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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.
    1717 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.
    1718 days ago
    Your doing great and thanks for another great blog, I feel a lot like you emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1719 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.
    1719 days ago
    You are doing great!!!!
    1720 days ago
    Excellent blog and I can certainly identify. Thanks for sharing.
    1720 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!
    1720 days ago
    This is a great blog, thanks for sharing your journey!
    1720 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!


    1720 days ago
  • 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.
    1720 days ago
  • 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.
    1720 days ago
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