Setbacks Don’t Last Forever

The title above is something I’m working hard to remember this week. You see, on Tuesday I spent the day prepping for a big event on Wednesday: we were getting air conditioning installed in our house, woot! So that meant running myriad errands on Tuesday. I hit up Target, and Home Depot, and went to the grocery store…

And then my back, which had been feeling a bit iffy in the days leading up, completely tensed up, causing sharp pain and general immobility. So much so that I needed to call my husband back from work to assist me.

It wasn’t fun! And it totally disrupted my plans and the routine I had gotten into. I was supposed to oversee the A/C install on Wednesday, start back at the gym on Thursday, and continue with my food making, water drinking, and tracking. All that gets tossed to the wayside when your back decides to be a ninny.

So up to today, I’ve been resting my back and making careful movements around the house to let it relax and heal. It’s really worked for me, but the backslide was definite. I cut my water intake down so I wasn’t running to the bathroom every hour. And food has been convenience only; I’ve relied on my husband to provide food, mainly. He doesn’t really cook much – especially after working so hard every day –  so it’s been a lot of frozen pizza and takeout, or Soylent meal replacement drinks.

Only today am I feeling more self-reliant, and I’ve put myself on a liquid “diet” for the day (Soylent and Orgain protein shakes) to feel a little less mired down after the inactivity, dehydration, and junky eating I’ve been experiencing since Tuesday. Tomorrow I’ll get back to a more normal eating method.

And I gotta say, I’m proud of myself.

Proud for not feeling stuck. Proud for not taking this setback as a loss of momentum. Proud for not letting this experience trash my willingness to keep moving forward. Sure, it has been a hiccup (and to be fair, on Tuesday I cried a little feeling like my back had, once again, sidelined my plans), but as I said in the title, setbacks don’t last forever.

It doesn’t matter that I had to devolve a bit into old patterns for a few days, because I was doing the best I could do on those days. And today I’m able to still do my best, which happens to be a bit better than the previous day. They all won’t be better than the last, but when needed I can wait it out and get back on the proverbial horse when I can. No sooner. No pressure. No shame spiral.

Looking ahead to the coming week, continuing the forward momentum is my goal. Continue with tracking, get to the gym once or twice (only light stuff – this is more to get a feel for the facility, get comfortable there so when I can hit it hard, I won’t be intimidated like I often am in a new environment), and get back to preparing the majority of my own meals. And to get back to drinking my water! This starts today, so excuse me while I end this now, ‘cuz I gotta hit the ladies’ room! 🙂

 

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Water Week Went Well

Can you tell I’m an admirer of alliteration?

How are you, friends? Last week I re-introduced this blog and my efforts to feel healthier, and my goals were to increase my water intake over the week, and to start the process of getting back in the water (a pool) to start some training.

I’m happy to report that both goals were achieved!

Last Monday I dropped by a local gym that has a couple of indoor pools. They’re not gigantic, Olympic-sized pools or anything, but they’re certainly enough for me to do some water walking or the low-key water aerobics that my doctor has recommended in the past. I have a 5-day trial starting next Monday, and so send any encouraging thoughts, because I’m gonna need to get into swim clothes and face the gym-going public in them. *insert grimace emoji here*

Speaking of swim clothes, I ordered and received some pieces from Torrid. I have to check the fit – I think the main suit I ordered (I ordered a classic swimsuit and then some swim shorts to go with it) is waaaaaay too big. But that’s just at a glance. One thing about me is that I have this weird minor body dysmorphia. Sometimes I feel way bigger than I am, and sometimes I feel way smaller. Maybe that’s just normal? Hopefully everything fits reasonably well and I can start the pool stuff this week, otherwise I’m gonna need to call customer support which is always a pain, right?

Regardless of how the swimsuit turns out, I will be going to the gym this week no matter what. They have an indoor basketball court that basically no one uses (it was deserted when I went on my tour, at least) – and I really love shooting hoops – so I’m looking forward to getting the heart rate up on the court a bit.

My second goal for the week was to gradually increase my daily water intake. It’s been really tough for me, over the course of these last couple years, to keep getting in 64-72 fl. oz. of water each day. I know how much proper hydration means to the body, and so I just need to be a little disciplined in remembering to drink it. It’s been tough this week, but I’m happy to report that I’ve worked myself up to the 64-72 fl. oz. range and am gonna keep working to keep those numbers consistent.

I’ve been weighing myself each day, which wasn’t a goal, per se, but I’m a data fan, and thus wanted to start seeing how my body weight and composition is affected by my goals each week. I got myself a fancy new scale that not only reads weight, but also percentages of muscle, fat, bone, and water. It’s too early to spot any patterns there, but I’ll report back any interesting findings.

This week’s goals:

I don’t have any “themed” goals like last week, but for Week Two, here’s what I’d like to accomplish:

  1. Go to the gym at least twice.
  2. Get the swimsuit stuff figured out (if needed).
  3. Keep tracking my food intake.

You may have noticed the word “Keep” in my last goal. See, I’ve started tracking my food off and on this past week, and began to notice how many calories I was eating, and what my eating patterns were. I’d like to keep the tracking up and slowly refine the caloric and nutritional makeup of the food I’m eating. Key word there is “slowly”.

Last week was actually pretty epic on that front. Prior to last week, I had been eating a staple diet of crap. Taco Bell, frozen meals, junk food, and lots of juice. But last week my husband left town for a business trip, and I knew I’d be left to my own devices, so I actually WENT TO THE STORE. Yeah, two stores even – and twice during the week! So I only ate out once (Taco Bell, you’re a hard habit to break!), and felt really great about making most of my meals.

I know that when I’m making my own meals, I can be more successful with managing my health. I won’t really set a goal for that or anything, I just need to keep on truckin’ with that one. I’m doing well, and I don’t wanna put any additional pressure with that.

Hope you’re truckin’ along with any goals you may have for the week. If you’d like to share those goals, feel free to leave a comment. And of course, thanks for reading!

No Happily Ever Before-and-After

Hello friends. It’s been a minute. And by minute, I mean a few years. A few rough years. My last entry was at the peak of my fitness. Down 90 lbs, stronger than ever, starting to run, feeling confident and optimistic about the future…

At least my optimism doesn’t change.

Sure, I’ve had my moments of extreme pessimism and a sense of repeated failure, but I’m #blessed with an inner resilience that always pushes me to keep trying, even when I flounder in the most epic ways possible.

Today finds me far, far away from that lovely summer of 2014. I felt on top of the world with a great new job, great health, and a great sense of pride. Now I recollect that time longingly, as if it’s not even me. And I know, in abstract, that I am her and she is me, but still.

Today my weight is much higher than when I started this blog in September of 2013. And I feel more out of shape than ever, and FEEL bigger than I want to be. I’m certainly not in a happy place with my body, and my mind has recently been in the same dark place.

I’ve been working on my mind though. Recently re-diagnosed with bipolar depression, I’m now on medication that has stabilized my mood to a certain extent and got me thinking about working on something else in addition to my mental health: my physical health.

Now, I’ve struggled a lot with the idea of “weight loss”. After some counseling, I even rejected the idea as a losing paradigm – a Sisyphean struggle that I was gonna let roll down the hill because I was SO OVER DIETING.

But the fact is, I must work to improve my health because IT’S WHAT I WANT. I want to feel like Julie from 2014. No doctor is frowning down at me about my weight, and my husband has never ever treated me with an unkindness about my health; it is my own core being that’s screaming out for change.

And so here I am. Back onboard the blogging train. Hoping to make a go of it once again. My path is different going forward, as I’ve learned more about myself, and how my habits work, so things will be slower.

I’m going to work on little things, week by week. Small, yet important changes that will help me improve my health and feel stronger – and yes – hopefully leaner.

This week the focus is on water. I’m a water sign, and while I don’t believe in that astrological hocus-pocus, my birthday is coming up, so it feels appropriate to focus on how water can reshape me.

I’m planning on two goals this week:
  1. Gradually up my intake of water
  2. Start a path towards taking water aerobics classes (checkout a local gym, get swim clothing, etc.)
I’ll check back in next week to let you know how I did. And I hope that whatever you’re working on, you also achieve your goals this week!

New Vlog and Weight Loss Update: 90 LBS DOWN!

Two weeks ago: 182.8
Today’s Weigh-in: 182.0 lbs
Change: -0.8 lbs
Total Loss: 90 lbs!

This has been a banner week, folks! Lots of stress in my life, but I continue to experience breakthroughs in my fitness. First things first: I’m down 90 lbs total since my highest recorded weight – huzzah! I might be struggling with feeling like I haven’t been “giving it my all”, but I have to take this opportunity to celebrate this milestone. **Cue party whistle**

The week before last I got pretty excited because I ran a full mile on the treadmill without stopping. I’m proud to report that I’ve shattered that best-distance and last week I ran a full 5k on the treadmill without stopping. That’s 3.1 miles!

I definitely know what they mean by a “runner’s high” now. For me it happens about 20 minutes in. The first 5 to 8 minutes everything’s okay, then around the 10-minute mark my legs start to harsh my good vibes. It’s a huge struggle until around the 20-minute mark, then I get into a “zone” and my calves don’t hurt as much and I feel like I can just keep going.

The other thing that I love about running is that it really is a singular activity. At this point I still can’t focus on anything else EXCEPT the act of running while I’m doing it. I had some family drama pop up and while I tried to think about it while jogging on the treadmill, my mind wouldn’t let me. As if the activity itself required so much concentration the whole world outside of that alone washed away. All I’m thinking on that treadmill is, “How is my breathing?” and “Ow my calves hurt now” and “Just keep moving forward” and “Wow this lap is taking forever”. No “I wonder what I should eat for dinner” or “How do I deal with such and such problem”. I get anxiety from time to time and this seems like a fantastic mechanism to break the anxious thoughts when they creep up on me.

I feel so strong about the running that I’ve signed up for my first 5K… AS A RUNNER! I walked a 5k back in March, but now I’ve gone and registered for the Biggest Loser Run/Walk Seattle on October 12th, so there’s a real commitment made to the idea of running. My hope is to be able to jog the whole thing without stopping.

I’ll leave you with my latest video diary recorded just a little while ago – enjoy!

My Response to Emily: A Spark to a Flame, Find Your Kindling For Weight Loss Success

Hello friends! I’ve been remiss in posting here. While I have been posting regular video updates to my channel on YouTube, I haven’t always been linking those here. I am a bad, bad blogger. I guess I’ll make up for it today by posting a blog the length of a short novel, so sit down and get comfortable!

The last couple weeks have been a swirl of transition with me starting back to work. Things have been going… ehhhh, okayyyy I guess?

Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. Going back to work after being off for well-over a year is no walk in the park. Starting any new job is mentally exhausting (which of course leads to physical exhaustion as well), so I’ve been struggling with feeling really tired in a way I haven’t in a very, very long time. But it’s a GOOD tired. It’s not depression tiredness, or slug tiredness; it’s a tired sensation that has heaps of satisfaction underneath. And mornings are invigorating for me in a way they haven’t been in so, so long. I’m looking forward to going in to work every day. How crazy is that?

So despite my genuine efforts to be a superstar and knock balancing my new job with my healthy lifestyle outta the park on the first swing, I’ve still felt like I “haven’t been doing enough” in terms of activity by not formally hitting the gym three times a week. The fact that I was weighing myself every day and seeing the scale go up did not help mental matters. But I was bringing all my food, tracking it, walking around the office as much as possible to get my Fitbit steps in, trying to drink as much water as I could reasonably do while wearing Spanx (pro tip: spanx plus hydration doesn’t work – plus spanx cause me severe constipation, who knew?!?), and taking 15-minute walking breaks each day after lunch. All this while trying to absorb a lot of new information and process… I’ve been totally kicking ass! And yet, feeling funky about my weight.

And then I ended up hurting my foot and putting myself out of commission (and work) for 4 days last Friday night. **CHARLIE BROWN AAAAAAUGH** So yeah, last Friday I planned to go to the gym after work. Packed my gym bag and was all set to go, but mid-day I realized I had left my sports bra at home. Um. These knockers REQUIRE sports bras for anything jumpy I do at the gym, so, harrumph. But I was still DEAD SET on getting some activity in. So I decided to walk the campus at work (they have these 2, 3, and 5-mile fitness paths available) and get a 2 mile walk in.

But I took a shortcut and didn’t change my sneakers. BAD IDEA. The sneakers I wore to work didn’t have my orthotic inserts (also a BAD IDEA), so by the time I was finished with a 2.5 mile walk, my proverbial dogs were barking. Got home, took my shoes off and put my feet up for a couple hours, but when I got up to go to bed I COULDN’T WALK. My right foot was totally out of commission. Couldn’t bear any weight on it and hopped on my left leg into bed hoping overnight rest would fix it. Nope.

Long story short: trip to urgent care revealed a bone spur near my Achilles tendon’s insertion point on the heel, but they couldn’t help me. I spent all day Sunday on the couch. It wasn’t until yesterday afternoon that I could actually put my heel on the floor and put any pressure on it. By the time my appointment with a podiatrist rolled around, I was about 75% recovered. (Yay!)

But this hiccup took a toll, just like the job did. But this toll has been higher. See, what happens when I get sick? Well, my eating goes to hell. It started on Saturday with a trip to Five Guys for burgers. And then Sunday I ate a giant burrito. And then yesterday I finished that burrito and had pizza and a giant chocolate chip cookie for dinner. And I started thinking about going to get a dozen donuts for myself this morning. Feeling mighty binge-y at the moment. Classic Julie. Get sick? EAT ALL THE FOOD.

This is where I’ll transition to talking about my friend, Emily. You may know her. She’s kinda awesome. I woke up this morning and before I had even wiped the sleep from my eyes, I was reading her latest post. If you haven’t seen it, click here and read it now. And make sure to watch the embedded video, too. The rest of this post can wait.

Okay, didya read it? Cool! We can move forward!

I was so inspired by her post that as I was reading it I got up out of bed and started heading towards my laptop. I was so flooded with feelings that I was compelled to respond. And thus here I am. I know that in this blog I choose to celebrate my successes a lot. That’s part of why I’m successful, I think, is that I don’t let the small victories pass without bragging them up all over the place. It makes me feel good, helps me stay motivated, and keeps me on what is generally a very rocky path.

The part of Emily’s post that I really wanted to respond to was this:

“I’m still not in a place where I 100% believe that I will lose the weight and build a solid recovery from Binge Eating Disorder. Frankly, I don’t know if that confidence will ever come. I wish I could be one of those people who has a grand “AH HA!” moment, where the heavens open up and I’m suddenly struck with a never-before-felt sense of purpose and motivation.

I am just not one of those people.”

This has been me for so, so long. So many previous efforts, I felt this at my core. Sure, you get yourself whipped up into some willpower frenzy, feel like you can take on the world for a bit, then the reality of a slow process hits you in the face pretty quickly, and you lose that motivation. That’s being human. Why is it different this time?

When I started this process I was in a dark, dark place. I had been out of work, had fallen into another massive depression spell, and was working through it. My eating was off-the-charts bad. And I was feeling the physical effects of the weight on my body in ways I hadn’t previously. When taking my daily walk from the bed to the couch, I’d feel my heart pound and would actually feel winded at the end of it! I despised myself. I felt suicidal. I felt that I had screwed my life up so much it might just be better to end it.

I reached out for help. I always do, thank goodness. I sought counseling for my depression, and slowly, like it usually does, the depression started to lift. I started to care about myself, the teeniest, tiniest of bits. And when I crawl out of my depression funk, one of the first things I start thinking about it losing weight. It’s like a self-defeating cycle.

I knew I had food issues that I needed to work on. I didn’t know how to approach my desires to lose weight, so of course, TO THE INTERNET! I found blogs to follow, I looked up nutritional counseling, found a practice nearby that seemed like it was what I needed, and met a fabulously-positive counselor who made me feel supported and normal and human in a way I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. And then I did the thing that ended up changing everything for me: I called my insurance to find out how to extend my available time with her, and learned what services were available to me. This is how I found 20/20 Lifestyles, which, for me, was the structure I needed to really start on this journey for reals.

Here’s the thing: while there is a place of hope that needs to happen at some point on your weight loss journey (usually at the start), this hope needs to be supported sufficiently and strengthened by success.

That hope is not enough to carry us. We need supportive structures around us that keep that hope alive. Because wanting it isn’t enough. I’ve been that person who’s been wanting to lose weight, knows I NEED to lose weight for my health, but I didn’t feel that hope deep down for very long. Maybe for a week or two, but never long enough to sustain the necessary efforts. This has gone on since I was a teenager. And this is what got me up to being so overweight.

That “A Ha!” moment Emily mentioned doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It usually starts with a small spark. Maybe there’s a little fuel to keep it flaming for a second or two. But without a sustained supply of oxygen, it will not keep burning. We get those sparks dozens of times, maybe hundreds of times. But so rarely do we have that sustainable resource of support to keep us going.

Part of the 20/20 Lifestyles program were weekly support group meetings with other women on the program. That group started with about ten women, and ended with merely three of us. The fact is one solution isn’t the kindling for us all. We all have individual needs in that regard. What works for someone else isn’t gonna work for me, and vice versa. For some food tracking may be the thing that works for them. For others, they may need a hearty rewards system. Still others may need intense years of therapy to keep them going. And some, like me, may need ALL of those things and more!

The other part of Emily’s post I wanted to address was that overwhelming feeling of having so much weight to lose. When you’re looking at needing to lose over 100 lbs to get down to a reasonable weight, and losing 1 or 2 lbs a week is your average (or less), it can feel too monumental a task. The hope helps at this stage.

But as you start knocking pounds off, two things happen:

1) You start realizing you CAN do it. That spark starts to become your persona. You’re not just hopeful that you can do it, you ARE doing it; and,

2) The changes you’ve effected start to work in your favor. Your eating patterns are different, and habits are formed that make it considerably easier to resist temptation. Activity becomes part of your life and missing out on it becomes something you actually MISS when denied the opportunity. And as you get smaller/fitter/whatever there’s a strength that comes that makes you feel empowered to do more, to strive for more. Confidences are gained that you never thought possible. That doesn’t happen at the END of the rainbow, that can hit at any point along your journey! Thank goodness!

These two changes, these evolutions that occur are vital, as well. Because, life. Illness happens, injury happens, funky times happen. I’m going through it right now. Last night I was plotting the route to Top Pot Doughnuts and planning which dozen I would select. This morning I’m thinking about the leftover pizza in my fridge. I WILL ALWAYS HAVE THESE URGES, AND SOMETIMES I WILL GIVE IN TO THESE URGES AND BINGE.

But you know what? That doesn’t mean I’m going to fail. That’s not something I felt at the beginning, I can 100% tell you that. But I feel it at my core now. I am not sick with feeling of failure while planning on eating pizza. I know that I’m going through something (injury + TOM hormones = binge), but that I’ve gone through something before and come out of it. This is what self-compassion is for me, and it’s vital to this process of transformation.

At the end of this, all I can really advise is: find your kindling wherever you can, and fan those flames, friends! I know we can win at this!

Weigh-In Update + Vlog #44: Going Back To Work!

Hi folks! It’s about that time for another weigh-in report. Last week I weighed in at 187.6 lbs, and this morning the scale read 186.0 lbs, so I’m down 1.6 lbs this week, for a total weight loss of 86 lbs since starting last summer. Go, me!

Watch my full video update with exciting news below!

I guess the title spoils the big surprise this week, but I’m stoked to announce that after spending a little over a month interviewing for a position, last week I was offered the job and I start TOMORROW! Squee! Going back to work is both totally exciting and totally scary at the same time. Excited because this is the place I’ve wanted to work at since moving up to Seattle, so obviously that’s worthy of excitement. Scary because I haven’t worked in over a year, and there’s a small part of me that thinks maybe I can’t hack living this new healthy lifestyle while working full time.

But that’s a very teeny, tiny part of me now! I’m confident that with the proper attention, I can continue my path of healthy eating and pushing myself in my exercise activities. So wish me luck!

Second thing corresponds to the above-mentioned exercise activities. A while back, I tried running a little bit during my training sessions on the 20/20 Lifestyles program. My body didn’t like it: shin splints and hip pain plagued me whenever I tried to switch up my walking cadence to a jog, so my trainer and I concluded that maybe I should wait until I dropped a bit more weight before my body could really handle the mechanics of running.

Well, this weekend on a stroll around the block I got the urge to run a bit, and managed to run a whole 0.8 kilometers WITHOUT STOPPING. My previous record for running was maybe two minutes at a time, tops – and this length blew that time outta the park! I was so excited I went out again the next day to see if I could break the kilometer barrier – AND I DID! So, so exciting. The first few moments while I’m running (okay, jogging), it feels really hard. But at some point it feels like things get better. I focus on my breathing: deep breath in, fast breath out; deep breath in, exhale again… and then I’m around the block.

While I’m still huffing and puffing and sweating like crazy after a mere kilometer, it still feels SO MUCH BETTER than it used to. I’ve decided I’d like to train to run longer distances (I’ve even added a “Running” category here on the blog – GAME IS ON!), and my next goal is to go a mile without stopping. And after that I’d love to run a 5k. If I can run a 5k by the end of the year (or ever, for that matter), I will be SO INSANELY PROUD of myself I just don’t know what I’ll do.

The final exciting thing this week (as if I needed any more) is that I’ve had my first fitness-related article published! Readers may remember that I bought a bike earlier this year and took a private course at the Cascade Bicycle Club to help me get back on the horse, so-to-speak. About a month back, someone from the club contacted me asking if I would be willing to translate my blog post about it into an article for their monthly periodical. And it just went live this past week! Head on over here to read the article!

Hope all you lovelies are having a great week yourselves. Thanks for reading!

My Childhood and My Body Image – On Family, Quiet Struggles, and Mousercise

When referring to my weight, it’s easiest to say I’ve been overweight all my life. But that’s not necessarily true. I “turned fat” one day. It’s one of those memories that defines me to myself. For so long it brought me pain and shame. Now I’m deciding to wear it like a war badge.

Me at 7 years, with me younger brothers

Me at 7 years old. My love of v-necks started early, obviously!

I was what I’d call a “normal-sized” child until sometime between 2nd and 3rd grade (whatever “normal sized” means). In 2nd grade, the boys in class used to leave love letters in my desk. I played hide and seek at dusk with all the neighbor kids and had a best friend named Christina who lived across the street. I was invited to birthday parties and sleepovers. I felt smart, pretty, and liked.

In 3rd grade, I started feeling marginalized. Like I was somehow different, not well-liked. I agonized when my best friend started hanging out with a different girl. I started worrying that I wasn’t wearing the right kind of clothes, or had the right hair cut. What changed? Why did I go from being relatively carefree to being wrapped up in my own self-esteem issues?

It’s tricky, because a lot went on around that time. My parents fought all the time and briefly separated. And I shouldn’t sweep the fact that I had been molested by older children under the rug. That happened. It left an indelible mark to be sure and likely tainted my life in ways I still don’t have a healthy respect for, but when I reflect back on everything one event stands out in stark contrast to the rest.

A family member had come to visit. This wasn’t a relative who visited often, but that didn’t change the impact of what he said to me. It’s a hazy memory, and I don’t remember the context, but I remember the location, the lighting, and the embarrassment and shame it immediately held:

He called me “chubs”.

It felt like he had punched me, it hurt that much. I don’t remember if I was already feeling self-conscious about the pre-pubescent weight I was putting on and this just legitimized my concerns, or if I was completely oblivious and this was the painful realization. At this point it doesn’t matter. This is the memory from where all my weight and body image issues started, as I remember it.

Who would call this smiley kid "Chubs"?!?

Who would call this smiley kid “Chubs”?!?

I hate to admit it, but my family kinda sucked. I know this now, but as a child I didn’t understand. I was never hugged or shown affection by any of them (they fed me love through meals, it’s all clear now why I’m an overeater). My parents had their own issues: depression, alcoholism, their own weight and identity issues, dissatisfaction with their relationships, anger they couldn’t hide from their children. And I was regularly verbally and physically abused by other family members. So to be sure there wasn’t a lot of safety or trust, but after this particular family member’s comment, ALL trust of any of the few positive remarks or reinforcement failed. When my grandpa called me “beautiful”, I thought he was lying – trying to make me feel better about being the fat monstrosity I now knew myself to be.

Before this time period, I reflect on my youthful playtime spent running around the cul-de-sac with the neighbor kids, dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” or The Go-Go’s “Vacation” with my best friend in her room, or running through Slip-n-Slides during the summer. After, I remember not wanting to swim with the neighbors because I felt fat in my bathing suit. And constantly wondering what negative things others might be thinking about me. I felt loneliness, isolation, and feeling I needed to keep my drama a secret, because I felt shame.

I remember being alone in my bedroom, at night, at about 8 years old, setting up my portable record player to spin my new favorite album. It wasn’t the Go-Go’s or Michael Jackson albums that my neighbor had. No, it was Disney’s Mousercise album.

 

Throughout the day I watch my appetite.
When I go to lunch, I eat so right.
Aerobic dancing keeps me fit and trim.
I feel so good about the shape I’m in.
But every night after I exercise,
My mouth starts yawning and I rub my eyes.
I think of food as I crawl into bed.
As I lay here sleeping, visions dance in my head.

– from “Pig Out”, Mousercise, Disneyland Records

This is NOT the album you wanted to leave your emotionally-fragile child to spend a lot of alone-time with!

I kept this album on repeat for too long. When I looked it up to research for this post, the liner notes and the orange-purple album label brought back visceral memories. I remember pedaling my feet in the air like on a bicycle while lying down, and dancing a ridiculous jig during “Step In Time” (my favorite track), all in the privacy of my bedroom, at night, usually with the lights out. I think most kids of the time interacted with this album in some sort of group setting – in class, or with friends. But for me, no way! I could never exercise in front of others. That meant I’d be admitting, in some way, that I was fat… broken… less than normal. I remember the feeling like this album could unlock the keys to happiness for me: being fit, no longer being “fat” – if only I could exercise forever. Which obviously, I couldn’t.

The track “Pig Out”, mentioned above, isn’t the pinnacle of a positive message for kids who primarily derive their sense of comfort and feelings of love through food, but, what did they know? This was over 30 years ago! This is when the 80’s fitness craze was really firing up so obviously extending that to the youth of tomorrow was a smart business move (though an emotional minefield, to be sure).

To this day I have issues sharing my struggles with friends and family. This feeling like being overweight is a personal failure on my part that I need to work alone to overcome is still deep-seated. Few of my family members know about this website, and I don’t share my successes with anyone outside of an occasional Facebook post (and I have a strict “no older relatives” Facebook rule – I don’t friend my aunts, uncles, or mother on it). There’s still part of me that craves their love and affection, and part of me that thinks maybe they’ll treat me better – or love me more – if only I can be thin. Owning this reality is important for moving beyond.

I now know that nothing I do will make my family give me the love that I crave. And I now know that food isn’t the answer, either. It really was, for so long. Coming home from school alone, with no one home, I always had cookies, pudding pops, and microwavable snack foods available to me. As an adult, after a particularly taxing day at work with no friends or family around, my friends at my favorite burrito joint could always hook me up with some comfort. I could gorge on burritos and Ben & Jerry’s and Mountain Dew until I literally fell asleep feeling drugged. That was my life. Food was love.

But now I know that the love has to start with me. I have to be my own biggest fan, and the success (whatever that means for me) will come. I don’t exercise in hopes that it will make someone give me attention. I exercise because I feel like a frickin’ superhero afterwards. I feel strong, powerful, and I feel love FROM MYSELF. I don’t worry about what I’m eating because I think someone will judge me for the choices I’m making. I primarily make my food decisions with the question: “How will this food fuel me?”, not “Will this food make me feel better?”

And I have to say, even though I’m still pretty heavy as of this writing, my body image is stronger than it ever has been. Heck, my boyfriend is kinda sick of me talking about these new muscles all the time, and how often I “can’t believe how cute I look”.


Understanding how I obtained my food and body image issues has been one of the key elements to my ability to lose the weight. Mostly because it allows me to move PAST all of the wallowing in it I’ve done for so long. I’ve accepted that I didn’t have the ideal childhood, and that my experiences contributed to my weight gain and low self-esteem. But now I’m an adult – responsible for my own actions – and I can move beyond and create the life that I want for myself. And each day is a step in that direction!