With thirty-five years of dieting behind me, I recognize time wasted, emotional turmoil and energy expunged, wondering the outcome if an alternate choice was made at age eleven. Imagining the past orchestrated differently may seem wasteful. If healthier self-esteem existed, would any humiliation, weight, or internal talk have impacted the result as it did? Like the film, “Sliding doors,” the outcome could have been the same, with other avenues playing out towards the same conclusion. Either way, the inner pain scorched a huge portion of my life.

Periods of wearing tight-fitting clothing due to weight gain are prominent in my memory. At thirteen my pediatrician, upon my mother’s inquiry, stated losing ten pounds would be appropriate. By summer’s end, the scale dropped by fifteen, only for me to gain back twenty. That same scenario played out repeatedly with diet upon diet leading the ups and downs. With each cycle of pounds climbing, my self-esteem plummeted.

In high school, getting to the field house early for a game meant requesting the only pair of size extra large softball pants that existed. The humiliation of wearing a tight smaller size, plagued my softball days. Walking down to the field, I remember a bus driving by when a kid yelled, “Hey, Fat Ass!” Even now, my heart palpitates with the fear, shame, and depression that comment affected. I held my head down as the school bus passed, pretending I was unaffected, when inside something died, and moved deeper within.

Shopping for clothes after my hips and thighs grew disproportionately during puberty was a living nightmare I cringe to rehash with memories. Arguments with my mother while clothes shopping were nothing more than a shame festival of depressing moments, tantrums, and screaming matches, all a reminder of her lack of empathy. I was dying inside with self-hatred for my body, lacking acceptance or inner love. Not recognizing my pain. I lashed out, reactive of the inner hurt that consumed me.

Years of debilitating relationships, choosing men that matched my level of self-worth, heightened the extreme pain. Pounds increased while associated with delinquent, discouraging, and disrespectful men. Fittingly, my high school boyfriend went to the prom with another girl. I dated an ex-con abominably angry at society and the world at large, chose a drug-induced man who abused me physically until I had the courage to leave, and continued to connect with men whose priorities were never me.

Yet inside, deep beneath the gravity that weighed me down lay the innocent who wanted, needed, and fought to return to the surface. Filling the void between that inner space and the external forces was necessary for my survival. Food replaced the missing pieces of myself, and it took away pain, easing away the hurt temporarily. Pushing away the pain was my modus operandi; food served as a mechanism for efficiently and expertly expunging the uncomfortable feeling of emotions.

Acutely aware of the issues that patterned decades of pain, I recognized by age thirty that lack of self-worth lay at the root. Growing shards of brokenness lay fixated, to remain entrenched, until true healing repaved my journey. Allaying fears, feeling and leaning into emotions, and recognizing sugar addiction (a missing piece until now) smooth the sharp edges that used to gouge my insides while attempting solace and mending. Today I feel the bandages that await removal after years of recovery. Slowly healing, assuredly scars will lighten over time, I await the knowing of a different era when self-worth lines my heart, self-acceptance contours my existence, and self-love reinforces a peaceful, healing path.