I don't remember ever being unaware of my weight.

I'm sure I must have been, at one time. I must have been unconscious of it, as children are supposed to be.

I just don't remember.

What I do remember is that even when I was too young to think of weighing myself at home, I took note of the weights and measures quoted to my mother by my pediatrician. I worried about them and what they might mean.

At age ten, Grade 5, my doc logged me in at 72 lbs.

"Too much," I thought at the time. 72 lbs was already much too much.

I don't know why this happened to me. I don't know what made me worry.
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It is strange... to hold in your head an encyclopedic memory of weight. The numbers are there, but I'm not sure what they mean.

September 14, 1990: 72 lbs.
October 22, 1993: 117 lbs.
July 17, 1996: 125 lbs.
December 25, 1999: 130 lbs.
September 1, 2007: 173 lbs.

I remember other people's weights as well. My mother, for example, weighed 78 lbs on her wedding day. She is 5' tall and was living in India at the time. She had Malaria.

My sister, 5'2", dropped down to 90 lbs during the first trimester of her first pregnacy. She had terrible morning sickness.

After my 72 lbs weigh-in, I waited until I was alone in the house and slipped my mother's wedding dress out of her bureau to try it on. It smelled of the Irish Spring soap she keeps unwrapped in the drawers. The buttons wouldn't close.

I have wide shoulders, a broad rib cage and a wide back. Even at my thinnest, I need a  bra that's close to 38 inches around. And I've never had Malaria. Nonetheless, I felt like a failure. The fact that the dress didn't fit seemed to say something about me. Something bad.

I stripped it off and went outside to smash rocks with a hammer. I turned stone after stone into piles of glittering grey-blue dust. Then I blew it all away.
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High school was... traumatic, as it is for so many of us. I went out for track, my signature sport, but didn't even come close to making the team. Girls built like gazelles seemed to sprint past me in the heats with no effort at all. 

I did make the swim team. Just barely. I had no real training, but I liked the water and copied the other girls' smooth strokes.

At practices, I was slotted into the slowest lane with an unfortunate, unpopular girl named Bopinder. As her body brushed past mine in the water, I'd shrink away. As if she might rub off.

Once, in the locker room, a girl talked about her body, her pool-white hand pressed across her flat, speedo-covered stomach. "From the side, I'm perfect," she said, "but from the front... ugh!"

I jumped in, eager to make a friend by way of shared experience.  "Me too," I said, "But I'm okay from the front and fat from the side." I demonstrated, twisting to reveal my rounded mid section.

Even Bopinder laughed. It took me ages to understand. Those girls were smarter. They saw it right away. We were all women, all young, but we were not the same.

In those early days of high school I dropped from what I considered a disgusting 125 lbs to a borderline-acceptable 115 lbs in less than three weeks thanks to my first short-term starvation diet and fanatical exercise in the pool. I swam every morning at 6 a.m. I ate celery sticks exclusively, and only when my stomach literally ached with hunger or when I felt too dizzy to stand. At night, my pool-sore arms spazammed and shook.

Besides the celery, after each practice, I'd down a half-litre of Gatorade. The most delicious thing I'd ever tasted.

By November, I'd quit the team. At my first meet, I placed last in the 200 metre butterfly. I didn't really know the stroke. My goggles came off on my dive, scraping over my cheeks. I thought I might drown. By the time I finished, the other girls were already out of the pool.

Looking at myself in the changeroom mirror, I remember thinking that my arms looked muscled and huge. I was built "like a freight train" said my very first boyfriend, also a swimmer. He was paying me a compliment.
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In University, I was okay at first. I didn't own a scale. But when I realized I was back up to 130 lbs, I immediately went on something called the "Ultra Fit Diet" -- an idiotic thing  that involved drinking protien powder and eating as few as 500 calories a day. I made it back down to 115 lbs, at which point my boyfriend at the time said, "I'm afraid I'm going to break you,"  which was exactly what I wanted to hear.

I left school and stumbled through my 20s and my weight crept up, keeping pace with my growing anxiety. In 2004, right before I moved in with Darrell, there was a constant churninging in my gut, a steady stream of fight or flight adrenaline in my blood. Eating until I was full -- too full to move -- helped slow my fast-beating heart.

In early 2007, I weighed 170 lbs. I lived entirely on simple carbs and alcohol. I had new, angry-red stretchmarks around my belly button. Concentric circles of ragged skin, a result of repeated rapid weight losses and subsequent gains. When I couldn't fall asleep, I'd think obsessively about my stomach and the way it sloped down to rest on the mattress.

And I'd cry.
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Back in Toronto, alone in my new, singles apartment, I lost 30 lbs quickly, eating approximately 800 to 1000 calories a day and playing sports five times a week.

But in 2009, I had minor health issue and went on a medication that comes with weight gain as a common side effect. In less than 6 months on the drug I zoomed back up to nearly 160 lbs. New budgundy stretchmaks appeared below the faded white ones.

And it's making me crazy. Because for once, I'm actually healthy. I eat things like quinoa and kale in normal, human amounts. I exercise occassionally, but not obsessively. My partner thinks I look great. But when I see myself, the first thing I think of is "fat." I think of the numbers on the scale and want to cry.

"You are disgusting."  That's what I hear in my head. That's what I've always heard.
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I NEVER think this way about other people. Never. I don't even like the word fat. Intellectually, I think of it as a kind of hate speech.

I only do this to myself. I only have the capacity to be this mean to myself.

I'm not a stupid person. I know it's crazy. But the knowing doesn't seem to translate.  Why am I like this? How did this happen? And how can I keep it from happening? That's the most important thing. It's the thing I think about even more than the weight itself.

How can I keep this from happening to my own little neice, my own someday daughter, every other sad little girl? How can I keep them from being like me? Do you know?

* All images from Stock Xchng, by (in order of appearance) Rockelle Munsch, Phillip Collier, Marcelo Gerpe,  Stephan Fleet, Alfonso Lima.
 
 
I had an interesting experience last week. I realized I couldn't remember the name of a man I'd dated in late 2007 -- early 2008. Couldn't remember it at all. Not his first name, not his last.

It's perhaps not as bad as it sounds. We weren't in love or anything. But we saw eachother for a good few months. How could I have forgotten his name?

It plagued me all day at work. I couldn't stop thinking about it. What was happening to me?  At 18, I berated a friend for not remembering the names of all the girls he'd kissed. "How could you not know a thing like that?" I asked. "How could you not remember?"
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* Creative Commons image by Ronaldo Taveira from Stock Xchng
I tried and tried to pull up the name, but I couldn't. And I couldn't let it go. So I ended up looking him up. Yep. Right on the computer. My mild OCD and love for technology mean I have a pretty good record of all the dates I went on during the great dating experiment of 2008. I have almost everything written down. Names, dates, activities. It's a little creepy, actually. Maybe I had a sort of inkling. A feeling that I might one day have trouble remembering the details of that foggy, terrible time.

Anyway. According to my notes, the guy's name is Waugh. Waugh, like Evelyn Waugh. That's what I used to say to myself at the time. To remember. Even then, I had trouble. He was... spoiled. He once took me on a date to the Golf and Country Club (on his parents' dime). More importantly, he was (and I assume is) an incredible juicebag. Which is something I didn't realize at the time.

Waugh was the sort of person who thought it was funny to hang up on me in the middle of a phone conversation. When I'd respond to his emails with any immediacy, he'd tell me I was being "clingy." Though he was pushing 30, he'd never had a girlfriend he'd introduced to his parents or even his sister. (He once hustled me out of his apartment in a clear panic when he realized his sis was on her way over and that we might accidentally cross paths.) He had a expensive electric guitar that he didn't like  me to breathe on, let alone touch.

Nonetheless, I was kind to him. I took care of him when he was sick. I helped him do his Christmas shopping. I even wrapped the gifts for him while he napped on my sofa. He responded by dumping me out of nowhere on New Year's Eve. (We had plans to go out of town.) I think his friends had been razzing him for getting too serious. It's hard to say.

We reconciled after the holiday, which I spent alone in the emergency room, (which is another story entirely).
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* Creative Commons image by Pam Roth from Stock Xchng
None of that was the worst of it though.

It turned out that during our relationship, Waugh was not only actively pursuing other women online (by writing them emails filled with the same anecdotes and jokes he used on me when we first met... copy and paste style), but also meeting those girls for dates. During his work day. Lunch hours. That sort of thing. He may have been sleeping with them. That part I don't know.

Of course, I didn't know ANY of this until the end. I found out in February, when I was at his apartment helping him through a bout of the flu. I'd brought over a care package, but he'd barely spoken to me all evening. Mostly, he just lay on the floor, moaning. (What a baby. Eesh.) Finally, he asked me to look up "fever care" online, so off I went to the computer.

And there, on his compter screen, right out in the open, was an email to his most recent date. I think her name was Maria. That's how I found out.

Believe it or not, I didn't break up with him immediately. I just left, pretending nothing was wrong. It was days, maybe even a week later, when I finally ditched him. And even then, I didn't explain. I couldn't deal with a confrontation, and frankly, I was humiliated. Again. I remember thinking, 'There must be something about me that makes men do this.' That's what Darrell had said, after all. That the problem was me.

Even that isn't the worst of it. The real worst of it is that I knew, from the very moment I met this guy, that he was a bit of an asshole. On our first date, I texted a  friend about it from the ladies room. I wrote that there was something off about him. THEN I went on to date the bastard for four months. FOUR MONTHS. How can I explain something like that?

Depression, I guess. Anxiety. Post traumatic stress. Horribly damaged self esteem.

At the time, none of this was clear. I suppose that's why his name faded. Nothing was particularly clear back then.
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* Creative Commons image by Patrice Dufour from Stock Xchng
Now that I've pondered all of this for awhile, I've come to the conclusion that it's important that I don't forget again. The fact that I even spoke to douchy Waugh, let alone dated him, is an example of how crazy I can be when I'm sad. Of how I have a tendency to let people treat me like absolute garbage. Of how I seem incapable of seeing this happening in the moment. I wouldn't say I owe Mr. Waugh my thanks or anything. But his is a name I need to remember.