Life Doesn't End at 351 Pounds
by Elizabeth Fisher

It was an accident--I swear! Tripping over the bathroom scale, I mean. I actually just stepped on the edge of it, but with all my weight, hard enough to send it to whatever purgatory bathroom scales go to when their torture, uhhh... time, on earth is done. It wasn't my bathroom scale, mind you, and breaking something that didn't belong to me made me feel badly-at least for a few minutes, until I overheard myself bragging to a friend about "slaying a dragon." It was green, after all.

Scales and I go way back. They've been a bane in my life, well, almost since the moment of birth. Alongside my height and weight in my childhood medical records is the diagnosis of "obese." Twice yearly in grade school I made a pilgrimage to the scale, with classmates eagerly crowding around as my height and weight were announced and recorded. My life could have been a whole lot less stressful if I'd have just kicked the scale then and gotten it over with.

Through the countless diets of adolescence and young adulthood I let the scale dictate my self worth on any given day. Had I gained?--I must be failing again. Lost a half pound? --Good girl! And then there were those clever tricks I played on my scale, like standing just a certain way, or skipping meals all day prior to weighing. My scale knew what I was up to, though, and it always won out in the end.

"No thanks," I said politely to the last nurse who tried to put a number in my chart. "What?!?!!," she gasped. The look on her face told me that I had clearly upset her groove. I looked back at her, expressionless, not wanting to be the first to break the silence. "But you must, it's a RULE," she reproved. Silence again, as I wondered who she was going to tell. My mother? I wanted to stick out my tongue, put my thumbs in my ears and wiggle my fingers, touting "You don't scare me! Nana nana boo boo!" Instead, she rustled papers as I told her that their scale didn't go high enough to weigh me. All she muttered was "oh" as she pointed me past the scale to the examination room.

Maybe I need a special button made to wear to the doctor's office proclaiming: "TOO MUCH WOMAN FOR YOUR SCALE." Bet that would get a rise out of them! After all, if the message I'm supposed to be getting is that life ends at 351 lbs, I'm proof that they're wrong. For me, a happy life, filled with self-worth and self-esteem, started somewhere well over 351 lbs, and I have (literally) tons of friends who would agree. No doubt, many of you are nodding your heads in agreement at this very moment.

Sometimes it frustrates me that I can't change the world. I do my best though, to change my corner of it. What do I do? I get out there and live. Being an example of happy, fat life is the best thing I can do. I exercise, dance, and swim; I go to college; I cut up in public with my fat friends. We are often the center of attention at restaurants, not because people are gawking, but because our enthusiasm is contagious. We rearrange tables to suit our needs, we ask for armless chairs as easily as if we were asking for extra napkins. We've been applauded at a jazz/dinner club, we tease the waiters, we dance in the aisles, we even order dessert!

I even occasionally let my guard down in public and laugh at myself. There was the time that I tried to get up off a low sofa at the car repair shop just a little too fast, only to have it shoot out from under me, propelled across the room by the slick linoleum, dumping me in an unceremonious heap on the floor. All I could do was sit there, or rather sprawl there, giggling at myself. It was several moments before I composed myself enough to check on the older gentleman sitting across the room with his mouth open.

Oh, and then there was the time in the Amtrak train bathroom. It was a combination of needing to go to the bathroom and of wanting to prove to myself that I actually could get my 72-inch hips in that compelled me to find a creative method for not only going inside the tiny space, but also closing the door. Besides, I knew my friends were going to ask if the bathroom was accessible and I couldn't report back to them that I hadn't even tried it. Getting inside actually wasn't too difficult-it was figuring out where to put my body while I closed the door that I found problematic. I ended up perched on the counter, my bottom filling the sink, while I wedged the door closed across the front of my body.

Learning to enjoy the good in life, and being able to laugh at myself, whether in an Amtrak bathroom, or after I've been thrown by a sofa, helps me keep perspective. I choose my battles, and my happiness is no longer dictated by the numbers on a scale. May the dragon rest in peace.