***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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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!

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That’s my little niece or nephew right there. My sister had her first official ultrasound done on Dec. 27 and she sent me this photo right after. She’s going to be a mom and I’m going to be an auntie, and I can barely contain myself.

The baby is due July 5, 2018. Life is about to get a lot more interesting, and I’m so excited!

 

Categories: Life

“Have you done squats before?”

Once I had stopped laughing, I looked at the personal trainer standing across from me and said, “You’re funny.” He smiled and then showed me how to do a squat. I tried to copy his movements, stretching my arms out in front of me and slowly bending my knees and lowering myself toward the floor.

“Try to keep your heels on the floor,” he said, as I began to go up on my tiptoes. I stood up and tried again, barely able to squat at all as my heels groaned in protest. After a few more dismal attempts, he grabbed a couple of round weights for me to put my heels on and had me do three sets of fifteen squats. My left knee gave a little crunch and I imagined I could hear my woefully underused thigh muscles screaming like the damned.

It was last Friday, my 30th birthday, and I was at the gym for an on-boarding session. As part of employee orientation, the company requires new recruits to meet with a personal trainer to talk about goals, make a plan, and do a workout. When I heard this, I practically jumped for joy, since I’ve been thinking about working on my physical health ever since the happy pills made my brain stop self-sabotaging. And a free session with someone whose job is to be physically fit? Hell to the yes.

I got up early that day and put on four thousand layers to keep warm, then trekked through the piling snow to the club. I was PUMPED. I was STOKED. I WAS READY.

My trainer was out sick. *record scratch*

Luckily, another trainer stepped up to the plate and took over my session, and I have to say I’ve never been so glad that someone was out sick before. I always imagined personal trainers as more of a super-buff drill sergeant, screaming in your face as you sweat (sweated? swat?) profusely and struggled to do even a single push-up, crying and begging for mercy. This dude was a normal looking guy and he didn’t scream at me once. We sat down and went over what I was looking to get out of the session.

I decided the best way to get everything I could out of it was to be completely balls-out honest. I told this complete stranger about losing 140lbs by eating 300 calories per day for a year (that’s called ANOREXIA and is NOT a weight-loss plan). I told him my goal is to lose around the same amount of weight in a way that is sustainable and healthy. I also told him point blank about my struggle with mental illness and how physical health is the next thing I’d like to conquer. I told him I want to be as strong and healthy as I can.

He told me the first step was to get an idea of where I am right now.

“OH GOD,” I replied, probably going several shades paler.

“It’s okay,” he assured me. “We all start somewhere.” He went on to explain that the machine I was about to step on would not only weigh me, it would break down my body composition so we’d know how much was muscle and how much was body fat. We walked over to this funny robot-looking thing and I took off my shoes and socks (OF COURSE I HADN’T PAINTED MY TOENAILS OR ANYTHING, FML) and stepped on. I held onto the handles and watched as the numbers crept up. And up. AND UP.

320lbs.
45% muscle.
55% body fat.

So that’s where I am. I braced myself and looked at the trainer, who stood there with a completely passive expression and then explained each number to me and emphasized the importance of getting a whole picture rather than just relying on the overall weight. I stepped off and jammed my feet back into my socks and shoes, then followed my new friend over to a spot beside the weights. That’s where he had me do those godforsaken squats, which he followed with having me bend slightly and pick up a kettle bell while squeezing my “glutes” (come on, we all know you wanted me to CLENCH MY ASS, it’s okay, you can say it). I did that until my thighs were screaming and my lower back joined in with backing vocals.

After that, he showed me how to use the rowing machine. Apparently it will help build up my back muscles, which will help with my rounded shoulders and posture. (I have TERRIBLE posture, friends. I already knew this. Of course, having it pointed out briefly made me picture myself swinging round the bell tower like Quasimodo.)

I got on the machine and started rowing. “Oh, this is relaxing,” I said. “I feel like I’m rowing a boat. Of course, I have never rowed a boat in my life, so I wouldn’t know.”

The trainer added more weight and had me focus on squeezing my shoulder blades together as I pulled back. I could feel it in my forearms and shoulders. A few days later I would feel it ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE in my arms and back.

After that, we went over to the inclining bench and he had me raise 10lb weights up and over my head. When it seemed like that was too easy, he had me change the position and use 12.5lb weights. As I struggled to keep them steady, he said encouraging things and helped me out when I fucked up the positioning. “Three more,” he said, as my arm muscles joined the screaming choir of my body.

“I can do three more,” I grunted.

“Yeah!” he said, “Of course you can!”

I didn’t want to do three more, but of course when someone is watching and you’re being encouraged, you just can’t let them down. I did the three and then we went back over to sit down and make a plan and set some goals.

My goal is to lose 48lbs in 6 to 8 months. He told me if I want to lose 140lbs again, I should have a timeline of about 18 months to 2 years to do it safely, but getting to 40% body fat is my first goal. And he’s going to work with me to get there. That’s right, folks. I have found my official personal trainer. And because I’m an employee, I get a discount on personal training, which means I can actually afford it. Believe me, I know how fucking lucky I am to have this opportunity which is why I plan on taking advantage of it. And I also plan on documenting this journey here, as well as my mental health journey. Speaking of which, my trainer has also struggled with mental health issues in the past and we spent a good portion of my session talking about it. He told me meeting other people who have been through similar things reminds him of what it might be like for soldiers meeting each other after a war, and I understand what he means. When you talk about your struggle with someone who understands what that’s like, you share common ground and I suppose it is a little like trading war stories. The mental health war. I’ve been so lucky in my life to have met other people fighting their own minds too and been honored to call them friends. When this trainer told me that, I knew we would get along just fine. I don’t know if I could trust someone to help me reach my physical goals if they didn’t understand mental health as well.

My other goals are to learn to snowboard next winter, and go skydiving the following summer if possible. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to safely fling myself out of a moving plane.

It’s also incredibly important to me that I never ever lose sight of the fact that you can be healthy at any size and people who work out or are trying to lose weight aren’t better than people who are happy at their size. Not everyone has the same resources or access to gyms or trainers, not everyone can afford healthy food. Just because I’ve chosen to try to get stronger and lose body fat doesn’t mean I want to make anyone feel bad about themselves. It also doesn’t mean I hate my body the way it is now. I don’t. I love being alive, I’m lucky to be alive, and my body is just as valid at 320lbs as it was when I was 150lbs. Anyone who doesn’t think so can kiss my glutes.

Tomorrow I will be 30.

Tomorrow I will be 30.

Tomorrow I will be 30.

I never thought I would make it to this point. I remember turning 20 and thinking, This is it. I have arrived. Hello, adulthood, I’m going to make you my bitch. And then life actually happened and I spent most of that decade flailing around trying to find something to hold onto. I feel like your twenties are SUPPOSED to shake you up like dice in a Yahtzee cup and when you come tumbling out, you have a better idea of who you really are. Like the excess crap has been shaken off you.

I have been looking forward to turning 30 since my 28th birthday. The closer I got to the end of my 20s, the more I felt like I just wanted to get them over with. Like, let’s get onto a new, fresh decade already! If I could have skipped 29 I probably would have, but I think I’ve learned some of my best lessons in the last year of my life. I feel like this past year has really shaped who I am as a person and laid the foundation for where I’m heading over the next ten years.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions on January 1st, instead I prefer to set my goals at the beginning of a new year in my life. I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I have a few things I’d like to accomplish this year, mainly focused on my health and wellbeing.

I’ve made great strides over the past few months when it comes to handling my depression. This coming year, I’d like to keep that focus and follow my plan of action. Once I have benefits, my aim is to see a therapist to begin to work through the abuse I suffered in both childhood and adulthood and work on my self confidence, but in the meantime I can keep trying to be positive on my own and keep taking my meds.

A lot of my focus for this year is on my physical health. I need to make an appointment to see an optometrist very soon because my eyesight has gotten worse and it’s annoying trying to squint at everything. A gym membership is included with my new job so the majority of my goals for this year are to exercise and try to get to a healthy weight. Exercise is great for helping with depression so that’s a win-win right there. It’s also incredibly important for me to make sure to eat good food. It has always been easy for me to justify eating like crap because it’s cheaper and often faster than cooking anything at home, but working in a place surrounded by healthy food is going to make a huge difference there.

Reading and writing more are always on my list of goals for myself. I haven’t put together a reading list yet but every year I aim to finish 25 books. This year I only managed to read 8, but to be fair there were a lot of other things that required my attention. Now that things have somewhat settled down, I’d like to get back to reading. I’ve already started blogging more, which is very important to me, and I’d like to continue that this year.

I know it’s early, but I feel like this next year of my life (and 2018 in general) are going to be more wonderful and more stable than the last year was.

Cheers to a new decade!

I’ve given up on a great many things in my life. Dreams that were once held close to my heart have been let go and scattered to the wind. Friendships that were once my lifeline have drifted apart like boats in rough water. I think giving up on some things is natural in life, because circumstances may demand that you shift your priorities and goals as you grow and change into the person you’re meant to become.

Three years ago, I gave up on romantic love.

I spent my early twenties struggling to please someone whose only joy was my emotional and physical destruction. I was able to escape my situation after five years of pure hell, and I know that I am one of the lucky ones. Some people never make it out. I think one of the least understood and acknowledged aspects of surviving domestic violence is what happens once you leave. Once you gather the shattered pieces of yourself and try to put them back together. I don’t have the words to describe what I went through in the early stages of my healing process, but it was definitely more than I was expecting. In that process I found myself reaching out for someone, anyone, who could make me feel like a whole person again. Over the course of those five years, I had forgotten how to be alone.

I had a string of one night stands and friends with benefits. Some were genuinely cool people, some were nothing more than a warm body. Each morning when those men would leave, I would wonder why I still felt empty, why my approach didn’t work. Eventually (and it took me far longer to realize than I’d like to admit), I realized I was giving away pieces of my spirit every time I gave my body to strangers. So I stopped.

For about a year now, I have been truly single. I haven’t been on a date or slept with anyone, instead I’ve been focusing my attention on healing and growing and building the kind of life I would be proud to share with somebody. And it’s been pretty amazing. I’ve rediscovered the things I liked before I met my ex-boyfriend. I’ve discovered even more amazing new things along the way. I’m beginning to fully embrace the person I am while working toward becoming who I want to be. I have taken the time to get to know myself again, and I know that when the time is right, I’ll meet the right person for me. But I’ve given up on the idea that you’re supposed to follow some sort of timeline when it comes to romantic love. I’ve given up on the idea that because I’m almost 30 and unmarried that there’s something wrong with me. I’ve never done anything in life the way I’m “supposed” to and I’m not about to start now. I’m making my own path and if that means I never meet a soul mate, I’m okay with that. Whatever plan is in place for me, I’ll see it through to the end. I’ve given up on hating myself and I’ve given up on allowing the hatred of others to poison the way I feel about myself. I’ve given up on negativity. I’ve given up on being too afraid to be the silly, goofy person I am. I’ve given up on being ashamed of myself or my choices. I’ve given up on being envious of people who have the things I’d like to earn for myself.

I’ve given up on trying be anyone I’m not. I’m loved, I’m worthy, I’m lucky, I’m a survivor.

On a hot night last summer, I sat out on the balcony staring up at the stars. I took each breath slowly, feeling my lungs expand with each inhale. “Okay,” I whispered. “I give in.”

It began like that, with a whisper. In that moment, I finally gave up the iron grip I thought I had had on my life and accepted Jesus in my heart. I had reached the point where I couldn’t keep going the way I had been going, I was tired and aching and so very empty inside my heart. I needed Him. And to my surprise, even though I had spent so many years angry with Him and rejecting Him, He was there in an instant to put His arms around me and welcome me back. Like a lost lamb, right? My Shepherd had been there the whole time to bring me back safely.

I grew up in a very Christian household. We went to church every Sunday, my mother was very involved in church groups and Sunday school. I prayed every night and wrote letters to God in my diary, but I was a bad Christian. The folks in charge at the church I attended didn’t like it when I asked questions about God. I was a naturally curious child and I wanted to know why tragedies happen if He only wants good things for us. I wanted to know how some of the things that happened in the Bible were possible. I wanted to know how the adults running my church could be certain that God even existed, or how they could be so sure that Jesus had once walked the earth. They mistook my curiosity for faithlessness and punished me. They told me I was never to question God, that I should be silent and learn my lessons and be a Good Girl.

I was never questioning God, I was only curious. He made me that way, to always think critically and question everything, but it was never a lack of faith. But being consistently shut down when it came to finding answers left a bad taste in my mouth when it came to Christianity. I was still too young to understand that religion is the worship of God, it is not actually God, and that sometimes the people who go to church every Sunday can actually be like snakes in the grass. Some of them are only trying to appear to be Christian when they really don’t feel the Holy Spirit in their lives at all.

And then my father died.

It was like all the air had been sucked from the room. A gaping hole had been left inside my heart and it felt like I had been gutted. How could this happen? How could God take away my father before I ever really had a chance to know him? That hole in my heart became a festering wound through which I began to lose my faith. It didn’t happen all at once, it took a long time for that wound to turn my soul sour. I tried to hold onto the belief that God would watch over me, but it slipped through my fingers. Over the next decade, it faded away to nothing and before long, God hardly passed through my mind.

They don’t tell you in church that when you lose your faith, you can keep going relatively easily. I always imagined it would be like losing a limb, like you just couldn’t keep going forward without God in your life. You can. But it’s a lot like the world loses its color. You stop seeing things the way you saw them before. Everything feels a little emptier. Anytime something awful happens to you, you blame yourself or others and you grow a little more bitter every day. And I went on like that for a very long time.

I never would’ve called myself an atheist though. I was more along the lines of an agnostic, I sort of believed God was there but I had shut the door and wouldn’t allow Him into my life. It was like “You do Your thing and I’ll do mine and we’ll stay out of each other’s business”. At the time, I felt like I didn’t have any place for Him in my life.

Then I met a really cool pastor through work. He asked me one day if I wanted to meet for coffee and have a talk. He wanted to know my story, and if you know me you know I love sharing stories with people. We met at my cafe and we traded some stories. Then he asked me where God fit into my life. I had wondered before I met up with him if he was going to preach at me, so I was somewhat expecting this type of question, but to my surprise it wasn’t quite like that. I suppose I had been expecting the kind of interrogation I would’ve gotten at my childhood church, but he just asked questions, listened to my answers respectfully, and let me know if I ever changed my mind or just wanted to talk to reach out to him. He had great answers to my own questions and he let me ramble. We parted ways and I didn’t give it too much further thought, but I know now that the seed had been planted. It was like Jesus was tapping me on the shoulder.

Some time later, that pastor’s church was putting on a movie night to raise awareness for the human trafficking problem that has gradually gotten worse here in the GTA. The film shown had a strong Christian message and was based on a true story. At the very end of the movie, one of the main characters tells a young prostitute that God loves her no matter what and I felt a little pull at my heart. It moved me to see this person on the screen who felt she had no worth being told that to God, she is precious. I had spent a very long time feeling as though I had no worth either, so I felt like the movie was speaking to me.

After the film, I got a ride home with my friend’s husband. He’s a big burly type, drives a tow truck, probably one of my favorite people on earth. No nonsense or bull with this guy, and I love people like that. During the drive, he began speaking to me about his own journey with Christ. About how he believes God has a plan because there’s no way the things that happen in life can be random. I was completely shocked. He did NOT fit my narrow idea of a believer, he was smart and funny and somehow I just didn’t picture him as a man of faith, but here he was telling me about his belief in God and suddenly I knew God himself was speaking to me. He had sent these people to me along my path to begin leaving breadcrumbs so I could find my way back. I had been so lost without Him and I hadn’t even known it until that moment, smoking a cigarette in the front seat of a tow truck, talking about God.

The instant I got home, I prayed. I felt moved to tears. I begged for forgiveness and asked for help and turned my life over to Jesus. “I give my life to You,” I whispered. “I can’t do this alone and I can’t do it without You. I want to live the life You had planned for me all along.” I gave up the illusion of control I had held onto for so long and let Jesus take over. I would walk the path He had for me, wherever it may lead, and I would do it with love.

A lot of things have happened since then, too many to write in one post. But ever since I gave my life back to the one who created it, my path has made more sense than it ever has. I have a type of clarity I’ve never had before. All those questions I had when I was a child, the ones the reverend and my Sunday school teachers hated, have been answered. God has shown me the answers through examples:

Why do tragedies happen? Because God wants to make us stronger. Strong enough to stand true in our faith and to come together and help each other. Just as a sword is forged through fire, we also must sometimes walk through flames so when we emerge on the other side we are stronger than we’ve ever been. My mental breakdown came after I had accepted Jesus as my savior and although it was a very dark time I now understand that He led me through that path so I would seek the help I needed. Now I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been, but I had to get through pain to reach this place. Without Jesus walking beside me I might never have gotten help.

How do I know God exists? I see Him everywhere. The random acts of kindness performed by strangers. The way the wind blows through the trees. The way the sun glints off the snow. God is in everything, and if you stand still and breathe deeply, you can feel Him all around you, connecting you to everyone and everything.

How do I know Jesus walked the earth? Because of the Bible and historical proof. Because I have faith. Because from the moment I said, “Jesus, my life is yours” everything in my world has completely changed in a very short period of time. I only need to look into my heart to feel His presence and to know He loves me and is walking beside me and will carry me when I’m too weak to continue on.

These are the answers I was seeking in childhood, and now that I’m an adult I have finally found them for myself. I’m just beginning my own journey with Christ but I am so excited to see what He has in store for me.

I am an unlikely (but incredibly happy) Christian.

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