Sunday, April 24, 2011
Updated my about me, thought I'd put it on here for everyone to see :) It's long, but I think you guys will enjoy it!
Happy Easter, y'all!
If you had told me pre-SparkPeople (March 9, 2010) that the site would trigger me to embark on a journey of self-discovery that would cause me to lose over fifty-pounds (and counting!), remain smoke-free (for GOOD this time), land me position as a weight loss coach, and ultimately help me realize I wanted to take my passion for helping people build their self-esteem and turn it into my full-time career, I would have never believed you!
My life changed drastically (for the better) the night of March 9, 2010. I was trying to organize some of my old e-mail accounts and came across one of the many e-mails that SparkPeople had sent me over the years. I had joined SparkPeople a couple of times before and never got involved with the site. I would come across the e-mails every once in awhile and just ignore them. This time, I decided to re-sign up just ONE more time (I’m big on fresh beginnings, so I created a whole new account). I can remember my sister introducing me to the site years prior and thinking it was very cool, but I was very hesitant to get involved with the site. Something I now realize is because I was scared of failure. After all, I was never successful on a diet, how could a site ever change that? Oh, how I couldn’t have been more wrong :).
So many people in my life, especially family members, put so much emphasis on my physical appearance. I hated it, I felt like I offered so much more to others than my looks, but was never appreciated for anything besides them. My parents rarely congratulated me for doing extremely well in school (it was expected, because that’s what just what I did), but the second I gained an ounce; I didn’t hear the end of it. I can remember my grandma telling me I was fat when I was in eighth grade (probably 5’ 2’’ and 115 pounds) and my dad telling me I was “getting pudgy” at 5’ 3’’ and 128 pounds.
The one thing that my parents always emphasized as being most important (my looks) was the same thing that was constantly under attack and was never good enough. Not surprisingly, my self-esteem was awful and I had huge body image issues, two things I never realized before SparkPeople. Obviously, a healthy self-esteem cannot be based solely on something so superficial as looks. With my parents focusing on the wrong things, I found it hard to realize and be proud of my true, more important strengths. I often sold myself short and didn’t give myself credit for things like my extraordinary ability to connect and help other people and my ability to do very well in school. Most likely because any good quality I had was treated as something that was expected from me, and not all that great anyway.
When I was 18, I got fed up with my family’s negative reinforcement. I no longer wanted to live up to everyone’s standards of how I should look. I began gaining weight, which was a psychology textbook subconscious choice of rebellion that I made to send everyone who made standards for me a clear message: I don’t care what you think; I will do what I want! My actions showed it, I did not care about what I put in my body and ate/drank whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. It wasn’t uncommon for me to consume 5,000 to 6,000 calories in a single day. I never was hungry (always ate to the point of being uncomfortably full) and drank sugary alcoholic drinks most nights of my college career. Not surprisingly, with habits like these, my medium 5’ 3’’ frame gained a staggering 72 pounds in just four years.
Many unintended consequences resulted due to this weight gain. Graduating college was a time of reflection for me. I looked at where I had come since I began college, both positive and negative. At the time, I focused on the negative things. I could no longer shop at Victoria’s Secret because my breasts had gotten too big, causing me to have to wear sports bras. I couldn’t buy pants at my favorite clothing store. I wasn’t able to wear most of my old clothes because I no longer fit in them—even the loose fitting shirts. During the last year and a half or so of college, I pretty much avoided mirrors completely and stopped caring about how I looked. I had come to terms with the “fact” that I “had a slow metabolism” and “would never be skinny,” because I was told growing up that I would ALWAYS have to watch my weight due to my genetic “predisposition.”
All throughout college, there was a part of me that always thought I would lose the weight, so I pretty much kept ALL of my clothes in hopes that I would someday fit into them (even though my bingeing proved I didn’t genuinely want to lose the weight). Obviously, since I had gained so much, I had so many different sizes of clothes and LOTS of them. When I was moving out of my last place in college, it was the first time I thought to myself that it was time to give up. I had lugged these clothes from apartment to apartment, never being able to fit into them and gaining more weight on top of it. I just had to get over the fact that I wasn’t going to ever lose this weight; I’d always be fat (hey, my genetics said so, it wasn’t my fault!), and that I wasn’t capable of having the willpower to give up binge eating. Then, I thought about how much money all these clothes cost me (haha-I’m known for being somewhat of a cheapo), and decided I couldn’t bear to give away that much money. I’m sure a little something inside of me subconsciously hoped someday it would happen. Thank Goodness I decided to keep these clothes, because I can now fit into ~90% of them again!
After I moved out of my college apartment, I had to face a lot of things that I never had to before. For the first time in my life I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it (I’ve always been a very structured planner). I decided to use this stress-free time to quit smoking, and I did on February 15, 2010. I had smoked regularly for six and a half years and knew that if I didn’t give it up when I had next to no stress, I’d risk never giving the awful habit up. So I axed the smokes (and I’m proud to say I’ve been smoke-free since)! I knew in order to get serious about giving up smoking this time around, I had to give up what was always my downfall: drinking (when I would get intoxicated I would justify just having ONE cigarette and eventually end up starting back up after this happened numerous times). From February 15, 2010 to April 9, 2010 (Lent and then some) I didn’t have a sip of alcohol either (which was a big deal for me since I had just graduated college and was drinking heavily 2-5 days a week).
For the first time in years, I was finally able to complete a health goal I had set for myself. It was just like Chris Downie explains in “The Spark,” I was so confident in myself because of my streak. Also, this was the first time I wasn’t able to use school as a way of feeling accomplished and creating a positive self-worth. I was constantly doing extracurriculars like Yearbook or summer school to keep me busy when I was younger, so the feeling of school being over was such a foreign one. I loved school because it made me feel accomplished, I knew if I put the effort in, I’d get the results. Setting goals and completing them gave me the same feeling. I was so proud I was able to FINALLY quit smoking after all these years.
By the time March 9 came around, I was ready to tackle another one of my problems: my weight. I can’t even begin to explain how much grief my family had been giving me about my weight gain, and I was beginning to understand they were partly right (even though they weren’t concerned about my health as much as they were concerned about me looking “pretty”). At 197 pounds, I was over 28 pounds into the obese category. When I would work out with my dad before joining Sparks, my heart rate would go crazy (190’s) while I was doing something as simple as walking on a treadmill. I needed to do something about this, if I didn’t I was well on my way to an early grave and a miserable life full of health problems.
A part of me never wanted to lose weight because I didn’t want anyone who ever made fun of me for gaining weight to “win” (and there were dozens)—the more I spent on Sparks, the more I realized that by being so stubborn I was the one who was losing and missing out on life. I HAD to ignore my parents, who would take credit for my weight loss even faster than they would deny any responsibility for my rebellion that caused me to gain the weight. I convinced myself, I was doing this for me, and my parents became pretty supportive of what I was trying to do.
The first 50 pounds came off in a little under six months. I was on fire, when I had off weeks…I forgave myself and resumed my healthy lifestyle immediately. These off weeks eventually turned into days, which then turned into meals. All of a sudden, it felt weird when I didn’t work out and eating healthy was worth way more than any piece of junk food because I felt so great all of the time. The longer I was going at it, the more confident and dedicated I was to being healthy and losing weight. I almost didn’t understand how I possibly thought being healthy was all that hard in the first place.
Then, expectations began to change. My parents started taking credit for my weight loss, saying them calling me fat and telling me I needed to lose weight was the reason I lost the weight (which drove me nuts, because that was why I gained the weight in the first place—to rebel and prove a point). At the same time, when I would confront them about things they said to me when I was younger, they would deny ever saying them. If you ask my dad today, he denies ever saying anything about my weight ever. They would invalidate my emotions and say I was overreacting, that I gained all the weight because I went to college and it wasn’t their fault. While I recognize I would have gained weight like anyone when they go away to college, my relationship with food wasn’t a normal one, I worked for every pound I put on by binge eating and never doing any physical activity. While I take responsibility for these actions, these actions were a subconscious choice I made to rebel against my parent’s negative reinforcement. Gaining 72 pounds in four years is a psychological issue, not the freshman 15. The fact that my parents wouldn’t admit this, began making comments about what I should and should not be eating again, and tried to take credit for all of my hard work drove me nuts. I found myself rebelling again, gaining and losing the same five pounds over and over and over again. Every time I would gain five or so pounds because of binge eating, I would remember how hard I worked to get where I was and lose it. Then I would rebel again and binge eat, something that was usually triggered by a comment my dad made. When I started to get conscious of this behavior because I had been through it before, it was even more irritating! I would tell myself his comments didn’t get to me and he couldn’t bring me down, then I would STILL binge eat and rebel. It was so annoying! My food issues came back as quickly as they seemed to have disappeared. I started to feel out of control again and down on myself. I was so aggravated because I had already gone through this and felt like I couldn’t control myself and stop my destructive behavior.
People who cared about me told me to get out of the negative environment I was in, and it wasn’t until I was practically forced to that I did. It made me realize something very important: how successful you are (when it comes to anything, not just weight loss) is directly correlated to your attitude and the energy you are giving off. If you’re positive, you will see positive results. Your environment can make or break you, so make sure you are in a good one. If you can’t physically leave your negative environment, do your best to distance yourself from the people who make it negative. This cycle has lasted over five months now and won’t end until I am genuinely content. I must let go of the idea that I have to do everything perfect and never fail, something that has been drilled in my head for my entire life. It’s tough! But I can do it, and so can you!
Awareness is key. I realized that I was using my weight loss journey as a way to build my self-esteem, which was good at a point in time because it worked, but no longer. I am now realizing my self-esteem needs work that losing weight won’t help with. It has to come from inside of me. I won’t stop sabotaging myself until I am comfortable enough to not care if people want to take credit for what I’ve done or talk down to me because of new expectations they have set for me. Bottom line, I create my own expectations and rebelling to prove a point only hurts me and harbors a negative environment. Easier said than done when it comes to dealing with the subconscious, though :).
Moral of my story? You’ll have your ups, you’ll have your downs…but EVERYTHING happens for a reason. If I hadn’t gained the weight in the first place and my parents’ goal of “scaring” me from getting fat worked, I would still have all these self-esteem and body image issues. After all, it was gaining all the weight that put my body into prospective for me and caused me to realize I wasn’t fat (even though I was being told otherwise from a very young age). For that reason, I won’t have to struggle with body image issues like many people do their whole lives (and for that I’m grateful). If I hadn’t gained the weight, I wouldn’t have ended up on SparkPeople, where I have helped and motivated many other people. I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to figure out I wanted to be a weight loss coach and ultimately a life coach so quickly. If I didn’t hit this obstacle after I had lost my first 50-pounds, I wouldn’t have been as helpful to others while I’m coaching them through their weight loss.
My future is one full of helping and motivating many other people, using my gift of helping others to change the world for the better. What is your future going to be? Are you going to take your setbacks and turn them into something positive, or are you going to dwell on your past problems? While many of my insecurities were created because of the environment I grew up in, I’m the one who has the control to let it make or break my life. While I didn’t realize the type of negative talk my family members practiced growing up wasn’t normal at the time, I do now. I can either internalize their issues they project onto others (regardless of whether or not they realize it) or use that knowledge to help other people who are going through a similar circumstance. I choose the latter.
I could have chosen to believe that I had a “predisposition” to be fat and just fall into a life full of health problems, but I didn’t. I am choosing to tell my story, so people can feel empowered to change their life the way that I have changed mine. If I can do it, I just KNOW you can. But that doesn’t even matter, because the only one who has to believe that you can is YOU.
I love you all! I owe you my life’s happiness, your love and support is exactly what I needed when I wasn’t getting it at home. Lean on the community if you need to, knowledge is power; use all of the tools you have at your disposal. We’re all so lucky to be a part of such a positive community, take advantage of it. Get involved in teams; write on the message boards…it’ll only bring you closer to your goals. Give other people advice; you’re more likely to practice what you preach. Aim high and don’t be afraid to fail, we learn so much when we do. Be accountable for your actions. Remember, you are perfect the way you are right NOW, no number on the scale defines who you are as a person.
Above all, you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to!
And my before and afters :)