Whatever you are not changing you are choosing. -Laurie Buchanan
The first time I remember hating my body was when I was 12. I developed earlier than most and was one of the first girls in my grade to not only get her period but also grow boobs. It garnered a lot of unwanted attention.
When I was in 8th grade a male classmate of mine told his friends that I had “a great body but an ugly face.” (Read: boobs) That lovely tidbit made the rounds until it landed square in my lap.
I cried a lot that day. And deeply believed the “ugly face” comment for years to follow.
It was the beginning of what would be a continuous love/hate relationship with my body and my own feelings of self-worth.
I started high school during the era of the supermodel. Women like Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson, Stephanie Seymour, and others were all the rage and the ugly face girl secretly wanted to be like them in all of their glory. I watched girls that I grew up with develop anorexia and bulimia and even my own mother struggle with her weight. I figured if the people that I looked up to needed to go to extreme lengths to control their bodies, well, certainly I needed to as well.
Cue the “I need to lose weight” thought process that would dominate the rest of my life.
Once I became a wife and mother I mentally moved myself to the bottom of the priority list. The want to lose weight and low self-esteem never left me, but having a family to take care of made my not prioritizing myself feel a bit nobler. It was a horrible excuse but one that I could hide behind. As a result, my health suffered. Both physically and mentally.
I yo-yo dieted my way into my 40s trying different programs but never fully committing to moving myself up the list. Everyone and everything was always more important.
Inside I was miserable. And predictably, I packed on the pounds. For the first time in my life, I hit a BMI range that was considered unhealthy and moved into the obese category. I bought bigger clothing sizes (twice) and steered clear of mirrors. (Like, way clear.)
You know what else I steered clear of? Social functions and photographs. I put permissions on Facebook that didn’t let others tag me in photos. I chose clothing that covered as much as humanly possible. I wore only black.
I basically hid as much as possible.
But the worst thing that happened to me was that I lost my joy. I was on an endless cycle of self-hatred letting the numbers on the scale dictate my sense of self-worth. And I let this mental state affect everyone and everything I came in contact with.
I was miserable.
So why in the world am I telling you this? Why put my personal angst out there for the world to see?
Because, as a dear friend of mine likes to say, it’s not about me. I’m hoping my story can maybe offer a bit of hope.
Because after 30 years of angst, struggle and mental anguish I have lost over 40 pounds.
I can hardly believe it myself.
Truth be told, I’d pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I would remain heavy for the rest of my life.
It seemed insurmountable. Undoable. Completely impossible.
Except, it wasn’t.
I’m not saying it was easy. I’m just saying it was possible.
When people see me on the street these days they automatically want to know how I did it. They want tactics. They want details. They want a plan.
“What did you eat? How much did you exercise? What did you do?”
While I am always happy to help, the boring truth is that I didn’t really do anything revolutionary. It was a million small decisions I made on a daily basis that moved me forward. It was drinking the damn water. It was feeling all the feelings and not giving up. It was eating salads and changing the way I thought about food and walking past temptation. It was cutting back sugar, reducing my calories and even going to bed hungry sometimes. It was countless hours of pounding the pavement.
It was relying on an inner strength that I didn’t even know I had.
I find it ironic that I somehow managed to conquer my biggest life battle during a global pandemic. Maybe it was because I couldn’t hide behind the lie of being too busy anymore. Maybe it was because I had mental space to address my own priorities. Maybe I was just tired of my own bullshit.
Losing the weight was like losing an anvil around my neck both literally and figuratively. Not only did my energy levels dramatically change but so did many other aspects of my life. Suddenly, everything was easier. I felt more confident to take on new projects, to speak my mind, to laugh louder and feel deeper. I began running again, took some masterclasses, and even enrolled in a public speaking course.
It has impacted so much more than just my wardrobe size. It has helped me find my joy again.
So here’s the truth, If I can do it so can others. If you’re reading this and identify with my story in some way, know that you also have it in you to do hard things. That’s just a fact.
I encourage you to call yourself on your own bullshit. To make yourself a priority again. You might have to dig deep but you won’t regret it.