She Lost the Weight, But Self-Esteem Was More Complicated

Kim Westerman
by Kim Westerman
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She Lost the Weight, But Self-Esteem Was More Complicated

For Samantha Morrison, rock bottom was in 2009 when she was strolling through a mall in suburban Milwaukee and overheard two teenage boys making fun of her weight. “She’s your girlfriend,” one said to the other. “She’d be so much prettier if she were skinny,” his friend replied.

She was only 21 at the time, 5-foot-2 and 256 pounds, and she felt a rush of emotions: self-loathing, shame, anxiety about her health and, spurred by the boys’ mockery, a determination to lose weight and feel better about herself. That, she figured, would be the cure-all for her esteem issues.

If only it had worked out that way. Morrison, like many people, was more interested in the fast track to her target weight. She tried fad diets that included shakes, pre-purchased foods, SlimFast, Atkins, meal replacements, pills, Paleo and other shortcut approaches that promised success. But none were sustainable for her, and for various reasons, she couldn’t make any of them stick. She stopped trying to diet when she got pregnant with her first child, and her focus shifted to growing a baby, but resumed again in the fall of 2010.


At the time, she hosted regular dinner parties for friends, and one of the women told her about a colleague who was using MyFitnessPal and had lost about 20 pounds. Morrison was intrigued and decided to check it out. One evening, after her guests left, she stayed up most of the night reading the forums — especially the success stories. As she recalls, her big takeaway was that she needed to start recording and calculating how much she was exercising and how much she should be eating. She bought a food scale and promised herself she wasn’t going to stop until she hit 127 pounds.

“It was really eye-opening to see how much food I was consuming at the time and how actually weighing my food resulted in different portion sizes,” she explains. “For the first week, I didn’t change anything. I just weighed everything I consumed and logged it.”

Once she became familiar with the optimal portion size for her goals, she decided she was going to eat at her maintenance level for a few weeks to really get acclimated to eating less. “I didn’t want a huge shock to my system, so it was helpful for me to do this slowly,” she says. “I also promised myself that, in parking lots, I would always park in the most distant spot and would take the stairs as much as I could.”

She began cutting her caloric intake slowly: 5% became 10%, then 15, then 20. In essence, she’d given up the fast-track approach and figured once she’d hit her goal, her self-esteem would kick right in. But by the time she made her target weight in 2013, she was shocked to realize she didn’t automatically love herself and her new body.

Even after she began losing weight, Morrison didn’t view herself with affection. When she looked in the mirror, her body just looked “saggy” to her and her skin had “lots of ugly marks.”  “Unfortunately,” she says,  “I neglected to appreciate the way my body revealed my journey —  where I was and how far I had come.”

“Learning to love myself at face value isn’t dependent on my relationship with gravity.”

It took a lot of reflection for her to realize she needed to love herself for who she was and not how her body looked. When she was able to do this, she began to feel radiant: “My body shows perseverance, determination and strength,” she says, “and while it doesn’t look like the the body most people in the magazines have, it is my own. I love my body because I’ve decided it’s good enough.”

Today, Morrison fluctuates between 130 and 133 pounds. Since her MyFitnessPal journey began, she’s had a second child, and while she only gained 19 pounds during that pregnancy, she was able to lose it quickly by maintaining her rituals around weighing and logging her food.

She recently added strength training to her exercise routine, and she’s just gotten the best lab results from her routine blood work in years. Despite the fact that she was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2014, her cholesterol and triglyceride numbers have improved, too.

An added bonus are the many friends and mentors she’s made along the way, some who’ve supported her through challenging times, and others to whom she offers support. She tries to help people understand that our bodies don’t define us, and she encourages those struggling with weight loss and body image to divorce themselves from society’s unrealistic beauty standards, not to embrace them as ideals, but to define health and beauty for themselves.

“Learning to love myself at face value isn’t dependent on my relationship with gravity,” she says. “It’s accepting my body for what it is, what it looks like and how far it’s taken me thus far. That has to be the most challenging aspect of all of this, not the physical part, but the mental piece.”

The next milestone is 30, which is just around the bend.

“I want to be strong, I want to be healthy, and  I want to be happy with myself,” she says. “I’m excited to see where this vessel known as my body takes me and how far I can push it.”

About the Author

Kim Westerman
Kim Westerman

Kim Westerman is a freelance travel, food, coffee and wine writer and a longtime writing teacher with an interest in mindfulness and contemplative studies. She lives with her wife and two young children in Berkeley, California.


14 responses to “She Lost the Weight, But Self-Esteem Was More Complicated”

  1. Avatar Ann A says:

    What a beautiful perspective! I went from 190lbs to 130lbs and my saggy cellulite skin is a reflection of this as well. For me my weight and food were a symbol of a bigger problem, I have an obsessive mind and it took me understanding that for me to accept my body. #thankfulfor12stepfellowship #thankfulforrecovery #youare beautiful

    • Avatar Samantha Morrison says:

      Congratulations on your weight loss and journey! Overcoming the barriers we place upon ourselves is often the hardest part about it. Happy for and proud of you for getting there. (:

  2. Avatar Kastiel says:

    It’s a wonderful story! Most of us can relate to the struggle to change the way we see and think about ourselves. However, I don’t care for the blogger’s implication that MFP & calories in/calories out is the magic bullet for everyone. I’m doing keto, or LCHF, and have been living it for going on 3 years. Now 97 pounds lighter, I feel pretty good about myself. There are physical flaws and evidence of my past obesity, to be sure. But the self-loathing I lived with for decades is past, finally. MFP was an extraordinary tool in tracking my intake and activity, but I can’t credit all my success to it. And once you’re past menopause, nothing is a fast track! I had tried most of the popular diets, keeping away from extremes like liquid diets and such. I failed every time because I was hungry! After a lot of research, and knowing my likes and dislikes, I started on Atkins. It wasn’t long before I found other versions which I preferred to strict, old school Atkins or the current, too lenient net carb version. I gained weight on Weight Watchers; I can’t do net carbs. I’ve come to understand my body, what works and what doesn’t work for me. That was my magic bullet. Weight loss may be a different journey for different body types or different mindsets, but if we reach the same destination–improved health, happiness with ourselves, being comfortable in our own skin, to name just a few benefits–we are successful.

  3. Avatar late2theparty says:

    What an inspiring story! I am sorry those bullies were so cruel but truly admire Samantha’s ability to overcome the negativity (from them and from herself). Thanks for sharing such a personal journey with us – and wishing a great milestone birthday. Life really does improve after 30!

    • Avatar Samantha Morrison says:

      With the emphasis society places upon “external beauty,” it was never really that surprising to me that people would have comments about the way I look; however, hearing them said out loud by someone other than me (we can, after all, be incredibly cruel to ourselves, can’t we?) was hard. But, in the end, I could overcome the barriers of weight… it takes a lot more effort to overcome a less than positive nature. It’s a lot easier to be mean than it is to be kind – hopefully they took the time to address this and never endure weight/self-esteem issues themselves. Turned 30 on the 20th and so far, loving it! It feels good to be in the elite club! Thank you so much for your kind words (:

  4. Avatar lupa08 says:

    “I neglected to appreciate the way my body revealed my journey — where I was and how far I had come.” Beautifully said and exactly the level of insight I can aspire to. Although since I am at the exact same height-weight ratio where Samantha was in 2009, I wouldn’t mind finding myself at a 130 lb. either, lol. And I am happy to see that, though the route to self-acceptance was roundabout, the destination was reached at last. Congratulations, Samantha!

  5. Avatar Cass_m says:

    Hope your metabolic health journey continues to improve as well. Husband was on the edge of needing cholesterol meds over a decade ago. He lost weight and has dodged the prescription so far.

  6. Avatar Felecia says:

    This article is like a breath of fresh air to me this morning. I’m not sure why after all of this time I am having a mental battle with my journey. I’ve been writing in my journal about my “new” struggle and don’t seem to have a resolution as to why at this stage it’s become difficult. This article just radiated with me. Thank you!!

  7. Avatar Debbie Donohue says:

    Sometimes its what you DON’T what to be that is as big a motivation as what you DO want to be. Great story and good luck.

  8. Avatar Nancy J. Hall says:

    I can relate to this. It took me a long time to learn how to love my new body. My main problem was I was still seeing myself as I was when I was at over 200lbs. I, now, look at myself, everyday, so that I can see who I am, now, and embrace the new body that I have. Loving my body has even helped me to be able to monitor how I eat. I see that in order to keep what I have, I have to change how I eat, what I eat and when I eat. There is so much that I have had to learn about being in this new body. I actually am enjoying the new me!

  9. The mental battle seems to be even harder than the physical one. I have struggled to not see myself as the big girl for a long time. After losing 50+ pounds twice I still feel like I pick myself apart and am really trying to accept my flaws and love me for me. To know that giving birth has stretched out my stomach and changed things but its okay to not be perfect.

  10. Avatar disqus_jB3QMnzUB7 says:

    I lost a lot of weight in my late teens, and even though I’d gone down to a size 4, I still always felt like the fattest person in the room. I felt like the ground shook when I walked and that even at 112 pounds, I looked like a big fat moose in a size 4 dress. Once you decide you’re fat and unattractive, it’s nearly impossible to get past that, especially if that terrible opinion has been “verified” by other people.

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