I feel fat today. I understand this is not a reality. I am not fat. But I feel fat. Well, I am about 4 lbs heavier than where I like to be. And my pants are currently a bit snug. But, that reality aside, a lot of it’s in my head. A lot of it will always be in my head. Let me explain why.
This was me in August 2004:
That’s me…on the right.
This was me in Taos, NM about a month ago:
Allow me to share my story: I was always chubby as a kid. I gained more weight the older I got. It wasn’t that I ate junk. My parents didn’t keep chips and crap in the house. We didn’t eat out very often. We ate at the dinner table nightly. And they were well-balanced meals. I want to be clear that in no way do I feel that my family contributed to my weight. I made my own choices, most when I was old enough to forage in the refrigerator and cupboards on my own as a teen. Even in a house without junk food you can find a way to overeat. Confession: to this day I have a fondness for ketchup-n-mustard sandwiches. Take bread, add ketchup, add mustard, eat. Yum. Even when I moved out on my own I didn’t eat a lot of fast food or buy a lot of junk food. I simply ate too much. Portion size was the primary problem. And lack of activity.
About 10 years ago I hit my highest weight and tipped the scales at around 225. I’m 5’8″. At the time I told myself that my height allowed me to carry my weight well. I look at that picture and I now know that’s not true. In a casual conversation my Dad suggested I get my cholesterol checked as high cholesterol runs on his side of the family. I did and my doctor shared with me that my cholesterol was a bit higher than she’d like to see for someone my age (early 30’s). She said that it would likely drop if I would lost 20 lbs.
I had never really put a lot of effort into weight loss. Or, rather, I had tried to modify eating habits (I would occasionally do the old Slim-Fast regimen), but I never addressed exercise. But, when my doctor suggested losing 20 lbs to address a potential health issue it’s like a little light bulb went off. Nothing grandiose, just a, “Yeah…okay…I could probably lose 20 lbs.”
And I did.
I lived alone at the time, which made controlling what was in the house easy. I joined the local YMCA because the people that went there were normal looking and I didn’t feel like I was on display. And I lost 20 lbs. It took a few months, but I did it. The right way.
Here is me stepping on my soapbox:
PEOPLE!! There is no easy way when it comes to weight loss. There is no pill, no shake, no surgery that is going to make it easy and instantaneous. Or, maybe it will make it instantaneous, but the chances of keeping it off? Slim. I watch The Biggest Loser. Do I support their plan? Hell no!! Why? Weight loss, at its very essence, is simple: portion control (and portions of good stuff like lean meat, vegetables, etc) and exercise. That’s it. You know what makes it so very hard? YOUR MIND!! MY mind! And that is why, in my opinion, a gradual approach is best. Because you have to wrap your mind around all of this! Your mind has to adjust to your changing body, your changing lifestyle. Because it is a lifestyle change. It is a mind change. AND THERE IS NO EASY WAY! And, can I be brutally honest? If you take the short cut the likelihood of you keeping the weight off for the long haul is, in my opinion, unlikely. Know why? There’s no easy way. Know why else? Because the real challenge STARTS when you reach your goal weight. And if you’re not prepared for that you’re in a heap of trouble.
Back to my story: so, I lost 20 lbs. My cholesterol dropped into a more acceptable range. And I decided the 20 hadn’t been too hard and that I might as well keep going. Slowly, steadily I lost another 20. Then I hit a plateau. And couldn’t seem to get past it. Months passed. I was about to give up when a girlfriend approached me and asked if I’d be interested in joining Weight Watchers. We joined. I worked the plan…and my body responded. Slowly, dropping 1-3 lbs a week, I approached goal. And reached goal. 155. 70 lbs lighter from where I began. It took me around three years from start to finish.
This is where I think many people go awry with weight loss. They lose the weight and then think that they can return to their previously scheduled program (or, rather, habits). Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Once I hit goal I realized that I faced the most daunting task of all…keeping the weight off. All of a sudden losing the weight seemed like the easy part.
For some time after reaching goal I continued to track points according to the Weight Watchers plan. Over time I began to adapt the plan to the LaNae plan…the one that worked for me. It wasn’t a diet, it was a lifestyle. It wasn’t about what I could and couldn’t have, it was about choices. It was about remaining active. That’s how I live today, a good 8 years since reaching goal. I’m proud to report that I have stayed within 7 lbs of goal since that time. And I still drink wine. I enjoy food. No…I love food. But, again, choices.
So, why do I feel fat today?
This is what I learned through my weight loss journey: the battle isn’t really with my body, it’s with my mind. Even now, 8 years later, there are too many days that I still feel like that 225 lb woman. There are days that I struggle with a desire to exercise…those days seem to be frequent right now. I look in the mirror and I see the back bulge, I see the loose-hanging skin that resulted from carrying so much weight for so many years….and I struggle. I sometimes overlook the trim woman that I suspect I really am. It’s messed up. And frustrating. It’s tough when your husband tells you you’re beautiful…and you don’t believe him.
Sigh. The battle continues. But, you know what I know for sure? I’ll never go back. My weight loss has brought me….freedom. One of the husband and I’s favorite shared activities is hiking. We can go out and hike 15 miles on a Saturday. I could never have done that before. I am in better shape in my 40’s than I was in my 20’s. That’s priceless to me.
So, my weight is up. But, I’ll get it back down. Because it’s life. It’s my life. And I will live it to its fullest. I will never go back. And I will hike and I will exercise and I will drink good wine and eat good food and I will enjoy life.