In 2010, I lost 48 pounds. By the end of 2012, I gained it all back. Along the way, I lost myself.
It would be easy to write off my journey as pathetic, to state that I lack real commitment or focus or desire. Yet to do so would not be a true telling of what having food as a “go to” is, an honest view of body image complacency or a peek into one’s fear of change.
I once heard someone sum up that in making the choice to remain overweight, there must be something fulfilling occurring for the person—ease of habit, safety of hiding behind the pounds, evolution into martyrdom, maybe even added attention as everyone circles to “fix” them. I can say, “yes,” for the first three.
Growing up as a dancer, food was a source of fuel. I didn’t have a concept of good or bad body image. I was lucky to be instilled, from my parents, with a strong sense of self and appreciation of what I’d been given. My body was my body—muscled legs and balanced curves. I knew of peers who were delving into the weight loss crazes of the moment. Those who feasted on diet Pepsi as nourishment in an aim to be Kate Moss thin. A friend who was anorexic.
It was during junior year of college that my life turned the corner and the feasting began. I’d stopped my dancing regime by that point and entertainment centered around cheap, greasy food. Burgers? Check. Chips? Oh yeah. Cookies? Daily if I could. Mountain Dews were paired with late night studying. Belgian waffles were a staple for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Food became a comfort for any stress and the result blanketed me in layers like a cocoon. I graduated from college 50 pounds heavier.
Yet my body was my body and I purchased larger clothes and rolled with it.
A funny thing happened on the way to gaining the weight—everyone got silent. Now I bet if I’d picked up a nasty crack habit and become a skeletal base head form, they would have squawked. Or if I made it to the family reunion with patterns of track marks from a heroin love, someone would have eventually intervened.
Not with food. Not with weight. It is one of the last silent taboos. Folks will talk about you—“She’s sure put on weight” or “That outfit isn’t fitting right anymore”—but they won’t talk to you about the why of what’s going on. Everyone bought into the pattern of silence and I continued the growing cycle.
Change is a process. You can read loads of healthy living articles, see the tips, hear “thirty years from now” reality statements from your doctors (I swear my general practitioner is tag teaming with my Gyn) and watch The Biggest Loser success stories on a constant basis. The mind likes to learn, but that is only the first step.
For me, it took 18 years to choose change. Not for the concept of someone’s ideal of beauty, but for my future health. I hopped onto the Weight Watchers train and became a regular at the gym with weekly jumps into Zumba, Pilates machines, treadmill and bike time. I became a planking diva and a new, stronger me metamorphosed.
Then two car accidents at the end of 2010 knocked my focus away. My body felt like another body—injured, bruised and off course. Daily life became a balance of handling work responsibilities, making it to physical therapy appointments, trying to stay with my healthy eating choices, managing through chronic pain. I share this not to make excuses for going backwards, but to document for myself another example of the realities of life and that my weight loss journey isn’t something that will occur via a magic wand waved smooth transition.
There are patterns that I learned in life that I consciously must work on to no longer repeat. There are moments when the thought of spending 45 minutes on the recumbent bike makes me want to crawl under my bed. I still mourn the loss of my beloved Zumba time.
That is my reality and I’m okay with it. I’ve learned again to brush off the outside noise and let who I am shine through. That will not be my driver. The outside form does not define me.
The beauty of one’s spirit shines from the inside out.
Change is a process and I’m not perfect. My body is my body, and I am beautiful.