Life with the Girls

Waging Peace

After enduring merciless teasing about the size of her chest from classmates while she was growing up, Karla Walsh went to war against her own body. In this month’s ” Life with the Girls,” find out how she eventually brokered a ceasefire.line

Karla Walsh in a much better place with her body

Back in 1999, certain things in my seventh grade-life were welcome in super-sized packages: Boy Meets World episodes. Jelly Roll pens. Packs of Gushers.

But not my breasts.

As a self-conscious, early-to-puberty tween, I would have done anything to hit “pause” on the growth of my genetically well-endowed breasts—especially once a particular phys ed class filled with jumping jacks earned me the nickname “Big Tit Karla” (or BTK if you needed to save time). In fact, I tried to do many things to minimize myself, from doubling up on sports bras to wearing baggy clothes to slouching my shoulders to back-pain-inducing levels.

I felt so awkward about my chest that I wouldn’t even mention it to my own mother. Instead, on my way to declaring all-out war on my breasts, I decided to enlist in boot camp. As a Type-A perfectionist problem solver, I knew I could “fix” things and prove those classmates wrong, that I amounted to more than the sum of my parts.

The mission: Lose weight to lose breast size…and hopefully, along the way, gain acceptance from myself and my peers.

Turns out I can be damn good at things I set my mind to.

It started with one-mile jogs around the neighborhood, then I added 30-minute elliptical sessions and 30-minute rounds of weightlifting. Soon, those Gushers, my chicken nugget habit and other high-calorie, high-fat foods were given their marching orders. More exercise. Less food. Repeat. And one day, 180-pound me had somehow done a magical disappearing act. I looked down at the scale read-out: 94 pounds.

At that very moment, I felt scared. In control yet out of control. And as heartbreaking as it seems admitting it today, I can’t lie: I did feel a twinge of pride. Those DDs were now AAs, and my classmates sure couldn’t taunt me about that anymore.

But there was a lot of collateral damage I was far from proud of. My parents were at their wits’ end with me—we’d attempted to negotiate through peace talks with dietitians, psychiatrists, physicians and more to inspire me to declare a ceasefire and take a break from this Anorexic War.

Along with my body size, my energy level and any positivity I once possessed just tanked. Unlike silly fruit snack-munching Karla 1.0, Karla 2.0 was a shivering, skeletal and selfish human whose main goal was to make it through the day eating a little less than the day before (but do so while maintaining a 4.0 GPA and keeping up appearances, naturally). Everyone was afraid to talk to me, from my sisters to my friends, and honestly, I was afraid of what was going to happen next.

“I was able to rewrite the script and think of my body as an ally”

So I called in reinforcements. After a heart-to-heart with my Dad, who promised he and my Mom would send me to an inpatient treatment facility if I lost another pound, I inched my way toward accepting my psychiatrist as my battle partner. Very, very slowly, the number on the scale started to climb back up, but more importantly, the territory of my brain was no longer invaded by calorie tallies. I was able to rewrite the script and think of my body as an ally, food as a source of joy, exercise as a gift rather than a punishment.

After a more than decade-long recovery mission, complete with a few backslides and far more stretch marks, my brain and my body have declared a truce. Some days are more peaceful than others. Unlike nearly 20 years ago, though, I admire my chest as one of the many parts of the strong, whole me. Karla 3.0 has retired her battle uniform and exchanged it for flattering tops, fitted blazers and curve-hugging jeans. Super-sized or average, bouncy or perky, my girls are part of the greater me.

I like her strength, and I love living in a post-war world.

Life with the Girls

Table for One

Food writer Karla Walsh has never been interested in settling for the first menu option. So despite all her friends pairing off around her, right now she’s toasting to her own companionship. Find out what it took to get there in this month’s “Life with the Girls.”


Author Karla Walsh.

As a ‘retired’ restaurant reviewer, I often find myself relating aspects of my life to the world of food.

Take relationships. The metaphor I give friends who have already reached #couplegoals status is that the best partnerships are akin to a bag of Starburst. You and your plus-one shouldn’t be identical (a duo of Kit-Kat or Twix), nor should you come from opposite ends of the candy aisle (say, a Sour Patch Kid with a Peppermint Patty). Ideally, you have the same essential make-up, but maybe your partner is a yellow, and you’re a red. You complement each other. (Just try a red and yellow Starburst in one mouthful and convince me that combo isn’t magical.)

Author Karla Walsh.

At 32 and single in Iowa, where nearly everyone pairs off and settles down within a few years post-college, I appear to some as an ice cream cone melting in the scorching summer heat. In fact, Iowa ranks 5th out of 50 for states with the most marrieds.

“Your clock is ticking, Karla!” I hear on occasion.

“What are you, an ice queen or something?” I imagine others thinking when I show up solo once again at a couples’ outing.

But my relationship with myself has been such a priority over the last 15 years that a partnership with another person simply hasn’t been possible. At 16, I decided that my 180-pound body, DD breasts and size 12 clothes simply wouldn’t do. A year later, I had whittled myself down to 94 pounds, AA breasts and 00 (or smaller) apparel. I spent the next decade conquering an up-and-down battle with anorexia, making peace with myself, learning to love me for—not in spite of—my quirks, my sass, my well-endowed chest, my stretch marks.