Losing 73 Pounds (and Keeping It Off for 2 Years)
The last time in my life I remember being "skinny" was when I was about 7 years old. I have pictures of me before being chubby and after. I was one of those kids that, until about age 8, was a stick: long knobby legs, skinny arms, long brown hair.
Then, something happened (or many somethings) and all that changed. I clearly have a picture in my mind of me at 8 years old. It's from a photo of me, and I am standing in our house, wearing short shorts and a t-shirt. I have frizzy brown hair (back in the days when perms were awesome) pulled back with two barrettes. I have a round face and round middle. The way I'm standing in the photo is just awkward to begin with, with my hands up and my back arched, so I'm sticking everything out and not sucking anything in. It's a totally different me from the skinny kid just a year before.
Ever since that time, I have done battle with my image, my weight, my reality. I'm sure I promised myself a million times "Today, I will start losing this (freaking) weight."
And a million times, I didn't.
I knew I was overweight, but I stopped associating that problem with me. I loved chocolate (plain Hershey's only, please) and would take to stashing a bag with me. If there was dessert in the house, I would wake up in the morning, head to the kitchen and eat it straight from the container . . . cake, brownies, cookie, whatever, then I would make myself a full breakfast. Sweets were truly my heroin, but I loved plenty of other things like pasta, potatoes, or fries. I told myself I was pretty healthy because I hated soda, tried to always eat my vegetables, didn't eat white bread, and didn't eat prepackaged snacks.
Heck, I even worked in nutrition and could tell you anything you wanted to know about the Food Pyramid, exercising, and choosing the right foods.
I could say it, but I didn't live it.
I was a sneaky eater. I didn't want people to see me being bad, so I hid my chocolate, hid when I ate more that I thought was normal. Maybe I even hid it from myself. If nobody saw me eating, it must not count.
My other downfall was portion size. I never paid attention to how much I ate. I had no idea how many calories I took in during a typical day. Second and third helpings were ok. In my head, I convinced myself that I couldn't lose weight, that I was healthy, just bigger, and that I was unable to follow a regimented diet plan like you saw all laid out in magazines. I hated those. 1/2 cup of asparagus and 3 oz of lean meat? Who eats like that? Not me.
I also convinced myself I was not athletic. Which is funny since I danced for 14 years, from third grade through college graduation, and rode horses. Plus, I liked walking, mostly because it didn't really seem like exercise. But team sports, going to the gym, lifting weights? Ugh. Work.
My First Attempt
I successfully lost weight one time. It was in 2004, about mid-spring. It suddenly felt like a light switch had been flipped in my head, and I was able to do all the things I needed to lose weight. I started reducing my portions to the size of a side plate instead of a dinner plate, and walked every day for at least a couple of miles. I got down to around 155, maybe a little less. I was in a size 12, which for me was a huge deal. I felt great. I looked great. Maybe too great?
In September of that year, I became pregnant with my first child. Have you ever been extremely nauseous and ravenously hungry at the same time? How about for several months at a stretch? I tried valiantly to keep it all under control, but the day I checked in to the hospital for my c-section (my baby was breech), I weighed in at 221. My daughter, when she was born, weighed 6lbs, 13oz. So, I know the weight was all me.
I Gave Up For Years
For the next seven years, I struggled mightily to force myself to that place I had been in 2004 when I found the magic spark that made me lose weight, but I was not able to. As 2009 came to a close, my life exploded. My husband left and I was suddenly a single mom with a house to pay for and a daughter to raise. For many months, simply existing was a success. I was crushed and heartbroken and completely lost, so taking care of myself went waaaaaay on the back burner.
At some point, I made it out of grieving for my marriage and began to come to grips with everything. I knew I didn't want to be alone forever, but I also knew dating meant I had to have some respect for myself, and I didn't. I tried online dating once before, and met someone at the end of 2010, but it ended badly and I swore off any form of dating for a while.
Finally, my best friend, Angela, told me I had to give it another shot. I knew I wouldn't find Mr. Right until I saw myself as Miss Right.
This Time, I Changed My Mind
In February of 2012, I promised myself, this time, I could do it.
I could lose weight. It wasn't a body thing, and eating thing, or an exercise thing.
It was all in my head, and if I could get my brain to back me up, I could do this.
I joined My Fitness Pal so I could keep track of my calories (a really eye-opening thing once I saw how far 1,200 calories a day went. Hint: not far.) I broke out my dormant treadmill and began walking on it at night after my daughter went to bed. Gradually I added a minute of running, and then after a couple of months, I was running for about 20 minutes every night. According to my app, I was losing 1-2 pounds a week. I carefully measured my food, and found that if I ate pretty much the same thing for breakfast and lunch, it helped.
Breakfast: Honey Bunches of Oats with skim milk and strawberries.
Lunch: An apple, a serving of crackers or pretzels, and an ounce of cheese.
Add lots of coffee (no sugar, only creamer) and rinse, repeat every day.
Dinner: Meat, a vegetable and a little bit of rice or bread or other side.
After dinner I allowed myself 16 Ghiradelli chocolate chips. 16 is a serving size. It seems brutal, but it let me have chocolate.
After a while, my body got used to the portion sizes, and I stopped craving so much sugar. I went down to a size 14, which I was able to wear because of the clothes I had kept from 2004, but soon I was too small for those and had to go buy clothes that fit, which were around size 8. In July of 2012, I was at 160, and by the end of September, I was at 143. During all those months, I entered my meals every day, just to make sure I didn't get off track. I also weighed myself every morning.
In the middle of all this, I joined another online dating site. I talked to a few people who seemed promising, and went on a couple dates that proved that adage is true: some people can seem like anybody online. In real life? Not so much.
I talked to one guy for a couple months, but in the end he proved to be very squirrely. Single dad, but no job, no vehicle? I finally wised up there that I was probably being played. In late July, I got a message from a guy who liked that I was a Damn Yankee. Turns out, he was, too. Would I like to meet? I couldn't that night because of my job, but agreed to meet him for dinner the next night, a Saturday.
I was standing in the "lobby" of Longhorn restaurant (a running joke between us now because he doesn't believe it had a lobby) when Luke came around the corner of the restaurant. I had made it to the restaurant on the bottom of a tank of gas on E, and I didn't dare sit in the parking lot with the AC running for fear I would run out of gas and not make it home. Our "meeting" lasted until after midnight. I found out he understood all about my weight loss (a thing I was still very shy about discussing) because he used to weigh almost 400 pounds himself, and had lost the weight by changing his eating and taking up running.
Even through starting a new relationship (there were a LOT of rocky places involving my daughter accepting it, and us merging our lives and understanding who the other person was) but through it all I stuck to my plan.
Eat the same breakfast and lunch. Pay attention to calories. Allow yourself a small treat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
This isn't a diet.
I have to eat this way for the rest of my life. Otherwise, I'll end up back where I was, and I know that no matter what tempting food is staring at me, it's not worth being fat again.
All along, it was a mental journey, and my physical body just reflected that.
Every single day, with my actions and my thoughts, I choose to be at my current weight. It's not as much of a conscious decision some days as it is on others, but it's still a decision I have to stick to.
Now I've added exercise back in. I pretty much lapsed on the exercise for almost a year, yet maintained my weight. 1,200 calories, every day. I know what most foods I eat are calorie-wise now, so that makes it easier. I joined a running group in March of 2014 with my mom, and just completed my first 5k. There's another in 3 weeks that I now know I can complete with little issue.
The two people I used to be have changed places. For most of my life I was a fat girl, with a skinny one somewhere inside, waiting for me to allow her out. Now, I'm a skinny girl, who keeps the fat girl I used to be tucked away inside. She's still there, but I fight every day to not let her out.
Losing weight is a mental battle, and maintaining a weight loss is, too. Any person who has successfully lost and kept it off will likely say something similar. It's not the diet you follow, the exercise you choose, the doctor you go to, or the pills you take.
You're the difference between losing the weight and not losing the weight. It's not even about "willpower." It's about making a choice every day (sometimes every minute or every second) to not let the fat you win anymore. She's not mean, or evil, or bad. Often, the fat you is scared, or hurt or sad. She thinks she's protecting you, and helping you, and comforting you.
But there comes a point where you finally have to come to grips with the damage fat you is doing, either to your mind or your health.
It's not sexy or easy. It won't sell a product on the back pages of a magazine. Shaun T won't do an infomercial about it. Because there's no way to sell you what's already there, inside your head, waiting. You have to be willing to admit that losing the weight will be hard, frustrating, challenging, and life altering. But also totally worth it.
And only then can the journey start.