Why Was I Fat?

Let’s go beyond literal answers to this question. Yes, I was overweight because I ate too much and moved too little; but, I eat less and move more now, and that’s how one fixes symptoms without ever fixing the root issue. Why was I fat?

It was safe.

When I was larger, I was less visible. Not because I was fat, but because I believed being big meant I didn’t deserve love, attention, or to be noticed by those more worthy than myself. I made myself less visible because I was fat and ashamed of it all the while convincing myself that my size was the reason that nobody wanted me. The truth is that many people tried to love and get close to me when I was fat, but I didn’t allow myself to receive it because of my self hatred.

Being fat also made me an easy target for some people’s bullying. And, somehow, it seemed safer to be on the receiving end of that. If I was a target, then I was not a threat. If I was not a threat, maybe they would stop tearing me down. These were people who I wanted to love me but who were unable to do so because of their own issues, but I didn’t understand that at the time. All I knew was that I desperately wanted to be good enough for them, and that seemed to mean losing weight. It seemed like the only thing I had to do to finally be good enough for them was to lose weight. But it was never enough. I would starve myself down 40 pounds, and they would push for 10 more. 10 more, and I would be good enough. But, I was starving, and I hated myself for still not being good enough. Inevitably, I would gain it back and remain a target. I was never allowed to stop being fat…even when I wasn’t fat.

play

An assortment of theatre/drama photos from high school. Can you find me?!

I believed it was inevitable.

One side of my family has always struggled with weight; three people on that side of my family have had weight-loss surgery. In fact, when I joined Weight Watchers, I did so in order to prepare myself for weight-loss surgery. My mom had told me that Weight Watchers would “teach me how to eat,” which was a skill I would need after surgery. I fully believed that surgery was going to be my path (and know that it is a path that I do not judge – it has worked wonders in my family members’ lives).

I was shocked when I began losing weight on Weight Watchers. I thought, like with everything else I tried, it would be unmaintainable. I thought that I would fail. I thought that I’d give up. That was my real resignation: I believed that I would give up; I believed that I would fail. Attempting something while believing you will fail makes you about a hundred times more likely to quit. I’d say I was about a month or more into the program before I started believing that it might be possible for me to do this.

snarky look

“That look” hahaha

I tried to fill the void with food.

This….this is probably the biggest reason I was overweight. I still struggle with this today.

For every happy memory, special person, and celebrated occasion in my life, there is a food. There’s my Nana’s mac and cheese, my grandmother’s doughy rolls, my ex-stepmom’s Moroccan stew, my dad’s meatloaf, my mom’s spaghetti. There’s the crab soup we ate at the beach, the cold watermelon we ate all summer that my dad taught me how to pick out, the sweet tomatoes with salt we pulled from my great grandmother’s garden. There’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the tang of ocean water still on my lips, there’s fried chicken before Santa shows up to pass out presents, there’s red velvet cake before we sing happy birthday. For everything, there is a food. My memories are tied to food. My emotions are tied to food.

I have a void inside of me. It comes from a desperate desire to be loved, to be good enough. Sometimes, I try to fill that void with food. I make and eat my Nana’s mac and cheese and, for a few moments, she’s alive again, and I am loved by her. I have my dad’s meatloaf and, for a little while, it’s a really special day during my childhood (he only made meatloaf on special days). I’m good enough in the past for those few short present moments. I re-create my ex-stepmom’s Moroccan stew and, for a time, that divorce never happened, and my family never fractured. I eat and eat, remember and feel, and I try to fill the void.

Only the void can’t be filled with food or memories. I can’t go back and make the people who didn’t love me in the past have loved me then. I can’t bring back my grandmother or my great grandmother; those goodbyes have been said for the final time. I can’t be a child again and get to experience all of the things I missed out on. I can’t go back; I can only go forward.

being a goof

So, how do I fill the void left by what I missed out on in the past? Not by trying to re-capture what’s gone, but by creating love now. By capturing the love around me today. Not through food but through the experience of love and those people who give it now. Through being fully present for today’s times of love, care, and being good enough. Slowly, piece by piece, the void is filled…as I let go of the old, worn-out pieces I’ve been trying to cram into it, set them aside to be valued for what they are, and allow new, solid, foundational pieces to fill the void. This will allow me to be filled by something much more permanent than food — by love.

me and misty

Advertisements

The “After” Myth

DURING

After.

It’s here.

In my first post, Before, 3 years ago, I said “I’m not to After yet, but I’m closer to After than to Before.”

I now weigh 117 – 120 pounds (depending on the day), and standing at 5-foot 6-inches, that measurement means that After is very, very here. But, before you congratulate me, dear readers…if I have any…and dear friends and family who I know follow this blog… I have to come clean with you: I don’t feel like I’m at After. I’m terrified of being at After. And, I don’t like that After is here.

After5 2

The tagline of my blog is “uncovering myself one pound at a time.” For most of this blog, I’ve spoken strongly about how my relationship with food and myself was what caused my weight struggles. I stand by that. The thing is, the symptoms have resolved faster than I’ve been able to treat the deeper disease. I’ve lost the weight, but I’ve failed to uncover and learn to truly love myself in the process. Truthfully, I have no idea who I am without “needs to lose weight” being one of the primary parts of my identity.

This is why I have not been posting…because this blog is not about weight loss…it’s about life gain. I could not bear to post here about the beautiful things one can gain in life by learning to love yourself while, in the background, hating myself so hard while the weight melted off. Progressing on the outside while regressing internally. Because, that’s the truth, readers. The last stretch of this weight loss hasn’t been healthy OR happy: it’s been agony. It’s been sad. It’s been an exercise in mourning.

After2 2

I’ve gotten so good at putting on the happy face. At “smile, nod, yes, thank you, I have lost a lot. No, I’m not trying to lose any more; you don’t need to worry.” I’m very good at this script, but it’s been such a lie, readers. The truth is my body melted away, and I stared at myself in the mirror not understanding why I couldn’t love the skin I’m in. Why? I thought After was the goal!

But I made a mistake.

A crucial mistake.

I forgot that the number on the scale is only a number. Only just a number. It’s not a before. It’s not an after. Getting that number to a certain set of digits is not my After.

I’m not at After. There is no After – happily ever or otherwise. There is only today. Just today – During.

After1 2

I tell you this now not to discourage you but to hopefully prevent someone from making the mistake that I did and associating After with a number. I weigh 120 pounds and still struggle with my weight. Losing weight does not mean you no longer struggle with your weight; I wish I had truly understood that. I still struggle with food. I still struggle with me.

Looking at the picture I put first in this post, I have to pause. I look at me … past vs. present. That is me. All of those pictures are of me. People say they do not recognize the girl in the other pictures. I’m here to say: that girl is me.

Don’t look at her as an abomination, because enough people, myself included, did that already.

Don’t congratulate me on no longer being her; I still am her. And doesn’t she deserve to be?

Don’t tell me I look better; I don’t. I look different.

Don’t speak of her as if she is a poor, piteous person. She’s not.

She’s me.

She’s standing right here, and she is fucking strong.

After3 2

There. Is. No. After.

There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of weight loss because the rainbow has no end.

There is today. There is now. There is during. There is life.

I uncovered myself one pound at a time; now, I must REcover myself…I must DIScover myself. And that…that is the new goal. Not numbers. Not sizes. Not inches.

Me. I am the goal. Finding. Loving. Being.

Can anybody hear me?

After6 2

Learning to Be Me

This blog post isn’t really just about weight loss; it’s about me — all of me — and I sure as heck am a lot more than just my weight.

It has come to my attention that I have absolutely no idea how to “just be.” I am always doing something. I am always going somewhere. The concept of being … well, that’s a lot harder for me to grasp.

When I first began my weight loss, self love, get-out-of-depression journey a few years ago, I realized that I had no idea who I was. My identity comprised other peoples’ opinions (real or self-perceived) of me, numbers on a scale, societal definitions, expectations from external sources, a whole heck of a lot of self hatred — I could go on. My point is — I didn’t really know who I was. The essential Me. I didn’t know what made me tick, what I loved, what got me out of bed in the morning, what would make my heart race, what could make me split into a grin, what might make me cry… I didn’t know myself at all.

So, I decided to try and get to know myself; and, I started with 2 things that I did know:

knew that I wanted to lose weight — I joined weight watchers.

knew that horseback riding was something I loved in my childhood — I started taking horseback riding lessons.

As I have gotten to know myself, I have started to do more and more:

I know I love cats and have a passion for rescue — I started fostering cats and volunteering at events/doing adoption interviews.

I know I love baking — I started baking cakes for all occasions.

I know I love God — I joined a church.

I know I love to sing — I joined my church’s worship team.

I met a man, I met the man, I got married, I bought a house, I joined a zillion meetup groups, I made friends, I began running a meetup group out of my own home, I started blogging, I joined a bible study, I started a bible study, I joined a meditation group, I began taking spiritual healing workshops, I started leasing a horse on top of taking lessons… the list goes on.

I am really really good at doing.

All this time, I thought that all of this stuff I was doing was because I finally knew who I was.

I was wrong. What I do is not all of who I am. I still don’t really know all of who I am.

Sure, I know what I love to do. I’ve figured part of this equation out: I know what makes me tick, I know where my passions lie, and I know what I believe in.

And yet, if you were to take away all of my doings… what would be left? That would be me — a part of me that I’m afraid I don’t know.

I’m at a point in my life where I am bouncing all around trying to find fulfillment and wholeness in all of my doings. But, the truth is, none of my doings are ever going to truly fulfill me until I really, truly, from the bottom of my heart love myself. And, I can’t really truly love myself until I know myself.

So, here’s to the next step in my journey — learning to be. Learning the part of being that lies outside of doing.

And not just learning to be… but learning to be me.

 

What if I Gain it All Back?

1075733_10100397218966953_471783710_nI haven’t forgotten this blog, and I haven’t really been too busy to write an entry (though, I have been busy). I haven’t written in months because I have felt less than inspirational; actually, I’ve been downright discouraged.

My wedding is in less than 2 months, and I have gained 5 pounds. Some of you will say “5 pounds is nothing!” and others might feel that 5 pounds is significant. I feel both ways, really. On one hand, 5 pounds when you’ve lost 70 seems small. There was a time when I could lose 5 pounds in a week if I just followed Weight Watchers 100%.

On the other hand, 5 pounds takes forever for me to lose these days…even when I do follow Weight Watchers completely.

5 pounds.

That’s how this all began in the first place.

That’s how gaining weight always begins: 1 pound at a time. It creeps up on you; you can ignore it and lie to yourself for only so long before 5 pounds becomes 20…and those 20 start inviting friends.

Last night, I tossed and turned in bed, disappointed in myself for once again failing to stay on track and worrying about the one fear that, I believe, plagues pretty much everyone who has ever lost weight:

What if I gain it all back?

What will people think of me? What will I think of me?

What hope will there be fore me then?

I’ve been on Weight Watchers for 3 years, and I weigh as much today as I did in August 2012. I’ve basically maintained for an entire year now (that in and of itself is an accomplishment, but it’s not satisfying to me right now).

936454_10100359603788073_1405918896_n

3 years of commitment is a lot for me.

I lasted 1 month on a no-sugar diet…

1 week on SlimFast…

24 hours on Atkins…

That I’ve managed to at least mostly follow Weight Watchers for 3 whole years is an astounding thing to me. And yet all I can think about right now is…

What if I gain it all back?

Oh sure, I’ve said it here before:

If you’ve ever lost weight and gained it all back PLUS some, you have not failed!

And gosh that’s a whole lot easier to say to YOU than it is to say to myself right now. Especially with an upcoming big event where I must wear a dress that fit me in October 2012.

What if I gain it all back?

Will I be an ugly bride?

Will I gain even more?

Will I ever be able to lose it again?

Will I have to start all over? CAN I start all over?

Will it mean that I failed? That this blog – all the things I’ve written here – that all of the thoughts that I’ve shared with friends and family about this journey – are meaningless?

Who wants to read or hear inspirational weight loss thoughts from someone who has gained it all back??

But, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past 3 years it’s that fear of gaining it all back is the worst motivation.

I didn’t start down this path out of fear, and I know that fear is not going to get me through to the end. Fear inspires quick and temporary results that do more damage than good; losing weight out of fear is not an act of motivation…it is an avoidance tactic.

Fear keeps me from looking inside to find whatever it is that is holding me back. Fear keeps my motivation external when the only thing that could possibly get me through this journey is inside of me.

What if I gain it all back?

If I gain it all back, I will still not be exactly where I was before. There is no returning to before. Something far more permanent than my weight has changed in me: I have changed.

If I gain it all back, I will start all over again …this time with the knowledge that I am fully capable of losing the weight because I have been there.

If I gain it all back, I will be human and fallible and imperfect. And anyone who thinks that that makes my thoughts and feelings unimportant is not worth keeping in my life.

If I gain it all back, I will still be loved. I will still be beautiful. I will still marry the man of my dreams surrounded by my amazing family and friends.

But, I have not gained it all back, and I hope that I never will. So, 5 pounds… it all began and begins with you. I am not afraid of you; I will not be afraid of you. You can take nothing from me; you are a part of me. For now.

1174930_10100422914393113_395399347_n

There Will ALWAYS Be An Excuse

Things in my life have been pretty hectic over the last couple of weeks. My fiancé and I closed on our first home and moved in the next day.

IMG_1105

 

This meant lots of packing, tons of fixing things in our apartment before inspection, and then having to move and handle things in the house. Things did not go as smoothly as I would have liked. We wound up without heat (in near-freezing temperatures) for a couple of days, and half of our appliances broke down within 24 hours!

IMG_1102

In all of this chaos, I found myself eating out quite a bit and downing donuts and pizza without a thought even after the move was over.

“I’m stressed!” I said to myself. “I deserve to be able to eat whatever is convenient and delicious right now.”

“I don’t have time to cook!” or “I can’t cook because we have no gas!” and, my personal favorite, “I don’t want to cook because our dishwasher is broken, and I don’t want to hand-wash the dishes!”

Excuse upon excuse led me to at least 2 weeks of eating whatever was handy without a thought about Weight Watchers PointsPlus or tracking my food.

I have been feeling exceedingly guilty about this eating issue after posting just a couple of weeks ago about how I indulged over the holidays and then “got right back on plan.”

Yeah. I did.

For 3 days.

So, here I am again to apologize to all of you for not confessing sooner. The truth is, after only a few days back on track, I found excuse upon excuse to indulge and remain off track for weeks. And, honestly, none of my excuses are good ones because there is no good excuse for hurting myself this way or for putting my health on the back burner.

After 2 and a half years on Weight Watchers, I know very well that there will always be “excuses” for overeating available to me should I look for them. Whether it’s a holiday, my birthday, a stressful time in my life, or just being grumpy, I can always find a reason to explain away my behavior. But, sticking my head in the sand isn’t going to get me anywhere.

I’m not going to make an excuse for these last few weeks on track. However, I’m also not going to beat myself up over it… because, honestly, I could use “punishing” myself as an excuse to over- or under-eat too! Not going to happen; not this time.

No more excuses. It’s time to get back on track. And, honestly, there’s no trick to it. No words of wisdom I can give here to explain how one stops and gets back on the Weight Watchers or healthy eating bandwagon. I just have to do it.

Making Peace with Hunger

Over the holidays, I indulged. I’m going to put that out there right now.

cookies

I had cake, cookies, truffles, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, candy… I had it all. A little of everything. I didn’t track these things. For about 5 days, I did not track at all. And then, on December 26th, I picked up where I left off and began tracking again.

 

I admit, I am proud of this; I am proud that I was able to let loose and then pick right back up where I left off. But, I am also telling you all of this because I am mentally struggling with myself about getting back on track.

Why?

Because I’m hungry.

sharkme

(This is me when I’m hungry. Truth.)

Right now, while I write this, I am hungry. My stomach is twinge-ing and twisting; I feel a rumble coming on. I’m thinking of lunch, which is still over an hour away. I’m thinking of dinner…of dessert…of food. I’m hungry, and hungry isn’t something I do very well.

The first days back on track are always the hardest and hungriest for me. When I first begin any “new diet venture,” I am able to endure this hunger out of the excitement and possibility of losing weight. The motivation for drastic change overrules the hunger. But now, over 2 years into Weight Watchers, that motivation and honeymoon-type excitement is essentially gone. So, I find myself having to look at hunger differently. I’m realizing that not only is my weight loss journey about my relationship with food and myself…it’s also about my relationship with hunger.

When I was a teenager, someone once told me that my stomach growling was the sound of fat being burned. That mindset led me to embrace hunger; it was comforting to me.

I don’t consider that to be a healthy way of looking at hunger.

When I was in college, I ate so much and so frequently that I went about 4 years without ever feeling hunger pains. Then, when I did finally feel hunger again, it was unbearably painful.

I don’t consider that to be a healthy relationship with hunger either.

Now, I see hunger pains as a line of communication between my mind and body.

Hunger pain is a sign that my body is still working. It’s a sign that I haven’t overeaten; it’s also a sign that I need to eat something. Hunger is my body saying “I’m ready for some fuel!”

Hunger can also be an emotion. I can get angry or resentful hunger when I think that I deserve an indulgence that I am not allowing myself right now. I can get sad hunger when I think that I deserve an indulgence to help me feel better about a loss in my life. Because, let’s face it, cake always makes things a little better.

IMG_0971

Hunger can be a mental awareness that “yesterday, I would be eating something at this time.” It can be an awareness of change in quantity, quality, or type of food.

“This orange is not chocolate. I’m hungry for chocolate!”

“This salad may be huge, but I’m still hungry for a burger.”

“This soup may fill me up, but I’m still not too full for candy.”

Hunger can be overwhelming. Sometimes I let it control me; I’ll reach for the easiest food to access the moment I get home from work.

Hunger is uncomfortable. Hunger is a sign of life. Hunger is a call for action. Hunger is a shared experience.

Hunger is so many things to me. In times like this, when I’m getting myself back on plan, I debate with myself about my hunger. All of those thoughts I discussed above…they all bounce around in my head. I think, in the end, it is important to feel hunger and it is important to deal with hunger appropriately. This means not letting myself get overwhelmed by hunger to the point where the hunger is making the decisions.

Whenever I feel hunger now, I ask myself where it is coming from. On days like today, the hunger is genuine. I’m hungry because my stomach is adjusting to less food. This type of hunger is hard to deal with, but basically what I’ve chosen to do is keep my body on a healthy schedule. As long as I am giving my body what it needs each day, it’s ok for me to be hungry sometimes.

My Weight Watchers leader also gave me a great way of analyzing my hunger. She suggested that, when I feel hunger, I ask myself “would I like an apple right now?” If the answer to that question is “yes,” then I am probably feeling genuine hunger. If an apple (or whatever fruit/vegetable you choose) is not appealing, then that hunger is probably emotional.

So, I’m going to give that trick a try as I get myself back on plan.

Yep.

An apple sounds pretty darn appealing right now 😉

Guess it’s time for lunch!

Apple

The Tradition of Food

It’s that time of year: time for candy and pies…time for cookies, cakes, turkey, and stuffing. It’s time for love, warmth, family, and memories. It’s time for sweet smells, crisp air, warm drinks, and pumpkin everything. It’s time for tradition. And, for me, that tradition includes a lot of food.

(Who DOESN’T put a whole stick of butter in their corn??)

This time of year is always bitter-sweet for me now that I’ve left childhood behind. Many of the traditions from my childhood have passed for good, and new traditions just don’t have those beautiful memories attached to them yet. But one thing never really changes about this time of year, and that is the food.

(My Christmas cookies from 2011)

No matter how old I get, there will still be turkey on Thanksgiving and cookies on Christmas (God-willing… because I know that, for many, food is a luxury). It’s very easy for me to start trying to fill up the bit of emptiness I feel because of ended traditions with food that will always be around.

This year, I want to start a new tradition. I want to start a tradition where I focus on people and non-food experiences for the holidays. I want to fill up the bitter-sweet spaces with love, and not with food. I want food to just be food and not something that I cling to because it will never change or leave me.

This year, I’ll focus on random acts of kindness, sharing memories, and visiting family. I’ll sing carols (which also never change), give gifts, and make sure to tell people that I love them. I’ll dance in the first snow, play like a kid again, and try to find magic that still exists even as an adult.

I want these things to be my new traditions. I want to remember that genuine love also never leaves; in fact, it lasts a lot longer than any food.