“Growing up, I idolized women like Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan. In my mind, they were the celebrities with the ‘perfect’ bodies. I would stay up late at night scrolling through the internet looking at pictures of women I thought were so beautiful, way more beautiful then I was, dreaming of what I would look like and what my life would be like if I ever lost weight. What would I wear? Who would be my friend? Would I fall in love? Better yet, would someone fall in love with me? My weight controlled every move I made, every thought I had, every decision, everything. I was insecure, uncomfortable, constantly embarrassed, and never felt like I fit in anywhere (physically and emotionally).
I was over 200 pounds by the time I was 15 years old and I was the tallest girl in the whole school at 5’9” —what a combination. I remember the boys used to call me ‘the big girl,’ and I believed that I would be single (and a virgin) for the rest of my life. Nobody could ever be seen with me, call me their ‘girlfriend,’ I would never be able to be naked in front of a lover, I am not the girl you date, I am the girl you are only friends with. I looked nothing like the other girls in school. The girls my age were going on dates, having their first kiss, flaunting their belly shirts and short shorts, and I was wearing oversized t-shirts with shorts that went all the way to my knees, and never kissed anyone or even been remotely close.
As a younger girl, I remember my dad asking me to do sit-ups while I watched tv or to do laps in the pool on the weekends, I had no idea why (until later in life). When we would eat, he would say things like, ‘You don’t need a second helping,’ ‘you don’t have to finish every bite on your plate,’ or ‘do you really need to eat that?’ I truly felt like I had to. I needed to eat to quiet my mind, to relieve the pain I had already been through so early on, to comfort me while my dad didn’t come home for days, to give me a feeling of togetherness, as a bonding experience.
As I got older, I continued to gain weight, I obsessed, I would think about my next meal while eating my first meal, I was addicted. The girls in my class always shared their clothes, sat together on the bus, played together in P.E., and I could not do any of those things. I tried weight loss supplements, pills, different programs like Weight Watchers or Slim Fast, changing the way I ate, nothing ever lasted or worked. The most I ever lost was 10 pounds which still made me a 240-pound teenage girl.
At 15 years old my father died, I was a freshman in high school when my food addiction was accompanied by drug addiction—anything to relieve pain, to numb me. My whole world kept getting worse. I now had 2 demons to tackle. I let them take me over. When I was high (food or drugs) my mind was quiet, my main concern was not about what I looked like or where I fit in. I spent the next 7 years rotating between drugs and food.
Between the ages of 15 and 22, I had gotten as large as 260 pounds, I was a size 20-22, and was being thrown around like a basketball by people I kept trusting. I know this sounds like it escalated quickly, but it did. I did whatever I had to do to be ‘part of,’ especially sexually. I confused sex and love, I confused having people around me who wanted my drugs and what I had with social acceptability. I had sex for the first time a few months after my dad died to a guy who blocked my number the day after he took my virginity. I degraded myself and abandoned my own values and morals just to be validated. I used to say, ‘if I just was skinny, people wouldn’t treat me this way.’ I try not to put blame on any specific traumatic event or situation that happened in my life for the way I turned out – maybe I was just born with the disease of addiction, maybe it was genetic as I come from drug-addicted parents or maybe I was just so incredibly hopeless from growing up fat.
This story is not all sad and dreary – eventually enough was enough. At the age of 22, I hit a bottom that I did not know was possible for someone like me and finally got some help. I went to rehab where I got clean and sober. My life was starting to look up. I was staying clean, I was finding friends who were also in recovery from drug addiction and I was finally happy. My weight was not all I was thinking about for the first time since before the age of 8. I had tackled one of the worst addictions ever, and now it was time to take a look at the others.
When I turned 23, my mother heard of a woman who had lost over 100 pounds through a surgery. When the opportunity was presented to me, my hopes were through the roof. I went through the process of getting accepted into the program, and eventually was given a surgery date. On August 30, 2017, I had Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, or in other words ‘weight loss surgery.’ Little did I know this was the start of everything I had never known.
I changed everything about my lifestyle, and the way I ate, the things I did. I cut out bread, pasta, cookies, cake, soda, red meat, chips, sweets, and most dairy. I started to lose weight rapidly, and at the same time people started talking. One of my professors asked me if I was using drugs again. I had another girl assume I was sick, a close friend of mine expressed to me that I ‘took the easy way out.’ Once again, I am lost and still not finding my way. I would love to tell you that losing the weight was the answer to everything for me, but actually the smaller I got, the more attention I got, the more confused I was with who I am.
Being overweight was my identity, I hid behind my body, it gave me an excuse for being so miserable, I depended on it until it was no longer benefited me (not that it really ever did). I wanted to finally know what it felt like to fit in sizes that were not only in the plus size section, I wanted to possibly find love and not because I looked good but because I had confidence, I wanted to stop hating myself, I wanted to be able to work on emotional work instead of being so focused on the physical, I wanted to grow and change and be genuinely happy. Nobody, no rumors or judgement was going to take that away from me. I was uncomfortable for sure, I had anxiety and fear in social situations, I had no idea who I was without the weight. I realized even after losing 115 pounds that I still did not like myself very much. I started to take a look internally, I worked on my spirit, my soul, my inner child, loving myself, being okay no matter what size I was, finding out my true identity.
Physically, I feel more beautiful than I ever have. I never saw a ‘small’ or ‘medium’ in my closet before now, I bought my first two piece bathing suit, and 6 months after the surgery I met the love of my life. I have to be honest, I do not think any of those things happened JUST because I lost the weight, they happened because I began to feel confident. I was not skinny when I met my partner, I have never been skinny, I am healthy.
Please do not discredit my weight loss journey because I had surgery. This surgery is NOT cosmetic, I did not leave the hospital 100 pounds lighter. I put in an insane amount of work to get the results that I wanted. I changed everything I was used to. I said ‘no,’ to things I would normally binge, and I believed in myself. My happiness these days comes from breaking out of my shell, telling people what I have been through, not being embarrassed to walk into a room, or what people may say behind my back any longer. I want to help people. I am a recovering drug addict, that lost a 115 pounds and has changed her entire life around. My weight loss gave me a life, an opportunity to blossom. This process has been nothing short of amazing. Today I have higher self-esteem, 4 ½ years clean and sober, and 2 years post op with keeping the weight down. I regret nothing about my journey, it gave me the chance to become the woman I always was intended to be, I was hiding in a lifestyle and behind a weight, without ever believing that it would get better – and it is better than anything I could have ever imagined.
I want all types of women and men, to worry less about what size they are and more about being good people. The world needs good people, recovering people, people who have experienced tragedy, people who have been at their lowest and have risen to the top, kind people, people who speak up about what they’re going through and help others. No matter how uncomfortable, how confused, or whatever weight I am, no giving up. I want to show people that misery does not always have to stay misery, some of us have come out the other side.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Samantha Gorson of Florida. You can follow Samantha’s journey on Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read Samantha’s powerful backstory of being in a lesbian relationship:
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