Transformations: In the Beginning

I had the chance recently to consider buying a house and remodeling it. It was a fun to dream about it for a few days. I have always imagined that someday in the future, I would invest in a house that needed some TLC and rehab it into a shiny jewel of a place. I just sense in my bones that this is an experience that could be really fun. Yes, it would be challenging and huge time drain but I think really it would be amazing to guide a transformation like that.

Yet, the transformation in my life that precedes a house transformation is the one in my body. I have been overweight for so very long. Most of my life I have been defined as "fat." A bratty kid called me "fatso" my first week of first grade. That was a shock. I had no idea I was fat or that I was viewed that way. But I learned to see it quickly. By 4th grade I was certainly chubby and by 6th grade I was definitely overweight. In 6th grade I lost 40 pounds. In SIXTH GRADE. I was eleven years old. We moved to another state right after my successful weight loss and I started junior high in a new school in a new town. And gained 20 pounds by Christmas. It was freaky. And the weight just piled on. By 9th grade, I was close to 175 pounds. So, again, I pulled out all the stops and I worked on weight loss. I lost over 50 pounds.

My 11th birthday in sixth grade. 

I started 10th grade at 125 pounds. This time I was in high school. Same town but only a small percentage of my 9th grade class went to my high school. Most of my class went to the other high school across town. So, there I was starting a new school, no friends, and I hardly knew anyone. My weight shot up again. I gained most of the fifty pounds back that year and I just kept climbing. My junior and senior years of high school were tough years. I was fat and more than anything I did NOT want to be fat. It felt like death. It was social death for me. I was so ashamed of how I looked. And just as my friends were starting to date and really turn into young adults, I felt stymied and suffocated by my obesity. I isolated myself from my social circle. I shut down invitations and outings simply because I felt so very awkward physically. I knew I didn't look like I wanted to and I couldn't stand myself, so I assumed that no one else could stand me either. This was the time in my life when the deep shame about my obesity grew roots and embedded itself in my soul.

My de facto reaction to the shame? I ate. I ate and ate and ate and ate and ate and ate and ate. I ate all the time. If I wasn't on a diet (and every chubby knows there is always a new diet you are starting) then I was gorging on anything I could get my hands on--especially sugar. Anything sweet. Anything to numb me out from the deep, pulsing hurt about who I was and how I looked. Anything.

My weight just continued to climb. After high school came college. I started one more new school in my life and again: total disaster. I gained 40 pounds my first semester of college. I didn't know it then but I was completely overwhelmed.  New friends, a tough new academic climate, and living on my own for the first time. My eating veered into a dark abyss. For the first time I tried to starve myself every day. I figured if I could just stop eating, I could stop the pounds from piling on, I could stop the intense self-hatred and then the pain would stop. Depression settled in like a black fog. I remember one day after the campus devotional (a spiritual talk by a faculty member), I came home and called my mom. I knew something was wrong--very, very wrong with me. I knew I could NOT do this any longer. It was just too much.

I assumed my unhappiness was because I was so fat. I was sure if I could just be thin that everything in my life would work out and I could be happy again. My second semester of college I gained another 40 pounds. That means that I had gained nearly 10 pounds a month those two semesters. Now close to 300 pounds, my body and my life were careening out of control.

I quit school. I couldn't manage anything in my life. How would I ever do school? Then my parents did something that gave me a turning point. They sent me to live with my grandparents for the summer in a little town in Idaho. I went to a health club there and took classes from an exercise guru in town. I didn't have a job. I just focused on my health every day, exercised, went on a new diet, spent time with my grandparents--in a house alone with the two of them; I had never known my world to be so deliciously quiet--and filled a journal with my thoughts, dreams, ambitions and goals. Every day up in that second story bedroom with the big brass bed and two walls of windows, I articulated and detailed the things that mattered most to me. For the first time, I think I really listened to my heart. I lost some weight that summer. I felt better about myself. But more than anything, I found my voice that summer. And that voice swelled and echoed with light.

To be continued . . . 


  1. I lost some weight that summer. I felt better about myself. But more than anything, I found my voice that summer.... I think this goes along with the views you shared with me about my transition and weight gain recently... you suggested that maybe I was filling a void with food. We can lose all the weight we want, but has anything really changed? I love here that you speak to this... you found your voice. Beautiful.


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