by megan hopps
SUN PRESS Newspapers
Whoever said “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was a liar.
Oh yeah, words can hurt me. They can hurt me a lot actually.
When I was a kid the other kids at school could find a number of reasons to make fun of me. I had freckles, wore classes, had crooked teeth and yeah, I was chubby. But for some reason, the fact that I was labeled “fat” stuck with me throughout elementary school and continued to haunt my thoughts at the middle school and high school lunch tables. Of course by that time I had gotten contacts and my teeth were straighten thanks to the lovely invention of braces. I still had those freckles, but so did lots of people. In fact my freckles were masked by a new skin development; acne. By high school I had made my peace with all most of my insecurities and flaws. I knew I’d never be the homecoming queen or voted “best smile,” but I was totally cool with that.
The one insecurity that continued to linger in my life was my weight. Looking back, it’s completely obvious that I felt rather inadequate in my own skin because of the way I dressed. I dressed to cover my body, not compliment it. Those words that loomed in my mind since second grade continued to shape the way I saw myself. I remember coming home from school one day crying because I was certain that no boy would ever see beauty in me. And if they ever did ask me out, it was clearly a practical joke. That happened to me in middle school.
Well, as it turned out that wasn’t the case. A few boys did notice me. One in particular was my best friend of two years. My freshman year of college we gave the whole dating thing a go for, what was at the time, the best three weeks of my life. But, he decided to break it off and I blamed myself and took it out on my body. I was convinced the reason it didn’t work out was because I was fat.
So I stopped eating and I worked out like a crazy woman. I was angry, hurting, hungry and exhausted. Not a fun time for me. After a week of that I lost seven pounds. I think I allowed myself to eat strawberries and an occasional cracker. I remember that hurt, but the hurt in my stomach was much more bearable than the hurt in my heart.
Over time, my heart healed and I naturally went back to eating again. But the weight stuck like glue to my abdomen. At my heaviest I tipped the scales at 199.9 pounds. I’m not sure if I can bring myself to say that I weighed 200 pounds. I had to get this thing under control. I wanted to be strong, comfortable and confident. I wanted to live my life and be happy and feel good and not like this scared, sad, insecure person. Growing up, my parents always encouraged me to act on the things I have control over. My weight was out of control, and I was going to take it back.
So I joined Weight Watchers. I wanted to lose weight in a healthy way and in a way I knew I could maintain. I didn’t want to be a bikini model in 60 days and have to starve myself to drop 70 pounds. I wanted something realistic. I needed a program where I could still eat, but also lose weight.
In the first week I dropped nearly six pounds and I thought “that wasn’t so bad, I can keep this up.” In the weeks that followed, I was still dropping weight, not a lot, but it added up. It added up to 33 pounds in fact. I did it! I was well on my way to becoming fit, active, healthy and happy. Seventeen more pounds left!
But, the weeks that followed I was barely losing at all, sometimes maintaining or even gaining a little. I was so frustrated. I wasn’t eating so many of my favorite foods. No ice cream, pop, cookies, chicken nuggets, french fries. And, at some point in my weight loss journey I allowed myself to have those things, and the scale reflected that. Frustrated, I quit going to meetings and began slipping in to my old habits. At least I could eat the things I loved again.
And the scale slowly crept up. It was going the wrong way again. I had plateaued and been too tired and frustrated to break through it. It had taken me so long that I had lost sight of my goal and why I even started the program in the first place.
The next few years were spent feeling rather sorry for myself. Growing up, my sister and best friend had opposite weight issues than I did. They needed to gain weight to be within their healthy weight range. In fact, I remember most nights the three of us hung out we’d stop at Wendy’s or pick up Oreos and Reeses from the store on the way home and pig out on the couch watching movies. At this point in my weight loss journey I was still feeling bitter that I couldn’t lose weight and still enjoy the things I loved. I was eating carrots, grapes and soup in college while numerous friends of mine could have their favorite drinks at Caribou three times a week and bake cookies with their room mates.
After graduating from college I was so ready to get to work and finally be making some money. Lucky for me, I found work and you can guess what was one of the first things I bought with that paycheck; a gym membership.
Two months later with LifeTime and Weight Watchers memberships, I’m back at it. This time, for good. I’ve managed to lose another 10 pounds and am the lightest I’ve been in almost a decade. At this point in my weight loss journey, I’m 6 pounds away from being at healthy weight and 13 pounds from my goal. And I still get to enjoy my Caribou coffee drinks and an occasional slice of pizza. This time, it’s not about the things I can’t have, but the things I can have. Weight Watchers has forced me to get creative with my food choices again. I use more flavorful spices, cook with healthier substitutions and still save a few extra points values for a little dessert.
My attitude is different this time too. I’m not doing this for anyone else except for me. It’s not about a boy this time. I’m not comparing myself to my friends, room mates or to my sister. This time it’s for me. It’s like I’ve got my blinders on; like no one knock me off this path, not even the ones who first planted those mean thoughts in my head back in grade school. It’s like my mother always said, “Pounds come and go but there’s no cure for mean.”
And so I’d say to those who laughed at me those many years ago, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
Contact Megan Hopps at firstname.lastname@example.org