Please be aware that this article discusses bulimia. If you or someone you know struggles with an eating disorder, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline: 1-800-931-2237, or text “NEDA” to 741741 for additional resources and support
Do you remember the first time you thought about weight loss? I sure do. Little seven-year-old me. It was summer and my cousins were visiting who we didn’t see often. My girl cousin, who was my same age, was a little pudgy. I had always been an extremely skinny kid, so kids with even a small amount of excess made me notice. I remember thinking she doesn’t look like I think she should, judging her from her looks alone.
I have no idea where I learned to be critical like that. My mom was never like that. But I remember turning that critical eye inward and this began the lifelong battle. The comparing myself to anyone I saw as more than I had. It didn’t matter if it was a picture in a magazine or a beautiful woman walking down the street.
A year or so later, my mom started Weight Watchers for the first time. She had gained some weight after having her three kids, and she really wanted to get back down to her slender 120 frame from her twenties. She worked that program with a fever. My impressionable eyes and ears soaked up all her negative self-talk. She only ever directed it at herself, but I noticed.
After about eight months or so she finally had reached a weight she could accept, and she quit Weight Watchers. However, for her (and for me) this set up a pattern of yo-yo dieting and self-hatred. Though, for me, the yo-yo didn’t start until I had my own children.
Fast Forward a Few Years: 6th Grade and the Discovery of Self Hatred
Another milestone moment in comparing myself to all impossible standards was at Euclid Jr. High School Library. Paper research was the assignment, but I had found a stack of Seventeen Magazines. I distinctly remember this one cover, a bronze-skinned blonde “girl” in an orange one-piece swimsuit exiting a pool as the sun was setting in the background. Her legs were slender and long and she looked so elegant. I think the main story on the cover was about sun tan lotion, but I don’t really remember that part.
What I do remember most was thinking why didn’t I look like that? She was a teenager too right? I looked at my short muscled legs and my straight boy-like body, with no hips or shape at all. Pick a feature and I compared myself to this girl on the cover. Unfortunately, I found myself wanting.
My middle-school years were great and horrible, I think like so many of us. I did think about weight loss from moment to moment, but it did not consume me yet. I dug into sports, soccer, and swimming, and my developing body kept letting me down by not measuring up to the ideal I had created from those unrealistic teen mags.
I’m not saying that I spent every hour of every day hating myself, but there were enough flashes of insecurity and self-loathing to make me hate myself.
Bounce Ahead to High School
At this time, sports had taken over my life. For the first time in my life, I was almost comfortable in my skin. I had no weight loss battles. The self-loathing was beaten into submission by the grueling workout schedules of my chosen sports. My body was lean and muscled and I was strong. Of course, now the thoughts had shifted to, “What if I stop these sports? I could get fat at any time. Right?” That would make me unattractive to all the boys I had crushes on. So even though I liked my body, I still worried about being enough.
This need to control not only how I looked, but all the other stressful happenings in High School, I began to purge food. When I felt stressed or out of control, I knew I could throw it all up and it would be fine. The way my stomach felt after, tight and empty soothed the self-loathing beast. I hid this from everyone. My parents and my friends.
Even though the active Bulimia only lasted a few years, I struggled with the urge to for a long time.
I played sports into college and kept my slim physique, with little effort. Until…
Weightloss and My First Child
After my first child, I gained about fifty pounds. The weight loss took a few months but I lost most of it within about six months, leaving me about ten pounds bigger than pre-baby. But, even with this amazing new little life, the change in my body bothered me. Proportions had shifted and it would never look the same again. I longed for my pre-baby body and struggle to like the new me.
Not accepting my new body, I tried to squeeze myself into my old wardrobe. The tightness and ill fit made me hate myself even more. I should have been loving this new little being, but I was struggling to love myself. Don’t get me wrong he was loved, but the distraction of this struggle will always haunt me. I could have given him so much more.
Adding my second child brought more weight and more stress. Combined with postpartum depression, my bulimia came back in full force. The need to control all the changes in my life and how I felt about myself became too much.
Consequently, for the first time in my life, I looked for outside help with my eating disorder. I confided in my family physician and through him found an amazing psychologist who helped me learn to manage my stress and stop using food to control my stress.
After all, this was supposed to be the most amazing time in my life. A new mom to two beautiful sweet kids, and all I could think about was how I looked and what people thought of me.
Self-hatred robbed me of time with my kids and I will never get that back.
Plodding Along in My Thirties and Forties
Sad to say, this pattern continued through my 30’s and 40’s up and down until I reached my heaviest weight of 228. During this time, my kids grew and the weight battle raged on. Diet after diet. Pills, shakes, and drops. Whatever the next weight loss train screamed by, I jumped on it. Up and down the weight would go until I reached my heaviest nonpregnant weight of 228 pounds. This was only ten pounds off of my first pregnancy at delivery.
Even typing that number is painful. I am now under two hundred, but the health repercussions from this weight have begun to add up. Diabetes and heart disease run in my family and both are triggered by obesity. And the thought of lifelong medications and painful disease scares the hell out of me.
Now is the Time for Weight Loss
I had a milestone birthday this year. I turned fifty. Ugh! I really thought I would never be this old. And the added weight has amped up the aches and pains of growing older.
With this birthday, I have decided to ditch the fad diets and look at weight loss in a whole new light. I still want to be thinner, but I have come to terms with the idea that I will not lose fifty pounds in three months and the pipedreams of fad diets. At fifty, my metabolism and hormones are not what they once were.
I am going to get my health back. Even in this statement, there is a change in my thinking. This time there has to be slow steady weight loss. The idea is that my habits have to change, not just what I put in my mouth. And most of all the expectations of how much I will lose week to week. Slow and steady wins the race.
A few months before the big 5-0 I started watching what I ate and walking more. That got me down under two hundred, but I have so much farther to go. This time (like all those years ago) I decided to ask for help. Not with how to eat. I know what foods are healthy and which ones do me in but with the habits and the psychological aspect of losing weight.
So, for the first time in over fifteen years, I joined a program. I looked for one that would help me conquer the habits that helped me gain fifty pounds. The most important part of the program for me was behaviors instead of counting calories. It feels great. I know I can do this. I have to for my future and my health.
Even now that I’m older, I still struggle with self-acceptance, but now I know that it is all in my head. There are no people staring at me as I walk down the street judging me. I have learned that people are really not concerned with total strangers they meet along the way.
This has become about more than just how I look. It’s now about my health and growing older without pain and medications. The weight loss battle has changed from vanity to necessity. I watch my mother and brothers take their pills, and I know they will have to do that for the rest of their lives. That scares me to death.
This time around, it’s about freeing myself from the need to fit in and the health dangers that are lurking in the closet waiting to pounce. I may never be comfortable with the way I look, but I have hope that I can lose this weight and get healthy. I am ready to give it my all. This time it is for me, not for the stranger I think is judging me.
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