I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
This girl, the one on the left, she’s me. In the flesh: me. Five years ago, after three babies. Me.
This photo was snapped at the lake, two months before my 35th birthday. I was the smallest I'd been since I was 17. I went into J Crew to buy khaki pants three weeks after this was taken and asked for a size 8. The kind associate told me she thought I was more like a 4. I said she was nice, but to bring an 8 anyway. And they fell down. I was 123 pounds, the thinnest I had been since I was 15.
And yet, I looked at this photo after it was taken and thought I looked fat.
Here's the me you may recognise:
This photo was taken two months ago, four months after my 40th birthday, with my five kids. I'm the one who looks like the mother.
My weight went up and down over the years. Way up, like the bottom photo. Way down, like the top photo. It's been kind of like a rollercoaster, only way less fun. This is what happens when you're at the Six Flags theme park of pregnancy, breastfeeding, nursing school, forced exercise, loathing exercise, loving exercise, and being compelled to exercise.
I attained the physique in the "after" photo after losing one sweet baby girl; after being married, divorced, married; after a half dozen moves; after a broken leg and a broken ankle; after catching a dozen babies not my own as a labor and delivery nurse; after ushering more than a dozen people into death as a hospice nurse.
The other body you see there, the body of "physical hotness," I attained by eating a "plentiful" 1000 calories a day; by running 56km a week (16km on Sunday); by sleeping an average of three hours a day; by counting every bit of food I ate, down to a single cherry tomato; by writing and tracking my weight every day for a year; by running the stairs of the hospital during my 12-hour shifts; by losing my period; by denying myself food when I was hungry; by denying myself sleep.
Are you confused?
Maybe you see where I'm going with this. I know that most will see this and say one of a few things. 1. Wow, you looked HOT. What happened? 2. HOW did you get to weigh that much? 3. Wait, why do you look worse in the after picture? That's not how this works.
Maybe a few of you will say I'm fat.
Maybe a few of you will say, you look happy and healthy.
I am both of those things.
I want to blow this stereotype right out of the water. Because it. is. bullshit. My being thin did not make me happy. My having a six-pack was, well, me having a six-pack. Being a size 4 made it infinitely easier to shop for clothes and presumably to look "better" in clothes, because let's face it, clothes are mostly designed for people who are a size 4. Being a size 4 made strangers' heads turn. Repeatedly. It made men in the grocery store hit on me and doctors at the hospital propose torrid affairs. It made me obsessive about every detail of my body, from my stretch-marked belly to the definition of my bicep.