Friday, June 07, 2013
Telling the story of my weight gains and losses is basically telling my life story. Ever since I was in first grade, I was the chunky one. I was the slowest in running, always out of breath and red in the face. I never got any awards for fitness achievements on my own merits - a classmate once lied about how many crunches I had done to give me a red star, the lowest available star. I fit into the biggest girl's clothes from second grade up; by the time I was a pre-teen (which they REALLY didn't call back then - back then?! Gosh, that makes me feel old!), I was wearing women's clothes. The junior's clothes wouldn't fit. Period.
I hesitate to blame my upbringing. I love to read and have since I was in second grade, so my chosen hobby is, by nature, rather sedentary. I mean, my family did walk, my mom tried to feed me OK foods (though I am sure Fruit Roll-Ups wouldn't count now), and we hardly ever ate at fast food restaurants (though when we did, I would often get to order two junior burgers in order to feel full). Some of it probably is the way I was raised; I got the impression a handful of carrots would totally counter a big slice of cake or a plate of apples was all you needed to offset a bowl of ice cream (and no, a bowl was not the 1/2 cup serving!). I didn't really participate in any sports, so that was another nail in the coffin. And I really don't think I ever understood how exercise affected weight until I finally asked Mom why I had to ride the exercise bike 40 min a day (and she told me it was so I would fit in my confirmation dress - a light bulb went on that day!).
Whatever the case may be - genetics, upbringing, hobbies, etc. - the fact is, I've always struggled with my weight. When all the girls my age were wearing tiny junior's clothes, I was squeezing into a size 12 or 14 shorts/jeans, resigned to wearing clothes from the women's section.
As the years continued and we moved to Portland, OR, Land of the Eternal Threat of Rain, I found myself less inclined to exercise and more inclined to lounge. I gained weight. I started college - and I gained weight. By the end of my first year in college, I was wearing size 24 jeans.
The nurse practitioner alerting me to my high blood pressure was my first wake up call. I was scared. I thought I would die. So I adjusted what I ate - with my mom's help - and got to (I think - the details are hazy now) a size 16. I returned to college after the summer off and had people comment on how nice I looked. It felt great.
But with the threat of high blood pressure gone, I returned right to where I was before. While I don't remember gaining all THAT much, I think I was about 225 pounds when I started Weight Watchers, thanks to a college friend and her old WW materials.
Three months into the program, and I had met my 10% goal. It felt great to be "skinny" - I was walking more often and eating better. By the time Christmas of 2006 hit, I was at my lowest adult weight of 183 pounds.
But then, the creep returned - again, I lost motivation to eat right and stay on track. I also had to deal with the stress of a strenuous college project, a full class load, and a part-time job. As you might expect, being concerned about my health (and weight!) fell by the wayside.
I kept trying and trying and trying to get back on WW. I would go a week or two and then fall off completely. I just couldn't keep going - I felt like I had to eat everything in sight! Then I did the worst thing possible - I gave up monitoring what I ate entirely. I figured I "needed a break". Little did I realize that this break would be for nearly 5 years and include me gaining over 60 pounds!
In the meantime, I joined a gym and was pretty faithful, though I never really lost any weight while I attended. When I moved farther away from the gym, however, I stopped going as frequently. And then when I was laid off, I cancelled my gym membership to save money. Even though my apartment complex had a fitness center, I began to go less and less.
A trying new job that included travel and weeklong stays out of state just compounded the problem. I ballooned to 268 pounds. It wasn't a pretty picture, and I'm not talking about the fact that I didn't think I looked very good in pictures! I have to stand quite a bit for my job at times - that was just miserable! I'd have to go home and soak in the tub to feel moderately OK. I was constantly sleepy. I couldn't eat anything in the mornings because I felt so sick, but then I would come home at dinner and eat at Dairy Queen, which was near my apartment. I was too tired to go to the fitness center; I would go to great extents to avoid stairs and justify using the elevator.
The whole time this was happening, I knew I needed to lose weight, and yet I thought I was OK. "Yes, I could use, but I am not THAT bad," I would justify to myself. I ate mostly healthy - in my mind. I exercised - when I had no choice. These were the things that justified what I did. My problem, in my mind, wasn't that I had to lose weight, to find a program and stick with it; it was that I was stuck being fat and might as well make the most of it.
This is where I was in September of 2012 when I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Talk about a wakeup call! At first, I thought I'd try WW for the millionth time, but after so much failure, I was finding myself dismayed by that idea. That was how I talked to the woman who became my health coach and got me started on the program that helped me shed almost 90 pounds in almost 7 months.
When I look back at the before and compare it to the now, I wonder how I could possibly have justified my life. I wonder how I could have lived in such a destructive way, how I could have constantly ignored the signs that my body was SCREAMING for me to change. My conclusion always comes to this: Habits and hopelessness. I was so used to life that way, and I had already given up in my mind. That was why I ignored everything screaming at me to change. That was why I let myself get to the scary place I was.
Things have changed so much for me in such a short time. I never thought I'd ever wear some of the clothes that are now too big (YES, TOO BIG!!) for me now. I never thought I'd be able to ride in a charity event or exercise at the fitness center to prepare for a possible run or just walk (or jog!) up a flight up stairs without being breathless and sweaty at the top.
My journey isn't done. I have more weight I'd like to lose, yes, but more importantly, as long as I live, my health journey will NEVER end. I've also learned that the things I despaired of having - hope that I could lose weight, the strength to deny the foods that are bad for me and the willpower to keep going - I DO have. This journey hasn't just helped me attain better health - I've also become a stronger, more dedicated person.
What is YOUR weight story? What shaped your weight struggles, and how are you defeating those struggles, one day at a time?