I have had a weight problem all of my life. My baby fat, just never went away. I am convinced that I went directly from a kid’s size 14 to an adult size 16.
I have absolutely no recollection of being any size in between. One of my most distinct memories as a child, was shopping for junior bridesmaid’s dresses with my aunt at 10 years old. I was looking through the dresses in the plus size section and there was another girl looking at the same rack. Yelling across the store that girl’s mother shouted, “No, no Rachel, don’t look over there, that rack is only for fat people.” I just stood there, completely mortified with my face turning red. I wasn’t in the wrong section, I was one of the fat people that needed to shop in that section. I quickly grabbed a dress and ran so that I could go and cry alone in the dressing room. That was the first of many embarrassing incidents that I would experience because of my weight.
Nearly every moment of my life, I have had my weight on my mind. I have a journal that I would write in when I was upset that I started when I was 12 years old. Every single entry was centered around my weight. I still have that journal buried in my spare room and I pulled it out and started reading some of the entries. It is heartbreaking. I can still see where my tears smudged the ink in the journal.
As I re-read that journal, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sorrow. The saddest part was realizing how I am still dealing with the same issues and battling the same demons. I kept thinking that really, not that much has changed over the last 20 years. I still am bombarded by the negative thoughts that 12-year-old Jess was obsessed with. Before, I let that sorrow consume me, I realized that the one thing that has changed is my mind set. I have learned a lot about how to combat those negative thoughts and I have found a way to be happy. There are so many things that I want to go back and tell myself. If I had known these things 20 year ago, I could have saved myself a lot of tears and heartache.
So, 12-year-old Jess, listen up! These pieces of advice will change your life!
There is no finish line
I am a repeat offender when it comes to weight loss. I have lost 60 plus pounds at least 4 times. Of course, each time I would “fall of the wagon” I would gain it all back plus some. Each time I would lose the weight I was just so focused on the end goal. That finish line. I thought if I could just reach that finish line, my life would be perfect. I could start living my life like all those skinny people that I have envied all my life. That is just not true. The biggest difference this time around is that I do not see this journey as a race to the finish.
I used to obsess over the number on the scale and spend hours staring at a calendar while crunching numbers. Calculating how much weight I would have to lose each week to reach goal in a year. Or calculating how much I will weigh by my summer vacation if I lose 2 lbs. a week- you name the scenario- I would have calculated it. Then the second I fell behind on the weight loss schedule, I felt so defeated. Now, my mind set has shifted, I no longer focus on timelines or finish lines. I focus on day by day- I am no longer looking for the end, because I know there is no end. I will continue this journey, no matter how long it takes, this is for life. Which brings me to my next point.
This will be a life long struggle and that is okay.
My weight problem will never be “cured”. I now know that this will be something that I will struggle with my whole life. Occasionally, I will long for something from my “old life”, feeling sorry for myself, that I will never again be able to eat an entire pizza without thinking twice. My Weight Watchers leader, Karen, once said something that has stuck with me. She said, “Being overweight is hard. Losing weight is hard. Pick your hard.” I would prefer the struggle to maintain my weight over the struggle that I had everyday when I was severely overweight.
I know that I need to actively work on maintaining my weight loss for the rest of my life. I am committed to going to Weight Watchers meetings for the rest of my life. 95 year-old me will be attending a weekly meeting. Like I said, I have lost weight in the past, but I always gained it back plus 40, 50 or even 100 lbs. I am still about 40 lbs. off of my lowest adult weight, but I feel like I am so much father ahead mentally than I have ever been before.
Learn to love yourself
This sounds so cliché, but it is so true. If you do not love yourself, no one else will. I will not wait until I hit a certain number on the scale to start liking who I am- loving yourself, flaws and all, it a big part of success. For me, getting healthy is the ultimate act of self-love. I am creating a life that I am worthy of. No more hiding in the corner or sleeping through the weekend- I love myself too much to do those kinds of things anymore.
Self-love doesn’t come easy. Especially, when your brain is programmed to fixate on every little flaw and compare yourself to others. Many of the things that I would say to myself were so unkind, I would never ever in a million years say something like that to someone else, so why is it okay to say it to myself? It’s not. Speak kindly to yourself and you can slowly start to change the conversations in your head to thoughts of love and appreciation.
Don’t worry so much about that everyone else thinks
It is hard to not let it bother you, when you are out walking in your neighborhood and the people in the car driving by take the time to roll down their window to oink at you. Sadly, that has really happened to me-more than once (I got mooed at in the mall too). Those kinds of things used to crush me- I would spend days or weeks reliving the moment over and over in my head. I would obsess over what I could have done differently to prevent the incident. Thinking things like, it’s my fault for trying to exercise out in public, no one wants to see that.
With age, comes some wisdom and I now know that the problem is not with me. Those people have some serious issues, if they take the time to be-little another human like that. Although, it is very difficult to ignore, life is too short to let those kinds of things bother me.
I was out running in my neighborhood just a few weeks ago and I few teenagers drove past me, rolled down the window and yelled, “run, piggy”, and started oinking. As soon as that happened, I felt that pit in my stomach, you know the one that comes only with the deepest sorrow. But this time, that sadness only lasted for a few seconds, instead, I started getting really ticked off. I am out running, so obviously, I am trying to better my health. By the time I was done with my run, I had decided that I really don’t care what those people think, I am not doing this for them, I am doing it for me.
There are many more incidence that are not quite as dramatic where I let the fear of judgement stop me from doing something that I wanted to do. The point is, live your life for yourself, not to please other people.
You are not alone
At the time, I felt so alone. I felt Like nobody could possibly understand what I was going through. In fact, in several journal entries I write that exact thing. I wrote this in the journal at 13, “Nobody will understand. I can’t talk to my parents or a counselor or anybody. Nobody will understand. I am not normal. Why can’t I just be normal?” As, I got older and gained the confidence to share my story with other people. I quickly found out that I was wrong. There are tons of people that have the same thoughts and struggles as I do- it’s just that no one wants to share it. My Weight Watchers meetings have transformed my life, because there are so many people in that room that struggle with the exact same things I do. I am not alone.
I by no means have it all figured out. And I don’t want to come across like I have all the answers, because I don’t- not even close. I just know it has taken me a really long time to get where I am today, and it would be selfish of me not to share some of the big lessons that took me 31 years to figure out.
I must admit that re-reading that journal was hard. As I read that journal tonight, tears streaming down my face- I thought, there is no way that I can share this. Re-living all that pain was, well, painful. No one, not my husband, not my best friends, not my mom, has ever seen the contents of this journal. I always hid how much my weight consumed my every thought. What I have written, will shock many people who are close to me. I was a master at pretending that everything was fine- just smile and nobody will know. But you know what, everything wasn’t fine and that is okay. My hope is by sharing my story, I can help someone like the 12-year old me, figure out a few of these things with a little more ease and with less heartache and scars.
Want to know more about my journey? Check it out here!
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