Stretching Myself Thin
I have stretch mark scars across my stomach. This does not make me unique. Many women have them. They zig a little and zag a little, up and down, surrounding my belly button like vines hanging in a forest. Having stretch mark scars doesn’t make me unique, but they make me who I am.
I started getting stretch marks when I was very young. At the time, for whatever reason, they didn’t seem to bother me. I don’t remember seeing the stretch marks that marred my body and thinking, “Hmmm maybe I shouldn’t eat this cupcake.” Then again, what ten year old thinks that way?
I was a big kid, in every sense of the term. I was always the tallest, always the biggest. I probably weighed the most too. But to me, at that time, that wasn’t weird or bad. That’s just the way it was. I was THE big kid.
I wasn’t truly aware of the health risks until I was 12 and my mom took my sister and I to an endocrinologist. I was diagnosed as being “pre-diabetic.” Type 2 of course. I hadn’t even gotten my period yet and I was staring into the mouth of a very adult disease.
I didn’t want to have diabetes.
I felt guilty and sick, because I knew that it was self-inflicted. It didn’t matter that my entire family is predisposed to developing diabetes or that much of my eating habits could be contributed to the way I was raised. In my eyes, this was my fault.
I decided right then and there to get healthy. A big decision for a twelve year-old. Then again, I was a big twelve year-old.
My doctor, wanting to assist in my weight-loss endeavors, prescribed me with phentermine, an appetite suppressant. By that time I was in seventh grade and began to do sports. I would step on the scale every week. Sometimes several times a week.
When I would lose a pound or two, I would be ecstatic. If I gained, I hated myself. Over the course of two years I lost fifty pounds. It was my proudest accomplishment at that time. I was a freshman in high school when I recorded my lowest weight. By that time I was six foot even and I weighed 179.8 lbs. It was the only time I’ve been under 180 lbs. since the first time I was 180 lbs.
At that point my doctor took me off the phentermine. She gave me a couple months of prescription in case I felt like I needed it ever. I didn’t think I would.
Over the next three years I slowly gained back about thirty pounds of weight. By the time I graduated I was back over 200 lbs. The first time I stepped on the scale and it read 201 I tried to start retaking my phentermine, but I had a bad reaction. I was shaky and couldn’t sleep at night. I told myself some of it was muscle mass, but that didn’t really make me feel better.
My freshman year of college I lost ten pounds. I was proud to say I had completely avoided the freshman fifteen. Look at me, I lost weight. Look at me, I’m special.
I lost another ten the next year. I felt really good about myself, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted more. But then I joined the University track team as a thrower.
The hardest thing I have ever done is gain weight on purpose. Every part of my brain screamed against it, but I knew I would have to gain some serious muscle if I wanted to compete. Over two years I gained forty pounds. I hated and loved myself at the same time. I could see the muscle building, but I could see the fat around it still.
People told me I looked good. I got compliments up the yang, especially on my butt. I’ve always had a pretty nice butt, but it was one even Beyonce would be proud of. The rational part of me was okay and accepted I was doing what I needed to do, the irrational part of me — the twelve year old being told she was pre-diabetic — saw only the numbers on the scale.
My senior year I placed at the conference track meet, something I never believed would have been possible the year before. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a double major in business and English. I had things to be proud of, that have nothing to do with numbers on a scale.
Over the last year I’ve had to re-learn how to love and take care of my body on my own. After two years of having a coach and trainer forcing me to work out, the very idea of going out and exercising had me laying on the couch doing nothing. I gained more weight. Gaining is so easy. Losing weight is the hardest loss you’ll ever take.
I hate that I’m so obsessed with my weight. I wish I wasn’t that way. I monitor everything I eat, because I know what I’m capable of. I know that I could stop eating tomorrow if it meant I’d lose ten pounds in one week. I know that I could eat a whole cheesecake and think twice, but not care. Until the next day when I would stop eating so I could lose ten pounds in one week.
Every day I have to remind myself to eat what makes me feel good. Exercise because I like it. I look in the mirror and try my hardest to like what I see.
My stretch marks have been a part of me for close to 13 years — possibly longer. At the tender-ish age of 23, that seems like a long time. I know they’ll be a part of me forever. Stretch mark scars don’t go away. I’m sure over the years I’ll get more.
My stretch mark scars make me who I am and remind me who I’ve been. They stand as a testament to all the times I’ve cried over a few pounds or sweated through my entire shirt during a workout. They are my battle scars. I know I’m not alone in thinking of them that way. And they prove that, while I will always be at war with my obsession over my weight and health, I have won many battles.