“I have a lot of muscle.” That was my excuse. That’s why I was so heavy. “I’ve never been petite.” That was my other reason. How those two things had anything to do with the 95 pounds of fat on my body, I have no idea. But that is what I told myself, and everyone else, as a reason to my grandiose figure. What I was really trying to do is provide myself some comfort. I'm not actually a disgusting piece of jiggle-meat. Ugh. Now granted, I did have a lot of muscle, I haven’t ever been petite, I was a VERY attractive 235 pound girl. I really was. However, I wasn’t healthy and as I looked around at other family members and other members of our overweight society, I realized I needed to change something. I spent years and years and years stressing over my weight, and had no idea what to do about it. Getting dressed in the morning took 45 minutes…or more. I would try on outfit after outfit trying to find that perfect combination that would allow me NOT to look like a bowling ball. Sweat pants and men’s T shirts. How I ever thought that was the most flattering thing for my figure, I’ll never know. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to wear anything that hugged my curves because it would show every imperfection. My dad used to tell me that most men would rather see more curve than none at all. Yeah sure, so long as it wasn’t more curve in the belly, or 800 hundred curves up the back of my leg. I hid in the corners of the rooms, covered thighs and belly with jackets, purses, whatever I had with me. I would bring jackets with me in the dead of summer. People thought I was CRAZY. “I'm cold blooded, ” I’d tell them. Or “It gets chilly inside.” I HATED sitting on the floor because there was nowhere to hide there. Chairs provided wonderful cover for back fat. I was constantly re-adjusting to try to cover one thing or another. I hid from cameras, hated meeting new people and God forbid I had to stand up and talk in front of a group. I was even embarrassed to smile because it made my cheeks puff out. I hid my chubby fingers in my sleeves. I never wore tank tops. I loved the sun, but couldn’t enjoy it because it was too hot to go out in pants and a t-shirt. I swam in shorts and a tank top, if I swam at all. I hated eating in front of people. It never looks good for us fat people to eat. Everyone is just looking at us shaking their head, “I bet she’s going to get another serving, look at her.” Humiliating. The scales kept creeping up along with my pant size. I knew that it was only going to take another few pounds before I would come across an amusement park ride I couldn’t fit in. There were already a few I didn’t dare try.
“I couldn’t imagine you any smaller, ” my friends tried to comfort me. Well of course you can’t imagine me any smaller, I’ve always been fat! “You’re body suits you.” Well gee, thanks, so I look AND act like a fat girl. Awesome. “Well you don’t need to lose that much, you’re still cute.” Like Hell I don’t! I'm only 230 lbs. And of course I'm cute…doesn’t mean I'm not fat, thank you.
I still tried to convince myself of these things. I wasn’t as bad as I thought. Truth was though, I was as fat as I thought. I did need to lose weight. Yet, I continued eating. I didn’t just over eat. I binge ate. I hid food in my closet. I ate at night when no one was looking. Since I only had certain times I could eat free of judgment, when I did eat, oh BOY did I eat a lot. Six or seven frozen burritos at a time, whole bags of chips, ½ gallons of ice cream. Once, nearing Easter time, the family bought a 4lb bag of Whoppers Robins Eggs. We opened the bag and ate some for dessert. By the time all of us had some, the bag was about ¼ empty. The next day when no one was around, I had some more for a treat. I felt guilty immediately so to help my guilt, I kept eating. Soon, I’d eaten the entire bag. Then to hide what I’d done, I drove to store, bought another bag and ate ¼ of the bag. This way, no one knew what I’d done. I’d consumed over 4 pounds of robin’s eggs chocolate just to hide the fact that I had some earlier for a snack. The fatter I became, the more I tried to convince myself I was thin. I wouldn’t diet for fear they’d be thinking, "It’s about time, ” or “Are you sure it’s working?” or “Of course you are.” I hated when people brought up food, dieting or weight, even if it was about them. I didn’t want to talk about it. I was in denial. One Sunday, I was at church and I met a new female member. She was quite heavy-set, heavier than I was. Yet she was so confident. She knew she was fat; she even made jokes about it. She still wore cute clothes, talked to people, took pictures, smiled all the time. After a while, you didn’t even notice she was heavy. She was still awesome. In my own way I started mimicking her. Anytime I felt self-conscious about something, I would make a joke. Simple things like “Excuse me! Fat ass coming through!” Now some of you may think that it was bad for me to joke about my weight. That I was just trying to cover up my own insecurities. But actually, I was owning myself. I was accepting that I was fat and I was deciding that I was comfortable enough with it, to draw attention to it. Honestly, that was the first step in my healing process. It’s just like alcoholism. The first step to healing is admitting you have a problem. I couldn’t lose weight and make my body better until I accepted that I was fat, I had a problem, and I loved myself anyway. No more “I have a lot of muscle.” No more excuses. Once I was happy and okay with where I was, I was able to move forward.
Hearing this story about my past, and then seeing me today, a healthy personal trainer, you may say “Well, I guess she overcame that and all is good.” No. I overcame nothing. I still binge eat. I still am an emotional eater, I still think about food constantly and I still have body image issues. I don’t expect that to go away. All I expect is to continue to find ways to manage it better to reach more goals. People frequently ask me how I lost all this weight (over 80lbs) and became healthy with better discipline and behaviors. The truth is, I’m not completely sure. There isn’t one thing I did. No trick, no diet, no epiphany. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I wasn’t a binge eater anymore. I tried…that doesn’t work. I did the opposite actually; I admitted I was a binge eater. I admitted it was hard. I refused to try the many diets out there that claim to be the answer. We cannot all have the same answer. I had to find my own answer. And that meant, focusing on myself more than focusing on my attempt to lose weight.
I stayed away from questions like “How do I lose 10lbs fast?” and “How quickly can I lose this weight?” Instead I looked for what made me feel good and what physical activities I liked. I asked questions like, “WHY do I binge eat? Why do I feel so ashamed?” and “What do I want out of life?” Did I want to be skinny or healthy or normal or famous? Happy. I wanted to be happy. I realized that regardless of my weight, I wanted to feel comfortable in my clothing. I wanted to wear cute clothes without worrying about someone deciding I was too fat to wear them. I wanted to flirt, laugh, smile for cameras, enjoy taking pictures with all my friends and ride roller coasters. If I didn’t fit, I’d keep trying till I found a roller coaster I DID fit in. (Turns out, I wasn’t nearly as fat as I thought I was, and I fit in all the roller coasters.) I wanted to wear tank tops when it was hot and not worry about my arm jiggle. I wanted to live without constantly thinking about what I looked like. Being a certain weight and looking a certain way came second to being happy with myself and working towards being healthy. So that’s what I worked toward. My cholesterol was high, so instead of focusing solely on weight loss. I took mayonnaise and hamburgers out of my diet. Those were two things I didn’t really like that much anyway, so I replaced them with something else. My cholesterol went from well over 200, to 140 in just a few months. My doctor was astounded and thrilled. That made me feel really good. Next, I bought some nicer clothes. I bought some jeans instead of wearing sweats all the time, and some cute jackets to wear when I went out. I received TONS of compliments, and people thought I’d lost weight even when I had not. That also made me feel good. I loved to ride my bike but had stopped because I didn’t want people looking at my squished tummy fat as I hunched over the handlebars. I still felt uncomfortable on a bike, but I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable, so I rode anyway. Turns out, after a few times on the bike I realized people weren’t actually looking at me. Plus, I was having so much fun, so if they were looking at me, WHO CARED!!!
Pretty soon I was losing weight. I was losing weight because I was happy. By being happy, I wasn’t binge eating as much. Therefore I was consuming significantly fewer calories, and losing weight. Plus, I was burning calories by allowing myself to enjoy the activities I felt too fat to do before; swimming, biking, racquetball etc… After a while I did start addressing my diet more. I focused on stopping when I was full. I didn’t have to finish a piece of cake just because it was delicious. If I wanted cake again later, I COULD go get some more. Then I started paying attention to ONLY eating what I wanted when I had a craving. For example, let’s say I had a craving for McDonalds. Did I really want a double cheeseburger with a large fry and a large root beer? Or did I really just want the large fry. Very rarely did I actually want the burger, the fries and the soda. Sometimes I just wanted to soda. Can you see how many calories I saved myself from eating just by paying attention to what I actually wanted? I lost more weight and it just kept going from there. I focused on me, not on a diet.
I go through time periods still where I start eating poorly and binge eating. Pretty soon I forget about being healthy and happy and just try to be skinny. I end up going the other direction. I have to remind myself that the best way to combat binge eating is to work towards being happy. Am I shoveling in food because food makes me happy? Or am I doing it because I’m unhappy about something else. How can I make myself happy?
If you’re on a journey to lose weight, I challenge you to spend some time thinking about what YOU want. What will make you happy? Focus more on who you are as a person and bettering yourself, rather than being skinny. Focus more on reaching physical and mental health goals and less about scale numbers. The other will follow I promise.