Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Story

Growing up, I was pretty healthy and active. I was never skinny, but I wasn't overweight either, and I played soccer. When I hit middle school the soccer stopped and I wasn't as active. I gained a little weight but I was still a very normal sized pre-teen. The only body issue I remember dealing with was my chest, or lack thereof. I remember feeling very insecure about my barely there breasts, but never about my weight .

In eighth grade I got really sick and was home from school for three months. During that time I only had enough energy to lie on the couch, for the entire day. When I'd leave the house it would be to go to doctor appointments so I was nearly completely sedentary. Even though I was eating a pretty simple and bland diet (extremely, extremely bad acid reflux was part of this fun time in my life), I packed on the pounds. The bucket loads of sugar I put in the hot tea I drank for comfort every day probably didn't help, nor did the fact that I got my period and started puberty during this time as well.

Once I was better and started venturing out in the world my confidence plummeted. I was about to start high school, I was covered in stretch marks, I was overweight and completely out of shape, I was a completely different person. I remember staring in the mirror at Old Navy praying to God to take away my stretch marks, that I'd lose the weight and if he'd only take away the stretch marks I'd be my old self again. I started my freshman year of high school, made a few friends but my confidence was still pretty low.

A few months in I was watching a Suzanne Somers infomercial, I think it was for some sort of juicer, and she was talking about making changes and being healthy and how YOU CAN DO IT (all with the help of her product, of course). I decided right then and there that I was going to change.

I started walking more, making an effort to move more, slowly but surely. That helped, but I didn't see the change I really wanted. So I started watching my food. Very, very closely, whittling down my daily intake to practically nothing. I developed a very unhealthy relationship with food but I liked the results I was getting so I kept with it. As I lost weight the compliments kept pouring in. My confidence soared as the pounds came off and I began eating less and less every day. I would trick my body by eating only a bite of something and found that it worked. All I had to do was give myself a little bite and the growling would stop. I stopped being hungry. I also stopped getting my period, and it's no surprise my boobs never got any bigger. I discovered BMI and decided that I would need to be at the very lowest of the normal range to be perfect. I found pro-ana sites and was not disgusted - I saw girls losing weight by whatever means necessary, like I was. I felt proud of the control I had over food. One week I survived on 30 calories a day - 3 sugar free jello cups, one for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I hid this behavior from everyone and I don't know if anyone suspected. I don't know if they were concerned, all I know is that everyone kept telling me how great I looked. I made my goal, and even surpassed it, finding myself slightly in the 'underweight' BMI category. I was ecstatic, I was confident, I was skinny, I was perfect, except for those stretch marks, of course. A boy at school told me that he liked me, but I was 'too skinny' for him. I wasn't offended, I was really, really happy. If I was too skinny that meant I wasn't fat.

I didn't feel the need to lose anymore weight, and I don't think I could have. After I lost the weight, my social calendar filled up and it became more and more difficult to hide my food habits. I also joined the tennis team and started playing nearly every day and I knew I couldn't function with the amount I was eating. I don't remember when exactly I decided I would start eating again, but it was very difficult at first because my stomach couldn't handle normal amounts of food. Now that I know what I must have done to my metabolism I'm shocked that I didn't gain a lot of the weight back right away. I laughed at articles that said that if you lost weight in an unhealthy way it would come back, and then some. I was cocky, and as I started eating more, and started drinking, I really didn't gain much weight. It was very gradual. I know that Sophomore year of high school I was at my lowest weight and when I met my husband three years later as I was starting college I was only 10-12 pounds heavier.

Once I was off at college and falling in love I started gaining weight. I was so happy and I felt free. I found someone who loved me for me, who I didn't feel the need to impress, and who didn't care one bit about my stretch marks (he even had some himself!). We went out to dinner a lot and when we didn't we ate a lot of crap that wasn't very good for us. Add in good ol' college drinking and revelry plus a lack of exercise and you have weight gain. He gained weight, I gained weight, but I didn't stress out about it because he still made me feel sexy and wanted and loved. We moved in together, gained some more weight. Got engaged and had a long engagement, gained some more weight.

It was when we set a date for the wedding that I seriously thought about trying to lose some weight. My reasoning was that I wasn't at my ideal weight and if I lost weight after the wedding I would look back at our pictures and think I'm fat. That was my reasoning, no concern for my health at all. I don't even think I made an effort. I talked about it, but I never did anything. I was scared. Scared because I knew that I could lose weight by not eating but I didn't know any other ways to do it. I didn't want to give up the food I loved and I was lazy. I didn't know that there could be a balance, and even though I thought I was so strong when I was controlling every bite of food before now I thought of it as weak. Even though I was unhealthy now, I realized finally how unhealthy I was before and I didn't want to go down that road again.

My dress, which I purchased the day after I got engaged (a total fluke, didn't plan for that one), was now too small. I ended up letting it out before the wedding. How was I not completely embarrassed by that? How did that not give me a huge wake up call? I don't know. In September 2007 I felt beautiful and confident at our wedding and I didn't see myself as very overweight. The whole time I'm gaining weight I don't really acknowledge it. I noticed that I was buying larger sizes, but it was gradual. When I looked in the mirror, with the exception of those moments every now and then when nothing fits right and I got frustrated, I thought I looked good. Most photos with my husband and friends are face shots and even though my face is a bit rounder I don't see all of the excess weight.

In July 2008 we go to Mexico with family friends and as I'm trying to find shorts for the trip I realize how fat my legs have gotten. I ended up choosing a pair of shorts that went almost to my knees and I still didn't feel comfortable. I brought them out once during the trip and felt miserable the entire time I was wearing them. When we looked at pictures once we got home, I saw it. I saw all of the excess weight, in both the face shots and the full body shots that I hadn't seen in a long time and it really upset me.

Didn't kick me into gear though, because I didn't want to change my habits. I liked going out to dinner with friends, I liked sitting and watching TV every night, I didn't like to sweat, I didn't want to make an effort. I've never been one for New Years resolutions so 2009 started uneventfully.

It wasn't until March 31st 2009 that I felt ready to make a change. I wish I knew what changed. All I know is that I was tired of wanting change but not doing anything about it. I finally had enough and decided I could do this - I could lose weight without being extreme. I had been on Spark People previously and set up an account, but I didn't do anything about it until then. I figured I would start calorie counting because that was part of what worked before, but I would keep it within the healthy range that the site recommended. The weight started coming off right away, and I started moving more - parking in the far corner of parking lots, walking during my lunch break. After about a month or two, I decided to start incorporating exercise, a little at a time. I eventually moved to The Daily Plate because I read reviews online that the daily calorie requirement was more accurate, but I kept my Spark People account because I liked all of the short workout videos and articles. I have steadily increased the amount of exercise I do a week, but I am not an exercise fiend. I still don't love being sweaty, but I find that if I exercise 5-6 times a week I keep the habit up and I feel so much better.

So there you are and here I am, 40 pounds gone, 25 to go, learning more about myself every day. I want to be healthy, including being at a healthy weight, and I want to be able to sustain this loss for the rest of my life. That's where the hard part comes in, the learning about myself and my habits, finding a healthy relationship with food (I don't want to have to count calories for the rest of my life), learning to listen to my stomach and not my head and making exercise a part of my every day routine.