***WARNING: This post will be dealing with weight loss, anorexia, and body image. Please keep yourself safe and back out now if this is something that will upset or trigger you. Thank you.***
I have been very heavy for my entire life. I actually wasn’t aware of my size until I hit second grade, when I overheard some older kids in the hallway calling me fat. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I knew from their tone that it wasn’t something good. I slowly began to notice the differences between myself and my classmates, not only in appearance but in how I was treated. Being fat seemed to be a terrible thing, and it was what bullies latched onto the most.
I walked home from school once with at least three teenage boys following behind me, making stomping noises and calling me a Teletubby. I heard insults like that so often they almost became background noise. I also remember being forced to do a tumble in a gym class when I was a kid and not only did it hurt, I wet myself a little. Being the fat kid who just slightly wet her pants in class was completely mortifying.
As I got older, I continued to gain weight. My family was pretty poor and like most working class folks, we had to eat on the cheap. Cheap food is often terrible for you, and fresh food is often expensive, so I got used to what I call the “Poverty Diet”. You eat whatever you can afford without caring what’s in it or what it’s doing to you. My sister and I weren’t taught how to eat healthy or what a portion size even was, because our mom also hadn’t been taught anything like that. We would go back for seconds and thirds at Sunday dinner and on days the welfare check came in we would binge eat all the “good stuff” (aka junk food) and survive on wieners and Kraft Dinner until the next check. That’s what kids do, and those bad habits follow those kids into adulthood.
By the time I was 20, I was around 298lbs. At one point, I wore a size 28 pant. I was around 21 or 22 when I decided I wanted to lose weight and try to be healthy. I started off walking an hour every day with a friend from work, and then I tried to make healthier food choices at home. Then I joined a gym and worked my way up to going four times per week. I didn’t know anything about strength training and stuck to the elliptical. I started dropping weight and feeling better. Then, my boyfriend at the time cheated on me with someone thinner.
I was devastated. My self-esteem was beneath the floor at that point in my life so rather than kicking him to the curb the way I should have, I decided that the only way to keep him interested in me was to lose more weight. And since controlling my portion sizes and doing cardio had gotten me results, I decided the quickest way to shrink my waist size would be to seriously restrict my calories.
That started a very dark downward spiral. For about a year, I ate between 300 – 600 calories per day. I continued working out until it became too difficult. On the days I went over my calorie limit, I sobbed and cut myself. I wrote everything I was eating and feeling in a thick red journal and I’m endlessly grateful I don’t have that book in my possession anymore because the things I remember writing about myself were completely awful. I was depressed, I was hungry, and I was being physically and emotionally abused at the time. In short, I felt like total shit.
But I dropped 140lbs and 20 pant sizes. I was 150lbs and able to shop in regular stores for the first time. I got so much positive attention for losing so much weight that it made me want to continue and get even thinner. I was terrified of regaining weight. On the outside, I should’ve been happy, but on the inside I felt sick and weak and horrible. Only a couple of my friends not only noticed I looked ill, they actively called me out on it and told me I had lost enough weight and could stop now. I believe those friends saved my life. (Thanks, Lesley and Dawna!)
Once I had left my abuser, I moved back in with my mother and started eating regularly again. I think at some point I subconsciously realized that if I kept going the way I was going, I would end up dead, so my sense of self preservation (and my mother’s keen eye) kicked in. The year I had spent starving had destroyed my metabolism so I gained weight back very quickly. My untreated depression continued to spiral out of control over the next few years and I went from starving to binge eating and ended up gaining even more weight. In the span of two months after my friend’s suicide, I went up 6 pant sizes. That’s REALLY fast weight gain.
My relationship with food has always been dysfunctional, it’s been either feast or famine (mostly feast) for as long as I can remember. As I’ve mentioned, I’m on a mission this year to do what I had planned to do back in my early 20s: GET HEALTHY. No restricting calories to dangerous limits — I’m not even counting calories right now. I’m simply making healthier food choices and moving a lot more. I’m drinking WAY MORE WATER than ever before and I’ve cut out pop. When I want some junk food, which for me usually means chocolate, I just have a little so I don’t feel deprived. If I feel like having pizza, I make sure to eat a salad beforehand and then just have one piece. I don’t want to have a bad relationship with food, I want to be able to eat and enjoy myself in life. I’ve been to the gym four times this week and I’m planning to attend some Zumba and yoga classes next week to keep things interesting. Next month, my gym has a 60 day fitness challenge happening and I’ve already signed up. I want to make physical activity a part of my life in a way I’ve never done before. I would love to get back to 150lbs again, but this time I’m going to do it by giving love to the body I have right now and making it stronger.
I truly believe you can be healthy at any size and that every single one of us has the right to a healthy lifestyle. Not everyone can afford a gym membership but doing whatever you can to keep yourself healthy within your abilities is something everyone deserves. Whether someone wants to lose weight or get stronger or just eat better food, those goals are within your reach as long as you go forward with love for yourself.
I lost 140lbs by hating my body and treating it terribly. I’d like to lose 140lbs by treating it with love and respect this time around, and I’m going to document my journey here. 2018 is the year I get my mental and physical health heading in the right direction. 2018 is the year I’ll actually listen to my body and give it all the good things it deserves. I hope you’ll join me!