I’ve been fat my entire life.
Really. I was a 10 pound baby, and it was all uphill from there.
Most women struggle with losing five, 10, or possibly 20 pounds at any given point in their lives. Lucky them! Since I was barely out of diapers, I have wrestled with full-fledged obesity. As in 40, 50, 60, and even 100+ pounds overweight.
Sure, I had gone on diets and dropped a size here or there, but for much of my childhood and adolescence, I was obese. I was constantly “starting my diet on Monday” to fit into a fancy prom dress or to “look good” for one special occasion or another, but as soon as it was over, it was back to devouring anything covered in an alfredo sauce and stuffing myself until I was sick.
Take one look into my past, and it’s pretty clear why. I am the utter definition of an “emotional eater.” In my house, food has always equaled love and comfort. My greatest childhood triumphs were rewarded with heavy meals, and I quickly learned that there was no pain a plate of grandma’s cookies couldn’t fix. My parents and grandparents used delectable treats as a way to show their love, and any time was snack time. I grew up learning that I should simply raid the refrigerator any time I was feeling sad…or lonely…or stressed…or bored.
The problem was that I had a lot of pain to eat my way through. From age 8 to age 18, I was tormented day in and day out by classmates in my small New Jersey hometown, while my mother reminded me constantly of how terrible I looked in shorts and that no boy would ever like me. Meanwhile, I was shuttled to an endless string of nutritionists, doctors, school counselors, and psychologists, who all tried to figure out why the pounds just kept piling on.
Perhaps it was because my idea of a 3pm snack was a Wendy’s junior bacon cheeseburger, small fry, and chocolate frosty (I’d then go home and clean my dinner plate two hours later). I’d lose my breath climbing a single flight of stairs, so I spent most of my time curled up on the couch with my eyes glued to the television.
I was absolutely miserable. I relegated myself to the corner in any and every social situation. I assumed everyone was judging me, all the time. So I simply began to accept that, for the rest of my life, I would be “the fat girl.”
I gave up hope.
My doctor first sent me to Weight Watchers at age 11. I lost 20 pounds, quit, and re-joined as a 220-pound 15-year-old. This time, I decided to use my “knowledge” of the program to lose weight on my own. I essentially starved myself for a year. I did not exercise, and I did not make an effort to eat healthier foods. Instead of eating an entire bag of Doritos, I simply counted out the POINTS for one or two servings.
I lost 60 pounds, met my boyfriend, decided I was happy in a size 10, and deemed myself “cured.” Now I could go back to eating the good stuff.
Shortly thereafter I watched my grandfather, who meant everything in the world to me, succumb to pancreatic cancer. My beloved grandmother followed just one year later. I was devastated, and instead of dealing with my grief, I did the only thing I knew how: drown my pain in heaping plates of pasta and boxes of baked goods.
No surprises here: less than five years later at the age of 22, I found myself bursting out of plus-size jeans, suffering from severe acid reflux, and having trouble fitting into movie theater seats. Meanwhile, I just kept telling myself that my body was returning to the size it was “supposed” to be. I was perfectly happy being overweight. That’s just who I was. I constantly had to keep purchasing larger pants, and continued to squeeze myself into tops made for someone 50 pounds lighter.
That brings me to the reason for this blog. That year, in November of 2007, I launched my most recent battle of the bulge when a scale suddenly appeared in my bathroom (thanks, Mom). After several days of pretending it wasn’t there, I decided to “man up” and step on.
I slipped off my sneakers, stepped ever so gently onto that scale, and expected to see that I was once again hovering around 220 pounds. I was fully prepared to beat myself up for gaining those 60 pounds back, but in the back of my mind, I was convinced that my body was merely returning to the size it was “meant” to be.
The scale read 267 pounds.
I was well on my way to becoming a 300-pound 25-year-old.
I was devastated. Embarrassed. Ashamed. You name it, I felt it. How could I let this happen? My 5 foot, 4 inch body was now MORBIDLY obese.
I wanted to curl into a ball on the bathroom floor and never face the world again.
But I didn’t. I marched out of that bathroom and announced to anyone who would listen that I was going back to Weight Watchers once and for all. Enough was enough. I could not continue on this way. I would lose the more than 100 extra pounds of fat on my body, and this time, I was going to lose weight the RIGHT way. I would choke down vegetables, I would sweat on the treadmill, I would do whatever it took to end my life as an obese, miserable person.
I made a promise to myself that day that I was finally going to gain control over my health — and my life. (In fact, I laugh now that one of the most defining moments of my life happened beside a toilet bowl.)
By the end of 2008, I was down 80 pounds. I managed to lose about 10 more pounds early in 2009.
The weight melted right off after I first began trading in Cheez-Its for carrots and six-hour television marathons for daily sweat sessions at the gym. I was within 10 pounds of earning a coveted 100-pound star at my Weight Watchers meetings. At the end of 2008, I was on top of the world.
But then I got stuck. In 2009, I gained and lost the same five pounds week after week after week. Ever since I donned my first pair of single-digit jeans, I’ve been struggling with getting that number on the scale to budge. I got comfortable, I got cocky, and I began to falter.
My weight loss record began to read like a yo-yo, and I didn’t want to admit that my lackluster food journaling, skipped workouts, and “I’ll get back on track tomorrow” promises to myself were the reason behind my ever-frustrating weight loss plateau.
Granted, I’m proud of myself for not throwing in the towel completely, but when a few pesky pounds began to creep back on, I had to face the reality that I still had a long way to go. And I could not give up now.
I still have to lose 40 pounds to reach an appropriate weight for my height. I am, according to my BMI, technically still “obese.”
I am determined to reach my “goal weight.”
But first, I must lose the final forty.