Saturday, January 19, 2013

What I've Gained Since High School

I started this blog post over a year ago, but I never got the courage to publish it.  I just couldn't bring myself to post something so honest and revealing.  Though I haven't lost a pound in the year since this post was originally written, I have found a lot of peace with myself, through praying, reading, writing, and going to counseling--and even though it is still scary for me to publish this, I hope that by sharing some of my journey, I can help other women who struggle with this issue as I do.  

What I’ve Gained Since High School

Last night, I went to the baby shower of an old friend.  While I was getting ready, a nagging worry kept popping into my head: “What will everyone think when they see how much weight I’ve gained since high school?”  The familiar ache, dread, and embarrassment stung in my chest, as I picked out the longest sweater in my closest, an effort to hide what cannot be hidden.

See, I’ve gained a lot of weight since high school.  Sixty pounds to be exact.  Sixty pounds that weigh on my heart and my mind like a ton.  I am always aware of it, always worrying about it.  Now that I live in my hometown again, I worry about whom I will run into who knew me in my former life—my “skinny life”—and what they will think when they see me.

“Man, she’s really let herself go!”  
“Wow, she has gained a lot of weight.”
“I never thought that Rachel would let herself get fat.”

Just thinking about it makes me want to cry.

Though I am a very open person, this is not something that I often talk about.  I have never blogged about it, and I honestly can’t believe I am blogging about it now.  It’s one thing to blog about my struggle with infertility, which is not my fault and everyone knows that.  It’s another thing to blog about my struggle with weight gain.  It feels like such a personal failure, and somehow I think, “Maybe if I don’t say anything, no one will notice.”

But how could they not notice?  Of course they notice.  

As human beings, we are always sizing each other up, comparing.  Who has gained and who has lost.  But I’ve been thinking today that while it’s easy to see when people have gained weight, it’s not so easy to see what else they have gained along the way. The most important gains and losses in life are not visible.  

And the more I thought about that, the more determined I became that I am done being ashamed of what I’ve gained in the last ten years.  Because I’ve gained a lot more than just sixty pounds.

     I gained a deep love and respect for persons with disabilities as I worked three summers at an Easter Seals camp in the mountains of Colorado.

     I gained a closer relationship with my Heavenly Father as I took care of my mother who was dying from breast cancer and then had to tell her goodbye.

     I gained a college degree in a field that I love.  During my five years as a teacher, I taught 600 teenagers how to read more critically and write more analytically.  I gained invaluable knowledge and skills that I will use for the rest of my life.

     I gained a husband whom I love more than anyone on the planet.  He makes me happy, and I make him happy, and he loves me unconditionally, +60 pounds and all.

     I gained immense gratitude for my family, my health, my opportunities, my warm shower, and my washing machine as I lived in an orphanage for persons with disabilities in El Salvador.  I gained relationships with the beautiful children there that have continued to bless my life as I’ve visited them almost every year since.

     I gained incredibly meaningful, life-long friendships--first in my college years at BYU and then in our dental school years in Buffalo, New York. 


     I gained strength, faith, and empathy as I endured years of fertility treatments and adoption disappointments.  And then--miraculously and mercifully--I gained a son.  A precious perfect little boy whom I waited for and hoped for and fought for.  

The most important gains and losses in life cannot be measured by your pants size or gauged by the quick glance of an outsider. And it is that knowledge that helps me realize that I don’t need to be embarrassed anymore. 

Because a number on the scale will never be able to quantify everything that I have gained since high school.


  1. I feel the same way...I have gained weight I don't like, but the vast majority of "what" I have gained is so much more defining than that darn number!

  2. I love this post. I still tear up even though I have read it multiple times over the past year when you were just considering posting it. Love you!

  3. I think you're beautiful on the outside and an inspiration to me and many others from the many things you've accomplished since high school.

  4. Thanks for this post Rachel. I think there are many people who are in similar situations 10+ years out of high school. I know I am. (In fact a few people have thought I was pregnant when I'm not. . . awkward!) Thank you for reminding us that there are SO many things that are more important that how much you weigh. Honestly, I think you are beautiful and perhaps even more healthy-looking that when we were in college. Losing weight without getting discouraged, giving up, or becoming preoccupied has been a challenge for me. Thanks letting us learn from your journey.

  5. Rachel,

    I am so glad to be part of what you have gained since high school, and you part of what I have gained. I love this perspective because it shows what really matters and how we should be measuring our lives. Love you.

  6. What a thoughtful and inspiring post. I struggle with things that I don't love about myself, and I like this reminder that there are things about me that have changed much for the better since high school.

    You are awesome.

  7. Beautiful post Rachel! I honestly feel like the years since I got married have been the hardest of my life! I have also experienced so much joy and been very blessed....but the real beauty and refinement of my life has come through devastating heart ache and coming to know the Savior. I think we all get to experience this refining process in our own way but I feel now more than ever that judging others is one of the most damaging things on this planet! Thank you for sharing!

  8. You don't know me, and I can't even remember how I happened upon your blog, but you will never know how timely and helpful this blog post was for me. I am much heavier than my teenage days, and much heavier than my identical twin sister who has been able to stay almost the same weight as our teenage days. I know people say things about because they have had the nerve to say it out loud. And I say and feel all of the same things you have felt and thought. Thank you for posting this. Thank you so much.

  9. Thank you so much for these comments, ladies!! It really means a lot to hear your words of support when I have posted something so personal! I am grateful for each of you!

  10. Reading your blog always makes me feel introspective and leaves me with a smile on my face. Thanks for opening yourself up to all of us, Rach!

    You have an absolutely amazing perspective on life, and I'm grateful that you shared it and made me think about what I should consider real "gains"!

    Much love to you!

  11. As I'm sitting here dieting (yet again), I loved this post! Thanks for having the guts to share.

  12. Hey Rachel, This is Alley! You posted on my blog about transitioning to being a stay at home mom a few weeks ago. I actually tried to email you and it ended up going to a girl in Australia! It was crazy because it showed that I sent it to your email address but it went to the email address rachelnielson instead of rachel.nielson. She actually emailed me back too and was really nice! Anyways, thank you so much for your comment. It was so nice to have a fellow teacher to relate with. You gave me some great advice, so thank you!

    I absolutely love this post. It is actually something I have thought about a lot lately. I read a quote a few months ago that has stuck in my mind and given me comfort. It says, "The scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That's it. It cannot measure beauty, talent, purpose, life force, possibility, strength, or love." That really made me stop and think about what I'm focusing on in my life. Do I obsess about my weight just because I can attach a number with it? What if I could get on a scale every morning that told me how kind I was or how much love I have...I think I would stop and focus on those things a lot more.

    Way to go gaining in so many ways in your life and for focusing on so many important things!

  13. You are awesome, sister. Great post.

  14. Beautiful post. You are hands down one of THE most amazing people in this world. You need to share this far and wide because I guarantee you there are plenty of people who need to hear this.


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