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!

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!