In January 2008, my mom died suddenly. I was 24 and had gotten married the previous August. To say that my world crumbled would be an understatement. My father was in a very serious accident just over a month later that would ultimately leave him in a rehab facility for 3 months, through June of that year. I was on a seemingly never-ending binge. I think I weighed about 245-250 at the time of my mom’s death; by November 2008, I was 301 pounds, my highest weight ever. I started having to regularly use my asthma inhaler, and I was put on cholesterol medication.
Marc and I decided in September 2008 that we wanted to teach English in Korea–why Korea? They paid for your flight there and back, paid for your housing, relatively good salaries (depending on your school), and they only required a Bachelor’s degree in any field. We also wanted to take some time to travel a bit before we had kids, got a mortgage, etc. I suppose the real reasons we wanted to go though were A) Marc was having difficulty finding a job with his shiny new Master’s degree, B) I was really starting to feel burnt out at my job, and C) we both just needed to get away from the depressing year we’d had. Marc left for Korea that November, and I followed in February (stayed behind to finish paying out our lease).
I think I probably lost 10-15 pounds within the first couple of months; walking everywhere and the change in diet certainly helped a lot! I didn’t own a scale for a while, so I’m just guessing on that number. There was an incident probably my second month there; I was teaching adults, and one my students said to me, “Teacher, you are so fat. You need to stop eating hamburgers, and eat more rice.” I was so dumbfounded; I couldn’t believe this 40-year-old woman just said that to my face! I did my best not to burst into tears, and responded with something like, “Well, I do enjoy the occasional hamburger, but they’re not the reason I’m fat. I’m also sure that eating more rice isn’t the answer.”
When I relayed this story to another teacher, she helped me understand that the student didn’t say this intending to be rude or mean, but that she was concerned and Koreans are just very blunt and straightforward (something I came to appreciate during my time there). I think that was the first time I started to really see myself as “fat”; my entire life, I’d always carried my weight well and most people didn’t think I weighed as much as I did. However, at this point I could no longer deny the angry red stretch marks on my belly, or my size 3X, 24W clothing.
Despite this, I still didn’t really actively try to lose weight–which, honestly, was just fine with me. That summer, I started exercising–but again, not having scale make it difficult to really track any progress. That was probably one of the most freeing things, being without a scale for so long–I no longer was a slave to losing weight. I was just living.