I haven’t always been the size I am now. Currently, according to the the scale in my aunt’s and uncle’s bathroom,  I am EE, which I assume is an acronym for Extremely Eloquent. Nailed it!

I weigh 300 pounds – 304.1 to be completely accurate.

It’s important to note that I have been fighting the urge to write this post for weeks because of my own insecurities. It seems contradictory (read: painfully hypocritical) since I remind my high school students all the time how important it is to be proud of yourself at every stage and to own your insecurities. I explain how much my husband loves me and how powerful my body is for having brought two children into the world.

All of that is true. I believe every word. However, I had to accept the realization that hiding behind layers of clothes and not being my true, authentic self regardless of what the scale read wasn’t going to make me any less overweight. People need to put a face to obesity. We need to be responsible enough to educate ourselves and our children so they can understand and begin to be sensitive to people’s struggles. We teach this with racism, sexism, and even poverty-sensitivity, but somehow it’s still acceptable to gawk and stare at a person who is overweight eating at a restaurant like they are some circus sideshow. Maybe if my story can be heard, people can begin to see that we aren’t monsters.

This is 300.

It should be noted that, while I am using my number so that I can begin to own it, many who echo my feelings are much smaller. Every person’s prison looks different.

My weight gain started in about fourth grade but, back then – before the instant spread of information – it was much easier to be blissfully unaware of one’s shortcomings. I had no idea I looked any different from my friends until sixth grade when I found out a boy in my class was paid in a bet to ask me to be his girlfriend and then give me a pack of Slim Fast as a Valentine’s gift…in the hallway…in front of all of my friends. Yeah, not one of my finer moments. (Sorry if I never told you that, Mom.)

To be honest, it wasn’t really the end of the world for me. I’ve never been like most girls who fawned after boys and wanted to be trendy. While I totally rocked the curled forward/curled back and feathered bangs of the 90’s, Guess jeans (which were from Goodwill and I eventually tore the business end out of during gym class), and silk shirts (mine were from the men’s department), I didn’t do makeup and boyfriends, Barbies or dress up. I did goals and involvement, jobs and volunteering. (Seriously, how did I manage to have friends?!)

It occurred to me later in life that I must’ve had some kind of awareness that I wasn’t physically acceptable. In the fifth grade, I wrote a fan letter to my 90s heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas (don’t act like you didn’t buy his issue of TeenBeat) and I asked my beautiful, cheerleading best friend to send her picture as my own. I must’ve known that I had no chance to hear back from him with a picture of myself in the letter.

Fast forward through high school and college where I tried billions of diets, fad plans, all natural pills, drinks, meetings, calorie counting, and starvation (for those who know how next-level mean I get when I’m hungry, picture how that last one must’ve gone). None of it worked.

The crazy thing is that, like most of you, when I look back at the pictures from those formative years, I would pay good money to look like I did then. At the time, I wanted to crawl in a hole during most social settings because I felt like the biggest cow in the room. I put on a super-believable front of confidence and hilarity but it was painfully isolating to feel that way about myself. I hid behind books, jobs, sports, and layers of clothing, because obviously a tank top and three t-shirts convinced people that I was only wearing that fat suit from “The Nutty Professor” instead of it being my real body under there.

Somehow I got along by being the guys’ gal. I played football with the boys, was a soccer goalie in college, and was usually one of the first picked for intramural teams because I wasn’t afraid to get dirty, but I really just wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere. How could I fit in while simultaneously feeling like I was watching it all from the outside?

I killed it in the gym before getting married and walked down the aisle, slaying it (if I do say so myself) at a solid 175 pounds. Anyone who was there would have been shocked by that number, but guess what? American people are idiots. We are so insanely naive to what real numbers look like spread across bones and muscle that we all assume 175 is the size of a grown man. Not always, my friends. I rocked a bikini on our honeymoon at 175 and would do it again in a hot minute if I still looked like that!

I then packed on 50 pounds in our first year of marriage because, well, marriage. I gained 80 more pounds with my first pregnancy since, as a lifetime over-eater, this was a license to eat donuts for every breakfast and wear stretch-pants to work because no one could say anything to me. Herein lies my greatest regret in life. No kidding.

The bounce-back from my post-wedding weight gain and two near-death childbirths hasn’t been the rebuilding year(s) I thought they’d be. I mean, how long is it acceptable to wear maternity clothes after your baby is born, really? Like, will anybody really notice if I rock a nursing bra to my daughter’s graduation?

This is 300.

What most people fail to recognize is that when you’re overwieght, you have to think about things differently every single day. It isn’t only the obvious considerations like seat belt extenders on airplanes or choosing a van over a compact car. Please understand what we see when we look at the world.

When we were deciding to downsize our living arrangements and go tiny, I was nervous because of my size. Could I navigate a ladder if we had a loft bedroom? Would I have to turn sideways in the hallways because, giiiirrrlll, these hips don’t lie? Would I even fit inside the shower or on the toilet? Turns out, it’s perfectly fine and we make it work.

In a movie theatre, music venue, or restaurant, I have to consider how wide the arms of the chairs are because slamming my hips into them is like pouring Play-doh into one of those spaghetti-making factories, if they have plastic seats because those babies don’t stand a chance, or if they have tables instead of booths because those suckers were made for infants. I refuse to eat at buffets because, even though my large frame consumes small meals at a time, I feel like I’m on display. It’s as if I am loading my plate at a feeding trough and all of the average-sized patrons are watching and snickering to themselves about me getting seconds, failing to notice the first plate had only a small salad and vegetables.

This is 300.

At home, in our tiny bathroom, the teal rug is flecked with white. This is the remnants of baby powder to ensure that everything goes smoothly throughout the day because, without it, the chafing that can happen behind the scenes is horribly painful. My husband asked me the other night if I somehow had gotten deodorant on my pants. I lied and said yes, but it was baby powder.

More fit people look at me when we’re at the park with our kids and their glances to me feel like 1000 pounds of judgment. Why isn’t she jogging instead of walking? Why did she wear a tank top in public? Why is she pouring her dumps over that bike seat so we have to all look at it? While their stares may be innocent, I feel the shame of a guilty verdict.

To say that my body is a prison would be a gross understatement. The analogy does no justice to my daily life because prisoners, even those doing time for crimes they didn’t commit, have no freedoms and little idea of the world outside. I’m forced to watch it pass by while my mind tells me I should be able to run, go, play, but my aching joints, bad back, and post-baby belly flap suggest otherwise. If you haven’t lived this life-sentence, please accept that you cannot possibly understand what we are going through. Additionally, we wouldn’t want you to feel this. It is painful…all the time.

This is 300.

When weight loss success stories begin with rock bottom moments like when their kid told them their friends called their mommy fat, or when they were made fun of in public, or when the scale would no longer register their weight, I smile. Good for them! Inside I somehow accept that I can never accomplish what they have. On some level I wonder if I self-sabotage because I feel like I don’t deserve to be successful. I have gone through every one of those scenarios…most more than once, but here I am.

To those of us who need to loose 100 pounds or more, it seems unachievable. We’re told, “Set small attainable goals. Exercise. Take in less calories than you’re burning.”

“You don’t say! Well that is brand new information! Why didn’t I think of that?!”

If you’re fit, or even one of those blessed with freak-show metabolism that burns off your fourth Taco Bell meal so you still make it into your size nothing skinny jeans, I applaud you. But I don’t understand your life. I can smell your burrito and wake up four pounds heavier for it.

This is 300.

I hate shopping. No, seriously. It’s the worst. I’ve always hated it because 10 years ago, when I was 175, it was even less acceptable for females to be larger. My size range of 10 to 14 may as well have been special order Big-and-Tall catalogue items. Now I shop exclusively online and happily pay the fee to return my items instead of awkwardly finagling my way around a fitting room only to leave disappointed and feeling even worse about myself.

It kills me that stores have started changing their sizing from 14/16, 18/20, 22/24, and 26/28 to 1, 2, 3, and 4. While I appreciate your attempt at sensitivity, I know if there are any single digits on my clothing tags, they better be followed by an X. Get serious! Nobody believes this shirt is a size two! The day my pants are a size anything below a 16, that long, narrow sizing sticker is staying on this leg, honey! All. Day.

“Ma’am, did you know your tag is still on your pants?”

“Why yes, innocent bystander at Starbucks. What is that number? Read it out loud. Tell your friends!”

When you’re larger, it’s difficult to feel like you look good in anything. Many have been told their entire lives that they are different, gross, or wrong. So when a well-intentioned friend pays us a compliment, our sensitive minds distort it into some kind of back-handed joke or slight about our looks.

Just because we had a grandpa who made crass comments about our size or a boy in grade school who bought us Slim Fast as a prank doesn’t mean the world sees us that way. Some do, but that is our reality. They are obviously inept. We are people. We have feelings, and families, and hopes for the future.

Just as smaller people should learn to walk a mile (okay, like a block) in our Sketchers Shape-Ups, we need to learn to let it go. Laugh so you don’t cry, call it what you want, but loosen up! Odds are you won’t wake up miraculously killing it in a supermodel frame, so we need to embrace it and decide where to go from here. As we do, let’s at least agree to enjoy the journey, even the bumpy, cellulite-filled parts.

This is 300.

Unlike other addictions, we need food to survive. Our reality is that we know our bodies shouldn’t run on a steady stream of cream-filled coffee, donuts from the office, and the Taco Bell Happier Hour dollar burrito we bought on our way home from work and trashed the bag so our family members didn’t know we ate it. We have to be honest with ourselves before we can be honest with anyone else.

“Oooh that girl is wearing one of those step counting watches! She’s probably on her way to eat kale and run at the park in some trendy yoga pants and one of those tank tops with the built-in bra!”

My Fitbit ain’t fooling anybody! I bought that burrito and ate it like a boss! What even is kale, other than the name of a kid who I imagine has friends with other pretentious names like Heath and Talon? I don’t even attempt Spanx, much less spandex yoga pants. Those shelf bras? HA! They hold up nothing and just spread over my back fat so I look like I am smuggling a pack of sausages.

It’s up to us to decide how we move forward from here. Some of us will continue to wallow in our self pity. Some may choose surgery, starvation, or a reality show in which you work out 12 hours a day. It’s a trick to make real people feel like it is attainable. (You know, those of us watching enviously as we devour an entire bag of chips and imagine what our life would be like if we lost our excess weight.) Many of us will continue to struggle. This is a lifetime sentence, even if you are successful.

I still don’t know my choice. I don’t want to just see my kids grow up, I want to be a part of that. I want to climb and race and do the crazy things I used to be able to do when I thought I looked like a monster.