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My Map – To a Body and a New Life

HOST INTRO: We all have parts of our lives that we want to forget–bad relationships, embarrassing moments, uncomfortable experiences. But as Meg Dalton has learned, sometimes it’s important that we remember.

When I look at my stomach, I see a map – routes made up of stretch marks from a time when I was much heavier–close to 100 lbs heavier. Each mark…takes me to a different memory.

The 5-inch long one curving along my belly button? That takes me back to my high school cafeteria where I sat, alone, every day, head buried in a Harry Potter book. The short, pink ones speckling the small of back? Those lead to my bedroom where I would stuff candy wrappers in a box under my bed so my parents wouldn’t realize I was binge-eating again. And the stripes, like lightning bolts, marking my hips? Those pull me into the Old Navy dressing room where I struggled to squeeze into a pair of size-22 jeans.

Growing up, I was never a small kid. But my weight ballooned to 267 lbs during my sophomore year of high school. And that meant my skin stretched to its limits.

Deep, jagged stretch marks carved themselves into my skin. They looked like tiger stripes. And… they were everywhere — up and down my torso, running along the sides of my body, sprinkled on my inner thighs. Those discolored scars, some a blush of purple or faded red, others semi-translucent.

When I commited to lose the weight, I lost it pretty fast. Most of it between my junior and senior years of college. I started walking everywhere–around the hilly campus, to my internship in a neighboring town, to my part-time job down the street. I also took control of my eating habits. I became a vegetarian. I discovered Trader Joe’s, an affordable and relatively healthy option. And I started buying my own groceries for the first time in my life.

The stretch marks didn’t bother me as much when I was fat. But when I lost the weight, they tormented me. I looked at them every single day. And they told me awful stories. That I was damaged goods. That I was worthless. That I could never be loved. The same stories my brain told me when I was fat. [pause] I lost pounds. But not the weight of growing up in a culture that told me I was lazy and repulsive and wrong.

I needed to erase the stretch marks, to the destroy the evidence of a life I wanted to forget. I bought all sorts of creams and lotions–shea butter, cocoa butter, collagen, you name it, I tried it. When those didn’t work, I took my efforts online. My research told me that laser treatment was the only permanent option. But it wasn’t – not for me and my empty wallet. There was nothing I could do. [long pause] Except, maybe, learn how to live with my stretch marks. [long pause]

Today, they’re lighter and smoother. I still look at them every day. I don’t think they’re beautiful. And I don’t have to–ever. My stretch marks still tell me stories. But they’re stories of how far I’ve come. Embracing them is a daily struggle. But I remind myself they’re souvenirs. From a long, painful and complex journey. [pause] And then I tell myself: I’ve earned my stripes.

OUTRO: You can find Meg Dalton roaming the aisles of Trader Joe’s in the Upper West Side.


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