I started college at a school a few hours from home. Close enough to go home on the weekends if I wanted while still being far enough away to be on my own. Like many first-year college students, I took way too much advantage of the buffet available at the dining hall. Unlike many, I really couldn't afford to with my weight. Every meal, there was a smorgasbord of main dishes, sides and, of course, desserts to choose from. An ice cream machine and an endless soda fountain of flavors topped off the choices available to hungry students. Unwisely, I indulged in it all. I enjoyed being able to have dessert daily, something I didn't get at home, and subsisted on way too much soda than any human should.
In my dorm room I kept a stash of snacks for in between those way-too-large meals. Microwave popcorn, mac and cheese, chips, more soda, junk and more junk along with some cans of tuna and mayo to make tuna salad. Some days meals I skipped going to the dining hall and just ate the junk in my room.
Obviously, these were far from healthy or waist-line-watching meal choices that I was making. There were healthy options in the dining hall, of course, and there was no need to take advantage of everything offered. I did anyway. Many meals I ate alone because I didn't want anyone to see how much I was actually eating. Around other people, I'd eat less then retreat to my room to partake in the stash there.
I arranged my class schedule to do the least amount of walking possible. One of my biggest fears was not being able to fit in desks in the classes. Some of them were the older style, made when people were smaller in general, especially their girth. I dreaded walking into a classroom and seeing those old-style wooden chairs with the desk arm. They were always a tight fight. Sitting in them was beyond uncomfortable. I always felt like everyone was starring at me when I was crammed in one. Even newer desks were under suspect as to whether or not they'd fit my rotund, plentiful bum. Admittedly, no matter how much weight I lose, my bum is always going to be big proportionally. The same goes for my arms. It was that way even when I'd lost all the weight (that I gained back) in high school. I won the genetic lottery on those two.
My depression kicked in full-force so many days I didn't even go to class. Instead I holed up in my room on the computer and ate. My main focus was getting good grades so I spent much of my time reading textbooks and doing assignments, even though I was skipping class. The college counselors knew I was struggling to get through the depression so had set up an arrangement with my teachers where I was allowed to miss classes without it counting against me, as long as I still did the work.
I've always had a problem with emotional eating. Trying to eat away sadness, depression, stress, worry and celebrating happy times was my norm. I even hid in my room from the few friends I had made, letting the depression and my lack of self-esteem rule my life. My best friend from high school attended a college a few hours away. I'd go out to see him as often as possible and talked to him on the phone often. He understood me better than anyone. When the depression was worst, he would help me through it.
During one of these many visits, I smashed up my knee during a pillow fight. I tripped, slammed it into the metal underside of a bed, landing unceremoniously on it in an OMG-a-leg-should-never-go-that-way angle. My leg and foot didn't face forward when I was standing again for years. I looked like I was doing a permanent half ballet move or something. The doctors said there wasn't much they could do as surgery could actually make my type of injury worse. PT and years of pain it was. I still have problems with that knee, and now the other that spent years compensating for it, today.
I joined a campus religions group as well the second semester of my freshman year. That helped me to feel more connected and to make a few friends. I have great memories from trips the group took. One of the friends helped me through the low times of my depression as she battled those demons as well. Still, I wasn't happy at that college and the major I wanted to pursue (after going through 5 previous ones in one year) wasn't offered.
I decided to transfer to a new school, 5 hours from home, for junior year. Not all my credits would transfer so I started in the summer to stay on track. By this time, I'd packed on 20-plus pounds and realized what I was doing by eating so much. I made two good friends during that summer semester. I focused on losing some of the weight along with doing well in my classes. My goal was to get at least one 4.0 (all A's, the highest I could get) during my college career. The end of that summer semester, I got my first 4.0 and had ditched 10 pounds.
Ten pounds that I quickly gained again the fall semester when the two friends I'd made left school, my classes got hard and I got depressed again. This school offered Burger King as part of their meal plan. I'm loathe to admit how many times I ate there over the years I was at that school.
Continued to focus on my grades, getting 4.0's over and over. I still stayed holed up in my room often, afraid to talk to people and make friends. I worried that because of my weight, and due to my personality, they just wouldn't like me. So I didn't try. Who would want to be friends with me? Fat, ugly and horrible me. I wore clothes that weren't too tight, usually baggy, to try to hide my body. I was self conscious about everything I did, said, ate or wore.
Oddly, when it came to doing well in my classes, I had tons of self confidence.I just had none when it came to thinking the other students, or anyone, would like me. My weight always had me thinking people were starring at me. If I caught they're attention, they'd make rude comments for sure, I thought. So I hid and tried to stay under the radar, except for my grades. One of the upsides of junior year came with my knee. One day while walking, I heard a giant crack and had immense pain. I was afraid to take another step on it. When I did, I discovered that it'd actually cracked back into place. Well, as in place as it can ever been given the damage that's in there.
My senior year I had my own efficiency apartment so cooked for myself rather than having a meal plan. I didn't really use the meal plan anyway as I was too lazy to walk to the dining hall across campus. The microwavable food and unhealthy stuff in my room was my diet. With my own kitchen, I started cooking healthier meals. The portion control still wasn't great, nor was the amount of soda, sweets and chips I ate. But I think it did help me from packing on even more weight at least. I knew it wasn't good and longed to lose weight, yet did nothing about it. I was eating my feelings and avoiding much exercise because of my knee. I could have at least eaten well to try to lose though, knee or not, or done low-impact exercises that wouldn't have aggravated it.
I graduated magna cum laude, summa cum laude in my major, with a degree in journalism with a focus in public relations and concentration in English. Graduation was another time where I feared it due to my weight. The gowns, so large on everyone else, barely fit me. I worried that it would split while I was sitting down or standing up. I spent the few hours like an uncomfortable sausage in the hot gym where the ceremony took place. The scaled told me that I weighed in heavier than ever.. My sites were set on a job using my writing, editing and graphic design skills in Washington, D.C.
Coming up next: "The Fat Kid" Tells All: Work and Marriage