It doesn’t matter where you are; you are nowhere compared to where you can go.
From the first grade I was known as the “fat girl”—the only fat girl. Yeah, there were a few other chubby kids around, but none as big as I was. I guess you could say I “overshadowed” everyone else. Being the biggest meant I got the most teasing and name calling from the other kids. You know how every classroom has their favorite victim to pick on? I was that favorite from first grade all the way up until eighth. Lucky me. And it didn’t help that I could rarely find clothes that fit me so I had to wear black tights and oversized guys’ T-shirts pretty much every day throughout elementary school. I wasn’t exactly making a fashion statement, even by ’90s standards.
By the time I hit fourth grade I was well over 100 pounds and had pretty much heard it all. I had been called everything from the “Pillsbury Doughboy” (a mean boy in my class used to poke me in the stomach and tell me to say “Woo Hoo!”) to a “pink cupcake” (I was wearing a pink shirt, and I guess a fat girl in pink looked like a cupcake?) to the all too classic “fatty” (one time a boy ran up to me during PE class just to tell me I was fat—seriously, how rude is that?).
I learned early on that people can be cruel, really cruel. I also learned that if you’re fat, or different in any way, you’re not cool, pretty, or even likeable. Nobody in my class wanted to be caught socializing with the “fat girl.” So I kept to myself and kept quiet. By this time my confidence was so low I was more than willing to accept the fact that no one liked me because of how I looked. I mean, I hated how I looked too! Who was I to be worthy of their attention?
I hadn’t always been so self-conscious. Before I even started kindergarten I had a passion for fashion. I would page through my mom’s magazines and clothing catalogs from cover to cover, envisioning myself in all the pretty clothes. Dress-up was one of my favorite games to play, and let me tell you, I had an awesome sense of style! My parents have a picture of me wearing a sparkly dress that I had smartly accessorized with a baseball cap and a diaper. I knew all about modeling and looking cute for the camera. I even practiced my “cat walk” in my living room! Being a bit bigger than my sisters and cousins never stopped me from rocking my imaginary runway.
First grade was when I started to see myself as different from everyone else. I noticed that my legs were a little bigger and my tummy a little rounder than most girls and boys in my class. I noticed that running around in PE was a lot harder for me than it was for anyone else. I would get tired and have to stop and walk while my classmates buzzed right past me. And when it was lunchtime, I noticed I could eat more than everyone at my table. My tray would be empty by the time lunch was over. Their trays would still be half full.
And then came the moment when I truly realized there was something wrong with me. It was a typical day at the then-named Buzz Aldrin Elementary School in my hometown of Reston, Virginia. I was sitting at my desk minding my own business, working on my coloring, when a boy in my class walked up to me and informed me he had something to tell me.
“Um,” he said, “Matt [not the boy’s real name] wanted me to tell you that he wants to marry you . . . when you lose weight.”
Boys have such a way with words, don’t they? I remember my face flushing. How embarrassing! That was the first time I had been called out for being the chubby girl. In my first grade mind this was a terribly humiliating experience. And it wasn’t long before more followed. Matt turned out to be pretty mean (he was the boy who called me the “Pillsbury Doughboy!”) and continued to taunt me over the years.
NOT JUST THE KIDS
But kids weren’t the only people who noticed my difference in size. Teachers did too. There’s one event in particular that I remember. I was waiting in the lunch line next to a girl who was in my class. We were goofing around and wanted to determine how strong we were by seeing how hard we could push each other. She went first and gave me a few hard shoves. When she was done, she told me to push her so we could compare our strength. So I pushed her. But once I did I almost instantly felt a hand wrap around my wrist, and I was dragged out of the lunch line.
The hand belonged to a teacher who had been watching us. He told me that I was not allowed to push other children and that I would get in big trouble if I did it again. Desperate to defend myself, I told him that we were just playing and that she had pushed me too!
“Yes,” he said, “but you are bigger than she is and you might hurt her.”
From that point on I knew school was not going to be a picnic for me. I mean, how much fun could it be if even the teachers are picking on you? This definitely didn’t do much to bolster my confidence. I became shy and quiet in class, never speaking up unless spoken to. At the ripe old age of eight, I was lonely and depressed.
With no friends, no birthday parties, and no play dates to attend, I spent almost all of my time alone. Fortunately, I loved to read. My time alone was spent poring over pages of books about anything and everything, but my favorites were fantasies. The stories I read about magic and beautiful heroines leading incredible lives, all with happy endings, inspired me to dream.
I can’t even tell you how many times I read Patricia C. Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons. The heroine of the book is a rebel princess named Cimorene, beautiful and brave, who doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do, not even dragons. In the story, Cimorene leaves her boring life as a princess in a castle to pursue a life filled with adventure and magic. She struggles through many obstacles (mainly dragons and evil magical creatures who want to eat her) but grows stronger because of them and still gets her prince in the end. If there was any fictional character I would have wanted to trade places with, it was Cimorene.
I wanted a magical life too (but maybe without the dragons), one with a fairy-tale ending. I dreamed of another life, another me, someone who was pretty and had friends and had amazing adventures! Basically, I dreamed of being everything I wasn’t. More than anything, though, I dreamed of not being the “fat girl.”
That label was what made me different from everybody else. It’s what stood between me and the life I wanted. And that’s why three weeks before ninth grade started, I went for that walk. I knew the life I wanted to live couldn’t happen until after I lost weight. I was sick of missing out on things I really wanted to do but felt I couldn’t do because I was too big. For example, wearing a bikini at the beach or pool was a definite no-no. Fitting into the cute clothes I saw in magazines and stores was physically impossible. Playing sports or joining a dance class was out of the question too. Please—me lumbering around on a field when I could barely complete one lap around the track? And I would have looked like a dinosaur wearing a leotard and tights. I was fed up with being self-conscious, I was tired of being quiet, and more than anything I was done with being the “fat girl.”
FAT GIRL NO MORE
In my last year of middle school, I stood five foot seven inches tall, weighed 230 pounds, and wore a size 20. Today I’m twenty-three, five foot eight inches tall, and 100 pounds lighter, and I wear quite a few sizes smaller. These days boys don’t poke my stomach and prompt me to say, “Woo Hoo!”
For a while I didn’t think it was anything worth bragging about. To be honest, I was too embarrassed to tell new people I met what I had done. I viewed my weight as an obstacle that was keeping me from my dreams. So I rarely mentioned my 100-pound weight loss. Somehow, though, the subject would come up one way or another. Often because a family member or friend, excited over what I had done, felt as if they must tell everyone they knew. I hated when they did this. My whole mission had been to escape the old me and be seen differently. I wanted to forget about being fat! I just wanted to start over as a normal teenage girl. But how could I do that if my fat past kept getting dragged up?
I’m not saying I wasn’t excited about losing so much weight. Of course I was! For the first time in my life, I was able to fit into clothing not labeled plus-sized. I could walk into any store and find something I wasn’t too big for! Unless you have been shopping at Lane Bryant since the fourth grade, you cannot even imagine how great that felt. Finally, I was done with being the “fat girl.” Now I could really start over and live the life I’d always wanted. Why bring up the fact that I used to be a 230-pound middle school loner? That wasn’t me anymore, so why did everyone have to know about it?
My fear was that people, especially my peers, would immediately think of me differently once they heard about my past as an obese outcast. For once in my life, I was treated like a normal person. People were not afraid to approach me in fear of “catching my fatness.” And I was not afraid of approaching other people in fear of them judging me because of my size. My fear of rejection held me back from building true friendships with the few friends I had made in middle school. But as the weight vanished, so did my fears. Those few friends quickly became my best friends (still are today!), opening me up to a social life like I’d always wanted.
My life was finally going the way I wanted it to go. I had friends and cute clothes (now that I could actually fit into fashionable clothing) and—oh, yeah—boys who actually wanted to talk to me! Things were going so well, I was terrified that if I mentioned my former weight class, I would go from being seen as normal to being seen as freaky and uncool again. Kind of like, once a fat girl always a fat girl? Eventually I got over this fear and realized that I shouldn’t be ashamed of who I once was. Besides, who I started out as doesn’t define who I am now. The more I got comfortable with my new self, the more I told people about my past. Surprisingly, everyone I told seemed to think what I had done was really amazing.
Apparently, losing a lot of weight was pretty cool. And the more people I told, the more aware I became that for many people (especially girls my age), my weight loss was inspiring. Girls who had heard about what I’d done often asked me for advice. A lot of them were overweight and struggling.
THE WEIGHT-LOSS EQUATION
The words I most often hear after people first learn of my previous “fat girl” incarnation are “What! You? Two hundred and thirty pounds? Are you serious?”
And I can’t say I blame them. A 230-pound tween girl losing 100 pounds is not exactly a common story. Even more uncommon is my answer to the question they inevitably ask next.
“Well, what did you do? How did you lose so much weight?”
My answer: “I ate healthy and I exercised.”
That’s what I tell them because that’s what I did. I didn’t go on some magical fad diet. I didn’t hire a personal trainer. I didn’t join a fancy gym. I most certainly did not undergo any surgery. And I definitely did not starve myself. For me that stuff sounded too frustrating, too risky, and too unrealistic. I love a fairy tale as much as anyone, but I knew enough at fourteen to understand that there was no magic spell for weight loss.
Instead I decided to stick to the basics or, perhaps I should say, the obvious. I’ve never been good at solving equations, but common sense told me that eating less + exercising more = negative amount of fat. It is the natural and proven equation for weight loss that anybody can solve. But apparently a lot of people still don’t get it. Every year some $60 billion is spent on weight-loss products and programs. Really, people spend that much money trying to be thin! You would think that with all that money being shoveled out, everyone would be skinny by now. But look around and you’ll see that is not the case. And, interestingly enough, Americans are actually getting fatter! Hmm . . . sounds like something is not working, but I know for a fact it is not the weight-loss equation.
Maybe it was because I wasn’t so caught up in the whole “instant weight-loss diet pills” and “magically slimming” infomercial products that I was able to stick to the math. I mean, I was definitely no expert in health and fitness. I didn’t know how long it was going to take to lose 100 pounds. I didn’t know how long it would take to lose even one pound! I was clueless about calories and how many I should or shouldn’t be eating. The “fat burning” zone on the treadmill meant nothing to me. And what was the deal with healthy carbs versus bad carbs? There was a lot I didn’t understand about weight loss. What I did know was that I was done with being fat. I also knew that just thinking about changing wasn’t going to change anything.
The weight-loss equation was all I had to go on when I first started, and look where that got me! Yet for some reason, a lot of people believe that losing weight requires more than a healthy diet and regular exercise. They think there must be some sort of catch. Surely it’s more complicated than that, right? Most of the people I tell about my weight loss are surprised to hear I did it on my own without help from Jenny Craig or gastric bypass surgery.
Why is natural weight loss an unreachable fantasy for so many? Why should anyone assume that I couldn’t have lost 100 pounds on my own? I guess most people don’t know what can be accomplished with hard work and determination. Want to know a secret that’s not really such a secret? If anybody spent an entire year working out and eating less, they would lose weight. Not so complicated, right? I didn’t think so. Maybe that’s why I didn’t think my weight loss was such a big deal at first.
IF I CAN DO IT, SO CAN YOU
I began to love seeing the looks on girls’ faces when I told them I had done it all on my own. Their eyes would shine bright with surprise and, more importantly, with hope. I knew where they were coming from because I had been where they were—overweight and unhappy. But I hadn’t remained that way; I had changed. Now they knew they could too, and without any special surgery or complicated diet program. It made me feel so good when they told me that my story had motivated them to immediately start eating right and exercising. I became aware that my lonely childhood was not so unique. I had not been the only “fat girl” in the world. I’d only felt that way. There are many girls who experienced what I experienced. And there are many more who are even now struggling with their weight issue.
For these girls my story really is amazing. Hey, if I can do it, so can they, right? They dream of a better life as a new person but they don’t know how to make it happen. Fortunately, I do know how to make it happen, and it is for them (and you, of course)—everyone who shares that same dream—that I decided to write this book.
If you are reading this with the hope I’m going to reveal some secret fat loss trick or gimmicky diet plan, you’re going to be disappointed. Like I said, $60 billion is spent on unnecessary diet books and “fat burning pills.” Obviously, what I’ve done did work, and I never spent a dime. In this book I want to show you how it is possible to change your body on your own no matter what your current condition and circumstances are.
At the end of the day, all the latest exercise equipment, great-looking fitness trainers, and doctor certified prepackaged meals don’t matter much. You don’t need any of that! I didn’t have any of that stuff. What I did have was an intense desire to transform my body and the determination to make it happen. In my opinion, that’s all you need to do most anything.
I hope reading my book will inspire and motivate you to begin changing your life. Why not have the body you want? Why not have the life you want? If it’s your dream to be beautiful and fabulous, then don’t just sit there thinking about it—do something! If you want to become a marathon runner, start running! Stop holding yourself back and stop hesitating. You’ve got nothing to lose (except some unwanted fatty tissue). Stop making excuses and make it happen. I know you can. Deep inside, you know it too, don’t you? Now, quit wasting time. Change your body and you will change your life!
My Journey to a Better, Happier Life
1 Year, 100 Pounds
My Journey to a Better, Happier Life
At age fourteen, Whitney Holcombe stepped onto her bathroom scale and a number glared up at her: 230. That number controlled her life until one day she went for a walk that changed everything.
A little bit memoir and a whole lot of advice, 1 Year, 100 Pounds follows Whitney’s journey to battle obesity, negative self-image, and peer ridicule. Through following a healthy diet and exercise routine, Whitney shed the pounds without pills, trainers, or surgery. And along the way, she discovered the confidence to love her body.
Reviewed by experts in the fields of diet, health, and fitness, with a foreword by Dr. Joseph Colella, a leading bariatric surgeon who endorses Whitney’s method of healthy weight loss over surgery, 1 Year, 100 Pounds is a personal guidebook packed with tips for making healthy food choices, easy exercises, and inspiration that empowers you to change your own life.
- Simon Pulse/Beyond Words |
- 208 pages |
- ISBN 9781582704081 |
- December 2013 |
- Grades 7 and up