew into my baby bearing hips. I watched my petite, unathletic friends decline lunch, saying they weren’t really hungry that day, or they “just wanted a coffee,” and then I looked at myself, wondering why I was always hungry, tall, and had a body that looked like a body, not a railing.
Several years later, we would come to find out that on top of three sports and an early growth spurt, I was also chronically hypoglycemic, requiring my body to eat much more frequently than normal. But alas, several years was too late.
I wanted to be a lady. I wanted to be petite. I wanted to fit into the crowd, not tower over it. I wanted to act like food wasn’t a necessity, because apparently I was the only one who actually needed it. I wanted to follow the rules.
And so, I embarked on an extremely long, and uninformed journey to the kingdom and the glory of the thin.
At 12, all I knew about diets was that in order to be not fat, you should not eat fat. So I ate only foods with 0 grams of fat. I wasn’t sure about other foods, so I only ate packaged ones with labels on them.
But then one day at lunch, my friends started talking about the diets their parents were on. Specifically, the low carb diet, which my middle school self interpreted in a very Mean Girls type way, “Don’t eat carbs. You will get fat, and you will die.”
So on top of my packaged no fat diet, I cut out anything I was suspicious might be a carb. I remember fried rice being particularly difficult to pick out the tiny pieces or egg and carrot to eat minus the rice. Eventually, I gave up and ate only fruit snacks, applesauce, and fruit. If you know anything about fiber, you can imagine the horror. But secretly, I reveled in it. Because if things were coming out, that means they weren’t staying in, and if they didn’t stay in, then I couldn’t be fat, right?
Soon afterwards, I decided to cut the superfluous diet trends, and just not eat as much as possible. I would skip breakfast, and then eat half of a Balance Bar for lunch, painstakingly rewrapping and saving the other half to eat before I went to my three sport practices each afternoon. For dinner, I would have a glass of milk with protein powder in it. And at night, I would lay awake pinching the skin on my belly, and knowing that if was still there, then I had failed.
Finally, I resorted to more drastic measures. Every calorie I consumed was recorded in permanent marker on the inside of my wrist, so I might remind myself of the scarlet letter I bore for having eaten. I searched our medicine cabinets, and took every form of laxative I could find. I lay next to the toilet cursing myself for not having an easy gag reflex.
I became a shell of a person, ironically trying to escape the thought of always being hungry by obsessing over food in the worst way possible. I could no longer make it through soccer practice or games without getting dizzy. I was no longer allowed to hang out with friends unless I finished an ice cream, or ate breakfast, which of course I never did. I would get home from school shivering from lack of body fat and circulation, and lay in the bathtub to try to regain my body heat.
And so it went.
Until one day I woke up, looked in the mirror, and realized that after all this, at my very thinnest, at my most miserable, I still had hips and thighs and a honkeytonkbadonkadonk. And no matter how hard I tried to find the rolls of fat creating them, I could only feel bone and muscle – my hip bones protruding forward, genetically wide set, soccer quads and glutes that were going nowhere fast, and a waist that didn’t even look large enough to contain my organs, let alone protect them. And I laughed, and I cried, and I cursed myself for my stupidity, and promised that from now on, I would be me.
Many years of friends and therapists and nutritionists later, I look back on this and am ashamed to talk about my adolescence. But then I look around and forward. I see my friends having children, and on purpose no less! I see more fake tanning, and more bleach blonding, and more terrible photoshop jobs, and more filters, and more diets, and more ways to modify ourselves into something that society wrongly perceives as beauty. I see less P.E. classes, less health classes, more vending machines in schools, and less education on what eating healthy actually is. My social media is constantly overwhelmed by home beauty business trying to sell patches, and vitamins, and creams, and Lord knows what else. For every ten patients I see asking for a pill to lose weight, only one of them asks how they can eat healthier. And I realize that yes, I am ashamed to talk, but obviously something other than the media needs to be heard.
So this one’s for you, Walrus Woman:
Be healthy, because you want to live and love longer.
Be beautiful on the outside, because you’re glowing with the knowledge of the beauty you hold on the inside.
Your body does everything it can to protect you – treat it right, feed it enough, and stop telling it it’s not good enough.
The most beautiful filters are confidence and happiness.
The best product you can buy for your body is in the produce section.
The most attractive thing you can do is accept yourself and others.
And the best thing you can do for you children is teach them the above.
Be the beauty you want to see in the world.
You are the walrus! You are the eggman!