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Lifelong Struggle with My Weight

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?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I dont tell this story often, but since you offered yours and asked...
    I was a skinny kid, that went from 105 at puberty and gained 10 pounds a year to a high weight of 240. I had a lot of texture aversions as a preschooler, and my father, a refugee and somewhat nuts after starving for years in his youth, used to force feed me by holding my nose until he could push food in my mouth - nightly crying, vomiting and family dysfunction. My sister would say, "why cant you just eat it?" It was she that informed me of the nightly emesis.. I don't remember that, but I remember the trauma of mealtime, hiding food in my pockets and napkin pretending to eat, going to the bathroom to flush the contents of my pockets as young as five. I will never eat uncle bens rice - just the smell reminds me of panic. All the sugar I poured on things was to disguise the texture (like hot cereal).

    I think food as been a form of physical control for me. I don't know that I will ever have a wholesome relationship with food, but I hope!! How ironic that I became a swallowing therapist ( I thought I would specialize in speech) - I think I am better at my job for recognizing my patients hardships especially when downgraded to puree. That is one tough texture to swallow.

    I am trying to learn to fuel my body, and choose vegetarian foods. I have lost 60 pounds twice and am now trying something different. The program works - I binge much less than I used to. I cant remember how many years since I ate a package of oreos. So it's not all boohoo for me. I will find my way.

    I read the words and I felt the pain and confusion in your blog and I give my all my compassion for the past, and joy for the future.

    Be blessed today and always in your journey.
    1171 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/10/2013 12:03:25 PM
    WOW! You earned every one of those lost pounds through blood, sweat & tears. Thanks for sharing your struggles as well as all of your success. This is why I admire you and am inspired by you Carolyn. You bravely put it all out there.

    I know you are healthier, but you sound like you are happier as well.
    1172 days ago
    Your doing great and thanks for another great blog, I feel a lot like you emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1172 days ago
    My story is similar to yours. I was always the chunky kid. My parents however thought french fries were vegetables because they were made from potatoes and so is carrot cake, lol. I guess that is why my sisters and I are overweight. Dawn, the youngest, is the least overweight but she had the benefit of being able to play rugby. I wanted to play soccer but was told we couldn't afford it. I love to read. Growing up Animorphs and Harry Potter were my favorites. emoticon Reading about your success gives me hope.
    1173 days ago
    You are doing great!!!!
    1173 days ago
  • v ANDYLIN90
    Excellent blog and I can certainly identify. Thanks for sharing.
    1173 days ago
    Right on! I was curious how long ago you had started with your health coach. I've been with mine for about 2 months and couldn't be more delighted!
    1174 days ago
    This is a great blog, thanks for sharing your journey!
    1174 days ago
    Parts of your account mirror parts of mine - especially when you said that you exercised "when you had no choice" & that at one point you entirely gave up monitoring what you ate.

    I am thankful that, somewhere along the way, our thinking changed in a way that is now benefitting us both.

    God bless!


    1174 days ago
  • v MICHELLE2343
    We do have to stay on this health journey for the rest of our lives. Your right it never ends. My struggles with my weight didn't start until I was in college. Luckily when I was younger I must have had some good metabolism and was a normal weight for my age. I do struggle with eating food though because my dad would always have seconds and if you didn't eat fast enough the food would be gone because my dad would eat it. I notice that my body type is just like my dads and grandmas (his mom). Both my dad and I if there is food out that we really like it is hard for us to stop eating it. There have been times where I would eat a whole box of oreos in 2 days dunked in milk because they were in the house and I wouldn't stop until they were gone even if I felt a little sick to my stomach when I was done. Buffets are the worst. I have learned that I cannot eat at a buffet. I'll take a plate and then go back for just a little more but then a little more becomes two more plates. I still struggle with potlucks at work or parties. If something is really delicious I might make the mind set that I won't have it again because it is just at this party so I will eat a few more. Then 10 minutes later I'm lingering by the food again and grabbing just a few more. It's horrible but at least I know I do it and I'm working really hard at stopping those behaviors. I really enjoyed reading your story. Thanks for sharing.
    1174 days ago
  • v JONEC14333
    Right on. Keep it up. My beloved sister-in-law just died of a heart attack, most probably caused by her overweight. She DIED. She is a year younger than me. Did I mention that she DIED???? Oooh boy. Really. Keep it up.
    1174 days ago
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