Fat. Pig. Disgusting. Embarrassment. Lazy. Loser. Failure. These weren’t words coming from others, these were the words I called myself. Deep down inside I knew I had a problem. Deep down inside I knew there was only one way I was going to change. For years I had tried to convince myself otherwise.
I was skinny once. I remember those days. I was very skinny – right up until age 8. Yes that’s right, it started in childhood. I’m not placing blame anywhere but with myself mind you – but it all started around the time my parents divorced. Is there a link between the two? I can’t really say there is. I just know this is around the time I learned to LOVE food. We lived with my grandparents for a year and who can resist Grandma’s cooking? Some of the best on Earth! And when we went to visit Dad? You guessed it – more good ol’ country cooking – from my other Grandma. Mom always said this is when I discovered baked potatoes. She was right. And not just baked potatoes – you add in some butter and sour cream and you get a small taste of Heaven!
My love for food grew over the years – as did I because of it. I learned to eat not by what my body needed – but by what tasted good and what I wanted. Comfort foods were more than just comfort – they were delicious! And my taste buds ruled my choices. Pizza, burgers, fried chicken, breads, pastas, baked potatoes – with butter and sour cream of course, french fries, candy, ice cream, biscuits and gravy. My favorite foods could be summed up as starchy, fatty, and sugary. You know – all the things everyone says you’re not supposed to eat too much of. Everything that everyone thinks overweight people eat all the time. Eating out was common for me. A home cooked meal – what’s that? I didn’t listen to my body as to when it needed to eat. If food sounded good, I ate it. I didn’t have to be hungry. After all I was eating for taste, not because I was hungry. Finding a stopping point was always easy. After all, there were only two triggers for stopping – the food ran out, or I was so stuffed I simply couldn’t eat another bite.
Flash forward 20 years. I thought I was ready to change. I thought I was ready to lose the weight. So my rotation of diets began. Someone had luck with a low-carb diet, I tried it. I admittedly wasn’t very successful and it didn’t last long. I loved carbs! Someone tried a low-fat diet, I tried it. That didn’t last long either or prove to be very successful – I loved fatty foods! I tried Slim-Fast. I did great and drank my shakes faithfully! Oh wait, you mean it sabotages things when you constantly snack in between shakes? Another failure. Each time I tried something different with little to no results, I felt like more of a failure. Then I convinced myself it wasn’t my fault. It’s just who I was and how I was. And I accepted it…..for a while. Then I would start the cycle yet again.
In 2011 I tried something new. I started going to the gym. Walking on the treadmill I could burn calories and shed a little weight. Using the elliptical I could burn more calories. Go for an hour on the elliptical and I would burn even more calories. Why go only once a day? If you went twice, that’s double the calories burned! I started attending Zumba classes. I heard you could burn up to 1,000 calories with each session. I wasn’t sure if it was true or not but I knew it was a big calorie-burner, so I kept at it. For the first time I started to see REAL results. The weight started dropping. I was starting to make progress. I lost around 40-50 lbs. And then I discovered something new – attention! That kept me going for a while. I loved to hear how good I was starting to look and how much weight I had lost and how proud of me everyone was. I started to feel worthy. I started to crave the attention. I became addicted. I was still addicted to food. But I just found another addiction to compliment it. And as long as I went to the gym a couple of times a day and put in an hour or more each time I was able to stay ahead of the game.
Somewhere along the way I lost focus. I honestly can’t tell you now how I got off track. Did I plateau and become frustrated and give up? Did I find distractions to keep me from going to the gym as often? Did I decide I had lost enough weight to get by? Did I think the gym didn’t change me, I changed myself and didn’t need the gym to sustain it? Or did I get sidelined by the attention and let it take over instead ? Maybe it was a combination of all of the above. But somewhere along the line I got off track. No shocker here – if you don’t change your eating and stop going to the gym, the weight…comes….back! I gained all of the weight back, plus some. Once again I was back to being a failure. I believe I gave up for a while. Oh I still tried the occasional diet but my heart was never in it. I was looking for instant results. If I didn’t see it, I gave up. I still went to the gym here and there. But I wasn’t consistent and I was great at coming up with excuses to delay going. My weight was a roller coaster – drop a few pounds here, gain a few there. In the end the gaining always won.
Our church had a program called Thin Within. It was a spiritual-based weight loss program. Being a Christian wanting to deepen my connection with God and still looking to lose weight I signed up. I went through the course. But I didn’t lose any weight. Would you believe just showing up isn’t enough to make the right changes to lose weight? You actually have to follow what is suggested and make changes. Can you believe that? Okay so yes I added a bit of sarcasm there. But that’s basically what I was looking for – the easiest way to lose weight with the least amount of change. And if it included changing my eating habits or what I ate – it wasn’t going to happen! Food meant too much to me for me to give it up. I kept telling myself there had to be another way. I just haven’t found it yet. I still told myself I wasn’t like this because of my eating habits. I was like this because it was in my genes. After all several people in my family were overweight. I was just dealt these bad genes. Or I would tell myself it wasn’t my fault. I tried everything but just couldn’t lose weight no matter how hard I tried (which looking back now wasn’t very hard!). I also tried telling myself it was due to factors outside my control. I was simply too busy to go to the gym. I even had myself convinced that I was not over-eating. Yes, it’s amazing how much you can lie to yourself and even more amazing that you can fall for it!
Flash forward again – Fall 2015. I decided enough was enough. No matter who I was around – friends, family, co-workers – I was the fat one! I was tired of feeling uncomfortable. I decided to try again. I made some minor changes and managed to lose a few pounds. I was proud of myself once again. And then the two worst holidays for diets came along – Thanksgiving and Christmas! I told myself its okay – one day here and one day there. But I felt myself quickly slipping back into bad habits. Then in early 2016 something changed. What started as a temporary change to lose weight to fit into something I needed to wear for a play slowly took hold of me.
I decided the best way to change was to combine the two things that had worked in the past. I started to work out again, and I started to watch what I was eating (or rather how much I was eating!). I started to count calories. I got an app that made tracking calories easy. I could do a search for the food, or simply scan the bar code for it to track instantly. Nothing went in my mouth if it wasn’t scanned first. Have you seen those people that won’t eat a teeny tiny piece of chocolate because 50 calories are too much? I became that person. I told myself I wouldn’t get obsessed with it. My husband urged me not to get caught up in tracking calories. I told him I wasn’t while I was slipping further and further into it. Within just a few weeks I was hooked. The obsession I had with food and how good it tasted quickly became an obsession with watching calories. I had a goal and I was going to stick with it. If I went over my allotted calories I told everyone it was a learning experience and I wasn’t beating myself up over it. Another lie. On the inside I was chastising myself for my stupid choices and mistakes. And then one day it clicked…
One word stood out to me. A word I didn’t want to admit to. A word I had denied so many times in the past. A word that was harder to swallow than the “healthy” food I often avoided. That word was obsession. I was obsessed with food. I was obsessed with the taste of food. I was obsessed with over-eating. I was obsessed with eating what I wanted, not what my body needed. And in trying to make a change for the better I became obsessed with counting calories. If I didn’t make changes now I was going to be at the opposite end of where I had been and no better off. I would still be unhealthy and It was time to admit it. It was time to see I wanted – and deserved – more. It was time to make real changes. It was time to stop with the short-term yo-yo changes and to make lifetime changes.
That brings us to the present. After the realization that counting calories can trap me in obsession just as much as the food I was trying to avoid, I realized this is not the way. This time however I am not giving up. This time I am not considering myself a failure. This time I remain determined. I will find the right way. The way I should have been following all along. This will not be easy. It will not be short-term. It will not be instant. So what’s the difference this time? Me. I’m finally ready. I am ready to do this the right way. I am ready to commit. I am ready to admit I am addicted to food. I am ready to admit this will be hard. I am ready to admit I am doing this for me – not for anyone else and not because the world thinks I should. I am doing this because when I see pictures of myself I almost don’t recognize myself. The person in the pictures is not the me on the inside. I am ready to finally break free and finally be me.
I invite you to join me on this journey as I journal it. My hope is two things:
- For those of you lucky enough to not have to face this – I hope you see the truth. That someone like me does not willingly choose this. It is not that easy to change. It’s not that easy to admit we have failed. It’s not that easy to admit it is an addiction – much like that of a drug addict or alcoholic. With one big difference. You can abstain from drugs, you can abstain from alcohol. You cannot abstain from food. In this situation all you can do is learn to conquer your addiction. Hopefully after my honesty, my truths, my thoughts, my fears, my failures, my admissions – you can see that we are human as well. Its not as easy as “just don’t eat so much” or “just watch what you eat” or “if you really wanted to lose weight you would”. I hope this can reach some and enlighten them to keep them from looking down on us in disgust, or in shaming us with words and looks. Hopefully I can reach someone to keep them from hurting others like me with painful words and disapproving stares. Hopefully I can help someone to see we are real people with real feelings and real struggles.
- My second hope is that I can reach someone like me. Someone out there going through the same experience. Someone on the edge of making a life change. Someone ready to fight for themselves and become the person they are truly meant to be. If I can motivate, encourage, uplift, or help someone in any way then it was worth it. I still feel shame as I type this. Removing the layers and revealing the bare wounds below is frightening. I just wish someone had done the same for me.
If you follow me through this journey you will see the real me. The excitement, the joy, the fear, the shame, the disgust, the struggle. I promise to be honest and open. Cry with me, laugh with me, grow with me. Pray for me. At the end of the journey if you would like you can congratulate me. Because I – WILL – DO – THIS!!! 🙂