Last week, I shared with you some super personal details about my relationship with weight and food, which started from a pretty young age.
I’ll be honest and tell you that being so “transparent” in that post felt extremely vulnerable. There were many moments after pushing “publish” that I thought, “What have you done, crazy lady? Delete that post!”
But I’m glad I didn’t heed that self-conscious voice, because I have received so many very kind and thoughtful emails from you. And they have reminded me of why I started blogging in the first place.
…why I think it’s worth it to expose myself – even when it feels crazy uncomfortable.
It is so easy to look at other people and “project” on to them the qualities we wish we had. We assume that other people must be more organized, more disciplined, more motivated… have more supportive partners, bigger bank accounts and easier lives.
But no one is perfect. Everyone struggles. When we do it alone, the struggle is always harder.
So more than just sharing my personal story with weight and body image, I am writing these posts because I want you to feel brave, too. I want to encourage you that you are not alone and you are not stuck.
I left off Part 1 of this series in high school. After graduating, I spent a year in Israel, and then started my freshmen year at college.
Like the cliché, I gained the Freshmen 15 that year. Plus a few more. So over the summer, I joined Jenny Craig (they let me eat my own food at the time) and a gym. I was barely eating 1200 calories a day – and working out six times a week.
The weight dropped off quickly, since I had the metabolism of a 19 year-old in my favor.
But then I headed back to college.
Where I immediately stopped working out — and stopped paying close attention to my diet. I was taking five classes that semester and putting in 20 hours a week at my work-study job. Time was definitely short, but I also fell back into comfortably bad habits from the year before.
I didn’t join the campus gym, but I did flex my guilt muscle. Yes, being less than diligent definitely evoked many a guilt trip.
The emotional eating I experienced in high school reared its head again, too. Although now, instead of just eating pizza when I was sad about a grade on a test or a snide remark from a friend, I found myself eating pizza when I was mad at myself – for eating poorly or not working out!
What a vicious and inane cycle. No wonder, the weight crept back on. By the time I graduated from college, I weighed three pounds more than I did at the end of my freshmen year.
And so it began – a two-decade long cycle cycle of gain – lose – then gain a bit more.
My issues with maintaining the weight loss have many different roots.
First, there’s the emotional eating piece. It’s hard to maintain a healthy weight when you’re turning to Snickers bars for solace.
Then there is the exercise piece: I have never been a consistent exerciser. I work out in spurts. I’ve run (more like a turtle-pace jog), joined gyms, done 30 Day Shreds. But somehow the consistent-exercise-habit never formed.
Same thing with my diet — I developed a real knack for short bursts of sustained attention to what I was eating, but I couldn’t seem to figure out how to maintain a 1,200 calorie a day diet. (Turns out being hungry all the time isn’t very healthy – or sustainable.)
I was definitely aware – and unhappy – about my yo-yo’ing, but felt lulled into inaction as this up-down-up cycle continued throughout my 20s.
In the months before I got married, I successfully lost 15 pounds using Weight Watchers Online. I thought I finally had it figured out.
But in the three months after my wedding, I put 14 of them back on.
And then I got pregnant.
Becoming a mom is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. But in terms of my weight, it’s also when the wheels really started to come off. Until my first pregnancy, I had struggled with a bit of extra weight – but nothing concerning from a medical perspective. The true weight, until then, had been the emotional toll – the negative self-talk and self-image.
With my first pregnancy, I gained 39 pounds, which was the very top number my doctor said was “safely recommended” (she advised no more than 40 pounds).
Sure, a lot of that weight came off in the first few weeks after giving birth. But between my insatiable appetite (nursing) and total lack of motivation (extreme sleep deprivation), I settled in about 10-15 pounds higher than my pre-pregnancy weight. Which was already 14 pounds higher than my ideal weight.
Losing 25 or 30 pounds seemed impossibly daunting. I felt a mixture of awe and defensiveness watching my other post-partum friends get active, work out and count calories.
“What’s the point in making myself crazy,” I rationalized? “I’m just going to get big again when I have another baby.”
And indeed I did. The pattern continued throughout subsequent pregnancies – each time I hung on to an additional 10 to 15 pounds of weight from the previous baby.
So by the time my youngest child was three, I weighed more than I did when I went into labor with my oldest child!
It was at this point that I came back from an anniversary trip to Cape Cod, stepped on a scale, plugged my weight and height into a BMI calculator, and was upset to see that I was “obese”.
This was four years ago – almost to the day! Most people don’t take 4 years to lose 50 pounds – and if they do, they certainly don’t consider it a success story.
But I do. Because I’ve owned every one of those pounds – and they’ve taught me a tremendous amount about myself.
Next week, I will share with you how I quickly dropped the first 30 pounds in just 4 months – and then why it took nearly four more years to lose the last 20 pounds. (Spoiler alert: I ended up gaining back 10 of the original lost, and then lost and gained and lost it a few times before I finally buckled down and got ‘er done.)