When I was a kid, the Barbie doll had a little sister named Skipper. The Skipper doll's notable thing was that she grew breasts with a twist of her arm, going from a flat-chested child to a curvy teen, just like that.
I gave up on my boobs long ago. Between breastfeeding two kids, a lumpectomy, and extreme weight loss, they were saggy lopsided, and tiny, and no arm twisting was going to fix that, which was fine by me. My small breasts fit my desired body just fine. I loved how they didn't get in my way on long runs or tennis matches. I appreciated not having to wear a bra with straps that slipped and bands that pinched, and most of all, having tiny breasts allowed me to feel my jutting breast bone, serving as my physical scale, reassuring me I was still thin.
"You have hit your all-time high,” my dietician, Gretchen announced enthusiastically about nine months into our sessions, forgetting her usual stoic weigh in demeanor. Her face was glowing as if she were my mom, and I had just scored my first soccer goal. "I knew you would do it."
All-time high. The words that would make any anorexic strap on a pair of Adidas and run for the hills. Words that would have scared the shit out of me if I had not already suspected I had gained notable weight. My hand instinctively pressed against my chest, feeling for the reassurance of my breastbone as I plopped down on the green velvet chair.
She sat down across from me, still beaming with pride, watching for my reaction. I did my best to smile like it was no big deal. Although I was shaken by Gretchen's confirmation, the control freak in me was pleased she had cracked and shared the usually secret weight report. I was afraid that if I showed my lack of enthusiasm at the news, she might never again share my weight progression.
"What did you do differently?" She asked, settling back, placing her clipboard in her lap, ready to take notes.
"I got over myself," I told her with a huff, venting frustration that had been building at my inability to get out of my own way, slowing the whole recovery process.
After weeks of sitting in a plateau, I sat myself down and gave myself a much-needed talk. Despite the depiction of every TV special on the subject, no one was going to force me to recover. I would not be locked up and spoon-fed mashed potatoes until I came out plump and glowing. Nope, only I could do that. I was aware I was nowhere near weight restored. I also knew I was not a quitter and that I would be disappointed with myself if I stopped treatment before I was ready. And like my therapist Kirsten had boldly suggested, I could always lose the extra weight. So I pulled up my big girl pants, doubled down on Ben and Jerry's, and backed off on the extra exercise that had crept back into my life over the past year.
I didn’t know exactly how much I had gained to reach this "all-time high,” but with every bite of chocolate mint cookie, I was preparing myself for my stomach to expand and pouch uncomfortably against my waist band. I was caught off guard when the weight stealthily bypassed my stomach area, and headed straight for my chest, making me uncomfortably aware of my ever growing breasts. Rationally I knew the change in my chest was imperceptible to others, but to me, I felt like Dolly Parton in a push-up bra. Over the years, other than a flat stomach, my tiny boobs were the one dependable body part I had to assure me that I was thin. I relied them and their consistent non-existence to help me feel unencumbered by the weight of my own body.