They say that your reflection in the mirror is not what others see when they look at you. I'm a witness that this is very true. My name is Tabitha. Yes, I know that people of a certain age will think of the daughter of the most famous witch on television. However, I was actually named after the woman in the Bible.
I had always been chubby. When I was a little girl and ate chips, cookies, cakes, and pizza nonstop, everyone thought that I was cute and that it was just a phase. However, as I got older and puberty hit, my parents became more concerned as I outgrew my clothes at a rapid pace.
When I got to middle school, the other girls were all different sizes and shapes. Everyone seemed self conscious about their looks except a precious few. One of the few became my absolute best friend. Zoe was in my art class, and because both of us loved art and our work was always being pointed out as the example everyone else should follow, we hit it off. Zoe was average height like me but was very slender. She moved like a graceful swan because of the years she took ballet. Zoe seemed to take her beauty in stride and was never self conscious like I was.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where your physical appearance greatly affects your esteem, as well as your social life. Living in the age of the selfie and social media can take an even bigger hit on your self esteem. At school, when I would go to the bathroom, other girls were staring at themselves in the mirror. They would be either fixing their hair or applying another coat of lip gloss. I was careful to avoid my reflection. I would get literal panic attacks when my friends would suggest a group picture or a selfie. I loathed the way I looked in photos and in mirrors. The funny thing about my harsh criticism of my looks is that no one else seemed to care what I looked like.
One winter I decided to do something about my weight. I can remember it clearly because it was a beautiful snowy day in January and the snow fell steadily, nonstop, like a frosted waterfall. Staring out the window, I watched my little brother, father, and mother, effortlessly make snow angels in the soft snow. The three of them were slim, fit, and full of energy. I decided to do some research online on different weight loss programs. After perusing websites and reviews, I found the one that was right for me.
That evening as we sat down for dinner, I stunned my family. I filled half my plate with green salad, a fourth with grilled chicken, and a fourth with a wheat roll. I cut out all the junk food that I once thought I couldn't live without. I monitored my portion control like crazy. I then did something that totally shocked my family. I began an exercise regiment that I diligently stuck with throughout my journey.
In the first month of this new way of fitness, when I stepped on the scale, I had lost ten pounds. I was elated and could hardly believe it. When I glanced at my reflection in the mirror, there didn't seem to be any change. Even though I was disappointed, I just told myself that it would take some time before I saw results. I was very encouraged by my initial success and stuck with the program.
By the fifth month mark, I had lost a total of twenty-three pounds. My clothes were much looser than they had ever been, pretty much corroborating what the scale was telling me. When I looked in the mirror, however, there was no change whatsoever. I found this very strange, but I said nothing to anyone.
As the months rolled on, the weight appeared to drop from my shrinking frame. I say "appeared" because, even though the scale was going down, my clothes were getting too big, and people were commenting on my weight loss, my reflection remained the same. I was puzzled by this very strange dichotomy.
The one year anniversary of my fitness journey arrived and I had lost a total of eighty pounds. I stepped on the scale and couldn't believe that I had reached my goal weight. My parents and little brother were ecstatic. Zoe wanted to celebrate by taking me to the mall to buy some new outfits. "Wow Tabby, you look great!," she gushed. Zoe and I were now the exact same size.
Holding the numerous bags filled with gorgeous clothes, we made a pit stop to the bathroom. While Zoe was brushing her long dark wavy hair before securing it into a high bun, I glanced at both of our reflections in the mirror. To my horror, Zoe's reflection showed a beautiful slim girl. My reflection showed an obese girl with an angry look on her face. The reflection had on the same outfit that I was wearing, but in a much larger size. I stood there dumbstruck, as my eyes blinked several times. Zoe, noticing me staring at myself, joked, "What's wrong with you? Why are you just staring at yourself with that strange look on your face?"
I looked at Zoe and then back at our reflections. Her reflection showed her as she was at the present. My reflection showed me as I was in the past. Still stunned, I could barely speak. "Don't you see?" I inquired. "See what?" she responded. Realizing she wasn't seeing the reflection of myself that I was seeing, I decided to keep my mouth shut. "Nothing," I mumbled.
As summer approached and the sun warmed the weather consistently, everyone was waiting for the school year to end. I was still losing weight, but my reflection remained obese. I was very careful to avoid mirrors as much as I could.
One day Zoe announced to me during art class that her family had rented a beach house and they were allowing her to bring a friend along. "Does this mean I'm invited?" I asked grinning until my face hurt. "What do you think?" Zoe shot back while rolling her eyes.
When the time came for the trip, I eagerly packed my bags. An assortment of clothes in small sizes and styles that I hadn't dared to wear before, were carefully packed in my bags. I was so excited about the trip and having fun, that I momentarily forgot about my distorted reflection. The thought put a damper on my enthusiasm like a wet blanket on a fire. I wondered why my reflection stayed the same. Was I losing my mind? Was the weight loss an illusion? What in the world was going on? I pushed the thoughts from my mind when I heard the doorbell ring. I grabbed my suitcases, ran down the stairs, kissed my parents goodbye, and headed out the door.
The drive to the beach house was long. Zoe and I slept the last half of the way after talking nonstop the first half of the trip. We arrived at the beautiful spacious beach house just before dinner. A cool breeze wafted through the window of the opulent twin bedroom that I was sharing with Zoe. I laid out my carefully coordinated outfit to wear to dinner. The white shorts, navy paisley halter top, and white sandals were from the trip to the mall, and were my favorite ensemble.
As I put on the clothes after my shower, I timidly walked toward the mirror. The reflection showed an obese girl with shorts that were too tight and a halter top that did not flatter her. The reflection had a scowl on her face. She no longer mirrored my movements. Fear gripped my soul as her plump clammy hand reached out from the mirror and clutched my shoulders. Her ragged nails dug deep into my flesh. She shrieked at me, as hostility emanated from her voice.
"You only see my worth now that you're slim! You are looking for me to give you the validation everyone else has, now that you feel worthy!”
I was speechless as she continued berating me.
"You never once looked at me as a person worthy of love! You averted your eyes from my image every chance you got! I won't give you the satisfaction of liking your image now!”
The pain in her voice echoed in my ears. She then let out a horrifying scream as tears poured down her angry face. In that moment, Zoe and her mom rushed in as I laid on the bathroom floor, huddled in a fetal position and unleashing a crying jag like they had never seen. Zoe's mom quickly grabbed a towel, wetted it, and wiped my face. Zoe held me in her arms for a moment, assuring me that everything would be alright.
When I had calmed down, and Zoe's mom had gone to the kitchen to get me a bottle of water, my emotions had subsided considerably. I began to feel peaceful. It was a peace that I had not felt in a long time. As both of them helped me up off the floor, I told them I needed a moment alone. After they shut the door to the bathroom, I slowly lifted my face toward my reflection. The image looking back was a beautiful slim girl, smiling peacefully back at me.