Even to my ignorant and naive younger self, it was apparent that I was bigger than all the other little girls. It didn’t help that the height I received from both of my parents made me the elementary school equivalent of the Jolly Green Giant. I didn’t think too much of it. I was smart and the teachers loved me, and that’s what made you hot stuff back then.

I switched schools in fifth grade, about the time that skinny jeans were happening. It was just like me to become friends with the girls whose legs were about the circumference of my fist. I don’t recall exactly my first time putting on the tight pants, but I can imagine that the self-loathing (a generally new feeling at that time) was alive and well. I took notice of how my friends’ jeans were loose and cute on their small bodies. Meanwhile, my thighs got rashes from waging wars rubbing against each other.

Eventually, I lost my childhood pudge, although, I realize now that I never really stopped thinking of myself as the Big One. It is how I first saw myself, and it never disappeared completely from my mind. Whenever I look in the mirror, I still see the sturdy little Alyson that I thought I’d left behind. That obviously has its consequences (that’s another story), but I believe that starting out heavier has helped me to become more ambitious, and at a faster rate. I was never the cute girl in my young friend group; I was always picking at a splinter of self-doubt. It’s remembering how that splinter felt that makes me want to work harder until another bit of the curtain is drawn back and I can see the person I have worked hard to build. That person remembers less and less of those burning comments that can stain your consciousness. Instead, she gets up and gets dressed—without crying.

I will always be a chubby kid at heart. ♦