Megan Again: Becoming Smaller
By Megan Wirts
When I was 9 years old I took swimming lessons. I was one of the older and bigger kids in the beginner’s class. As I stood there in my peach colored one-piece bathing suit with a braided blue and yellow belt that was tight around my middle, I felt awkward and uncomfortable and embarrassed that my thighs might be a little thicker than the other girls and my stomach, as I was told by people in my life, was round and chubby and rolly.
I could feel the belt cutting into my stomach, the leg holes were tightly squeezed around my thighs and my ears were red and hot with shame. I remember that feeling very vividly, but when I look back at photos of myself at that time...
...I don’t see those things at all. I see a healthy, happy little girl with big brown eyes and thick dark brown hair cut into a pretty wild mullet. It was the 80’s after all.
I loved to play outside with my brothers, friends and cousins that were always around. I was athletic and strong. I was a tree climbing, softball playing, frog catching tomboy who also loved to sing show tunes. As I grew I would hear grown-ups whisper about how I was built differently than the other girls. I was solid, they would say. I was thicker. They would call me “Thunder Thighs” and “Bubble Butt”. I was told that those were just affectionate nicknames and I shouldn’t take it so personally and I would try to brush it off with a joke.
I had to dig deep in order to make light of it and remind myself that it was their problem if they didn’t like my body, not mine. My body was growing into a woman’s shape just a little bit earlier than my peers, but I was not unhealthy. Even with all the passive-aggressive and not so passive aggressive put downs, I still loved myself and thought that I was beautiful, a good person and talented as well. I tried so hard to remind myself of that on a daily basis. Especially when at a very young age, I was constantly told that I was too big, too soft, too round, too sensitive, too opinionated, too dramatic, too emotional. Everything about me needed to be smaller.
After I had my children my body changed, like most mother’s bodies do. Not all though.I have a friend that gave birth to a 9lb baby on a Tuesday and was in a bikini a week later and she looked amazing! For real. She worked hard for that and I applaud her. On the other hand, I gained around 80-100lbs with each pregnancy and in my quest to become smaller I tried all kinds of fad diets. I drank shakes. I took diet pills and supplements that promised I would be skinny and healthy. I gave up carbs. Oprah is right, bread is amazing. I love bread and I went to back to carbs pretty quick. I would run and walk and bike and try dvd’s that promised results in 30 days. I grew to tolerate the exercising and I was a pretty active person, but I really just liked to eat and eat and eat. I love food. I really do and I definitely over indulged and used it to mask the shame I felt about the size of my body and the size of my emotions.
When I was happy I celebrated with something sweet. When I was sad I deserved that bowl of ice cream. When I was bored I snacked on whatever I could get my hands on. When I was told I probably shouldn’t have that piece of pie, I instead ate the entire pie out of anger. After I had my first brain surgery I turned to food, I felt like I deserved it for getting through that hard time in my life. However, all the over indulging caused me to become incredibly unhealthy. I developed sleep apnea, my cholesterol was bad and I was on the road to having diabetes. After extensive research and soul searching I chose to have weight loss surgery, took up running and have successfully lost and kept off over 100lbs.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done because I had to change the way I coped with life. I no longer had the comfort of a homemade vanilla cheesecake to shove my feelings down with. I wasn’t able to relieve my stress with three scoops of double chocolate almond ice cream. I had to face things head on and deal with it all. I have found that dealing with things instead of ignoring and burying it all with food has been a much better way of life for me.
Now my body has once again changed and this time it was completely out of my control. I have realized that being smaller does not make a body better or healthier or stronger. I have realized that I was not too sensitive, I was not too emotional and I no longer need to shrink my feelings and my body down in order to be loved and accepted. I have realized that all bodies are good, all bodies are worthy of love, and all bodies should be valued.
That is not to say that I haven’t been very angry and frustrated with my body over the years, especially since my neurological disorder has worsened. The loss of control of my body has been incredibly infuriating at times. I have been told by well-meaning people that if they were in my shoes they would rather die. I am told often by others that I am so brave for going out in public “with my face like that”. If those aren’t some confusing compliments I don’t know what are. Just because my body is spasmy and twisted and my face is twitchy and I have a difficult time walking doesn’t mean I should go into hiding.
Even though it has changed I still love this feisty bod I’ve got. I choose to put myself out there and be visible so that others with disabilities or differences can see that you don’t have to hide yourself. I am proud of my body for handling all that it has over the years. The babies that it has birthed, the races it has ran and the amazing dance moves that it still has. I love the strength it shows through the pain it endures every day, the adventures it has had and has yet to have, and the illnesses that is has overcome and adapted to. It took a life altering diagnosis for me to understand the true value of my body, my feeling and my thoughts.
I will no longer try to make myself smaller.
Megan Wirts is a long time Newaygo County resident. Megan has been described as "definitely not modest" , "inspirationally weird", and "pretty hot for having a face like that". She left her career as a Respiratory Therapist due to being diagnosed with Dystonia, a neurological movement disorder. She can now be found watching Netflix, drinking coffee, and taking naps, while trying to parent her two children along with her supportive and hunky husband. Megan also has been known to frequent karaoke bars and stand up comedy open mic nights.
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