Sunday, November 6, 2011


A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen. ~Edward de Bono

I saw this picture today on the Internet and cried. If any of you were obese during your high school or college years I think you will be able to relate to my emotional reaction. Every so often something will bring back a memory, a scar from those hard days. This picture did it.

I believe if I would have tested my heart rate upon seeing, it would have been racing. I felt the wave of panic. I remembered the feeling of walking into a classroom and seeing those desks with the immovable seats attached and thinking, "I know I can't fit AND everyone will see I can't fit." This was the reality of my college years.

So what did I do... I went to school an hour early. I rearranged the seats to find the bigger of the desks and stake my claim. Sometimes I would even go into an empty classrooms and move furniture in. Occasionally though I would find someone had arrived early to study or meet with a group and then... I was screwed.

I'd smile and say hello, "Oh you are here early too." I would nonchalantly (as much as that was possible) squeeze into the desk of doom, where I would spend the next 3+ hours of class in severe pain... my body contorted, one half of me with the desk digging into my side and the other half hanging over the edge of the chair... all the while smiling and interacting with my professor and friends like nothing was wrong. I was fine. I was comfortable. Everything was great. It wasn't. I was crying inside.

It took a few more years after those college years for me to make some life changes. I had the helping hand of weight loss surgery in 2006 and continue everyday to make changes (healthy eating choices, moving my body and working on the head) but every once and awhile something, this picture today, picks at the scars that obesity caused. I had to share this today because I KNOW YOU GUYS UNDERSTAND. You have been there, maybe it wasn't the desk maybe it was the subway turnstile, the airplane tray table, the backseat of a car, the booth at the restaurant, the amusement park ride, the broken chair... your scars are healing too.

Weight Loss Surgery & The Pier
My weight loss surgery journey (in denim)
Worst things about being fat
A is for... (I really need to finish this series)

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JaimeK said...

Yep...the restaurant chairs and restroom stalls and airplane seats with belt extenders..

Ahh, yep, I get this well.

We all find our scars in funny places...but, as you say, we ARE healing.


Anonymous said...

these desks were all they had at my high school- I remember those well. I can't tell you how many events I passed on for fear of the seating situation.

pbuckels said...

I do understand. Hugs to you and thanks.

Michelle M. said...

I remember the first time I was forced to admit to myself that was out of control.....Knotts Berry Farm. They had (still have?) a ride that is basically a steel swing chair attached to a very very very long chain, and it goes around in a circle and the swings fly up and down. Well, I thought it would be fine, but OMG, I had to pack myself into that stupid swing-seat and my hips were mashed in and I was in SO. MUCH. PAIN. I was mortified at the idea that my fat ass and hips and thighs were squishing through all of the metal bars on the seat, and that everyone on the ground had a prime view of the horror show.

I have been tempted to go back and see if I fit, but I'm not quite ready yet. Someday, though, I will.

Sheila said...

Thank you for the cathartic cry this morning. Yes, we understand all too well.

Amy said...

I am totally tearing up! This post came at an interesting time for me. Last night while cleaning out my office I found a letter I had written to my future healthy self. I started my journey in December at 443 lbs and now weigh 300, and while I'm still big it is so much easier than it was to be 443 lbs. I look forward to more changes in what I can do and how I feel about myself.

We had these desks at my college as well and I actually dropped a class once because I walked up to the room and saw these desks. Another time the classroom got moved to a room with these desks 2 weeks before the end of the semester--way too late to drop the class. At 400 lbs there was no way I could fit in te desk--the table part wouldn't even lay flat so I could write on it. So I did what I always do--made a huge joke at my own expense to make everyone laugh with me instead of at me. I spent the next two weeks sitting at the front of the room in the desk reserved for those in wheelchairs. I totally feel your pain. :(

P.S. I also wanted to make sure to say I really love your blog and recipes. I had surgery far from home too and have felt a lack of support and understanding. It's nice to come to a place where "everybody knows your name" so to speak lol. :) I also took the time recently to read your story. You had me tearing up (again, lol!) at the picture of you on the Brooklyn Bridge. You help me to see what is possible at the end of the road. I have also posted your quote about not giving up what you want for what you want now at my desk at work to help me stay out of the junk. Thanks for everything you do.

Amy Carlo said...

Wow, I can so relate to your post. I always hated those desks and tried to avoid them at all costs. school Chairs, restaurant booths, airplane seat belts, bathroom stalls, plastic lawn chairs all things I hated and avoided because I just didn't want to be shamed into squeezing into them. thanks for writing this honest post.

Anonymous said...

Those desks are the reason I dropped out of college.

I would choose courses based on the classroom they were held, hoping that some would have a regular table and chair. I also would try to move tables and chairs in to a class room... but that was always humiliating because I was the big fat girl at the front of the class where everyone could see. I was so large i couldn't even squeeze myself into one of those desks or chairs... and I certainly couldn't use those theater seats with the swinging desk thing.

In one case, I just sat on the theater steps... using the excuse of sitting by an outlet and internet port for my laptop. Back then, I was one of the very few who took a laptop to class.

Severe emotional trauma! I even went so far as to go to my school's disability office to request assistance... ask that they makes sure each of my classrooms had a table and chair for my use. After all, they are required to provide a table and chair for students with other disabilities who request it (including the injured jocks)... but I was told that obesity was not considered a disability that they could help with. That's what did it... I just stopped attending classes, failed a ton of classes and am 6 credits shy of my degree because of it. And, the two classes I need to graduate are specialized and not offered online.

If I want to finish, I have to go back and attend them, in residence... at the very (now out of state) University that refused to help me 10 years ago. Yeah... not really feeling it just yet.

As others have said, it's not just school, either. Airplanes, restaurants, MRI machines, etc.

I even had to STAND for 30 minutes at a dentists office because they didn't have any armless chairs in the waiting room. The receptionist kept staring at me and kept saying, "Go ahead and have a seat.." At one point, I got kind of pissy and said, "Lady, all of your seats here are too narrow for me and I cannot use them." She still didn't get it.

As I was leaving, I told the dentist that they really need to ditch those chairs and invest in benches or couches that would accommodate every type of body. He said that he'd never considered it because NOBODY has ever said anything about it or complained.

I wish we could all all fight for more accommodating seating... but I know that my emotional scars over this are pretty thick.

Sara Lou said...

I soo hear you! I almost put my career in jeopardy over those chairs. In NY state we have a set of pretty challenging certification exams to become a teacher. Luckily, when I went to take mine, they were at my college so I knew those were the kind of chairs we would be expected to test in. Before they called for people with disabilities or other issues first. I swallowed my pride and went up and told them my wide butt was not going to fit in those chairs. I asked for a separate desk and chair. Finally, they found me a small table and chair to sit at. Three or four other women coming into the testing site saw what I had and they spoke up too. The testing was too important to try and take it without breathing for hours stuffed into one of those tiny seats!

Nanette said...

Oh I can relate, I was 250 age 14, so I have been obese all my life. Being obese you have to think before you sit. Will I fit? Will the chair hold me? Thankfully I have only broken one chair in my life, but I was still mortified, of course the woman's house it was always brings it up. TG my friend and her son are no longer together so I don't have to see her anymore.

I am so grateful to have been able to have this surgery and get off all of my meds except for vitamins.

Val M. said...

I'll never forget this past summer going to a convention with some collegues from work. I had to get on a plane. I was asked at check in if I needed 2 seats!! I immediately said no I'll be fine. Then when I got on the plane it was a full flight. I tried not to be as comfortable and as nice to the person beside me, but I could tell they were wishing they weren't sitting by "the fat girl". Then I asked for a belt extension. The stewardess said that she didn't have one and that I would have to move to a seat that had a longer extension built in. She had to ask someone to move so I could have their seat. Then the new person I was sitting with had to sit by "the fat girl" I was SO embarrassed and humiliated. From that day, I promised myself that next year when I get on a plane (after my gastric sleeve surgery in December 2011) that I would never go through this again. I can't wait for my surgery and my new life!!

Barbara said...

I needed to see this. I just got a surgery date of 11/30 and all of the sudden I have thoughts creeping in my mind of why can't I do this on my own. I know it's possible to lose weight on my own, people do it every day. God gave me this perfect stomach and I'm going to have it cut on. The fact is I have NOT been able to do it on my own and every time I have lost I have gained it back. Seeing this and thinking of all the things I can't do and things that have held me back clears those thoughts from my mind. Thank you :)

SheZug said...

Panic set in this morning. My husband wanted to go to a pancake place for breakfast. Last time we went I had to wedge myself into the booth and was uncomfortable the whole time. I couldn't breath. I couldn't eat properly, food spilled all down my chest. I was very embarrassed and had a hard time getting in the booth and a hard time getting out.

Right then and there I knew I was going to look into WLS. Three days later I went to my first seminar and plan on having my surgery in January if all goes well.

So? what happened this morning? We went to a different location of the same restaurant because I knew the booths were bigger there and I could fit in with room to spare. I happily ate my eggs & bacon while he ate his pancakes.

:) Happy day Eggface <3

shannon said...

ah that picture scared me, as well. i remember every year getting bigger and those chairs being smaller (to me). thankfully we all are getting away from that fear and i hope now you are able to take on any seat any where fearlessly!

Kimberly said...

Shelly, your post definitely hit home with me! If my torment in high school and college was not bad enough, I suffered as a teacher, too. So many times, I would need to sit next to one of my students to assist with work and I knew I would not fit. Middle school kids can be pretty brutal so I prayed I could just walk around and assist quickly before moving on. It did not always work and I would be forced to squeeze in. Getting out was a totally different story so my prayer turned to "Maybe the bell will ring, students will leave and then I can get out of the seat without an audience."

My heart breaks to this day when I see larger students forced to use these desks!

Hugs, Kim

Bek said...

This reminded me of the relief I felt the first time I was able to be passenger in someone else's car without having to strategize how I was going to wedge myself into the seat and still use the seat belt OR figure out an excuse as to why I needed to be the one driving.
I am so relieved to have those days behind me and to have come out stronger on the other side of those experiences.

Highenergygirl said...

I can relate the chair pic.. hated them. Either I could not fit, or I'd squeeze in and lap over the top so no room to write.
I already "like" both you and Click on FB. :o)

Anonymous said...

Totally understand! I'm on vacation back East and it was my first time on a plane since my RNY surgery on 6/1/11. I fit into the seat easier and the seat belt buckled and that was all great. But I actually got up to go the the bathroom and didn't just sit there wedged into the seat for fear. When I entered and shut the door of that little airplane bathroom I have to admit I teared up. I immediately thought when I closed the door how did I ever do all this 80+ lbs heavier.

Aloha! :)

Stacy E said...

I remember. In addition to not fitting into the desks, I am left handed and had to contort myself further to write. I used to take two desks--one to sit in and one to write on. I always tried to get classes in the huge lecture halls. It was easier to be anonymous with a hundred other people there.

Anonymous said...

I am so looking forward to my business trip tomorrow because at size 18/20 I will NOT have to ask for a seatbelt extender on the plane. I had surgery on 7/12 and I have lost 54 pounds so far. Your website is a godsend. I have my protein-rich trail mix all packed up for my trip and my protein powder is packed in my shaker cup. Thank you so much for all your tips and recipes. It's helped so much.

-Sam said...

Thanks for this. I completely understand. I definitely used to do a great job of making other people around me feel like I'm ok, or trying to convince myself I was ok, all the while struggling with the physical limitations. This is real, thanks for sharing.

Nicole from NC.

Nica said...

Hi Michelle, I'm a college student and in a class last semester, we had those dreaded chairs with desks attached to the side (like in your pic). I was so embarrassed that I didn't fit into them that I decided not to sit during class which of course drew attention. This semester I have a class with same type of desk/chair but I had WLS in February, and my class began in September. I nearly got sick when I saw them, but to my excitement as I went to sit down, I fit! And even better when I got up to leave, I didn't have to pry myself out of it nor was the chair attached to my body. However, I think my scar comes from an old friend who was getting married. We were BFFs for about 10 years and our friendship ended when she told me I could not be in her wedding because I was too fat. I guess being fat was okay when she needed me, but now that she was getting married I was no longer useful, and the icing??? I haven't seen her in about 25 years, she found my phone number and recently called me, her first words (after hello) were "are you still fat?" I just laughed and said I had an appt./couldn't talk to the beeyatch!

littlesky said...

I so relate to this post. When I graduated my biggest relief was that I wouldn't ever have to sit in chairs like that. Then restaurants started getting booths like that. For many years I would only eat at a restaurant that had tables. Then I started just getting take out and drive thru. My weight exploded.

Having WLS saved my life. It's not been an easy journey and my life has been in jeopardy a couple times due to having the surgery, but if I didn't do it then i'd have been dead already.

Look at those chairs now tho. You know you can fit. It wont erase the memory but try to make a new happier memory. Take a class at your local college or maybe volunteer as a teachers aid for a month or so. Then when no one is looking go thru the desks and find the smallest one. Then sit in it fully and properly. Smile and think about how far you have come. Think about how many of us you have motivated about our journeys. You ROCK!!!!

Denise said...

Having to leave an amusement park ride because I wouldn't fit. Breaking a picnic table seat and a couple of toilet seats. The turnstiles are my ghost and panic attack trigger. When I walked into a restaurant I could at least whisper that I'd prefer a table over a booth.

The gut-wrenching feeling returns when I recall my mother giving my sister and me all my grandmother's jewelry. My sister got all the diamonds and sapphires because the rings and bracelets and necklaces would FIT her. I got the plastic beads.

Yes, we can fit into chairs and booths and airplane seats better now. But there are still so many kids and adults who cannot. We still need to fight for THEM. And we need to continue to fight old habits every day so that we do not return to that state.

Leigh said...

I will never forget sitting down in a rickety kitchen chair at my friends house and the chair breaking in front of 20 people. Of course, I played it off as nothing , my dear sweet friend saying that her boys broke the chair and she forgot to remove it. Even now at 145 lbs. I have a fear of breaking a chair.
Let me heal.

Anonymous said...

God bless you, I truly hope you know how much your blog changes lives. I am so thankful that I found you. You have transformed my life with all your wonderful healthy recipes. I am down 150 pounds and never want to go back. It's good to know that we are not alone with our fears and pain we suffered from being overweight. I lost a husband to the babysitter because I was fat and in his words "disgusting". I felt disgusting...I don't feel like that anymore. Thanks again for all you do!

Shelley (

Allyson said...

It's the turnstile and seatbelt on the amusement park rides for me... But I have discovered that a lot of my scars are for worrying about the people that I feared would be embarrassed for being there with me. My nephews always wanted me to try the roller coaster anyways, and this year, for the first time in years, I fit! Holding my breath with my heart racing, I finally heard that click I longed for. My nephews cheered, and I knew that this WLS was the best decision I have ever made. Finding a new excuse for not following through with riding the roller coaster may be another thing...

Jen S said...

I had a panic attack for 2 hours on a plane once - I was uncomfortable and it just grew. I'm so much happier now - recently passed the 100 pounds lost mark after march surgery.
However, my husband is still over 500 pounds and for years I have "scoped out" anywhere I take him before he goes in - i'm extremely protective of him. Being anxious and depressed already, a bad experience could put him permanently in the house.
Even in his wheelchair (he has a tumor in his leg that prevents him from walking safely), we have to make sure the bigger chair that he has is going to fit in doors. Wish he could have WLS, but not possible right now.
Thank you for helping us feel that we're not alone.

Manders said...

oh! This is the reason why I have completly blocked high school out of my brain. I was never able to actually work on school work in class because I didn't turn forward! Ohh man!

Amber said...

Hey Michelle, This blog post and the links back to the blogs I read months ago, inspired me to post my own. I am having surgery tomorrow and these were my thoughts. Thank you for being strong enough to share your own and for inspiring me.

Anonymous said...

Wow your post brought tears to my eyes because I can remember sitting through class with my desk biting into me thinking how have I let this get this bad. When I finished up my BSN and was taking my last finals I can remember coming out of the test and going to the bathroom to look at the bruise on my belly from where the desk had mashed me during my test. Im so glad I had my surgery and I found your site! Thank you so much for everything you do dont stop you are an inspiration to us all!!!

Audrey L

tspeas said...

I still get sick just walking into a high school. Every time I pass a group of teenage boys, I still hear barking and howling noises in the deep dark places of my fragile spirit...God bless us, every one.

DorothyG said...

My mother-in-law's dining room chairs are Hitchcock chairs, c. 1830. I'm afraid to sit in them. I have to drag a chair in from the living room to eat dinner EVERY SINGLE MEAL. We've been married close to 30 years and yet, my MIL can't remember I need a sturdier chair.