What is normal?

There’s a great book by a lady named Patsy Clairmont called “Normal is Just a Setting on Your Dryer” – I think everyone should read it. The descriptor on her web site for this book says:

Ever think you’re too tall? Too short? Too wide? Too narrow? (well it could happen) Too smart? Too, uh…unsmart? You get the picture. We all tend to compare ourselves with others. But have you heard the good news? Normal is just a setting on your dryer!

Patsy’s absolutely hilarious – but she’s lived a lot of life, and she’s a really wise woman. If you ever have the occasion to hear her speak – go! Definitely get her books and read them!

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about normal.

How important is normal? And in which areas of our lives? Should it alter the way I think of myself – in any respect – if I’m NOT normal in some way, shape, or form? Or should I rejoice because I’m not – in some other respects?

Funny how stepping on a scale can get your head to doing acrobatics.

Just a little more than 7 years ago I weighed 365 pounds at 5’2″ tall and had a BMI of 66. I was medically classified as super, super, super morbidly obese. (Cause having one super just isn’t enough – if you put extras, it makes you feel extra special. Really!)

(1 week post-op, in Villajoyosa, Spain on the Costa Blanca.)

For those of you who have been there – you know – SMO (that’s code for super morbidly obese) do you remembering wistfully wishing – NOT to be skinny or anything – but just NORMAL. To just blend in with the crowd? To NOT be the attention draw of the moment no matter where you went – simply due to your size?

I’ll never forget – about a year after my DS – John and I went to the Beaverton Farmer’s Market. It’s one of our favorite places to hang on a Saturday morning. We were walking down the aisle between some vendors. We each wanted to look at items on opposing sides of the aisle. We laughed, he said he’d go take a peek at his items of interest, I’d go look at mine – and then we’d meet up in the middle again. We went, we perused, and then I turned around. Just in time to see my beloved scanning the crowd looking for me. He looked right at me – but there was no glimmer of recognition. I laughed out loud – he heard the laugh – redirected his gaze, and then looked surprised. He said, “You just blended into the crowd.”

(August 2003)

How many years had I longed to do just that very thing?

Little victories come along the DS journey that much is to be sure!

So this past week I stumbled into a zone I’ve not ventured into – well, at least since I was younger than 6 years of age.

Apparently, I’m normal.

For the information you entered:  
Height: 5 feet, 2 inches
Weight: 132 pounds

Your BMI is 24.1, indicating your weight is in the Normal category for adults of your height.

Maintaining a healthy weight may reduce the risk of chronic diseases associated with overweight and obesity.


Weight Status

Below 18.5






30.0 and Above



When I had my DS Dr. Baltasar told me that a normal BMI for someone my age would place my weight at 135 pounds.

I laughed out loud.

I knew I would NEVER weigh 135 pounds. I have no memory of ever weighing 135 pounds. I remember in the 6th grade on that horrible day that came every year. You know, the one where they’d test your vision, measure how tall you were, and weigh you? Yeah – that one – the one where a whole boatload of Moms came to help. One would stand by the scale at the front of the classroom, the kid (me) would step onto the scale, the Mom would look a little perplexed – this kid doesn’t weigh the same as the previous kids – she had to figure out how to adjust the thing. It might take two – or even three! – Moms to figure out to get the scale to accurately reflect THIS kid’s weight. Once they all figured it out, Mom standing next to the scale would YELL across the room to Mom at the back of the room with the chart to record such information on, “Dina Courtney. Weight: 156 pounds.” The entire room would freeze. Every eye in the entire room (and some out in the hallway) would turn and STARE. And then I’d go home later on that day and shed the tears I’d held in all day long in the semi-privacy of my room.

135 pounds? Me?


So – on Tuesday, I think it was, when I stepped on the scale – out of habit mostly – I do every morning unless I’ve forgotten to take off my big, huge, herking night cast that I have to wear until March – and looked down and saw the numbers: 1 – 3 – 5.

I shook my head a little. Cobwebs of sleep were still definitely there. I stretched. I yawned. Then I stepped back on the scale and looked down. Still said 135.

I admit it. It took about five times of stepping off, stepping back on to get it to really register.

I weighed 135 pounds.

Yeah, me.

You’d think I’d jump for joy! Shout hallelujah! Do the happy dance!

But honestly – I kind of don’t know how to handle this thing emotionally.

(July 2, 2003 – 1 year post-op, down 175 pounds.)

I’m actually kind of going through some of those early post-op feelings about having noticeable weight loss. You know – the phase where people walk by you because they don’t recognize you. I got so MAD – here were people I’d known my whole life. I didn’t realize they didn’t recognize me – I just thought a whole bunch of folks I’d always loved and adored had suddenly gotten REALLY stuck up! It took me quite a while to figure out that people only had the OUTSIDE me to go on in terms of recognition. I think it was a number of encounters where I enthusiastically greeted someone, and they looked at me with the strangest look of confusion trying to figure out why they knew the voice and not the person standing before them that helped clue me in.

(April 10, 2007 – Jessica and I in Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain. 5 years post-op.)

One doozy of an example stands out in my mind. I’ve gone to the same church since I was 4 years old. It is home in ways that no other place on the planet is. It’s not the building, of course – it’s the people. People who have literally known me for virtually my entire life. People who have loved me through literal thick and thin. How cool is it that my children’s friends are the children of my friends from childhood? ANYWAY, there’s a particular contingent of little old ladies at church whom I have loved as long as I can remember. More and more of them have graduated to be with the Lord the past few years, but suffice it to say that these ladies loved me unconditionally and prayed for me when the answers prayed for were deemed impossible – only they knew to God impossible is not an option.

One of these wonderful little old ladies – named Peggy – had taken a particular point to stop me before I went to Spain for my DS and tell me that she felt that God had put it on her heart to pray for me specifically during my trip, surgery, recovery, and the restoration to come. She’d struggled with her weight for decades, and she – with tears in her eyes – said to me that Sunday morning, “I am just so proud of you, Dina. I know that God will be blessing you because of your commitment to following His leading in your life.” I still get choked up thinking about it.

Fast forward 5 years. Yep. I was 5 years post-op. I was at our local little grocery store where I’ve been shopping since I was just a pudgy girl in elementary school with my Grammy. Grammy was 92 about then, if memory serves. She loved to get out and drive and do a little shopping. But knowing what a truly horrible driver she was – we all quickly jumped for the opportunity to have the honor of driving her places alternatively. This was one such outing.

Grammy and I ran into Peggy over the cantaloupe on sale for some ridiculously low price. Grammy lit up and said, “Peggy! How nice to run into you!” They hugged, exclaimed how wonderful the other looked, and were genuinely thrilled to see one another. You’d never know they’d seen each other at Bible Study just the day before! J Peggy turned to me and said, “And you’re Dina. Right?”

I quickly wondered, “a little dementia setting in?!” And smiled and said, “Right. Dina McBride.”

She gave a little laugh and said, “Isn’t it a wonder that we would have two Dina McBrides in our church?!”

I looked at her and said, “Peggy. I’m the only Dina McBride at church.”

“Oh no,” she assured me. “There’s another one. You might know of her – she went to Spain for a wonderful surgery, and she heads up the VBS at church.”

“Peggy – that’s me.” I smiled gently.

She looked like she might have a stroke on the spot. “NO!” She exclaimed. “NO!”

I held her arm – a little worried she might indeed keel over. “Yes, that’s me, Peggy.”

“Oh MY!” She was clearly shocked. “I had no idea. I didn’t realize the transformation would be so utter and complete! Sweetheart!” She gave me a big old hug and kiss on the cheek. “Praise the Lord! Oh Father! Thank you!” We were having church, right there in the produce aisle, over the ridiculously low priced cantaloupe. She had tears in her eyes and said, “I’m so sorry – I kept praying. I just didn’t recognize that you were the same girl. But of course you are. Of course!”

Probably sort of my fault, too, of course. I’ve changed my hair color, length, style about fifty times since my DS! Well – and I was so stupidly insecure – I failed to approach and greet her – a woman who has loved me well the majority of my life! Poor thing. I think she nearly swooned! Ever since she’s gone out of her way at church to come over, grasp my hand, give it a good squeeze, and kiss my cheek.

I guess the stuff I’m working through emotionally right now are thoughts like:

“Is having normal next to my BMI that important? Was I not valued when it wasn’t?” I kinda resent it a little. Isn’t that odd?

“Will I somehow lose some level of empathy and compassion for those who are still SSSMO – like I used to be?” As if!

“What if I forget how it felt like to be the BMI 66 me now that I’m the BMI 24 me?” I just don’t think that will happen.

Yet – I can’t stop these thoughts from coming now and then.

So I’ve been a little subdued about it. I’m still learning how to handle it. I realized the other day that when I was most recently in the hospital and having a conversation with the social worker on the floor and she expressed dismay over the fact that I was SO thin. I rather – maybe even proudly and defiantly exclaimed, “Medically, I’m still classified as overweight!” She was blown away and voiced her feeling that it was completely unreasonable for a petite woman such as myself to need to lose an additional ounce, much less pound, to be classified “normal.”


Lots to think through. Process. Contemplate.

Interestingly enough, by Thursday the scale actually read 132. I’m just ignoring it for now. Who knew less than 135 was even possible?!

Note: I apologize – no current pictures. I’m afraid if I had a picture made right now – with my hair in its current state of disarray, my camera might fall to pieces. I promise – whenever I happen to make it over for a haircut and style, to have my dear friend and stylist extraordinaire April, take my picture. Okay?


2 Comments Add yours

  1. JEN GASKINS says:

    I think I have experienced those things almost verbatium. It is comforting to me to know that I am not the only person going through this. I get so mad at people sometimes when they go on an on about how thin I am. Because I, like you now see a normal next to my BMI, but the mirror and or my mind does not always allow me to rejoice in it. I never knew I was as heavy as I was, perhaps I also can’t see how thin I am either? These are some things that go through my head sometines too! Also, every 10 pounds you lose as you get to lower numbers, dramatically affects your appearance. I agree with you, that sometimes it is our fault for not “re-introducing” ourselves to those who have not been witness to the transformation. As for today, I am trying to look at myself everyday, tell myself I am putting in the work, I deserve to feel good about it, I deserve to look nice in the clothing I wear, and I am worthy of the compliments that I receive. No one ever mentioned that the journey would be the reward, not the number!! I have gained sooooo much insite into myself as I have traveled this road. I have done it without surgery, which I never thought would have been possible for me, and it has been a long and difficult battle, one I will continue to fight until my last days on earth I am sure. I am also blessed with a husband who is more loving and supportive that anyone in this world. He has never spoken about my weight, not when I was 326 pounds not when I was 135 pounds…he just hugs me, tells me he loves me, and that I can do whatever I set my mind to, and he will be beside me through all of lives journeys. We are going on 20 years together, and he and our children are definatley my biggest support system.

    1. Dina says:


      Thanks so much for commenting.


      Isn’t it good to know how sweet this particuarly journey is – even with the challenging bits? Your husband sounds much like my own – what an incredible, rich blessing.

      Congrats on your successes, girlfriend!

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