I’ve seen things that say “Being thin feels better than food tastes” or “Food tastes so much better than being thin feels.” I’ve probably starred both of them on Twitter. I will admit I am a little bipolar when it comes to my body image. Half the time I feel comfortable the way I am (being a little over weight but happy and in love with food). The other half of the time I hate that I let myself get this way and dream of a chiseled fit body and my clothes never feeling too tight again. So while I go back and forth and back and forth trying to decide which lifestyle to commit to; I decided to dissect my history with food and body image over the years to see where it all went wrong.
As a kid I was really skinny. I didn’t think anything of it. I got boobs in 3rd grade, way before the other girls, but was still skinny. The only other girls that had boobs that early were the really heavy ones. So why did I? Once I hit puberty I really started filling out and getting curvy everywhere. When I was thirteen I had the body of seventeen, in a good way (well not so good for my Dad). However, once I surpassed two of my skinny pixie-size older sisters up in height & weight & clothing size, I really started feeling more insecure about it. I was modest and never felt comfortable changing in front of people. Especially in PE class in Junior High. I went into the shower with a towel on, took super-quick-don’t-get-my-hair-wet type showers and then changed in the restroom stall so no one could make fun of my breasts or that my stomach wasn’t flat. At this point I weighed about 115 lbs and looked killer in size 5 BONGO jeans (they were the coolest), but compared myself to everyone else, therefore feeling ashamed. My sisters and others who commented on my breast size always said it like it was an abnormal thing, never like “man those are awesome, wish I had some”, even though come to find out, they were just jealous and would later pay for bigger breasts. Instead it always made me feel like they were saying I was fat. Why couldn’t they have made it sound like more of a privilege to be 36C all through high school instead of like I had a third eye or something? Through High School I was 5’4” and a solid 120-125, thicker than the skinny boney girls but far from fat. So even though I know now I had a great body – I didn’t believe it then. I thought my stomach was chubby (because it wasn’t six-pack-abs and rarely showed skin. Most days for lunch I’d have a Pepsi and a snickers bar, or sometimes a hot dog. My after school snack was usually 2-4 pieces of toast or ramen noodles. But no matter what I ate I stayed the same. I thought it was fine. I thought I had my Dad’s hollow legs and could eat whatever I wanted. I was wrong.
Eat A Pint:
Like a lot of girls I started putting on weight in college. It probably didn’t help that I lived at home my first two years, therefore still having good food to eat since it was being paid for by Mom & Dad, therefore NOT starving college student. By the time I moved out on my own I was 135 lbs with flabby thighs. Once I went off to BSU, study groups centered around lunch in the student union building. I had a lot of Pizza Hut breadsticks and absolutely no vegetables. By the time I graduated college I was 140 lbs, D-cup bra and all my clothes were uncomfortably tight. I found myself in a stable relationship with a man who worked nights, eating dinner at 10pm so I found myself eating two dinners. My love of food started to really blossom as I enjoyed eating out in restaurants more often. Eating became a social event – often the only thing I got together with friends to do. At one point I was eating lunch out 3-4 times a week with my coworkers to places like Olive Garden and Macaroni Grill – heavy pasta dishes with creamy Alfredo sauce and lots of bread. I knew I was getting chubbier as my clothing sizes increased. I gradually went from 9 in juniors to 10 in misses, then 12’s, eventually some 14’s. I popped a button on my suit top just by exhaling. But I didn’t care enough to change my habits.
I started both pregnancies (at 27 & 29) at 150 lbs. I gained 25 pounds with both pregnancies – right on schedule according doctors – getting back down to 160-165 at the end. But did I care? Nope, all of my twenties I ate and ate and loved my food. I was extremely lazy, spending my non-working hours at home as a couch potato. I viewed my weight as something that naturally went up with age & having babies. I wanted to stay in more often. At home with my chubby husband I was fine, but I skipped going to beach-like settings with college friends because I wasn’t comfortable being the chubbiest girl in the group. I hated that all my cousins were skinnier than me and the family made it clear that they noticed. I was unhappy with myself but I didn’t know it.
You Can Do It:
It wasn’t until my thirties that I started to give a rat’s ass about my health or my looks. It was early 2009 that someone commented on how much weight I’d lost. I hadn’t tried to, I hadn’t done anything, I hadn’t even noticed…but my clothes were baggy. I weighed in and realized I had lost ten pounds without even trying. The reason: the Wellbutrin antidepressant I was on. Thank you baby Jesus! There was something between losing that initial weight, having people notice and the inspiration of the Biggest Loser reality show that I finally started to try.
I’ve had pretty bad allergy induced & exercise induced Asthma all my life. It did get better as I got older but because I had avoided running & aerobic activity for so long I thought I couldn’t do it. I had a medical excuse that got me completely out of PE all of High School. I had to use my inhaler after a flight of stairs, and would never dream of running, which usually won me a trip to the Emergency Room. The couple times I had tried to do the Denise Austin workouts on TV my thighs were burning and I was wheezing before the warm-ups were even over. I would stop and say I couldn’t do it. BUT I was now surrounded by people at work that were into working out and I was already losing weight, so I was going to try it. I started with the Biggest Loser Workout DVD at home, then Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred, and Tony Horton’s 10-minute trainers. I had to get up at 5:30 each morning to do them before work – the only time I could carve out for myself. It wasn’t easy in the beginning because of my asthma and the fact that my muscles were so out of shape. Some days I would stand up from my desk and could barely move, having to limp down the hall to the printer. But the more I did it, the better I got, the less it hurt and the more I wanted to do. I was amazed that I could build up my endurance and lung strength. My inhaler usage dropped considerably. I even started the P90X program (but quit after two weeks when I got bronchitis). By the end of that year I had lost a total of 24 pounds, getting down to 141 and going from size 12 pants down to size 8. My BMI went from 29 to 23. I felt so much stronger and better about myself. I could be naked without cringing. I even felt a little flirtier again – after a ten year hiatus – I was getting sexy back. The biggest difference was in my energy level. Now I could (and wanted to) run around and play with my two boys instead of just watch them from the couch. I felt great, had a better positive attitude and felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I said I would never go back.
…But for how long…
Of course, the battle with weight is never easy and that was not my happy ending. You see that health kick lasted until Summer 2010, but then I had set backs. Quit to go on vacation. Start up again. Quit when I was sick. Start up again. Quit over the holidays because I want to eat yummy food. Start up again. Quit because I might be going through a mid-life crisis & looking good is making me want to leave my fat husband who still wants to stay home and watch TV all the time and won’t take the journey with me. Take your pick – there’s always a hundred excuses.
I am now on my fourth year of “trying” to be healthy & fit. I have a tendency to be on a workout kick for 2-3 months, working out 4-6 times a week and loving it, then unintentionally quitting. Sometimes I also eat healthy and count calories and lose some weight. Sometimes I am still eating whatever I want so I don’t lose much weight but do firm up and feel better. But I keep stopping for two weeks here, four weeks there, 8 weeks there for all the reasons I listed above of getting off the wagon, then taking a while to get back on. I get discouraged easily. I have lost and gained and lost and gained the same ten pounds over and over again. Ten might not seem like a lot, but for my frame, ten pounds is a whole pants size and a lot of self-esteem.
When I look at the amount of food and type of foods I ate when I was in my twenties compared to the amount and type of foods I eat now – my diet is SO MUCH better now. If I am eating about 1200-1700 calories a day now (or however many myfitnesspal.com tells me to), I bet I was probably eating 2000-3000 calories a day for the 2nd half of my twenties. I didn’t eat vegetables back then (except salad before my pasta). I didn’t eat whole grains back then. I ate lots of candy bars and pasta. Now I am on track for my calorie count half of the time. I drink a lot more water now and have a lot less sweets. So you would think looking at my habits then versus now I could drop weight from that alone. But it’s not that simple. You always hear the older we get the harder it gets. This is so true. I’m finding that I have to do both the exercising & eating to a strict healthy plan in order to lose enough weight to be even close to where I should be. I don’t pay attention to Doctor’s charts because they used to tell me that for my height I should be 106-129 lbs. I couldn’t imagine what I’d look like at 106, but death bed comes to mind. I feel I would be happiest and look good in the 129-140 lb. range. (Remember I have large breasts that probably add 10-20 lbs just on their own). I recently researched it online and was happy to see they have adjusted those recommendations for a healthy weight down to a more reasonable: 124-138 at http://www.idealweightchart.org/. And that my healthy body mass index (BMI) should be in range of 18.5 to 24.9. Those are some numbers I can gauge myself by but just staying below the 150 mark and staying strong by working out at least 3-5 times a week will make me happy. I still have work to do if I am to make those goals though, as I still struggle with chocolate cravings, Doritos cravings, Coke-Cola daily and a bacon cheeseburger once a week. I have to tackle those temptations of deliciousness and long time emotional eating habits (handed down for generations) before I will be successful for good. And I now know that you can never stop. Living healthy is a forever change. Because if I stop working out for two weeks, my body changes back to where it was and I have to start all over again with my endurance build up & muscle build up. It is not fair that it’s this hard. There are some people with great genetics that it might not be this hard for. I am not one of them. I just have to retrain my brain and my habits.
Still undecided & struggling:
I’m still struggling with which I want more; food or a fit body. Sometimes I feel happy with my size and my lifestyle the way it is and decide I’ll just be who I am. Being able to eat chocolate cake or go for pizza is so much more fun than being a constant calorie counting obsessive bitch that makes everyone at the table feel bad. It is the easier choice because it doesn’t take so much work or dedication. But it doesn’t wipe away my insecurities. The other half of the time I want that nice trim body so badly, I feel like a failure for not getting it. I want to be healthy and hot. I don’t want to be old and ugly and weak, and the slowest person who gets eaten by the Zombie apocalypse. I want to be strong and kick ass. I want guys to notice me. I want to change clothes in front of people and not worry about what they think of my pouch. I want to be a positive role model for my children. I want to wear a swimsuit without a shirt over it. But…I still want cake dammit! I wish I could have my “don’t care about my weight” attitude of my twenties partnered with my better habits of my thirties. My new goal is to lose 10 pounds by August 2013, 20 pounds in a year. But most of all I want it to click & stick. And I’d like to not be so hard on myself in the meantime.