Everyone experiences a tiny thrill in the conclusion of the Ugly Duckling story because somewhere inside each of us, is our own little ugly duckling. It’s the consummate triumph of the underdog. For years, somewhere in the back of my head, I knew things could be different, for you see, I was the ugly duckling.
I was a very thin child, so it surprised my parents when I began to put on more than the customary amount of weight and curves during puberty. I was always picked first for class projects and picked last for teams in gym. I changed clothes in bathroom stalls instead of the open locker room to protect my unsightly rolls from the slightly curious, slightly disgusted eyes of the other girls.
To me, it always mattered, it always seemed to upset me when I thought about it, so I sought solace in mozzarella sticks, pastas, chicken nuggets, French fries, and pizza. Obviously, we can all see where this is going.
At my highest weight, I was 205 pounds. That was my turning point. It was my sophomore year of college, and I remember stepping on the scale vividly. I nearly fell off. Before, I always told myself as long as the first digit on the scale never changed from â€œ1â€, I was fine. Seeing the â€œ2â€ was incentive enough to try to lose weight.
Upper Classman to Post Graduation
For the next two years, I did a half assed job of fighting away the Freshman 30 that I had gained. When I graduated from college in 2004, I weighed in at 185 pounds. My weight stayed steadily at 185, and then I moved back home. One day, I hopped into my car, popped a CD in the player, and un-zipped my jeans because I couldn’t breathe, they were so tight. I had assiduously avoided the scale, and I knew I’d gained some weight. I was a size 16, which was the highest size they carried in most stores. I couldn’t un-zip my jeans forever. I knew that I’d have to lose weight or start shopping in plus-size stores. That was my real wake-up call.
Beginning a New Lifestyle: A One Year Plan
In March of that year, my initial goal was small. I wanted to be a size twelve. The first thing I did was count calories. I allowed myself a maximum of 1500 calories per day. I could eat what I wanted, as long as I didn’t exceed it. By May, I weighed in the 160’s, and I hit a slight plateau. I was now the desired size 12, but then I decided that maybe I could be a size 10, so I started going to the gym 3 days a week to spend 30 minutes on the elliptical machine. By September, I was 150 pounds and I could fit easily into a size 8 or size 10. During that entire period of time, my workouts became more frequent. I started getting up early in the morning to hit the gym at 5 am before I had to be at work. I’d do an hour of cardio and a half hour of strength training. I stopped drinking as much, religiously watched what I ate, and on New Year’s Eve, I weighed in at 145 pounds. At that point, I was sixty five pounds lighter than my highest weight.
By February of 2006, I was at my lowest weight, 127 pounds. As I write this, it’s been a year and half since I first saw those numbers, and now the number tends to fluctuate between 127 and 133. They say that around 90 % of people who lose weight gain it back. A mark of success is being able to keep it off for at least two years.
What amazes me is that it was completely unplanned. I didn’t really set out to â€œdietâ€. I made some changes, saw some differences, and made some more changes. My goal was not to be a size 0 or even the size I am now. I made small goals, and I kept going as long as I saw that there was room for improvement. Before, I’d tried diets and they would work for a little while, but the word â€œdietâ€ is almost synonymous for failure because a diet has a beginning and an end . I changed my entire life. I didn’t just lose 80 pounds and then resume eating fast food, desserts, and chocolates. I lost the 80 pounds, continued eating salads, fresh fruit, and other healthy alternatives. People question me now, when I turn away fast food or other calorie-laden items, because they think I can â€œafford itâ€. Sometimes I indulge, but in the end, I can’t afford it all the time, because I know what it’s like to look in the mirror and wish you looked like the other girls your age instead of their mothers.
Life After Weightloss
When I was heavy, if you told me I would ever look like this, I’d laugh. It was nothing but a distant dream that was probably never going to materialize because I didn’t have the discipline it took. Sometimes, I pass my reflection in a mirror or window, and I don’t recognize the girl glancing back at me. Last year, I saw relatives that I hadn’t seen in a few years at a cousin’s wedding, and they didn’t recognize me. People that I’ve gone to college or high school with don’t know who I am unless I remind them of what I used to look like and point out the weight-loss. The first time my father ever told me I was beautiful, I was wearing a dress, getting ready to go somewhere. I blushed, and said â€œthank youâ€, but at that moment, it hit me that he’d never said that before, and now I was thin. I wasn’t an embarrassment anymore as an overweight, unattractive daughterâ€”or at least, that’s how I felt.
Doors opened for me, and I mean that literally. As the â€œfat girlâ€, I became accustomed to opening my own doors, carrying and lifting my own items, buying my own drinks and meals. The â€œthinner meâ€ experienced men holding doors open so that I could pass through before them. Men politely waited for me to step into elevators. I was offered drinks at bars and clubs. I learned to recognize â€œthe lookâ€â€”the look that someone is giving you when they are checking you out. It never failed to take me by surprise, that someone else would find me attractive. People asking for my phone number, asking me out on dates, really wanting to get to know meâ€”it was a world I was not accustomed to in my previously androgynous existence.
It wasn’t just the men that changed. Family friends complimented my parents on me. Sales assistants in stores were much more helpful and nice. When I interviewed for jobs last year, I think the â€œthinner meâ€ had better chances than the â€œfat meâ€ would have. When other girls stared at me, it wasn’t because I was fat anymore, it was because they were sizing me up too.
I share a love/hate relationship with my Ugly Duckling. I still love the girl with a wide heart and an open mind. I’m equally terrified of her though, because physically she represented everything that I needed to change about myself. I’ll always believe that those things needed to change. It was a metamorphosis of the ultimate kind; I did something I never believed possible. I would say â€œdespite everythingâ€ to start the following sentence, but it’s not â€œdespiteâ€ at all. Because of everything that’s happened in my life, I realized that I can do anything I set my mind too. All it took was a little faith in me. Because of that I shed an exterior that kept me afraid of showing my interior, and now that I’m no longer afraid, I can grow (no pun intended) into the person that I’m meant to be.
Devina Fowsar hopes her story will inspire someone else to take baby steps.