Reflections on Losing 100 Pounds: What “After” Me Would Say to “Before” Me

If I could go back in time … go back to Before and talk to my young-20s self who was only a couple of years into her weight-loss journey, what would I tell her? What advice might I give this version of myself who was finally stepping into her life and learning to live out loud?

The first piece of advice I would give myself is to get into therapy.

You have been through trauma, and it is influencing you in ways you can’t see. You may not even be ready to call it trauma, but it is.

You need to learn to deal with these things instead of shoving them into a box in the back of your mind as if they will just disappear or stay out of sight, out of mind. Because, that box will never contain them. And, they won’t go away. Not with losing weight, not with binging or stopping binging, not with exercise, finding a new partner…not even with therapy. But, at least with therapy, you won’t be holding them alone.

cir. 2011

Next, I would tell myself to talk to a dietician. Not just any dietician, but one who specializes in eating disorders. Because, news flash young self, you have an eating disorder.

Not “you’ll develop one,” but you HAVE one. You’ve had one for a long time. And, while Weight Watchers has taught you how to control and track portions, you are doing absolutely nothing to get to the root of your already-decade-long eating disorder. And, if you don’t address anything but the manual steps to losing weight, you’re going to come out this on the other side just as unhealthy as you went in.

Then, I would tell her…find something, anything that is not weight- or diet-related, to be passionate about and then fully invest yourself in that thing. Nurture the ever-loving-sh*t out of that passion.

Knowing me, I’d say…ride horses. Ride ALL the horses. Learn to canter and jump and ride bareback – who cares that you’re still in a bigger body? Do it anyways! Find a way. Set aside money to make it something you do every single week. Make it a priority.

When you are sad, ride a horse; when you are angry, ride a horse; when you are happy, ride a horse; when you have overwhelming feelings in every direction and don’t know what to do, ride a horse… if you can’t afford to ride, find some way to be with horses… or walk dogs or paint or sing or maybe even learn to dance. ANYthing but starting a new diet.

One day, this journey will be over — the journey of weight loss. One day, you will be at After. And what will you do then? What will be your passion then?

Find it now. Nurture it now. Do it now so that when “after” gets here, you are not left without a life outside of weight loss to which to turn.

Which leads me to…this: don’t ever let your world shrink around any one thing.

Nothing is permanent.

I know it is your most desperate wish that something or someone will come into your life with a promise of forever that you can actually believe in, but start grieving now, because that doesn’t exist.

And if something or someone starts promising you otherwise, run as fast and far away as you can. Don’t cling to it in desperation for the false promise to be true.

The only constant is change.

Your body will change, the number on the scale will change, the people in your life will change, your life situation will change, everything will change. Forever and always. And no matter how hard you try to make that not happen — no matter how hard you try to control or avoid change, it will come just the same.

There is very little in life that you can actually control, and that is scary as fuck.

So, gather your resources. Build a team of support around you…a life full of support and passion.

That’s what I’d tell my young self. And I’d hope to god that I’d listen.

Weight Loss Addiction

I wake up in the morning, use the restroom, and then slip out of my pajamas while analyzing every inch of my body in the mirror.

Do I look bloated today? Is my stomach sticking out further than yesterday? When’s the last time I had a bowel movement? (You’re welcome for that TMI.)

I step on the scale while holding my breath. I analyze everything I’ve eaten in the last 24 hours. Did some choice I made yesterday mean the scale will be higher today? The what-ifs start: What if I’d just foregone ONE snack, eaten 100 calories less, if I’d JUST skipped the chocolate…

The number comes up. It’s a loss!

I feel an immediate rush of pleasure: yes, yes, yes! I did it! It feels so good!

Do you know that feeling?

How long does it last for you?

It used to last me a while — a week, days, at least that one whole day. A 0.2 or half-pound loss would still give me a little dopamine spike for a bit.

Now, it lasts mere seconds, and only if I drop down to at least the next pound lower. I can maybe drag it out by posting about it somewhere, writing it down, recording it. But never for more than a few extra seconds.

Then, I am craving the next hit. I am thinking about the day to come. I am making food plans, figuring out how best to avoid food situations, re-analyzing yesterday’s choices for what I could’ve done better to get a bigger loss… a bigger hit.

It’s an addiction. And, I don’t know when it became this.

The truth of the matter is, I’m pretty OK with the way my body looks right now. I’m 134 pounds, 5’6”, I lift weights, so I have some muscle definition — yes, I have loose skin, but I’m healthy. I’m average. (That’s frightening in and of itself, but that’s another post for another day.) So, if I’m OK with my body, why do I want to keep losing weight?

This is not something I was ever warned about when I began my weight loss journey. And, maybe it’s not an issue for everyone, but it makes sense that it is for me. I used to use food to get that dopamine rush. Nothing made me feel as (temporarily) “good” (or, at least numb) as a binge. And, over time, I had to eat more and more to get those feelings, which also lasted less time. I wish I had considered that the same might be true for weight loss.

I don’t know how to end this blog because, right now, I’m stuck in this addiction. I can only say, if I did it all again, I would focus more on nurturing the other things in my life so that my world didn’t shrink around any one thing: food, weight loss, exercise, a person… anything can be addictive. And, since I think I’m probably hardwired to be prone to obsession, I would and will focus more on being flexible in any area of my life where I begin to become rigid.

I know I needed to lose weight at one point in my life, but I wish I’d had a better picture of the long game.

What Do You Do When Numbing is Off the Table?

I often look back on my past selves and think “what the hell happened?”

What happened to make me gain so much weight?

What happened to make me lose so much weight?

Why did I continually eat until I was in physical pain?

Why did I continually starve until I couldn’t go on a simple walk?

When I think back to all of these times in my life, I’ve realized that they were all times of trauma. Often, extended trauma – not one-time events.

I had heard of emotional eating, and I knew that it was something I used to do. (Something I labeled as “BAD!”) But, I had never heard of “emotional restriction.” I had never considered that one might turn to restriction in the same way one might turn to a pint of ice cream for comfort. But, when I think about it now, it makes perfect sense.

When food is the first place you turn in every crisis you’ve experienced your entire life, it makes perfect sense that restricting food could become the place you turn.

I didn’t recognize this pattern in myself until very recently. But, looking back, even before the restrictive eating disorder, starting a “new diet” always brought up a bit of a rush — a sense of hope, new beginnings, and accomplishment. The promise of approval and love in times when I felt unlovable and unworthy.

I bring this up now, because I have spent the last 6 weeks in the worst restrictive relapse since I began recovering from my eating disorder. I’m telling you this because I always want to be honest about my weight loss. And, honestly, because I know my friends and family read this blog…and I need you to not complement me on my weight loss if you see me over the holidays & happen to notice. I need you to know that I did not lose this weight healthily — I lost it because I’ve been trying to numb myself and cope after dealing with a trauma.

Those close to me will know what happened. I don’t want to go into intimate details here, but to avoid speculation, I will say that it had to do with finding out someone close to me was actually a sociopath & reporting that person for abuse, which has been a year-long process that has finally concluded.

What I do want to talk about — even solicit from those who might still read this blog — are other ways to cope with trauma and overwhelming feelings when you’ve spent your entire life turning to either food or restriction to deal with these things.

What do you do? What do you do when you are so overwhelmed by feelings that it is intolerable? What do you do when you cannot wrap your mind around something traumatic that has happened? How do you cope?

I can’t turn to cake… and I can’t turn to starvation. What do you do when numbing is off the table?

Perhaps the answer is right in front of me — I do this.

I write a blog.

What Does Normal Bloating Look Like?

I recorded a video for my YouTube channel yesterday (I’ll post it below) that I thought would translate pretty well into a blog as well (plus, I’m going to add some bonus pictures that aren’t in the video just for my awesome blog readers). For those who would rather watch vs. read (or watch and read), here is the video:

Now…let’s talk about bloating.

This experiment was inspired by one of my favorite YouTubers, Natacha OcĂ©ane, who recorded what a normal day of bloating and scale fluctuations look like for her. Now, there are a few differences between Natacha and myself…

Natacha and Me

…have you spotted them?

I’ll give you a minute.

Just in case you can’t tell from this photo, Natacha is in her 20s, has never been obese, and has never had a child — three pretty big differences between the two of us!

I loved her honest portrayal so much, though, that I wanted to provide my own showing my different body type. So, that’s what I did!

Now, if you watch the video, you’ll hear all about how difficult this day wound up being for me. I struggle pretty hard with watching the scale and my body fluctuate. I am hoping that this experiment will help to remind me that these are very fickle things that fluctuate wildly, and there’s no need or reason to change anything just because of minor fluctuations like this.

Now, the experiment…

Method!

I “measured” as soon as I woke up, after my run, after lunch, before bed, and when I woke up again this morning.

I took two sets of photos/video: my abs relaxed vs. my abs flexed (not that you can see them, haha).

I also weighed myself.

What I Ate

Pre-run: espresso with some creamer

Breakfast: protein pancakes w/ extra protein powder, peanut butter chips, coffee w/ creamer

Lunch: half of a buffalo ranch salad kit with a beef pattie on top, sweet potato chips, sour gummies

Dinner: a bowl of cereal with 2% milk, blueberries, and a yogurt

Snacks: lunch meat (turkey), crackers, pickles, protein bar, decaf coffee with creamer

How I Worked Out

5-mile short run

Results!

Here are the weights:

I was 140.2 when I woke up, 138.8 after my 5-mile run, 140.8 after lunch, and 140.8 before bed.

scale.jpg

I woke up at 139.6 this morning.

scale2.jpg

Abs Relaxed Photos

absrelaxed1.jpg

Absrelaxed2.jpg

This morning:

Absrelaxed4.jpg

Abs Flexed Photos!

Flex1.jpg

Flex2.jpg

This morning:

Flex4.jpg

Conclusion!

Bloat is normal, the scale fluctuates a lot throughout the day and day-to-day, and these things are not something to worry about. I thought, at first, that I bloat up “bigger” than others because of the elasticity in my stomach area, but I’m honestly not sure that’s true now. I think I’m just much more critical of myself!

Also, on a personal note, yes, I have legitimately gained a couple pounds in the last couple of months. I actually had lost about 4-5 pounds when I went on a short-term, idiotic diet, but my body composition test told me that all I’d managed to do was lose muscle & water & freak my body out so that it was holding onto fat for dear life. So, I stopped dieting, got back on the intuitive eating train, and re-gained the weight within 3 weeks. My next body composition test is next week, and I’m hoping to see that I have my muscle (water) back.

Personal Note

This was a really hard experiment for me, and I am feeling all sorts of anxious about putting it out there. I’m definitely struggling with body image a lot these days – more, I think, than I was even before I started exercising.

That said, the exercise is going amazingly well! I continue to see gains in my strength and endurance, and I want that to be all that matters — I at least want it to matter more than a stupid number on a scale. I hope, some day, this is true for me.