I’m going to take a different approach on my updates for this week and next. I’ve decided it’s time to give you a little more of the ‘why’ behind my journey. This week I’ll give you my thoughts on how I got to this point, and next week I’ll tell you why I’m on this journey.
Growing up, I was an athletic kid. Softball, track, basketball, soccer were all my sports of choice. When I wasn’t playing a sport, I could usually be found climbing a tree or riding my bike.
Unfortunately I dislocated my knee my sophomore year in high school, and that ended my sports days. I would say that was probably when I started noticing a challenge with keeping off weight. It made sense—I was less active and I started working at a fast food place. Not the best combination for weight management, and I’m one of those people who is required to work at maintaining a healthy weight. I’m not naturally thin and never will be.
I struggled to some extent all through college and then into the early years after graduation. The last time I remember being ‘happy’ about my weight was when I was a sophomore in college. My class and work schedule didn’t allow me much time to eat and I walked everywhere at a fast pace since I didn’t have a lot of time.
The first time I actively tried to lose weight was about a year after I graduated college. I had been selected to be a bridesmaid in several weddings that summer. All of the weddings were in cities other than where I lived, so I had to send my measurements into the various bridal shops. It was early one Saturday morning when I woke to the sound of the phone ringing. It was one of the shops calling to tell me that since my dress was over a certain size it would cost more to ship and they needed my approval. In my sleep fogged brain, I simply said, “OK, fine.”
I hung up and my head dropped back down to the pillow. A few seconds later my eyes flew open as the reality of the conversation hit me, and I had a huge breakdown. I couldn’t understand how I had gotten to the point of wearing that size. That was the moment this whole weight loss journey started.
17 years ago.
Over the years, I’ve tried numerous weight loss programs. Some succeeded, some never worked, and none of them lasted. I had moments of fitness—such as in 2001 when I completed a sprint triathlon—but I was unable to maintain anything for a long period of time. The weight I was trying to get rid of at that point in my life was minimal, at least compared to what I hope to lose now. I consider that part of my life to be ‘phase 1’ of my journey.
‘Phase 2’ started when my husband and I decided we wanted to try to have children. Long story short, we have less than a 1% chance to conceive without the aid of fertility. With fertility, that percentage increases to an astounding 10%. I underwent four rounds of IVF in a year, with the last round at a very high dosage. In that year alone, I gained 40 lbs. The aggressive final round resulted in the pregnancy of our daughter, and while pregnant I gained another 70 lbs. These 110 lbs were on top of the other weight I had been trying to lose before starting the fertility treatments.
After my daughter was born, I nursed for a year and felt great. I lost the 70 lbs I had gained in pregnancy and was ready to tackle the 40 from fertility. However, when I stopped nursing my body basically gave up—or more specifically my pituitary gland decided it had had enough. Had I known what would happen, I’d still be pumping for a charitable cause to this day...
It took a year and several doctors, but ultimately I was diagnosed with Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency Disorder (AGHDD). It comes with a long list of symptoms, so I’ll let you look it up if you’re interested. I experienced a vast majority of the symptoms, but the ones I struggled with the most were weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, food cravings, and heat intolerance. I was on growth hormone shots for years and all the symptoms became almost nonexistent, except the weight gain. Oh, and I also have thyroid problems to make the whole mess more complicated.
So that’s where all this weight came from. Well, all that and my poor eating habits too. I realize that I’ve used my AGHDD as a crutch for too long. At first, it was truly an obstacle. I couldn’t go on walks because the hormone issue was a strong trigger for my IBS. I couldn’t even make it around the block without needing a bathroom. I’d try to work out at home, but I’d get overheated to the point of either almost passing out or throwing up. Many days the cravings were so severe I thought I’d lost my mind.
For every step forward I took, I was push back about five. It just got to be too exhausting to fight—both physically and mentally. As the symptoms faded over the years, I was already in too dark of a place to easily find my way out.
I wasn’t happy. My friends had to sit me down for serious girl talk. My mom threatened to talk to my husband about it. The only place I seemed to be able to keep it out of my life was at work. Somehow I had been able to leave it at the door of the workplace, but I knew it was still there—lurking in the shadows and waiting to pounce on me the minute I stepped back outside. The stress of trying to be two different people on a daily basis added to my struggle.
Contrary to what some may believe, I didn’t take a leave from work to write a book. That just happened to be the happy distraction for my time off. The real reason for the leave was to get my weight under control. I admire the many people who can balance it all, but I was falling apart and the stress of it all wasn’t helping. I felt I wasn’t giving enough anywhere—not enough at work, not enough at home, and nothing to myself. I couldn’t give up being a mom or wife, so after a year of trying to find a different way my husband and I decided I would take a leave from work.
The first year of my leave is when I realized that I first had to love myself just the way I am. I see now that the real reason I’ve continued to carry all this weight has nothing to do with my hormones or my thyroid or my poor eating choices.
It’s because I’ve been looking at myself as someone who was broken and needed to be fixed.
As the saying goes, you can’t fix what’s not broken. I see now that I’m not broken. I don’t need to be fixed. I’ve been held down all these years by the stress of being misinformed. Put simply—society does not like ‘fat’ people. If you’re of the mind to try and argue with me, think of the words often attached to someone who is overweight:
This list could be much, much longer. You may have a few on the top of your head that you could add. I’ve let myself believe these things about myself for years—simply because I was overweight. As a kid I heard adults say things about me like, “The way her butt’s getting, it doesn’t look like she needs to eat anything.” or “You better save those fat pants for her, she’s going to need them someday.” My training for self-hatred started at a young age, well before I actually needed to lose weight.
My question is, “Why?” Why is weight viewed so poorly by society? If someone’s weight (either high or low) is affecting their health, that’s one thing. But to use it to try to judge and define who the person is as a whole is just wrong.
It’s just weight. It does not define a person. It does not tell you if a person is good or bad or lazy or a hard worker. It doesn’t tell you if a person is kind or mean or strong or weak. The reality is that it tells you nothing. Yet, we try to read into it. We try to let it tell us what we want to know about a person, and we let social stereotypes guide the analysis.
Worse, we let it define what we believe about ourselves.
I had to accept that I wasn’t broken and stop trying to fix myself in order to see the real me. I now have a new list of words that define who I am, and not a single one has anything to do with my weight. I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time.
So if I’ve accepted myself just as I am and I don’t need to lose weight to be happy, then why did I join a fitness program? Tune in next week to find out.