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Looking good under fluorescent lights

I finally renewed my driver’s license last month. Between the 190 pound weight loss and the LASIK, I was mildly worried I would get to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) and they’d accuse me of strangling the real Jennette Fulda, stuffing her in a deep freeze, and stealing her identity. If I had been hit by a bus on the way there, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the police report said, “There was no identification on the victim’s body, but she appears to have mugged a fat girl before she was run over.”

The clerk at the counter, who had far better hair and complexion than I’d expect from an employee of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, asked me, “Has any information on your driver’s license changed since your last renewal? Are you still 5′ 9″ and weigh 250 – whoa, girl you do not weigh 250 pounds.”

I admitted I didn’t even weigh 250 pounds when I said I weighed 250 pounds. She congratulated me and thankfully did not accuse me of identify theft. I also made sure to tell her it took me about two and a half years. There is still a humble part of me that feels like I should downplay the weight loss, or at least give a good sense of all the time and work that went into the process.

“It doesn’t matter how long it took. You look great!” she said.

When I’d first started losing weight, I lived for those kinds of compliments. I needed the pats on the back and the positive words from family and strangers. I needed to know that losing half my weight wasn’t a completely hopeless task, even though it seemed impossible. I’d try to find ways to slip my weight loss into conversations just so I could get compliments on all my hard work.

After I’d lost 90 pounds, I was sitting on my mother’s back porch, watching for hummingbirds to drink from the feeder full of sugar water, a beverage definitely not included on my diet. She mentioned she was visiting some of my aunts and uncles that weekend. “If you want to, you can tell them that I’ve lost 90 pounds,” I told her. “You know, just in case anyone asks how my weight loss is going.”

“Oh, okay,” she smiled proudly. “I’ll do that.”

After awhile, I’d lost so much weight that I stopped wanting to tell people about it. While I liked the positive reinforcement the compliments gave me, I also felt strange being the center of attention. I didn’t want to brag and make people feel bad, especially when I realized almost everyone struggles with their weight. As a fat girl I’d known overweight people worried about being fat, but I was surprised to learn that even thin people were anxious about their size and would ask me questions about how they could lose ten pounds. I never knew what to say.

These days, I don’t crave those compliments like I did when I’d been on my wobbly first legs of weight loss. I was more insecure back then, unsure if I would make it to a weight that started with the number two, never mind making it to my goal weight of 160. I feel much more comfortable with myself now, confident that I can continue making healthy choices more often than not. And I do it for me, because it makes me feel so much better, not just because I get compliments from random government employees. Though that’s nice too.

The BMV employee snapped my picture in front of the blue canvas hanging from the ceiling. “May I say once again ma’am, you look amazing.”

“Thanks,” I told her and smiled. Compliments are always nice to hear, but I don’t need them to prop me up anymore. No matter what other people have to say, I feel as good as I look, and knowing that is enough. However, I still look like crap in my driver’s license photo, just like the rest of the population. I swear my hair did not look like that in my car’s rearview mirror.

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40 Comments

bazu • August 30, 2007 at 10:03 am

That’s so funny. One day, archaeologists will find the remnants of our drivers licenses and will not believe that we were an obese nation- if only we all weighed what it says on our licenses!

I’m a little confused- what do you mean by the BMV? Body Mass Vehicles?…

In Indiana we have the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). They have a great website actually that will tell you the approximate waiting time at each branch. Very cool. And I only waited about 3 minutes at my branch. I got to give props to the Indiana BMV! – PQ

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K • August 30, 2007 at 10:07 am

You may have been 250 pounds (ahem) but you were pretty, and your smile has not changed. You look better without your glasses, yeah.

But you think the new photo is bad? I could show you worse… not that I have a photo driving licence, because, well, I have now been a learner driver for more than ten years. But I have some pretty bad photos around. I’m slightly weirded out by the way US driving licences have your weight (or an approximation thereto) on them… I hope that never happens in the UK. Though what with biometric identity cards being dangled over our heads, who knows?

I don’t think a municipal employee has ever addressed me as “girl”. That just wouldn’t happen here!

It’s not the worst photo, but I’m not going to frame it and give it to my mom on Mother’s Day either. It really annoys me that my hair is lopsided. It really didn’t look like that in the car! And I can’t get it renewed again until 2012 unless I move. – PQ

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AKS • August 30, 2007 at 10:37 am

I recently watched the movie “200-pound beauty” and there’s a hilarious scene where the once-fat-girl-and-now-skinny-beauty gets into a car accident, but her driver’s licence still shows a 200-pound woman so she is taken in for questioning by the police. I don’t want to ruin it by revealing too much, but it was a really funny movie and I recommend it.

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Adrienne • August 30, 2007 at 10:41 am

At least here in VA they don’t put your weight directly on the license. They do put it in your file though. I had to request a copy of that when I took the bar exam. I discovered that somehow I had told them I weighed 150 lbs… I was more like 200 at the time and had sadly gained even more by the time I was applying for the bar. I was petrified of lying on that application so I put down the correct number. For what it’s worth, I think you should have told the truth on this license. It would have been liberating I think, like saying, yes I weigh this number and I am healthy and I look good. But on the other hand, I guess you have already done that through this blog so who am I to criticize?

I thought about putting 180 down on the license, but I’m not going to be able to renew the thing again until 2012. I’m hoping to get to my goal weight sometime in the next year and I didn’t want a higher weight to be on there for the next 5 years. It’s been slightly bugging me for the past year that it said 250 even though I was less than that. No one even believes I weigh 180 right now anyway, so I figured I should put down something closer to what people think I weigh. It’s more like an esitmate than an actual weight since everyone lies about it anyway. – PQ

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Sally • August 30, 2007 at 10:41 am

Your mention of BMV brought me back! I used to live in Lafayette (transplanted from Texas). I got corrected every time I said DMV.

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Joyce • August 30, 2007 at 11:17 am

I just got a new license also. It is so nice that I actually weigh what I put on my license.

JN

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G.G. • August 30, 2007 at 11:36 am

Here’s an unsolicited compliment, but I think the picture looks great. The hair thing–nothing I would have noticed if you hadn’t mentioned it!

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Jenn • August 30, 2007 at 11:46 am

Reading your posts always makes me laugh. You should think about writing comedy after ure done with your book lol.

It’s these little changes that you don’t think about that are most meaningful, isn’t it?

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Mymsie • August 30, 2007 at 11:53 am

Wow – big difference! You’re one of the few who can be proud of her DL photo. ;)

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susan • August 30, 2007 at 12:00 pm

PQ: Don’t you know that the reason all drivers license pictures are awful is because it’s an incentive. It’s so you’ll think twice about doing anything bad and have to show those awful pictures to the cops!

BTW – I think the pic looks great!

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almost vegetariani • August 30, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Wow! That is the best driver’s license photograph I have ever seen. You look great. Of course, you looked great before, too, but I bet you feel better now. You should be proud.

Cheers!

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dietgirl • August 30, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Excellent stuff! We don’t have the whole height/weight/hair/eye thing on our licences in UK or in Australia so it really tickles me to see BRO and BRO :)

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avis bishop • August 30, 2007 at 1:00 pm

BRAVO!

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sherijung • August 30, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Hi PQ, I’ve been lurking awhile and really enjoying your funny and poignant blog.

In California the DMV saves money by only making you come in once in a blue moon to renew, with regular 5 year renewals by mail. So my picture and weight info is at least 15 years old…back then I was well on my way to gaining back all the weight I had lost on NutriSystem, so of course I lied and put 150 lbs on my license. I just recently got back down under my lying driver’s license weight. At least the picture kind of looks like me again.

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Jenny • August 30, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Can I have your new license photo? Mine is BAD and it’s going to be with me for six years…. unless it gets “lost”… again.

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Laura • August 30, 2007 at 2:16 pm

I think it’s just fine you put 150 on your license. Your rationale makes total sense. I can’t wait until I weigh what’s on my license, which is 150 too (but I’m only 5’5”). I weighed 190 at the time it was reissued this past April. I’d have never given my true weight, even if I wasn’t in the middle of losing (only 10 more pounds until I hit my DL weight).

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Sparker • August 30, 2007 at 3:22 pm

texas completely gave up on weight and hair color, but you cannot hide those hairstyles: at small-town DMVs you can still see some great surviving specimens of sweet 80′s hairstyles.

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Amy • August 30, 2007 at 3:40 pm

i just realized my dl says 180 for weight. it was a total guess at the time because i didn’t set foot on a scale for all of 2005. maybe in 2010 i can lie with greater abandon.

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laurie • August 30, 2007 at 4:44 pm

I adore you :) And I am so impressed with your cute picture! *sigh* You know I have major DL photo envy!!!!

I was shocked to discover than skinny people worry about their weight, too. When I moved to L.A. and met skinny girls who constantly obsessed about calorie counts I thought I’d entered Bizarroworld, but it’s just so pervasive. I think it’s something almost everyone struggles with.

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Chris H • August 30, 2007 at 5:22 pm

Woo hoo for never having to lie again, and being proud of your photo!

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JEM • August 30, 2007 at 5:26 pm

Its amazing how much your face has changed, I wouldn’t have ever thought it was the same girl.

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Elissa • August 30, 2007 at 5:26 pm

Hey … I just found your blog about a week ago and am halfway through the archives. You are such an inspiration. I know you get that all the time (that’s one thing I HAVE seen by reading your back entries), but it’s true. I’ve been struggling with my weight since late high school, and only recently have I been getting it back into control, but I was in a slump recently. Reading through your entries really helped pull me out, as strange as that sounds.

ALSO … I live in New York, and we definitely DO NOT have our weight on our driver’s licenses. This is something that makes me feel ultimately relieved.

–Elissa

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Chubby Chick • August 30, 2007 at 5:39 pm

The whole DMV thing feels so familiar. I lied and said that I weighed 219 for my last driver’s license…and I was really 367.4!!! How did the girl taking the photo hold her tongue and NOT question me about what appeared to be a slight…no…a HUGE…discrepancy??? lol

Looking forward to the day that I don’t have to lie anymore…lol

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Sinistral Cerebrations • August 30, 2007 at 7:25 pm

LOL

I look into the future every time I get my driver’s license renewed, too!

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Diana the Scale Junkie • August 30, 2007 at 7:27 pm

Before I move to another state, I’m going to be sure to check their drivers license policy…if you have to put your weigh, I’m not moving there!!

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Jancd • August 30, 2007 at 11:11 pm

That’s what I want–a neck!! You look great. I know you don’t NEED to hear it, but what the heck-you deserve it. Jancd

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Sandra • August 31, 2007 at 4:33 am

Firstly – you can tell it was you once – the eyes and ‘essence’ of you haven’t changed. Or maybe a fat twin sister or something!

Secondly I cannot believe you have to have your weight printed on the DL in the US! AARRGGHH! I wouldn’t drive.

Lastly – I know exactly what you mean about being irritated about being the centre of attention. I hate it when I am asked constantly how much I lost that week. Partly because it you didn’t lose the person gets that look in their eye like you’ve fallen off the wagon. Other people are not always good at seeing the big picture and if they say ‘oh don’t worry’ you feel like screaming – I wasn’t!

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Marla • August 31, 2007 at 11:56 am

Hee. I never admitted to more than 200 on my license. Which is OK; no one really understands how much women weigh anyway. You could claim 130 and nobody would question it.

I notice on my most recent license they don’t ask for weight anymore, they probably figured out what a fantasy that was. They also have a place for “race” but it’s blank. Either that or it’s a white box on a white background!

p.s. you look beautiful! but yes your hair is dorky :-P

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FoxyLady2Be • August 31, 2007 at 12:15 pm

Just have to say that this was a great post. I went and had my license renewed last summer, and I was an all time low of 147. When you compare it to my 220lb previous license… it’s amazing. I kept it. I took photos of it and passed it around to friends online. I brought both licenses everywhere and when people asked about the weight I lost, I busted out the licenses and even they didn’t remember me being that fat. It was great. I will never throw that fat license away.

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Patty • August 31, 2007 at 5:01 pm

I think it’s nice picture of you on your new license! I can’t wait to get mine next year and look better than 4 years ago. I don’t know why we lie on our weights on the license. I think you should have been proud to say 170 or whatever! I think we just don’t like people to ask us our weights as it is soon personal and then we find ourselves just saying a different number. Or for me, not changing mine much since I was thin years ago. I did up it some a while back but I’m no where near that. ha.

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v'ron • August 31, 2007 at 8:20 pm

My driver’s license has said 165 for some 20 years, and nobody at the DMV has questoined this.

Actually, one of my weightloss milestone goals is “to have my driver’s license be true” My doctor laughed when I told him that. (with me, not at me. My doctor is massively cool.)

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TeaMouse • August 31, 2007 at 9:19 pm

I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who lies on that. I once was pulled over by some really smug police officers. They knew I was speeding but they didn’t have the radar on, so they got me for not having a front plate – at the time that was illegal.

I remember sitting back there feeling very nervous, my first time being in a police car and they looked smugly at each other and said ‘how much do you weigh’ I was absolutely mortified! I know it was more than the license said and I felt really offended. I must have been a smart mouth as I responded with ‘what do you need to know that for’ and they left it alone. I guess I had that look in my eye that had them realizing they better not push it.

What can I say I was fat and desperate.

I’ve recently signed up for the Online Jillian Michael’s program – have you heard anything good about it?

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Hanlie • August 31, 2007 at 9:24 pm

Another great post!

In South Africa they don’t ask for your weight, but they won’t accept the photograph if it doesn’t look like you. I have a very pretty photograph on my drivers licence and passport. My drivers licence expires in May 2008, so I’d better lose some (um, a lot) weight before then, otherwise I’m going to look like my new ID document, which is hideous! An ID book is for life, but I had to get a new one after my handbag got stolen. I think once I’ve lost weight I’ll conveniently “lose” the current ID book and get a new one with a better picture (I currently look about 50, and I’m only 38).

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Christine Thresh • August 31, 2007 at 10:02 pm

I’ve never lied about weight. I’ve always been slender. But, you say you are overweight at 5’9″ and 150 pounds. That can’t be right. I am the same height and usually weigh-in around 150. According to my doctor I am the ideal weight for my height. I look slender and feel slender. I am on a walking program and when the pedometer reports the calories I have burned, I immediately eat a piece of fudge. I don’t want to lose weight! I am perfect and at 150 pounds so are you.

I weigh about 180 these days. My goal weight is 160. I don’t even dream about weighing 150 except at the BMV, but thanks for the sentiment! – PQ

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ann • August 31, 2007 at 11:12 pm

Loved this post! Even when I weighed 224, my driver’s license said 145. And nobody ever questioned it.

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n.b. • September 1, 2007 at 7:46 am

At first glance I didn’t even get what this was about, because my state does not put your weight on your license, or even ask for that information. They do ask for height however, and being a woman who is 5 feet 11 and 1/2 inches tall, I always have to decide if I am going to round up to 6 feet or round down to 5 feet 11 inches (the DMV doesn’t accept fractions.) I invariably, after a twinge of conscious, round down to 5 feet 11. My whole life has been seasoned with comments about basketball and jolly green giants…I figure I can give myself a half inch break on a little plastic card that nobody ever looks at, anyway! :-)

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Lyn • September 1, 2007 at 5:20 pm

Wow! You look great! My license picture is just horrible. I dont even know what weight is on there but my face takes up the whole square… fat cheeks and chins right to the edges!! Uh yeah thanks for ZOOMING IN on me, I am so small and all that you HAD to ZOOM IN. But I cannot wait to get a new picture taken!!!!!!!!! Won’t that be the day!!

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SRa • September 22, 2007 at 3:57 am

I went in to get my “real” (Im graduated!) license a while back and I realized the fatter I was the more I lied, I mean, I still lied, but not so much. When I was 250 I said I was 160, and when I changed it I was 200 and I said I was 190…. weird…….

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rebecca • November 19, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Pasta Queen, do you still feel the same about not putting your real weight on the liscence, since you didn’t reach the goal weight?

I lost 80 pounds several years ago – a lot, at 5’1″ – and was inordinately proud of myself when I put my actual weight on my lisence. Lying on one’s lisence just perpetuates womens’ obession with weight, and shame of overweight. We deserve to have more self respect than this.

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Rebecca • February 7, 2009 at 1:52 am

I’ve lived in four different states, and have always (I think) had my weight on my license. I now live in California, and had to go in a few years ago for the first time in 15 years. My hair color still says “brown”, although there’s more gray. The clerk did not ask me about that or my weight…just tested my eyes (thank you. I want to know that everyone on the road with me can SEE).

I would love to weigh what my license says (my ideal weight would be about 15 pounds less). However, with all this lying and obvious overlooking of same, it makes me wonder why there is a weight on the license anyway?

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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