My story. My realization.
Saturday, April 06, 2013
As with many people, I have struggled with my weight all of my adult life. I have never been thin, fit, or been in a single digit size as an adult.
I have never been hit on in a bar or club. I am usually approached by men to ask about one of my hot friends. I am the "ugly" friend that guys make jokes about with regard to having to "take one for the team" in order for one of their friends to get in good with one of my hot friends.
I've been told I have a "pretty face", usually by well meaning aunts or friends of the family. My mother loves me unconditionally and tells me that I'm beautiful, constantly. But my father made comments about my weight while I was growing up - warning cousins not to eat the way I eat or what I eat or they'll end up fat like me.
When I was 15 years old, I was 125 pounds. I was extremely self conscious of my weight, and felt that it was such a defining aspect of who I was as a person that my appearance ruled my world.
My uncle and aunt sat me down and told me that I was heavy and should start exercising, maybe take a dance class, or some other physical activity that I would enjoy - so that I could get the weight off.
My 15 year old brain took their criticism to an extreme. I started bingeing and purging. I refused to eat after 5pm. I did sit ups, push ups and jumping jacks.
I had not adopted healthy eating habits, so the binge eating and the purging did nothing for my waistline. The workouts were helpful, I'm sure, but my teenage brain was more focused on the scale. And the scale didn't really move.
So, I gave up. I resigned myself to being the fat ugly friend. And that is exactly what I became. Don't get me wrong - I dated. But I didn't aim high in the dating department because I figured no one wanted me, so I should take what I could get. The boys I dated always felt it was necessary to inform me that they liked "big girls".
Instead of a social life - which revolved around looks and appearances, I focused on what I was good at. School. Studying. Academics. I was on the National Honor Society, Student Body VP (2 years in a row), Leadership, various volunteer groups, Speech & Debate team, etc. I graduated 16 out of 250 students in my HS class. I got 2 Bs my entire HS career.
I had found my identity. I was not the "pretty one", or the "funny one". I was the "smart one".
I applied to private, mostly all-female colleges. I told everyone (and myself) that it was because most of the boys I went to HS with were morons and a distraction in the class. I didn't want to be surrounded by stupid boys who say stupid things and are only in college to binge drink and frat their way through life.
But, I realized (only very recently, mind you) that the real reason I chose to go to an all girl school was because I couldn't be rejected on a daily basis. I wouldn't have to worry about what this boy or that boy thought of me. I wouldn't have to worry about boys telling me they like "big girls". Because I was pushing them away...out of my circle.
I chose to focus on college, academics, and my future - a professional, who didn't need affirmations from boys to make me feel worthy. I was worthy because I was smart. And I was a good girl. I did what I was told to do. I followed all the rules (ok, almost all of them). On my "permanent record" in the universe, I was getting top marks!
My weight continued to creep up. I started college at 145 pounds. I graduated at 190+.
I tried weight watchers. In 4 months, I had lost 32 pounds. I was pleased! I felt like I could actually be the thin, pretty girl! And then, for some reason, I lost my motivation. And I went back to old habits.
My weight yo-yoed from 158 to 170 to 165 to 175 to 185 and so on. At my highest, I was 198. And I was miserable. I eventually got back down to 175...but my weight seemed to fluctuate between the 175-185 range.
I half-heartedly tried other diets. But I was not able to stick to them. I wanted instant results. I wanted immediate changes. And I wasn't putting the amount of work in to see those changes, so I gave up. I naively continued to expect to change my diet one day and wake up the next day 20 pounds lighter. And over and over I would play this tug of war with food.
In 2010 I met the man who is going to be my husband. And as with many happy women in relationships, I put on weight - about 20 pounds in about 7 months. And my new relationship changed...my future husband was no longer interested in sex. He was affectionate with me, but there was a noticeable change.
On New Year's Eve 2010/2011, I wrote a letter to myself. I told myself 2011 was going to be my year. I was going to lose all my weight and reach my goals. I was going to do it! I was determined. I was motivated. I needed to make a change.
So, I joined a Biggest Loser competition at work. I tried the new Weight Watchers plan for about 2 months. I lost 2 pounds in that time. I was following the plan, to a "T" - little perfectionist Jenn was going to follow all the rules. But, I only lost 2 pounds. In 8 weeks! I was disheartened. And, I gave up.
My motivation was gone.
In May, another competition started at work. I decided THIS was going to be it. I would DEFINITELY do it this time. And it would be different. I decided to count calories, and use sparkpeople's ranges to keep track my nutrition. I could eat anything I wanted - but it needed to fit into my nutrition plan. I figured that was not so restrictive so that I could stick to it.
At the same time, I was also training for the 2011 Portland Half Marathon. I figured I was going to be great this time - running and sticking to a nutrition plan! I couldn't lose this battle!
In my nutrition plan, to avoid going crazy and giving up, I allowed myself a "cheat day". I could eat what I wanted, didn't have to track it, and could be guilt free. The freedom my cheat day gave me allowed me to be focused and motivated the other 6 days of the week.
I was exercising 4-5 days a week, sticking to a 1300 calorie average (6 days/week), and I was losing weight. Slowly. Verrrry slowly.
From May, 2011 to October, 2011, I lost about 15 pounds. Five months. Fifteen pounds. It was about 3 lbs/month. I tried to tell myself that it was a lifestyle change. The weight loss would be slow - but it would come off! I just needed to stick to it.
After my half marathon, I diligently followed my plan, allowing for Thanksgiving and Christmas. After the holidays, I had only gained 8 pounds.
New Years Eve 2011/2012...I re-read the letter I had written to myself. And I felt defeated and deflated. I hadn't achieved my goals. I had not lost all the weight. And although I weighed less at this time than I did a year before, I still had a REALLY long way to go and felt that I was in the exact same boat I was in the year before.
I became overwhelmed with the distance of my journey. If it took me 5 months to lose 15 pounds...it would take me at least a year and a half to reach my goal. And that thought depressed me.
But, I kept at the journey. I told myself I could give up - but that would only put me right back to where I had been...and since I had already been there...I knew I didn't want to go back. Or, I could keep going and see what else was out there.
I worked and lost the holiday weight. And got back down to 173. And stayed there. And stayed there. And then got frustrated, and it went up. And then got pissed and got it back down...to 173. Then I gave up hope again, and it went back up to 182.
I had continued the calorie counting and tracking plan, but I decided that I needed to do something different since I couldn't seem to get past the 173 mark. So, I started researching the 17 day diet. The science and logic made sense to me. I thought "this is something I can stick to!".
So, I bought the book, cleaned out my pantry and fridge and got to it. In Phase I, I lost 9 pounds. Phase II involved cycling Phase I days and "carb" days. After 2 weeks on Phase II, my weight had not moved. AT ALL. I had gotten it down to 173/172. And it stayed there. For 2 weeks.
So, I got frustrated and gave up. Again. And my weight went back up to 183/184.
I went to a naturopath. He put me on a 10 day cleanse that had me eating pretty much a vegan diet. I got down to 169. FINALLY! I passed the 172/173 mark!!!
He wanted me to continue the cleanse for 28 days. After debating it, I decided I couldn't do it. Yes, it would be an effective weight loss tool, but I was MISERABLE. I couldn't have coffee - the one joy in my food deprived life. I had eliminated everything from my diet except fruits and vegetables. And I couldn't do it. I could not stick to this plan for 28 days. And then what about after? Would I have to do this for the rest of my life? This was torture!
So, I stopped. And my weight creeped back up. So, I started a running and walking plan (Run 3 x/week, walk 2 x/week). And I went back to my calorie counting and food logging. And I got back down to 168.
My then boyfriend, officially became my future husband when he proposed in October, 2012. I WAS GETTING MARRIED!
And then the holidays came. And my weight went back up. And all the while I'm thinking about the fact that I have a wedding to plan, and I want to be thin and pretty for my wedding day. I do NOT want to HATE all the wedding photos because I am so fat and gross. I want to enjoy my day, my husband, and have happy photos I am pleased with.
New Year's Eve 2012/2013...once again I looked back at the last 2 years. Every year I had promised this would be the year. And every year...I was pretty much back to where I had started.
But I realized something. All this time I had been talking about how this was a lifelong journey...one day at a time...a lifestyle change...and yet I was beating myself up for the fact that this had been a long journey. I was failing to see all the changes I had made.
No, I was not 120 pounds. But, I had NOT given up on my long term journey. I kept at it for 2 years. Yes, I stumbled. Yes, I had weeks where I was in the food gutter and had to use every ounce of motivation and strength to pull me out of it. But I had perservered for TWO years. I found what worked, and what didn't. I adopted things I liked and got rid of things I didn't like. The last 2 years were not for naught. I had learned and I had grown in this journey. And I realized I needed more help than sparkpeople could give me.
So, I signed up for a medical weight loss program. I work with a doctor and a nutritionist and a specialized meal plan. In 6 weeks I have lost almost 20 pounds. People are noticing. I am noticing. I am finally past the 172/173 mark.
The plan I am on now will help me achieve my goals. And once I achieve my goals, I am able to modify my current plan slightly to allow for maintenance. But, I plan on sticking to this.
Yes, there will be days where I give in. There will always be birthdays, celebrations, and my love of food. But, it's not about making EVERY choice a 100% healthy, on plan choice. It's about making MOST choices good ones, and allowing myself to be human and hedonistic occasionally.
I have put the dedication and perfectionism into my weight loss journey that I put into my academics. Failure is not an option. And failure = not getting an A every time.
But, I need to learn to let go and ease up. Failure isn't about not being 100% all of the time. It's about not trying to give it 100%. I am going to stumble. I am going to have a "bad day". But, it doesn't matter that I have a scraped knee, or have completely fallen apart. That's life. It happens.
What truly matters is that I get back up...put a band aid on that knee, or gather the pieces and put myself back together. And I continue. Because not EVERY day is going to be a "bad day". Not every day is going to result in my falling apart. But, I can't move forward if I don't even TRY.
Yesterday, I was weak. I tried over and over again to find my motivation and my strength...but I could NOT stick to my plan. I did NOT want to stick to my plan. So, I went off script. And it was not planned. And I felt guilty (still do).
But, I am trying to reason with myself. In 6 weeks of this new plan, I have not had an unplanned fall or falter. It is OK. It is not about perfection. It's a journey. And journeys have bumps in the road. It's about getting over that bump and back onto the road.
So, I am still on this journey. I'm seeing results. I am pleased.
And I am NOT going to beat myself up for my stumble yesterday. I do not know what happened - why I felt so weak and unable to move past my cravings or hunger. But, I got through yesterday. And today is a new day. And I have a new day to make good choices that will make me feel better.
I can do this.