I have been losing and gaining weight pretty much all my life, including losing over 100 pounds, gaining it all back, and losing it again. Between those episodes, there were also many smaller losses and regains. I would estimate I have lost over 400 pounds if you added it all up.
Losing weight has always been relatively easy for me. I’m a driven person and when I decide to do something, I become rather unstoppable. Losing weight always seemed quite simple: eat less, exercise. The first time I lost 100 pounds, I was 22 and I basically restricted myself to one meal a day and walked all over the city where I lived at the time.
“Losing weight was so rewarding. Everyone complimented me. They were awed. They had questions, wanted to know how I did it… I was basically starving myself and everyone was congratulating me.”
I knew what I was doing was probably not the smartest, healthiest thing, but I didn’t care. Losing weight was so rewarding. Everyone complimented me. They were awed. They had questions, wanted to know how I did it.
On one hand this felt great. On the other hand, it was disturbing. I knew I was basically starving myself and everyone was congratulating me. There was a part of me that was angered by this. I remember defiantly thinking, “You want me to lose weight? I’ll show you weight loss.”
The next time I lost 100 pounds was much more recent. It started in 2009. I had long let go of the idea of being skinny and I told myself I wanted to lose weight to be healthy. I was out of shape, eating poorly, sitting at work all day then sitting on the couch. I got out of breath going up stairs and I couldn’t do some things I wanted to do. I had been down the road of exercising before and I knew I could do this, it would just take time.
So I joined a gym and started working out 4 days a week. This did not result in immediate weight loss. So I started thinking about how to approach my eating in a more reasonable way than what I had tried before. Then I found online calorie counting and online diet communities and decided to try that.
For the next 2 years, I became a regular on a certain weight loss forum. I counted calories using this site every day for over 3 years. I got really good at it. I increased my exercise routine. 5 days a week. 6 days. 7… I lost 125 pounds total, went from a size 24 to a size 8 and was feeling really good about it. I had also found the idea of eating whole fresh foods and I had become much more aware of what I was putting into my body. I became vegetarian for the second time in my life.
At my lowest weight, I had just barely dipped into the “healthy” weight range on the BMI chart. But I did not look like I expected to look. Losing that much weight over and over again, and being older (I’m 35 now), things just didn’t bounce back the way they once had. I lost a significant amount of breast tissue, going from a DDD to a small C. My thighs drooped.
But I made peace with these things. I had lost weight, but I had also found the body acceptance movement. I accepted my flaws in a way that was very freeing. Despite this, I continued to want to be thinner, even though I was nearly 20 pounds less than the original goal weight I had set for myself.
“I continued to want to be thinner, even though I was nearly 20 pounds less than the original goal weight I had set for myself.”
At the time, I would have said this was all great. I was working out a lot. Between my job, the gym, and cooking myself dinner, I didn’t do much else. On some levels I felt good. But in other ways, things weren’t quite right.
In 2012, I started suffering from chronic back pain. I had always had back pain flare ups, but this one flared and didn’t go away. Yet I kept pushing myself. I modified my work-outs but I never cut back. I also started to suffer from dizziness every time I stood up from sitting or kneeling down. The doctors found nothing wrong with me aside from low blood pressure and advised me to stand up more slowly from now on. They also congratulated me and asked me for weight loss advice.
Almost exactly one year ago, the day after Labor Day, I hopped out of bed early in the morning because I heard my cat making noises in the other room. It was still dark outside. I was standing in the doorway between my bedroom and living room trying to see the cat. The next thing I remember, my boyfriend was very upset and was waking me up. I had passed out and whacked my head on the floor? entry way? I still don’t know. There was a lot of blood.
“It suddenly became clear to me that the spent the majority of my time thinking about my weight… I simply couldn’t do it anymore.”
I had suffered a concussion and experienced symptoms for several months after that. This was the tipping point. I had a much reduced capability for dealing with life in general or stress. It suddenly became clear to me that the spent the majority of my time thinking about my weight. I weighed myself daily, changed my eating habits depending on the number I saw, continued to work out almost daily. I simply couldn’t do it anymore.
I also lost the ability to simply suffer through my back pain and I started seeking treatment. I slowed my work outs. I stopped weighing myself altogether. I was nauseated by the concussion and the only food I found appealing or edible were simple carbs. Pasta and tortilla chips. I had been recording my weight daily for years. This seemed clearly insane to me when I stopped to think about it. What did this stronghold I was keeping on my weight have to do with my health?
The answer was clearly “nothing,” so I let it go. Just like that, I accepted that I did not want to live my life that way. I read the wonderful book, “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight” and I knew I was finally ready to give up dieting for good.
You see, all the time I was calorie counting, I had convinced myself I was not “dieting,” it was a lifestyle change. I intended to keep it up forever. And that’s what I did until I simply couldn’t do it anymore. When I stopped, my weight rebounded. I understand the physiological reasons for this and I accepted it before it happened.
I have gracefully adapted, bought larger clothing (again!) and continued to love my body. As my curves reappeared, I found I felt so much more attractive. And it occurred to me, what if I focus on how I want to live my life, which includes habits that support my health, and let my weight be what it will? Isn’t that really what this is all about anyway? Wasn’t it supposed to be for my health and fitness?
I finally understood some things about myself. With my particular life history of childhood obesity and subsequent yo-yo dieting, I am never going to maintain a low weight without extreme effort. Effort I am not willing to give.
So now I am focused on Health at MY Size. I can’t say what’s right for anyone else, but for me, I am happier and healthier now than I was at my lowest weight. I no longer get dizzy. My back pain finally subsided after a year of constant pain. My hair is thick again and growing fast.
I still love the healthy habits I taught myself when I was losing weight. I am still vegetarian. I eat a mostly whole foods diet with a ton of fresh local produce. I hike or walk most days of the week and practice yoga as often as I can. I don’t eat fast food. I don’t drink soda. I always eat breakfast. I pack my lunch for work.
I’ve also added back in some of the things I stopped doing when I became so engrossed in my weight. I sketch daily. I read fiction. I’m working on personal art projects. I’m planning the next phase of my career. I’m spending more time trying to relax and enjoy. I am finding my balance again.
According to the government and the AMA, I am a disease. I am an epidemic. I am not as small as I should be and my size is destroying the very fabric of society.
In truth, I am a unique individual with a unique life history. My size is the least interesting thing about me. I continue to learn and explore every day with a focus on living my life in a way that will help me stay active into later stages of life and enjoy each moment as fully as possible. That’s what health is all about to me, not a number on a scale.