Wednesday, February 06, 2013
A Biggest Loser Challenge I'm a part of has charged us with creating a blog sharing our weight loss stories. Beyond the challenge, I actually think it'll be helpful for me to kind of process through my own journey to lose weight, so I'm pretty eagerly engaging.
The outline of my story is not an unusual one. I've lost and gained weight several times throughout my life, each cycle creeping to a slightly higher starting point than the previous one. What differs from most, however, is that I've been most successful with weight loss when it's happened without trying. My active and mindful attempts to lose weight in the past have been barely successful at best. I used to feel fat when I weighed 170 pounds. Now I weigh more than a hundred more than that. That's a hard pill to swallow sometimes.
I guess I've always kind of identified as an overweight person. But I was a VERY active kid - swimming competitively in state meets, playing AAU basketball, playing soccer for the local YMCA, and cheerleading for my schools for 4 or 5 years. In high school, I hovered in the 180s (and had quit growing long before, so I was no longer tall by any means), and had my first experience with active attempts to lose weight. I became a vegetarian for a while, and also began walking and running a little. My junior year, I got mono, and that knocked a quick 15 or 20 pounds off which I didn't regain for a long time. Regardless, I still felt "big."
My freshman year of college was absolutely atypical. Rather than gain the Freshman 15, I lost about 40 pounds, and by the time I went home for the summer, I was able to buy my first ever two piece bathing suit. To this day, I cannot tell you how on earth I lost this weight, other than by the fact that for the first time in my life I was in full control of what I ate and I was moving a little more. My college campus was fairly tiny, so I certainly wasn't walking all that much. I didn't monitor what I ate, and I started drinking for the first time in my life. It will forever be a mystery to me what on earth happened to my body that year, but the results didn't lie, and I was proudly that obnoxious person telling people "oh I didn't even try" when they asked what I'd done to lose the weight.
Looking back, I think this period of time is one that's really psychologically key to my history with weight loss for a number of reasons. One, even at my eventual thinnest - when I wore size 4's and 6's and some pictures of me look borderline unhealthy - I never felt thin. Not ever. Two, I remember my weight starting to creep up, but partially because I never felt thin to begin with, it took me a long time to really notice that there was a big difference, even when my clothes didn't fit. Three, I became an athlete again while I was thin, and even while I ran consistently and played lacrosse consistently, I gained weight. Even so, it's one of the only times in my adult life I can remember truly not caring what size I was because I was so proud of how healthy I was and what I could do with my body.
Running became my thing while I was healthy, and even when I was slowly gaining weight back (and not caring that I was), I ran. In fact, I was running (in the rain) when I hit a pot hole the wrong way and broke the bone on the outside and tore all the ligaments on the inside of my ankle. Initially, the doctor in the emergency room insisted that he would have to do surgery within 10 days or it wouldn't set correctly, but I threw a fit (it was literally 5 days before finals, and there was no way I was taking incompletes in all my classes), and he agreed to set it without surgery. I spent 8 weeks in a non-walking cast and another 8 weeks in a walking cast, and then I got to learn how to walk all over again. In those 16 weeks, I gained at least 25 or 30 pounds.
Following my ankle injury, I continued to slowly gain weight. My ankle was extremely weak, and even after months of physical therapy, a lot of walking - forget running - would result in being laid up with an injury for 6 weeks or more. My biomechanics were all different and if I wasn't hurting my ankle, I was hurting my knees or my hips or my feet. I spent YEARS repeating cycles of "Go Hard" "Get Hurt" "Recover" "Be Out of the Habit and Lazy" "Go Hard Again". Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
Most recently, I lost a pretty significant amount of weight when I was living in New York, but most of that was a by product of being forced to walk every where I went. Since I was walking slowly and functionally, instead of pushing to go out and run the first time I set foot out the door, my ankle actually started to get better, and the pain I had in my hips and knees and feet started to disappear. Once again, though, the weight loss had been mindless, and once my job took me to more of a desk job, it piled back on.
So that brings me to now. Or, well, about three months ago. The weather finally changed here, and my dresses weren't a comfortable option anymore. As I went to transition to winter clothes, they didn't fit. And my yoga pants didn't fit. And my shirts didn't fit. I literally had no weather appropriate clothing that I could wear except pajama pants and a giant Phillies sweatshirt. I'm not sure what exactly stopped me from making massive changes right then, but I was busy feeling sad and sorry for myself, and I didn't. I spent a few days wallowing and panicking about how every time I tried to exercise, I just made this worse. I whined about how I couldn't afford healthy foods. I bought a single pair of size appropriate jeans and felt like a failure. I made excuses about how it was the holidays and of course I couldn't successfully lose weight then. And then, I got over it.
I got really mad at myself for taking for granted what I used to have. I felt really sad that when I was thin and beautiful, I never felt the way I looked. And then I realized THAT was exactly the problem. If I don't love myself, why would I be expected to treat me well. If I don't feel beautiful, I'll always be chasing some ghost and tilting at windmills, never satisfied with any goals I've achieved. And never feeling satisfied, I'll never know I NEED to maintain - let alone learn how to.
I don't want to think "what if" anymore. And I don't want to spend these last years of my young (ish) adulthood wishing for the future or the past or for some nebulous ideal. I want to live now!
So that's what's different this time around. Maybe I'm getting wiser in my older age. Or maybe I'm just getting more mindful of the reality that life is short. Regardless, even when I catch myself sighing at my stomach or blushing at my arms, I'm choosing to stop and look at myself and to love myself. I'm smart, and I'm kind, and I'm a beautiful person, inside and out. As hard as it is to think that sometimes (let alone to type that right now), something deep inside of me knows it's true. And that same thing inside of me is exactly what this fat and this fear are covering up. It's time for the real me to shine through.