Defined by weight

"You have such a pretty face, Sarah."

"You'd be so pretty if you lost a  few pounds, Sarah."

These statements, or variations of them, are embedded into my brain. From the moment I began to grow breasts--which happened to be about 5 years before any of my friends began growing breasts--everyone told me how pretty I was, and, how pretty I could be, if only...

I was in the seventh grade, living in the tiny town of Elbert, Colorado--the kind of town that has only one school in which kids of all ages, kindergarten through twelfth grade, share the same brick-and-mortar learning space--when I was asked to step on a scale in front of my classmates. It was health screening day. Listening for the beeps, covering one eye and squinting the other while reciting the letters on the eye chart, bending over while the nurse checks spine alignment.. it was all covered to ensure the children at Elbert School were in good health.

I usually thought of the health screening day as a fun day. A break from the norm and a time to chat with friends while waiting your turn to listen to the beeps of the hearing test. That year, however, the powers that be added something new to the screening. Or, perhaps it had always been included, but this year was the first year it stood out to me. Regardless, I'll never forget that day. After proving that I could hear the beeps in each ear, and showing that I could read the tiniest of letters on the eye chart, and displaying a perfectly straight spine, I lined up in the main hallway outside the school administrative offices with my fellow seventh graders, unaware of what was ahead.

And then I saw it: the scale. One by one, my classmates were stepping on the scale as the nurse documented the weight of each one of them. Suddenly, my fun health screening day had gone terribly wrong. I watched as friends before me weighed in at 98, 104, 95 pounds. Then it was my turn.


The scale read 137 pounds. And my classmates saw that disgusting number. My best friend stepped on the scale after me and weighed in at 91 pounds.

That was the first time I can remember hating myself.

The beginning of my struggle with weight, pictured here at about 12 years old.

You might think that, after such a traumatic experience, I'd make some life changes and attempt to lose weight. Instead, the opposite happened. Throughout childhood, I used food as a coping mechanism. It was my drug of choice. My happy place. And then, in true addict form, after I'd "use," I would hate myself even more.The cycle continued for years. 

Riding a horse and weighing more than 230 pounds at 21 years old.

Finally, in 2003, I decided to drastically change my life, and, oh was it drastic. Weighing 237 pounds, the day after I turned 22 years old, I underwent gastric bypass surgery and never looked back. 

Seven months later, I was down 100 pounds. It was life-changing. I was healthier. Happier. 

In the years that followed, I met the man who would one day become my husband. I went back to school and began a new career. I got a dog. I gave birth to my son. 

Life was good.

But that fat girl was still inside me. Even 10 years later, I still thought about her often. I still remembered the sting of the comments from kids at school and the horror of stepping on the scale in front of my classmates. For the most part, though, I felt as if I had resolved my issues with food and weight. 

Then, in January 2016, after being a vegetarian for 6 years, I decided to adopt an entirely plant-based diet. No meat. No dairy. No eggs. Nothing that comes from an animal. I didn't decide to give up animal products because I wanted to lose weight. I made the choice because of the plight of factory-farmed animals. I felt guilty eating cheese and milk chocolate knowing that a cow had to live in deplorable conditions and have her baby taken from her in order for me to do so. I hated knowing that egg-laying hens can't even spread their wings in their filthy environments. So I gave it all up. 

A side effect of eating a plant-based diet? Weight loss. I quickly dropped about 15 pounds. My friends and family noticed the sudden transformation. Most asked how I'd done it. Most commented about how great I looked. Most wondered if I could share my plant-based recipes and tips with them so they could drop a few pounds, too. 

Enjoying a beautiful spring skiing day in the Rockies with my son last month.

My size 4 pants were falling off me, so I went out and bought new pants--size 0. I had to buy new bras. My favorite dresses no longer hugged my curves. These were good problems to have, I thought.

"You look great, but you really shouldn't lose any more weight."

"You're getting too skinny, Sarah!"

"Hey, bones! Where'd your ass go?"

"You need a burger!"

These are actual statements said to me in recent weeks. 

The thing is, I feel better than ever. I eat a healthy diet. I exercise. My conscience is clear. I'm happy. 

Why is a woman's weight so often the attribute those around her choose to focus on? Why is it acceptable to comment on a person's weight--whether too high or too low? Why did I weigh too much back then? Why do I weigh too little now? Why is my weight anyone's fucking business other than my own? It isn't.

I am finished with being defined by my weight. Will I continue to strive to be healthy and happy? Yes. Will I continue to eat with compassion for animals and our planet in mind? Yes. Will I stop giving a fuck what anyone thinks about the way I look? Yes.


  1. It is hard not to think about how other people see us. Good on you figuring out that it doesn't matter a pair of fetid dingo's kidneys what anyone else thinks, as long as you have clarity yourself! Maybe I'll get that someday. :)

    1. Hi, Benjamin. Thank you so much for your comment! I agree--really hard to not care what others think about us. It actually might be impossible... And although that is my goal, will I ever really achieve that? Maybe not. I think it's important to do what feels right for us. To eat what makes us happy and healthy. To wear what makes us happy. To do the things that make us happy. The more inner peace and happiness we have, the less likely we are to be influenced by the thoughts and opinions of others.

  2. This is the only diet a skinny or a wanna be skinny girl would ever need:

    It helps burn the fat, it keeps you in very good shape ("horse riding" has that benefit) and it's very nutrituous if you drink what it offers. No artificial flavors, no sugar, pure protein, vitamins and aminoacids. Plus, it's fun to get the fluid out ;)

    Drop me a line if you like, contact details on picture.

  3. Sarah, you inspire me. I love your honesty and insight. I've been "chunky" all my life. My mother would poke fun at me. My neighbors. This is the one thing that I could never conquer on my own. And, I am always on my own. I am always alone and it's awful. I need help and know it. It truly is hard when you're on your own.


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