The last time I remember being a healthy weight, I was 12 years old.
From one year to the next I went from average to overweight. Part of
that was hormonal; I started my period at 10 years old, and was a 36C
breast by the time I was 13. But part of it was life experiences. Food
was my friend. You can look at the pictures and see the enormous gain,
and the timeline of my inner struggles.
I was the fat sister, the fat friend, the biggest girl in the room. I
donít have a younger, thinner version of my self to miss, because my
self was never smaller than a 14. I was made fun of for my weight and
dreaded shopping because none of the clothes that I wanted to wear would
fit me. I learned at an early age to associate myself through my weight,
so every experience and every thought was affected by how I believed
others saw me. Accurate or not, every relationship in my life was
colored by my perception of my body, and my related sense of inadequacy.
Iím not 100% sure of my high weight in high school, but I would be
willing to bet that at one point I was closing in at 200 pounds. When I
went off to college, I lost weight by circumstance. Ramen noodles arenít
exactly a food youíre going to get fat on, and working 2 jobs while
going to school full time kept me busy. When I moved back to my hometown
at 20 I was 175 pounds and a size 12. Thatís when I met my husband, and
that was also when I went back to my old habits of emotional eating.
Being far less busy than I was in college left me with plenty of time to
feel sorry for myself for not finishing my degree, to hate myself for
the past experiences that had led to the emotional eating in the first
place, and to grow far more uncomfortable in my own skin. I also was
being showered with affection from a wonderful man, and (as often
happens in a relationship) I became complacent with the knowledge that
he loved me no matter what. I hated my weight, knew I needed to lose it,
and even spent $40.00 on those Diet Patches. The bottom line was that I
didnít want to do the work to get there, and anything that wasnít
instant gratification wasnít going to work.
After our first son was born, I spent the next year battling what I now
know was post partum depression. I lost all of the baby weight within 6
weeks of the birth (weighing in at 199) but by his first birthday I was
once again pushing 215. I would read about weight loss and abstractedly
consider it as I ate my gallon of ice cream as though it was nothing.
Right around the time my son turned 1, the fog began to lift and I
started to actually see myself. I remember hating my body before that (I
donĎt really remember a time when I didnĎt hate my body), but I was
never in a place to actually change. I would try a diet for a day but
when I found out that it wasnít going to make me lose 90 pounds by the
next morning I would give up.
I gave all of the same old excuses youíve heard. ďIím doing everything
right!Ē ďIím doing what theyíre telling me to do!Ē ďI donít know whatís
wrong with me!Ē ďIím just going to be fat forever!Ē
Ummmm, yeah, except for the previously mentioned gallons of ice cream,
and the candy, and the 16 ounce rib eye that I would eat by myself for
dinner at night. I even found myself hoping for a thyroid problem so
that I could pass the blame on to someone else, and then never have to
do anything about it. I could blame it on genetics and happily get back
to my ice cream. No such luck.
I was reading an internet article in May 2004, and something stuck out
at me. For some reason, even though I had heard it before, it finally
clicked that safe weight loss was 2 pounds a week. Which would
theoretically make 104 pounds in a year. If I would dedicate myself for
one year, so minor a time in the span of my entire life, I could be a
completely different person. After all, my other option was to either be
the same 230 pounds or even heavier. Just as unhappy with myself or even
more miserable. When compared to the future I envisioned of being 150
pounds and a size 10 in a mere year, the decision seemed simple.
Of course, weight loss is never that easy. Within a few months I found
out I was pregnant, and all efforts were put on hold. I was filled with
mixed emotions. I was excited about the baby, but devastated that I was
finally mentally able and ready to do this only to have to wait. I
started thinking in that all or nothing way, and even spent quite a few
moments thinking that I had lost my chance. That I would be fat forever.
And of course there was that part of me that was a bit relieved. After
all, if I never started I couldn't fail, right?
Once I was able to squash my fatalistic inner drama queen, I realized
that I was being handed a golden opportunity. I got to treat the next 9
months like a training phase. With the help of CalorieKing.com I learned
everything I could about calories, about logging, about nutrition. Their
weight loss plan is not ground breaking; it is not glamorous or a fad.
Count calories and exercise. Eat less, move more. Sounds simple, doesnít
I became more involved with the forums and took advantage of the
enormous support system that they were. Suddenly I was surrounded by
literally hundreds of women (and a few men ) who made me realize that I
was not dirty, or ugly, or a freak. I could talk honestly about binge
behavior and emotional eating, and for the first time found out that I
was NOT the only person who had dug chocolate out of the trash. These
people were from every walk of life. The homemakers, the work-from-home
moms, the executives. The lawyers, the church officials, the students,
the athletes, the couch potatoes. All of us were there, bonded by the
desire to change our lives and better our future. It sounds so corny and
stupid when I put it like that, but itís true. I had instant access to
an incredible support group, and they were open 24 hours.
Once I was given the okay to begin losing weight after the birth of my
second son, the lessons I had spent 9 months learning were habits deeply
ingrained in my life. I also tentatively began adding in exercise. To
say that I was inactive prior to July of 2005 is an understatement. My
husband had a hard time getting me to go for walks with our son. I had
had surgery on both knees when I was 12 and 13, and used that as a
convenient excuse for why I couldnít exercise. I also blamed genetics;
no one else in my family was athletic, so it must be hereditary.
I started using the treadmill that had collected dust for the last year
and a half. Having watched a fellow member of Calorie King train for and
run a marathon, I started to think I might like to run, too. A lofty
goal for a girl with knee problems who spent most of her time on the
couch for the majority of her life. With the help of my husband, (who
responded with a simple ďWhy not?Ē when I told him I could never run a
marathon), I began to have faith in myself.
I started with the Couch-To-5K program on CoolRunning.com. It took me 12
weeks to finish the 9 week program, and nearly every workout left me
feeling like I was going to die. Before I knew it I was celebrating my
first ever 10 minute run. Then my first mile. Then the first time I ran
20 minutes straight with no walking breaks. Running is an ever-revolving
goal. There is no ultimate end because as soon as one goal is met there
is another one right around the corner. And it is so individual that I
never felt the need to compare myself to anyone else.
There were pitfalls: an asthma diagnosis in November 2005. Two moves in
two months with 2 small children and a dog. A broken toe in February
2006. I stayed as focused as I could, and kept pushing every chance I
got. My inner drama queen freaked out at each blip, and I lived in fear
that something was going to tear this new life away from me. That I
would wake up and find that this newly active woman was all a dream. I
still live with that fear, to a certain extent.
There were also plateaus. I spent 4 months at 160, unable to make my
weight budge. I was still running and logging and doing what I had
always done and nothing happened. Until the day the plateau ended and I
started losing again. I reached 150 pounds, and changed my goal to 140
based on what I saw my body doing. My original goal had been arbitrary
at best; having never been a healthy weight as an adult, I had no way of
knowing what would look good on me. I reached 140 in October of 2006,
and have maintained it ever since.
On the running front, I kept getting stronger. I found I was actually
good at it, which helped considering I loved it as much as I did. In
August of 2006 I signed up for the OC Marathon and in September received
the bad news that my knees (due to my prior surgeries) were not going to
stand up to much more running. I had progressed from only being able to
run 30 seconds to long runs of 18 miles, and the news about my knees
felt like a death sentence. Iíve kept pushing, kept growing, and
completed my first marathon in January. Even after 2 months of injuries
(not running related) and a horrible bout of food poisoning that had me
hospitalized 2 days before the race, I was able to finish and come in in
3:59:18, beating the time goal I had made when I was healthy.
I donít think I did anything special. I realize that both the weight
loss and the marathon were huge accomplishments, but I am not
extraordinary. I am just a stay at home mom from a small town, without a
chef or a personal trainer. I used no gimmicks or quick fixes and I
donít think that I possess any greater character than anyone else.
Thatís the long way of saying: If I can do it, anyone can.
Women, I think, are far too likely to define themselves and then live
within the boundaries of that definition. We are afraid of change
because, miserable as we may be, we are comforted by the normality of
what we know. We donít push the envelope and donít actually believe that
we have it within ourselves to change. We donít realize how much power
we possess and the amount of control that we actually do have over our
own fate. Within each of us is an untapped inner strength, that can
bring about miraculous changes. Give yourself one year. Dedicate some
time to yourself. What do you have to lose?