At this time five years ago, I was embarking upon my most recent weight loss journey. I started Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time in November 2007 — the weekend right after Thanksgiving, no less!
This is, by far, the longest I have ever succeeded in sticking to a “diet,” and it is absolutely the first time I’ve ever been able to maintain my weight loss — I’ve been maintaining my 90-pound loss since the beginning of 2009.
And it’s all because it stopped being a “diet” to me after the first week or two on the program.
If you had told me in 2007 that I would one day train for a half marathon or wear a bikini or actually enjoy eating spinach, I would have laughed in your face. These were things that were so completely foreign to me, and yet just five years later my love of quinoa and addiction to 10Ks are part of my daily life.
It took me quite some time to figure out that weight loss isn’t about going on a diet and starving yourself. It’s about making a commitment…to healthy eating and exercise, of course, but also to not allowing yourself to give up.
I am where I am today because I decided to make eating nutritious foods and exercising several times a week my new lifestyle. I made it part of who I was as a person, not just something I was doing to drop a few dress sizes. I don’t just run…I became a runner. I don’t just go to kickboxing or Taekwondo classes…I became a martial artist. I didn’t just start eating salads and skipping dessert…I took the time to educate myself on what my body needs to function at its best, and became passionate about nutrition.
At first, however, I was inspired to rejoin Weight Watchers at age 22 for no other reason than fear: I had stepped on the scale (“just for fun”) and saw that I was well on my way to becoming a 300-pound 25-year-old.
My first official weigh-in clocked me in at 263.4 pounds. At the time, I was busting out of my size 20/22W pants.
Did I think that I would be at my “goal weight” by now? No question about it. I’d love to step on the scale and see a nice red 135 or 140. But if there’s anything that I’ve learned in the last five years, it’s that weight is truly just a number…and that it is far more important to learn to accept your body and appreciate your health. I don’t love my loose skin or my stretch marks, but you know what? I earned them — and they will forever remain visual proof of just how far I’ve come.
Instead of constantly tearing myself down, I’ve learned to take pride in my efforts. I don’t eat perfectly every single moment of every single day, but I do the best I can — and if I happen to indulge in an extra holiday cookie or two (or three or four…) this month, I’m not going to beat myself up about it.
I eat ice cream and chips and chocolate, but they no longer control me…I know that I can enjoy the foods I love in moderation without falling victim to my old ways. I’m not the fastest runner, but I continue to lace up my sneakers almost every day and register for races because I’ve learned to be happy with progress — not perfection. I’m doing everything I can to take care of my body and make up for two decades of taking my health for granted.
Five years ago, I couldn’t begin to describe the misery I was experiencing every single day. Being obese is about more than having trouble finding cute clothes…it affects the way you see yourself, and touches every aspect of your life. I refused to participate in anything for fear of what people might be thinking about “that fat girl.” To me, everything was impossible, and I decided that any dream I had (e.g. becoming a writer) was simply out of my reach. And that was that. I was unhappy, and I just didn’t like myself…and that’s the only logical explanation that I can offer for allowing myself to pack on 100 pounds over the course of five years.
My non-working hours were spent gouging myself on junk food when I thought nobody was looking, and I was practically on a first-name basis with the drive-thru employees at every fast food chain in a five-mile radius. While I graduated high school as a reasonable size 10/12 (only because I crash-dieted and lost 60 pounds for the prom), I proceeded to pack on the freshman 50 once I started college…and an additional 50 after that by the time I was working at my first magazine job and struggling to find the confidence to pitch stories and take on more writing assignments. To me, nothing I did was good enough. I suffered from severe acid reflux and who knows what else, since I refused to visit a doctor for fear that they might give me a lecture about being too fat.
I did nothing to fix any of these problems, because I was so sure that I was destined to live a life of obesity. I had given up on myself at age 22, and simply resigned myself to being fat for the rest of my life. I can tell you from firsthand experience that there is absolutely nothing worse than believing that you are not just not worthy of happiness.
Today, I still have my share of problems. Believe me when I tell you that weight loss does not magically make your life perfect, and I continue to struggle every day with many of the same issues I had when I was 100 pounds heavier, from difficulty making friends to dealing with stress without making a trip to the refrigerator.
But for someone who has relied on food for comfort since childhood, the fact that I am here, five years later, has changed my entire outlook on life. If I can finally develop a healthy relationship with food or learn to love working out, then I can do ANYTHING. Sure, it’s great to wear cute dresses and not hate the way I look in every single photo, but knowing that I have done something many people struggle to do their entire lives means more to me than anything else in the world.
I have changed my life. I have rewritten my own life story. I have transformed myself from someone who couldn’t walk for 10 minutes to someone who runs 10 miles on the weekend.
I look forward to another five years of health and happiness…and, who knows, maybe by my 10-year anniversary blog post I’ll be training for my second or third full marathon. Anything is possible!