To Fat and Back: How I Got There

Fat. F-A-T. I used to be it. Now I’m not. There are many people who find this term offensive, and might want to tell me I just said something vulgar. In my case, it’s just the truth. I wasn’t almost 200 lbs because I was so muscular, I weighed that much because my body was covered in fat. So I was fat.

Want to see how I got to there?

Here I am at 16 years old. Wasn’t I precious?


Looking back on these pictures of my weight change I realize why I always had a boyfriend in high school and never had them in college.


This was the time when my sister and I looked more alike than we ever have. I wonder if we went to this church dance attempting to look like twins?


High School Me: “That Wife Jenna, take that picture down right now! How awful to be seen in our swimsuit.”

That Wife Me: “High School Jenna, we have never looked so good!”


Now you understand where I started from. Somehwere around 140 lbs, thin (for me) and muscular from years of sports and dancing. I started college and it didn’t take long for me to lose control. In April of 2004 I still looked good but you can see I started to get a little bit of a belly.


One thing that you usually don’t think about in relation to gaining weight is that you don’t take pictures as often. If you aren’t happy with your body you aren’t going to be jumping in front of the camera every chance you get. So I find that there are huge gaps in the pictures I have of myself, and the changes in my body end up looking incredibly drastic. I look at the pictures now and wonder how I could have missed preventing such a huge change in my body.

The picture above was taken in April 2004, the picture below in December. Only 8 months to get to this point.


This is my 20th birthday party, April 2005. I can’t stop scrolling between the picture of me in April 2004 where I look healthy and happy wearing white and yellow (two colors that disappeared from my wardrobe for several years), and this one where I look almost unrecognizable.


3 months after my 80’s themed 20th birthday party I moved into an apartment in the same complex as That Husband. We weren’t just neighbors, we were next door neighbors. If you walked out of my door, took a left, and knocked on the next door you would have met my cute and slightly nerdy future husband.

People often ask what took us so long to meet. Why didn’t we start spending all of our time together in July of 2005 instead of January of 2007? Truthfully, it’s because I looked like this. One of the things I love most about my relationship with That Husband is our ability to be honest about touchy subjects. We both acknowledge that I was so heavy at this point that he never would have been interested in me. If our roles were reversed and he were 50 lbs heavier than he is now I probably wouldn’t have been interested in him either. It sounds harsh, but it’s simply the rules of attraction. If I hadn’t lost all this weight, we could have become friends, but we would never be married.

2005-10 (3)

In October of 2005 I dressed as Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween. I wandered around at the big Halloween party at the house next door for a little bit, but then I just came back up and watched a movie. I wasn’t happy with who I was and it showed.


While I was upstairs sulking my roommates were wandering around dresses like cute little fairies. On the right you can see my roommate Megan, and on the left is my future husband! Why didn’t I dress up like a fairy with them and take a picture with that hot guy dressed as Zorro!??!


By this time I was medically considered obese, falling behind in school, and unhappy. I was leading a really social life and participating in loads of activities, but I was also spending lots of time talking using the free counseling program that BYU provides. I started taking Prozac and I started scheduling regular appointments with my bishop (church leader). One day he recommended a psychiatrist to me, unlike my couseling through BYU I would have to pay for her, but said she had been very successful with cases like mine in the past.

I went, and I told her what was on my mind. She paused, and then handed me a  book that changed my life…


Oh, did you not realize this was a multi-part story? I’m leaving you in suspense over the weekend concerning what the book was. Any guesses?

57 thoughts on “To Fat and Back: How I Got There

  1. you know, it just shows how strong you are… to have gone from a a perfect way, up, then back down all in a 4 year period…. i mean.. it takes most people alot longer to get things back in control… you are pretty inspirational! right now, i wish i could get back to my 2004 weight, lol, both that’s not gonna happen.. so 10 lbs, please. 🙂 good post!

    Jenna Reply:

    The one thing I have had to accept is that without a lot more work than I am willing to do I am not going to look like I did in the top 4 pictures. I am only 10 or so lbs away from where I was when I entered college but my body looks really different. They are like my battle wounds.

    Debra Reply:

    Jenna, I’ve avidly followed you from your weddingbee posts. I’m only delurking now because I want to agree with so many of the other women who have said that they admire you for your honesty and dedication to discussing the hard topics. But as someone in the medical field, I want to remind you that the changes in your body shape and weight/muscle distribution may not have as much to do with your college weight gain as you think. Birth control will cause your weight to redistribute, as will the simple matter of growing into your womanhood. As an 18-year-old it looks like your body wasn’t in it’s full “woman” form yet. Your pelvis and other trademark female body parts will change shape and size regardless of whether you stay at the same weight or not, and that’s fine.

    I know very much how it feels to gain weight, knowing deep down inside that you are unhappy with they way you feel about your body, all the while deluding yourself on the outside that you look perfectly fine. My mother recently went from a BMI >30 to BMI 25, and she tells me that when she was heavier, she never thought that she was fat, but now that she has slimmed down and gotten in shape, she can’t imagine how she ever felt that way.

    On thing is for sure – your beautiful smile and personality are apparent in EVERY photo.

  2. Jenna, you must have great will power! It is amazing that you worked so hard to get back to your weight.
    I hope dancing on DDR with TH and eating healthy things will keep you in good form 🙂

  3. Is the book “When Food is Love”?

    Thought I’d throw out a guess!

    Jenna Reply:

    I’ve never heard of it. Some of the principles the book is based on sound similar to the one I was handed though.

  4. This post is especially meaningful to met…I was FAT all through high school. I think I gained 10-20 pounds a year. I didn’t do sports because I felt to heavy to do anything. It wasn’t until college that I took control of my eating away from Southern food/portion size and into my own hands. Since 2001, I’ve lost and kept off 45-50 lbs. I hesitate to show my husband pictures of when I was in HS because I am so unhappy with how I looked….and that no one, not even my parents, could tell me that I was unhealthy.

    Jenna Reply:

    YES! I was the exact same way! My mom tried to tell me over and over that it would be a good idea to lose weight but I didn’t realize what I looked like.

    It’s amazing because I only hear about people who think they look fatter than they are. I actually remember deluding myself into thinking I was thinner than I was. I didn’t think I was “thin” but I didn’t see there was a problem, you know?

    Instead of being ashamed of my fat pictures, I’m actually quite proud of them know. I’ve accomplished something that some people only talk and dream about. You should feel the same way! There are many people who were overweight in high school who never change, but you did. You deserve come recognition for that.

    Alison Reply:

    Thanks for the reply 🙂

    I knew there was a problem, but I had resolved to not care about “what other people think of me.”

    Also, while some people encouraged me to be healthier…many of my friends (to this day) insist that “oh, honey, you weren’t that bad–you were cute!” These are my size 6/8 friends who sometimes I want to smack for that statement.

    Jenna Reply:

    I definitely got the “It wasn’t that bad” from a few friends as well. What’s funny is that it is my mom, who I was barely on speaking terms with at the time because I was so frustrated by her hints that losing weight would be a good idea, who now does the best job of saying “Good job, you needed to lose the weight and you did.”

  5. I hate to say this but college happens. It change your habits in eating, exercising, and life. I really don’t think look at the pictures you were fat.

    Granted you saw a sitauation that you didn’t like and corrected it. How do you rectify it today? I noticed you showcase a lot of food (cakes – which are a dietary no no on a regular basis). Do you have a portion control policy?

    Jenna Reply:

    I have been featuring a lot of desserts lately haven’t I? I guess it’s time to start showing the healthy things we eat on a regular basis, rather than all treats all of the time!

  6. You know what, I think you looked cute as little red riding hood. And the love the camera has for you sure didn’t change with your weight, you look amazing in all your pictures.

    I don’t know if I should share this or not but basically the exact opposite happened to me in college. I was always fat really from the time I hit puberty (not a shock as my parents and grandparents are too, good farmer stock there) and while I was generally the same way I am now I never really loved myself the way everyone should. (thank god the dreaded fat wasn’t thought to be as bad as it was back in the late 90’s/early 00’s)

    Then in college I got sick, nothing too drastic but it was not a fun time (lots of chills, hot spots, vomiting). And because of it I lost weight, quite a bit of weight. I don’t really like to look at pictures back then because even though I was about a size 10 then I look like a bobble head. It’s painfully obvious that something did not look right with me but oh the compliments I got.

    And then the weight comes back, because I didn’t want to lose it (and it was incredibly annoying the number of people who suddenly ask you tips on how). Then instead of compliments you get derisivie comments from not nice people and probably the worst of all is you are now ignored. Suddenly you’re not as imporant as you were when you were smaller. It makes no bloody sense and makes me want to scream sometimes.

    I don’t know why people treat weight as the one thing you can always comment on. Why are appearances, especially in women, considered something anyone can comment on?

    It looks like you gained weight above your natural bodies set point and feel better for losing it and going back. So you are considered a success story.

    I lost weight below my natural set point and I gained it back so I am a failure, and that fact makes me very sad. Not for me but for society in general.

    Cécy Reply:

    Your story is interesting and has a lot to do with the criteria of beauty forced upon us by the current society.
    I think more than the actual weight, what matters is what and how you feel happy, how you feel yourself. And if some people around you criticize then for one thing they don’t know you well enough and for seconds they just don’t deserve to be in your life.
    I know how hard it is to ignore other people’s comments on yourself, but you have a pride of being who you are and making your own choices, don’t let them hurt you.

    Jenna Reply:

    I know you wrote a post about this, but I feel like the “set point” theory can be misinterpreted very easily. I do think that there are people who are naturally going to be rounder or have more padding than others, but I feel like some people use the “set point” idea as an excuse not to lose weight. They say “Well, I’m having a hard time losing weight so obviously my body wants to stay here.”

    But maybe the reason they aren’t losing weight is because they aren’t doing the right things to take it off?

    I believe in science. If your cholesterol is high, if your body fat is a certain percentage, if your BMI is in the red zone you need to take a step back and evaluate how healthy you really are. I was in denial about these things for a long time, but I’m glad I was able to see the changes I needed to make.

    I’m glad that you are feeling healthier now. Cecy is right, there is great importance in feeling comfortable in our own skin.

  7. I think I could the exact same with pictures of me over the last six years. In HS and the beginning of college I was incredibly thin… I danced constantly and was never sitting still. Move on to the “real world” and I sit at my desk all day long… Thankfully I’ve finally realized I need to make a change, not because of what others think, but because of how I feel. I’m interested to hear what the book is! I’m just three weeks in to what might be a life long committment, but I feel stronger already 🙂

    Jenna Reply:

    I’m always interested to hear what other people are committing to in order to change. What have you done?

  8. ooo! This sounds like it’s going to be very promising.
    I always find stories like these very encouraging because I was once in that position as well. It helps me remember that people can be in bad spots and make the best of it.
    I’m looking forward to the rest of this tale! 🙂

  9. Jenna, you need to be commended for having the strength to make such a major change in your life! Mr. MagPie lost about 40 pounds — mostly while I was away in grad school! — and while I thought he was quite the cutie beforehand, now he’s downright hot! 😉 I’m sure That Husband thinks simiarly of you!

    Jenna Reply:

    I can’t show him those high school pictures very often because he starts to salivate a little bit and it’s kind of creepy. 🙂 I know some women would feel offended and like their husband doesn’t accept them because he admits that he would like me to be thinner, but I alreayd know he accepts me. I look at photos of myself when we started dating, and photos of myself now, and I realize what a huge change I’ve made over that short amount of time. I realize that he does accept who I am, but we both can say “Let’s see if it can get even better.”

    So I’m working on becoming extra hot 🙂

  10. Jenna, I love this post. I think that sometimes the hardest part of losing weight and becoming healthy is admitting that you need to do so.

  11. Jenna,

    You are such a sweetheart, and I love how you’re tackling the sensitive topics on your blog. I can’t wait to find out what the book was!


  12. Wow, that 8 month change really was huge, if you’ll pardon the pun!

    What an amazing achievement, Jenna. You deserve every inch of your current fabulousness!

    I can’t wait to hear the rest of this story 🙂

  13. Jenna, thank you for sharing your story with such honesty. I don’t think it’s easy to look back on your past, in the parts you don’t like and look at it with honesty.
    I can’t even recognize you in the last picture. As for the path you took, I’m sure TH has even more pride in you to know what it took you to get where you are now.
    And maybe he didn’t look at you the same way back then, but even if he had, I doubt you would have allowed yourself the same place in his life just because you did not sound happy about yourself. It’s hard to let others love you when you don’t like who you are.
    No clue for the book, but I sure look forward to read the rest of the story.

  14. nothing wrong with admitting that attraction plays a part.

    one of my fav quotes:

    “looks get you in the door, personality keeps you in the house.”

    just the truth.

    but i do think you were glowing & gorgeous even at a heavier weight. you actually carry it quite well

    Jenna Reply:

    I love your honesty Kalen. People keep saying I looked really good when heavier, and I don’t believe them. But I believe you, because you aren’t afraid to say what you think in previous cases. So thanks.

  15. Aww, the little red riding hood costume is cute! 🙂 One thing that remains in all these pictures, no matter your weight, is your gorgeous smile! 😀

  16. I really love the last picture of you in the beret! You look so stylish!

    Thank you so much for sharing this post. Often people will say, “Yeah, I put on sooo much weight in college/overseas/similar”, and then when you see the pictures you can see that maybe they’re a bit chubbier, but that’s about it, and you go, “oh please! You put on maybe five kilos!” (I don’t work mentally in pounds, sorry!). But you did get big, and you’ve done something amazing and so full of will-power in getting back down to trim. I think you look even more beautiful now than in HS.

    Seriously, if you had the will-power for THIS, you have to be able to finish school! Go you!

  17. Hey Jenna- I’m delurking and I don’t often do that, but this post is totally worth it. I have gained a lot of weight recently and have literally stopped looking in mirrors and started dressing in sweatshirts. In the last four weeks a light blub has totally turned on in my head; I am so depressed and terribly anxious (and have been for probably a year). So earlier this week (after confirming my thoughts with a counslor), I decided to see a doctor about it and your post has really helped me; almost like someone confirming the little nagging voice in my head. Thanks Jenna for writing about this, you made my day a little easier.

  18. Wow Jenna! I certainly feel extraordinarily silly for complaining about my extra 20lbs or so.

    I agree with the other comments– I have not seen a photo of you (well, with the exception of you sleeping 🙂 ) that I didn’t think you looked anything short of spectacular in.

    I am excited for this series of posts– I have been wondering how you made such a change in such a short time. That takes some incredible willpower!

    I do have a question, but I do understand if you don’t want to answer it. You have mentioned that you’ve had breast reduction surgery. At what point did you have that done? If it was pre-weight gain, did you have to get it redone? Hm, well that was two questions, ha.

  19. I think it’s so nice to hear someone honestly talk about the part attraction plays in a relationship. I was like you- I always thought I was skinnier than I really was. Then I saw some pictures and thought “whoa!”. It wasn’t a big problem at the time, only about 15 pounds, but it happened quickly and on a short girl it adds up. I gain weight usually in my breasts and butt, so it was easy to say “yay, bigger breasts!” and ignore that fat roll that was fighting to stick out further than them, haha.

    I made my boyfriend promise to tell me if he noticed I was gaining weight, because seriously I can’t tell until it’s like 15 pounds or more, and by that time it’s so much harder. It’s always frustrating though, when you have less to lose but still definitely need to lose it, when people say “there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re not fat, you’re beautiful” That’s all well and good, but facts are facts, and when I can’t fit into my jeans and my stomach is making all my shirts too tight, um, sorry guys, yes I do need to lose weight. I don’t hate myself, but I need to lose weight.

    I honestly think that sometimes self esteem can be a bad thing and can keep you from admitting you need to change- “oh, it’s fine I gained 15 pounds, I look hot!” or “this is the way God made me, I’m just curvy!” etc. It’s like you said- some people take the set point weight too far and use it as an excuse.

  20. I agree that sometimes thinking that “this is the weight my body is comfortable with” can be a big excuse. I’d also like to add “it’s genetics.” Yes, I do think that can play a role, but I think often it’s just an excuse. It’s frustrating to see someone eat as if the rules don’t apply to them (wouldn’t we all love to eat whatever we wanted?) and then blame it on getting the “fat gene.”

    While I am thin (most of the time!), that doesn’t mean it’s EASY. I am conscious of what I eat at every meal and try not to go overboard on treats. Especially in our society, it’s DIFFICULT. Portions are out of control and there is so much processed food within easy reach. I give major credit to people who can lose alot of weight because it means shifting your attitude completely. It’s amazing to realize that even a kids meal at a fast food restaurant has too many calories and fat for an adult! We don’t stand a chance if we eat out all the time.

    Jenna Reply:

    I could not agree more. For the most part I say “If you think that you aren’t losing weight because it’s your body, you show me exactly what you are eating and I will tell you what needs to change.”

    Most people don’t want to hear that though. It’s easier to blame their weight on genetics or uncontrollabe external forces.

  21. Reading your post makes me SO thankful that I am so happy with who I am and proud of everything that I have accomplished. I have a great family, a wonderful husband, the best friends imaginable, almost have my Ph.D… and gaining or losing 50 pounds would never change that. I am so, so glad that I know this fact and have never let my weight depress me.

    Perhaps it is different for me because the weight gain was not my fault — the last time I was on chemotherapy, I gained 45 pounds. It was a miserable experience; I couldn’t keep down food, was vomiting all the time, and my weight skyrocketed and there was absolutely nothing I could do, as I was barely eating and was far too weak and sick to even consider working out. After so many times going on and off chemotherapy, my metabolism was officially shot for good, and I’ve never been able to lose the weight. Then, right before my wedding, I gained 35 pounds in 3 months because of my migraine medication. But, for the first time in memory, I wasn’t spending 2 days/week crying on the bathroom floor with migraines, and putting on the weight was absolutely worth it.

    I may have completely different opinion because I KNOW it is not my fault, but I have never (and would never) let my weight get in the way of my lifestyle — there are no colors I avoid in my closet, no activities in which I avoid participating, no misery over my weight, and I would never ever leave a social event early just because I am overweight. Hearing from someone who was so miserable makes me just so very thankful that I know I am more than just my appearance and my weight, and my friends, family, and husband will stick by my side whether I gain or lose an infinite amount of weight!

  22. Jenna, you’re awesome. I love your candid and honest look at your personal struggle with something so difficult and sensitive. And kudos to you for taking control of your life to become healthier and happier.

    Now, if you can do this, you can finish those miserable 19 credits! 🙂 Go Jenna!

  23. Your honesty is so amazing. I absolutely love this post Jenna. You were beautiful then, and you are beautiful now. You’re just an all around beautiful person. And I so love reading your blog and getting to know you better through it.

  24. Julie-
    It’s great that your weight has absolutely no effect on you. I think that given the circumstances it’s good that you cut yourself a break. Of course medicines tamper with our metabolism, chemotherapy is a nightmare on one’s body, these are all extenuating circumstances.

    HOWEVER, I don’t think that being upset you gained weight means you don’t have any self esteem. If anything, you love yourself enough to want to take care of yourself as much as you can. If you’re used to having firm muscles, looking a certain way, and having a certain amount of energy level, it does throw you for a loop when you gain weight. I think that the automatic assumption of “oh, how sad, you have low self esteem, that’s why you lost weight” is just a way of undercutting someone’s accomplishments- which boosted their self esteem- and implying somehow that a healthy person would have loved herself at any weight. You can love yourself and want to lose weight. I revel in taking care of my body, doing yoga, feeling my muscles work, and being grateful for the body I was given.

    *I’m* upset when I gain weight not because I think less of myself, but because I think so much of myself that I want to be a good steward of the body I’ve been given.

    Julie Reply:

    I never meant to imply that automatically gaining a few pounds means that you have zero self-esteem, and I’m sorry if it came out that way. If being unhappy motivates someone to lose weight and make a healthier lifestyle change, that is great! I also jut re-read my post, and am pretty sure I never said “oh, how sad, you have low self-esteem, that’s why you lost weight”… or any derivation of that.
    My comments were directed to Jenna’s statement that she went a party, left early, and sulked at home. There is nothing at all wrong with waking up in the morning, looking at yourself, and wishing you were thinner and taking action, BUT when you state that you leave parties early to go home and sulk, then it is implying that you are thinking less of yourself. There is a difference between working for change and hoping for a difference, and letting your weight directly affect your life and missing out on fun opportunities with friends. If you have true friends, gaining weight will NOT prevent those friendships — I’m sure Jenna’s friends still would have been happy to hang out with her at the party — and the decision to leave and mope on your own in my opinion means that you do not love yourself at that point in time, because you are putting your misery above wanting to socialize with friends who still like you for who you are.

  25. I can’t believe you’re leaving me in suspense. Weekends are when I catch up on all my blog reading… Now I have to find time before next weekend to find out what book it was! But no worries… I will succeed 🙂

  26. jenna bear – i read this when you posted it and I thought I commented, but I guess I didn’t. First of all. You’re amazing. You always have been and always will be. I love you oh so much! 2nd of all…You look awesome. I’m so proud of all the hard work you’ve put in. IT has definitely paid off! Fit day for life babe 🙂 xoxoxo

  27. This is something that so many women struggle with. It is great that you feel proud of your accomplishments. I definitely have beenthough ups and downs as well and know the emotional pain that is paired with feeling bad about how you look. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story!

  28. Ok I’m late to this (fashionably so??) but just had to say – babe, I hope part of this story is you telling us where this fountain of youth is that you’re drinking from ’cause you look just the same now as you did when you were 16. Skin so glowing! Hair so glossy!! Smile so radiant!!!

  29. Am I really the only one who raises an eyebrow about some of what you’ve said here? Jenna, I really appreciate your honesty – wow – you’ve been incredibly vulnerable and bold in sharing your story and struggle with the internet. Thanks for that. I am truly honored that you have opened your story up to relate and connect with other women.

    My concern is that your words of contempt seem wrapped up in your weight struggle, without addressing what feels like might be a deeper issue. Your husband might not have been attracted to you with the extra weight? You realize why you “always had a boyfriend in high school but never had a boyfriend in college”? I wonder why that feels like a defining factor in your happiness or wholeness, and if it was really about your weight at all?

    Jenna Reply:

    You know Julie, I have issue with the fact that you are suggesting that guys can’t admit that they aren’t attracted to girls who are overweight.

    You know what, they aren’t. The majority of guys won’t date a girl who is overweight. They won’t date a girl they don’t like to look at.

    Somehow, we as women need to both come to terms with this, AND accept who we are.

    I believe there are certain characteristics of the male and female gender that are inherent. Guys are visually stimulated, much more so than girls. It’s important that (the majority of the sex) be stimulated by what they see. I’m not afraid to admit that, and neither is That Husband.

    When all of my old boyfriends left on their missions I was at my “freshman” weight. Then when then returned I was my heaviest. And not one of them even acted interested in the least, even though we had written back and forth for almost 2 years. Why? Because I wasn’t attractive anymore. I think it’s okay for women to say they aren’t attractive when they are overweight.

    And yes, there are underlying issues, but you know, sometimes you just can’t discuss those on such a public blog.

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  31. It’s funny, but I’ve sort of had the opposite experience from you. I gained a lot of weight in high school, starting off as a cheerleader, but then quiting senior year becasue I was so ashamed of how big I had gotten. In college I started running and managed to lose the 40 pounds I had gained.

    My last year in college, I met and fell in love with a guy and we moved in together. I was working, not running and overeating and in just a year and a half, I had gained back all the weight I lost in college. I was pissed, but just didn’t seem able to break the habits that had led me to pack on the pounds again.

    Then, a funny thing happened, my boyfriend told me he found me more attractive with the extra weight and that it was perfectly fine with him if I continued to gain. He alays encouraged me to eat what I wanted, but this was both a surprise and a relief.

    I admit that I am a foodie and love to cook, eat and eat out, so I was happy not to have to worry about dieting. Of course, with that pressure removed, my weight has absolutely ballooned, particularly after we got married 8 years ago. I am admitedly obese, but happy. the odd thing is that most guys we know seem to appreciate my fun-loving personality (I don’t know if they all appreciate my figure), but it’s the women who seem to llok down on me and make snide comments.

    Jenna Reply:

    THank you for your comment Angie. I think what you say is really true, and I’m ashamed to admit that this is something I struggle with as well. You would think that gaining a lot of weight would give me more empathy, but unfortunately it has often given me the attitude of “If I can do it, so can you.” I appreciate comments like yours because they help me to take a step back and change my views and ideas for the better.

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