Ignorance is bliss, or so I’ve heard. I still remember, very vividly the first time I realized that I was fat. I was a naïve little first grader and I was standing in lunch line with my best friend, Chelsea. A boy in our class named Andy came up to me and told me I was fat. At this time, fat was a foreign word to me. My family always referred to me a “chunky” and the word fat never existed in my vocabulary. My mom was overweight and so was one of my big sisters, Amanda. As a result I was never put down by them for having to shop in the kids plus size section at JCPenny’s. But the problem with that was I needed help and I would not get it from them.
I was never self-conscious about my weight until about 6th or 7th grade. When I began middle school I took it upon myself to start dieting. I can remember writing down this diet plan for myself but this attempt would last maybe a day or so, until I found the nutty bars in the cupboard. I then proceeded to have “just one” but one would lead to two and then three, four, and so on. I was eating my feelings one by one and learning to comfort myself with food. Food was my drug of choice, and I was fully and completely addicted.
One of the worst parts about me being overweight, though was that I wasn’t proportionately overweight. I carried a lot of my weight in my stomach area which caused me to carry some heavy connotations as well. I was in 7th grade the first time someone asked me if I was pregnant, and he did it in front of my entire English class. That hurt a million times worse for me than just being called fat. I never wanted people to think that I had no morals and that I was the type of person who would get pregnant when I was 13 years old. I was a pastor’s daughter for crying out loud!
Although I can’t recall his name, I can still hear his voice in my head-clear as day.
“Are you pregnant?!” he asked loudly.
“No!” I retorted back.
And that was that. I could feel my face turning three shades of red under the shame and guilt of being fat-so fat that fat didn’t describe me anymore. Pregnant was now how people defined me. And when I went home that night, I didn’t cry. I went and found my best friend, food. We were kindred spirits you know. Four pieces of pizza and two bowls of cookies and cream ice cream would suffice my feelings for the time being. Food equaled love and that’s all I ever really wanted.
The summer after 9th grade I begged my mom to move me to a different school district. Finally she gave in and I joyfully left Benson and enrolled across the city at Westside High school my sophomore year. I couldn’t wait to escape the monotony that was my life. I had been such a shy girl all my life, held back by my weight for so long and I wanted a fresh start.
I was determined to start sophomore year as a new, skinnier me. I told myself, “This summer I will lose weight!” And I did lose weight that summer, maybe 5 pounds which I could attribute to the 90 dollar workout DVD that I purchased with my hard earned babysitting money. Turbo Jam claimed to have all the answers. But the viscous cycle continued.
Try. Eat. Fail. Eat more.
So I began school at Westside, looking like a pregnant sophomore. “At least I have a pretty face.” I thought. I had been told by so many people that I was pretty, but the thing was they would never say, “Sarah, you’re pretty!” They would say, “Sarah, you have such a pretty face.” I would look at my face in the mirror and gain some self-confidence in myself and sometimes I would start to feel pretty. But then I’d look at my size 18 jeans and my XXL shirt and think, “Never mind. How could anyone ever love this?”
Any prettiness I possessed, I felt was covered up with fat and that was all people would think about me. I thought that if I even raised my hand in class and answered a question people would think to themselves, “ewe she’s fat. She shouldn’t be talking because she doesn’t deserve to talk.” So I avoided talking in class altogether. I had the few friends I talked to and ate lunch with but didn’t have classes with many of them. So in those classes where I didn’t have anyone to talk to I would only speak if I was spoken to, nothing more. I was trapped in this stupid fat suit, and I despised myself because of it. The cycle continued.
Eat. Eat. Eat. Fail. Eat. Fail.
When I made the decision that I would really lose weight it was March 2009, nearly the end of my senior year. My sister had told me that if I was strict with myself and determined enough then I would lose the weight. She had lost her weight already through the Atkins diet three years before so I trusted her. No bread. No sugar. No carbs. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. Especially for a self-proclaimed “carbotarian” such as myself. I was such a foodie that I even invented a word that meant a person who only ate carbs. Bravo, Sarah. Bravo.
The first week on Atkins is unquestionably the most difficult. You aren’t allowed to drink anything except water and you can only eat meat and veggies. But after the first week I had already lost five pounds and I was determined to keep going. It felt so good for the first time in my life to actually start seeing results of what I was doing. So the weeks went by and I kept losing weight. I had lost about 15 pounds by the time I graduated. Going to find my dress for graduation was an awesome experience because I could finally shop in the “normal” stores-the ones that every teenage girl should be able to shop in. I was now 191 pounds and I felt so good! During the summer I stayed strict with myself and kept losing. I developed a new cycle.
Try. Eat. Lose weight. Win.
I worked at Target during this time and had always been the chunky, shy girl for the two years that I had been there. When the weight really dropped off I could see that my red target shirt and khakis were getting very baggy, so baggy that I kind of felt like a thug. I refused for the longest time to get new clothes because I knew that I would be leaving for Vegas in just a few months and new clothes weren’t a necessity for me. Finally, though a month before I left Target I couldn’t stand the baggy clothes so I went and bought a new tight-fitting shirt and size 13 khakis. When I went to work that next day, sporting my new clothes everyone was shocked! I didn’t realize that the baggy clothes were just hiding all of the weight I had lost, I just assumed that my coworkers hadn’t noticed anything different about me. I basked in all the new attention I was receiving. I was no longer hidden in the corner, I was in the spotlight. And I loved it.
The first time I really had a guy notice me was when one of my old coworkers, James came back in to Target to visit after 4 or 5 months of being gone. He walked by the fitting room and did a double take.
“Sarah??” He asked in disbelief.
“Hey James!” I responded, all nonchalant.
“Have you lost weight?!”
“Um Yes!” I laughed.
“You look amazing!” He said with so much feeling, I knew he had to be telling me the truth. I just couldn’t believe how shocked he was. By this time I had already lost about 40 pounds. I was so close to my goal weight of 150, only 15 pounds away. I felt like I was on top of the world and that I could do anything.
On August 29th 2009, I boarded my plane for Las Vegas, Nevada. When I stepped off that plane I started my new chapter as a brave, skinny, and more outgoing Sarah. While living in Las Vegas I even worked as a Talent Scout! I never would have imagined in a million years that I would ever be able to do something like that. Approaching complete strangers had never been my cup of tea. But I did it and I was good at it.
A year later I moved back to Nebraska. I had never planned to stay in Vegas for long and I had always known that Omaha would always be my one true home. I don’t regret moving, though. Not for even a second. I did so many things I never thought I could and broke down so many barriers that had been built up for 18 years of my life. I know I'm no twig, which was kind of my goal in the beginning but not so much anymore.
If there's one thing that changed about me, it wasn't my weight. Sure, I lost 60lbs but that wasn't it. Once the weight fell off a mindset fell off too. The idea that I was worthless, unlovable, and ugly. Who God created me to be on the inside never once changed. Sure that girl was hiding for awhile, but Jesus knew me all along. He says I'm beautiful. He says I'm loved. He says I'm worth dying for. And that my friends, is beautiful. All together beautiful.