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!

20/20 Lifestyles Wrap-Up (with Video)

I made it! I completed the two complete phases of the 20/20 Lifestyles Program, and I’m pretty proud to say that I KICKED. ITS. ASS!!!! Watch the video below for my recap, and/or continue reading further down for the details!

Today was my final program appointment with my physician, Dr. Doyle Perkins – though I will be meeting with him every 10 weeks hereafter to check-in and continue to measure my progress and assess any needs I have as pertains to my weight or fitness. Last week I went through my final round of tests on the program – including having my bloodwork run, strength and flexibility tests, and my DEXA body composition scan.

First up were my program before & after photos:
beforeafter_jun2014
Whoooooaaaaa… look at that side view! We are always are own harshest critics, and I sometimes feel like I’m just as big as ever, but there’s no denying that I’m considerably smaller than I was back in September. I’ve lost a large number of inches around my body – more around than I am tall, in fact. Look, I made a table!

Initial End P1 End P2 Total loss
Neck 16″ 13.75″ 13.25″ -2.75″
Chest 54.75″ 46.5″ 43.75″ -11″
Waist 51″ 39.5″ 36″ -15″
Hips 57.25″ 49″ 46″ -11.25″
Right Arm (Bicep) 19″ 15″ 14″ -5″
Right Leg (Thigh) 36″ 28″ 24″ -12″

If I’ve done the math correctly (chances are that I haven’t), that adds up to 57 inches total! And if you double my arm and thigh values for actuals, it’s like 74 inches. Over six feet of space gone from my body overall. NUTS!

Next up is a table of some of my other metrics:

Initial P1 End P2 End Change
Weight (lbs) 266 210 191 -75 lbs!
Body Fat % 61.3 50.0 43.2 -18.1%
Lean Body Mass (lbs) 103 105 109 +6 lbs!
Cholesterol 185 182 154 -31
Triglycerides 103 77 69 -34
LDL 119 124 100 -19
HDL 45 43 40 -5
Glucose 104 84 82 -22
BP 126/82 114/68 106/66 -20/-16

Everything’s going in the right direction there, except for my HDL (healthy cholesterol), which I need to try to get to 50 according to Dr. Perkins.

My favorite part is the lean muscle mass. According to the DEXA scan, I’ve gained something on the order of 6 lbs of muscle. I don’t have anything to compare this to, but when I started on the program they told me the strength training component of my workouts were designed to prevent me from LOSING muscle mass, which I’m told is common among women losing large amounts of weight. So the fact that I did more than maintain my muscle and that I, in fact, increased my muscle, is something to celebrate. Doc said my fat loss was something like 81 lbs instead of just 75, factoring in my lean gains. And both the assessor and my doctor mused that it was the largest body fat percentage loss/muscle gain they remembered seeing in a female on the program, so I’m pretty proud of that!

The muscle mass increase explains my strength test results. My bicep curl back in September showed me able to curl 35 lbs. Last week, I curled 54 lbs. My flexibility result was perhaps the most of a letdown. My “sit and reach” back in September was 9.6 inches, and last week it was a mere 7.7 inches. The assessor said it wasn’t uncommon, buuuut, I don’t believe her. I haven’t been doing as much stretching as I should in recent months. And MAYBE I was wearing Spanx to my final appointment. That might have had something to do with the negative result 😉 In any case, increased flexibility is always something to shoot for.

So yeah, I’m feeling pretty damned good about my overall program results. What’s more, I feel confident that I will be able to maintain my efforts and keep losing more as time goes on. I recommend the 20/20 Lifestyles program to those with the financial means to do so. It’s not an inexpensive program. And while my insurance covers half of it, it’s still a lot of money out of pocket (or out of our health savings account, which is a nice perk as well). I’ve gone through all sorts of different weight loss programs, but this was really the most comprehensive, and I think that approach is what’s really required for long-term lifestyle change. I feel deeply changed in ways that I never thought possible, and I’m excited about the next stage of my personal journey. Hope you’ll continue to follow along!

What I Ate: Sunday, June 22, 2014

I hypothesized that the glut of eggs I’ve been eating for breakfast lately was somehow behind my recent intermittent stomach issues, and this morning’s breakfast only served to strengthen that unscientific hunch. No problems at all with the fruit/yogurt/toast medley!

I talked the boyfriend into accompanying me to the dreaded mall by promising a lunch out, and he chose Rock Bottom Brewery in Bellevue, WA. All told, this meal was no worse than a burrito bowl from Chipotle would be, so I gobbled up the amazing grilled chicken sandwich with a clear conscience. The lunch was made much more fun by the fact that we happened to arrive just as the USA vs. Portugal World Cup match was beginning. We watched the first half along with a very dynamic crowd, and I was up to my usual antics by offering completely uneducated advice aloud to the distant USA-team coaching staff.

By the time we arrived home the match had ended (ugh, that last-seconds Portugal goal was a punch in the gut!), it was more or less dinner time, so I reheated up my ubiquitous chicken & beans and finished out the day.

What I Ate: Sunday, June 22, 2014

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Breakfast:
Fage 0% Total Greek Yogurt
Bananas & organic strawberries
Clover honey
Sara Lee Multigrain 45-Calorie Bread
Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread
Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea

Lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery:
Baja Chicken Sandwich
-removed the crispy fried onions
Side of Grilled Broccoli

Dinner:
Baked chicken breast with Frank’s Original Hot Sauce
Goya Low-Sodium Black Beans
2% Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Wholly Guacamole Classic

Calories: 1322 kcal
Protein: 127g (39%)
Carbs: 130g (40%)
Fat: 31g (21%)
Dietary Fiber: 20g
Sugar: 49g
Sodium: 12573mg
Cholesterol: 234mg
Saturated Fat: 9g

What I Ate: Summer Solstice 2014

What I Ate: Saturday, June 21, 2014

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Today was kinda blah. I couldn’t finish my eggs at breakfast and found them a little nauseating. Thinking I’ve maybe had too many eggs? I got out to hike after breakfast but had to cut it short due to similar stomach issues to what I was having on Thursday, so I came home in a pissy mood. Pulled a grab-bag of snacks together for lunch once I got home, but finished out the day strong.

Breakfast:
Scrambled eggs (3/4 egg, 6.5 T egg whites) with black pepper & ketchup
Organic strawberries
Sara Lee Multigrain 45-Calorie Bread
Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread
Welch’s Natural Grape Jelly
Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea

Post-Hike Snacky Lunch:
Trader Joe’s Natural Turkey Jerky
Yasso Mint Chocolate Chip Frozen Greek Yogurt Bar
Emerald Cinnamon Roast Almonds

Evening Snack:
Organic strawberries
Banana
Organic blueberries (frozen)
Organic green seedless grapes (frozen)

Dinner:
Baked chicken breast with Frank’s Original Hot Sauce
Goya Low-Sodium Black Beans
2% Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Wholly Guacamole Classic

Calories: 1097 kcal
Protein: 93g (34%)
Carbs: 114g (41%)
Fat: 30g (25%)
Dietary Fiber: 22g
Sugar: 55g
Sodium: 1768mg
Cholesterol: 254mg
Saturated Fat: 7g

A Bona Fide Rant Video and “What I Ate” Catch-Up

Oh boy, yesterday I was feeling a little more uppity than usual, and uploaded a nearly half-hour rant to YouTube. What could stir such vehemence in me? Well, it may have been related to the fact that I was a little sick to my stomach, and when I get sick my fuse gets a lot shorter. But while I was browsing my Twitter feeds yesterday morning, one of the Twitterers that I follow posted something that just chapped my hide.

For the last week or so this person has cluttered my Twitter feed with constant retweets of entries into her weight loss blog’s current contest. Something on the order of 40 per day or so. I was REALLY tired of seeing “I’ve entered to win a week’s worth of workout attire! Visit X site to enter!” But then yesterday morning she started posting sponsored ads for what I would refer to as diet pills. Ummmmm…

At this point I’m going to take the lazy way out and direct you to my rant video itself, embedded below. I was feeling far more loquacious about it when I recorded it.

So, what are your thoughts? What are your feelings about seeing other bloggers promoting products, and have you ever had an experience where you feel someone stepped over the line and put their integrity at risk? And if you are a blogger who deals with brands or advertising, what is your approach? What types of opportunities do you reject on principle?

———–

I alluded to this above, but I fell ill for the majority of the day yesterday. Familiar abdominal pains plagued me throughout the afternoon and I was miserable. I felt a little feverish, with chills and a spot of nausea. Surprisingly, eating eased the pain temporarily, so I made sure to keep myself fed, but my activity levels were super low. I spent most of the day on the couch covered in a blanket willing myself to feel better. I’m happy to report that it completely passed by the evening.

I dredge this illness up to excuse my lack of “What I Ate” posts for the last two days. Intentions were to catch-up yesterday and then, well, that didn’t work out so now I’m going to catch up and post the photos and menus from Wednesday, Thursday, and today.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 18TH, 2014

What I Ate: Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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Breakfast:
Fried egg with black pepper
Sara Lee Multigrain 45-Calorie Bread
Laughing Cow Light Swiss Cheese Wedge
Fage 0% Total Greek Yogurt (I sweetened with Stevia, yuck)
Organic blueberries & strawberries

Lunch:
Baked chicken breast with Frank’s Hot Sauce
Wholly Guacamole Classic
Goya Low-Sodium Black Beans
2% Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Snack:
Activia Strawberry Patch Greek Yogurt
Dry-Roasted Unsalted Peanuts
Frozen Green Grapes
Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea

Dinner:
Burrito! made w/baked chicken breast with Fiesta Lime Mrs Dash
Goya Low-Sodium Black Beans
2% Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Tillamook Fat-Free Sour Cream
Wholly Guacamole Classic
Pace Restaurant-Style Salsa
Guerrero Large Flour Tortilla
Leafy Green Romaine Salad Mix

Calories: 1479 kcal
Protein: 128g (35%)
Carbs: 138g (38%)
Fat: 44g (27%)
Dietary Fiber: 25g
Sugar: 48g
Sodium: 2134mg
Cholesterol: 335mg
Saturated Fat: 14g

———–

THURSDAY, JUNE 19TH, 2014

What I Ate: Thursday, June 19, 2014

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Breakfast:
Scrambled eggs (1 egg, 8 T egg whites) with black pepper & ketchup
Organic strawberries
Sara Lee Multigrain 45-Calorie Bread
Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread
Welch’s Natural Grape Jelly
Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea

Lunch:
Baked chicken breast with Mrs Dash Fiesta Lime seasonings
Litehouse Lite Salsa Ranch Dressing
Sugar Snap Peas
Leafy Green Romaine Salad Mix

Sickie Snack:
Banana
Emerald Cinnamon Roast Almonds
Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea

Dinner:
Baked chicken breast with Mrs Dash Fiesta Lime seasonings
Rosarita Fat-Free Refried Beans
Tillamook Fat-Free Sour Cream
Pace Restaurant-Style Salsa
Leafy Green Romaine Salad Mix

Calories: 1078 kcal
Protein: 93g (35%)
Carbs: 106g (40%)
Fat: 29g (25%)
Dietary Fiber: 21g
Sugar: 38g
Sodium: 2109mg
Cholesterol: 309mg
Saturated Fat: 9g
———–

FRIDAY, JUNE 20TH, 2014

What I Ate: Friday, June 20, 2014

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Breakfast:
Smoothie made with:
Fage 0% Total Greek Yogurt
Baby Spinach
Organic Blueberries
Banana
Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
ClearFiber supplement
Organic Greens & Reds supplement
Chia seeds

Lunch:
20/20 Lifestyles Chicken Vegetable Pizza (Pro Sports Club bistro)

Snack:
Deli-sliced Roasted Turkey Breast
Cracker Barrel Cheddar Stick made from 2% milk
Kosher Dill Pickle pieces
Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea

Dinner:
Grilled chicken breast seasoned with lime juice & Fiesta Lime Mrs Dash
Goya Low-Sodium Black Beans
Pace Restaurant-Style Salsa
Wholly Guacamole Classic
Tillamook Fat-Free Sour Cream

Calories: 1235 kcal
Protein: 102g (33%)
Carbs: 134g (44%)
Fat: 31g (23%)
Dietary Fiber: 28g
Sugar: 20g (+ lunch unknown)
Sodium: 2032mg
Cholesterol: 152mg
Saturated Fat: 8g

What I Ate: Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

What I Ate: Tuesday, June 17, 2014

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Breakfast:
Fried egg with black pepper
Sara Lee Multigrain 45-Calorie Bread
Laughing Cow Light Swiss Cheese Wedge
Fage 0% Total Greek Yogurt
Organic blueberries
Clover Honey
Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea

Lunch:
Ground 99% lean turkey breast with salt-free seasonings
Red, Green & Yellow bell peppers
Tumaro’s Low-Carb Multigrain tortilla wrap
Laughing Cow Queso Fresco and Chipotle Cheese Wedge
Tillamook Fat Free Sour Cream
Pace Restaurant-Style Salsa
Organic strawberries

Snack:
Trader Joe’s Original Low Sodium Turkey Jerky
Emerald Cinnamon Roast Almonds

Dinner:
Baked chicken breast with Frank’s Original Hot Sauce
Goya Low-Sodium Black Beans
2% Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Wholly Guacamole Classic

Calories: 1145 kcal
Protein: 123g (42%)
Carbs: 94g (32%)
Fat: 33g (25%)
Dietary Fiber: 26g
Sugar: 40g
Sodium: 1940mg
Cholesterol: 318mg
Saturated Fat: 7g

9 Months In… I’ve Given Birth to a Healthy New Me!

Welcome friends! How’s your week going? Mine’s going SO SWELL! Check the video below for my weekly weigh-in/check-in!

Can’t watch right now? I’ve got you covered!

Last week’s weigh-in: 194.0 lbs
This week’s weigh-in: 191.6 lbs
Weight loss this week: 2.4 lbs!
Weight loss total: 80.4 lbs

I’ve officially hit 80 lbs down since August. A mere 20 lbs ’til I’ve lost 100 lbs, WHICH IS CRAY CRAY, YO! As of today, I’ve been on the 20/20 Lifestyles program for nine months, so in the video I joke that it’s like I’ve given birth to a baby – a newborn healthy new me! Bad clichés aside, I’m completely stoked about my success so far and at the moment it’s still full steam ahead.

I have only three trainer appointments left on the program (MEGA SADFACE!), and next week I have all my end-of-program assessments. It’ll all be buttoned up before I leave for vacation to Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia for my birthday the last weekend of June. Hoping to also hear back from a potential employer within the next few days. If I snag this job I interviewed for yesterday I’ll be in super-high spirits for this next phase of my journey.

Hope you get a chance to watch the above video soon!

Also, I was too tired to post my “What I Ate” last night, so here it is!

What I Ate: Monday, June 16, 2014

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Breakfast:
Scrambled eggs (1 egg, 8 T egg whites) with black pepper & ketchup
Organic green grapes & blueberries
Sara Lee Multigrain 45-Calorie Bread
Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread
Welch’s Natural Grape Jelly
Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea

Lunch:
Baked chicken breast with Mrs Dash Fiesta Lime seasonings
Tillamook Fat Free Sour Cream
Goya Low-Sodium Black Beans
2% Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Pace Restaurant-Style Salsa

Snack:
Activia Strawberry Patch Greek Yogurt

Dinner:
Baked chicken breast with Mrs Dash Fiesta Lime seasonings
Goya Low-Sodium Black Beans
2% Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Litehouse Lite Salsa Ranch Dressing

Evening Snack:
Organic green grapes & blueberries
Dry-Roasted Unsalted Peanuts

Calories: 1196 kcal
Protein: 114g (37%)
Carbs: 115g (38%)
Fat: 33g (25%)
Dietary Fiber: 19g
Sugar: 49g
Sodium: 1673mg
Cholesterol: 331mg
Saturated Fat: 11g