Editor's Note (Nicole Nichols): I had the pleasure of meeting Kenlie at the IDEA fitness convention in L.A. this past August. As I learned more about her, I was so inspired by her accomplishments and how she turned what was a very difficult and embarrassing situation into something positive. I wanted to share her story with all of you, so I asked Kenlie to write a guest blog. I hope you find it as real and motivational as I did.
By Kenlie Tiggeman
I used to dread simple tasks like going to the grocery store and walking to the mailbox. I was constantly overwhelmed with anxiety when I knew I'd have to ride in someone else's car, so I avoided it as much as possible. I bought two plane tickets for every flight I had to take because I knew that one seat wouldn't be enough for me, and I felt shame every time I had to walk back into a rental car company to upgrade because I couldn't fit into a mid-size car. But that shame was mild in comparison to shame I felt when the weight of my body broke the driver's seat of my own car.
I know it's my own fault that my small frame grew to almost 400 pounds. I was disgusted with myself—disgusted with the fact that I couldn't go to dinner without asking for a table instead of a booth because it was obvious that I wouldn't fit into the latter. My life, which was so good in some ways, was completely overshadowed by my body. And while people looked at me in disgust, no one was more repulsed by me than I was.
So I changed my ways and lost 100 pounds. Losing it made everything in my life easier and more fun. I was happier than I had ever been! But in reality, 100 pounds down is just the tip of the iceberg for me—I'm still obese.
If you saw me walking down the street (or in an airport terminal), you wouldn't know all that I've accomplished in my journey so far. You wouldn't know that I work out five days a week (sometimes more) and eat mostly healthy, unprocessed foods. You wouldn't know that I'm down 10 clothing sizes or that I can jog up several flights of stairs before I break a sweat. That I can swim over a mile and a half without thinking about taking a break, or that I have killer good balance. You wouldn't know any of these things by looking at me now.
Instead, if you saw me, you’d probably assume that I watch TV every day for hours on end. You certainly wouldn’t guess that I’m training for a triathlon or that I love climbing stairs and sweating it out on the elliptical. Maybe you’d judge me or pity me or ignore me, or maybe you’d single me out in a crowd and tell me that I’m too fat.
Okay, so SparkPeople members are clearly too awesome to think things like that, but it happens. In fact, all of these things have happened to me even after experiencing weight loss in the triple digits.
Last April, as I ran (yes, ran) to a gate to catch a connecting flight, I was singled out by a gate agent who told me that I was "too fat to fly." The story made national (and international) news stirring a lot of unwelcome emotions inside my head. To that gate agent, I wasn’t the healthy, athletic person that I‘m turning into according to my doctor’s chart. I was just a fat girl who didn’t deserve the same treatment as skinny passengers.
Many faceless Internet users hid behind the anonymity of their computer screens as they spewed hurtful and hateful remarks about me when the news story broke. Apparently they thought that negative remarks would motivate me to take better care of myself.
After the media frenzy died down in late May I started facing the cold, hard truth about myself. I realized that what others thought of me didn’t matter nearly as much as what I thought of me. I spent the next several months getting honest with myself. At 30 years old, I was reminded once again that I had spent the last decade lying to myself and everyone around me, trying to convince them—and myself—that I was happy and that I was worthy of their admiration. But secretly, I felt like a complete waste of space and hoped no one would notice.
People say that being overweight is a symptom of something else, and I definitely see the truth behind their wisdom. But I could not even begin to broach those reasons without first recognizing that living in a morbidly obese body had become a problem entirely on its own.
The weight-loss industry wants us to believe that losing weight is easy. We see billboards promising surgical answers to our prayers and commercials made by "experts" that tell us that we don’t have to exercise or change the way we eat to lose weight. But the truth is, there’s no pill or surgery or magic diet fairy dust that can change our lives for us. The truth is that losing weight (and the method we use to accomplish it) isn’t nearly as complex and difficult physiologically as it is mentally. And changing what's inside our heads is the hardest part.
Do you know how much courage and self-worth and determination it takes to stare at a reflection in the mirror that disgusts you and decide that you deserve better? We all know what we’re supposed to do to lose weight (eat less, move more, and all that). But practicing restraint and exhibiting willpower when everything around you seems to be fighting against you on a daily basis is incredibly difficult. And doing it long-term? Well, sometimes it feels nearly impossible! In my experience so far, it takes hard work, patience, consistent effort and self-acceptance.
On my blog (alltheweigh.com), you’ll often hear me say that "We have one life, and I want to make mine extraordinary." And after taking steps in that direction for an entire year, I found myself in a deep rut of monotony. I was so proud to say that I had lost over 100 pounds (still proud, by the way) though I realized that I was ashamed of my inability to finish what I had started. My limited success had turned stale, and I was frustrated. For some reason, losing 100 pounds didn't seem tough (though it did when I started!) But 200 pounds?! How am I supposed to do that?!
Now it’s fall, and I’ve changed some things in my daily life and created some new habits. I replaced processed foods with whole foods, and I eat more fruits and vegetables in one day than I used to eat in three days. I joined a weight loss support group in my new city because I know I can always find encouragement and fresh ideas there. I also joined a new-to-me gym complete with fancy machines that I’m still learning how to use, and most importantly, I've readjusted my attitude. And this combination seems to be working so far. I’ve lost 15 pounds in the last 4 weeks, and I feel like I'm back on the right track.
Losing weight takes effort and sometimes discomfort, but it’s not impossible. Sometimes things get in the way but I have two choices: I can choose to forgive myself when I fall and keep reaching for the goal, or I can choose to give up. For me, giving up is not an option. I’ve decided that it’s okay to whine, and it’s okay to get mad as long as I get over it. It’s okay to be insecure or to doubt myself, and it’s okay to wonder how in the heck I’m going to do what seems so impossible one day at a time.
My journey may have started over two years ago, but it’s going to last a lifetime. Losing the first 100 pounds has been incredible. And though I daydream about it often, I can’t imagine how amazing I’ll feel when I've lost the second hundred, but I’m ready to find out. And no one is going to stop me…not even myself.
Kenlie has documented her weight-loss journey since day one on her blog, www.alltheweigh.com. She shares her thoughts on her personal struggles and accomplishments related to obesity, her evolving relationship with food and fitness, dating and self-acceptance every day. Join her as she attempts to lose the next 100 pounds, and watch her go "All the Weigh."
Follow Kenlie on Twitter, too: @AllTheWeigh.
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