I’ve read so many weight loss transformation stories that start out with some version of ‘I was an active skinny kid until I had babies….’ My story is different.
I was always a chubby kid. I was pretty young when I realized that I was bigger and that it was a trait that would get me teased, both by other kids and adults. It wasn’t just ‘one boy once made a comment to me.’ It was constant. I got it at school. I got it at home. I really got it on the school bus. The stories I used to have running through my head, starting in grade school, included thoughts like, ‘people are mean,’ ‘people are especially mean to fat girls,’ and ‘fat girls are not as valued as thin girls.’ Completely wrong, I know–but those are the thoughts that I remember having based on my experiences and those were thoughts that were in my head continuously.
My weight really started to climb in high-school and college, where I studied, of all things, Nutritional Sciences. I earned top grades, graduated cum laude even. But I could not control my own eating habits–eventually making it up to over 200 pounds. I tried desperately to eat low fat and fruits and vegetables (as I was being taught in all of those college-level advanced nutrition classes), but I’d always end up with a sweet treat or two from the cafeteria. I LOVED sweets.
I was overweight, unhappy, and graduating with a degree in nutrition. Thinking no one would trust an overweight dietician, I opted to take my good study habits to law school instead.
The summer before starting law school, I tried to eat less, do an occasional step aerobics class and eat more non-fat foods. It was the late-90’s and non-fat everything was all of the rage. I got down to about 165-170 lbs, which on my 5’10” frame was pretty good I thought.
Once in law school, I felt like I was in a new world. Image, it seemed, was everything. Grades were important, but what I witnessed, or at least how I interpreted what I witnessed, was that appearances mattered. Also, people still sometimes said mean things to me about my weight and, just like before, I focused on those.
Now I realized that those were just stories I was telling myself, and really it was that my thoughts about my weight and appearance were causing me to have less confidence, which resulted in me not acting confident, which resulted in me not projecting well in interviews or with my peers. Despite my top grades in law school, I had trouble getting a coveted summer job. Plus, I still wasn’t dating. I still was, as always, the fat girl without a boyfriend.
But, a very nice federal judge in Wichita, Kansas gave me a chance. So, after law school I moved to Wichita, not knowing anyone, for a two-year judicial clerkship. After taking the Bar Exam, something in me clicked. I think I was rejected by some guy I didn’t even really like or something. Or maybe someone said something to me about my weight. But I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to get skinny.’ And that I did.
It was the year 2000 and I went to Weight Watchers meeting, picked up their Points Instruction Manual, and after a couple of starts and stops, vowed to follow it to a ‘T.’ I also joined a gym there and decided to make it to 6 step aerobics classes a week. Following this plan, which looking back was approximately 1100-1300 calories a day and doing a one-hour high intensity step aerobics class, I, of course, lost weight. I was hungry, that was for sure. But I used a lot of Points tricks such as cup-of-soup broth, no-sugar Jello, lots of Diet Coke and maybe a little Metabolife to get me through. So of course I lost weight. I got skinny. And I loved it.
I loved the attention I got, both from men and also from admiring females. Men wanted to date me. Women wanted to invite me to their parties and book clubs. Clothing store sales people wanted to help me. Even car mechanics seemed nicer during oil changes. Law firms were suddenly recruiting me –which of course had nothing to do with the fact I was completing not one but two federal clerkships. I was certain is was due to my new polished (which to me meant slender) appearance. In my mind, all I could think was–so this is how the other half has been living.
But the thing is, the hunger started to get to me. Metabolife was outlawed because people were havng heart attacks–which at the time completely miffed me. And I’d get this hunger in me, usually around 3:00 in the afternoon at work. But my 5 Point dinner was still hours away. So, I’d eat something. A bag of pretzels from the vending machine. An extra rice cake…or two. A low fat granola bar. A donut in the break room.
Over Points for the day? Not a problem. Just start adding in an extra step aerobics class that night. You see, Weight Watchers had this thing called Activity Points which earned you extra Points. So even though I earned 5 Points that morning in my 6 a.m. class, I could just earn another 5 Points in the afternoon. Then you get to eat more. Made sense to me. But then that extra aerobics class would make me hungry….and then I’d eat….and then I’d have to burn it off…..
and that’s how my Cardio and Calories hamster wheel started.
I stayed on the wheel for seven more years. In the next few posts, I’ll talk a little bit more of what those seven years looked like, but it included gaining 15-20 pounds that I could not get rid of despite working out 2, sometimes 3 or 4 hours a day. Seven years of trying to get back on my Points plan, getting hungry, emotionally eating, working out, and then working out some more, to get up and do it again.
Why did I do it? Why did I prefer to risk and destroy relationships, risk jobs, leave jobs, and essentially have no social life during this time? I think for me, looking back, is that I was so afraid of going back to being heavy and being treated in the way I had remembered.
I preferred to live a safe life of disengagement–a life that centered around sticking to (or at least trying to stick to) a diet plan and constantly working out.
But I did figure out how to jump off that wheel. It wasn’t easy. For some of us, not working out is not only hard, but down right scary. I was so scared of gaining weight. The memories of the teasing were still too clear. To stop counting calories or Points seemed so risky. But I eventually did.
In my late-30s, I met the guy. I dated the guy. I had not one but two babies. We eat family meals together. We eat out. We vacation. And I now do Pilates 5 times a week. The best part is that I actually weigh less than I did when I lived in Wichita, working out twice a day, counting every Point and taking Metabolife.
It wasn’t easy. But in the next few posts I’ll share how I knew that I had a problem with compulsive dieting and exercising, and, more importantly, how I was able to stop.
These days I eat more, I eat on vacations. I eat at restaurants that don’t post their nutritional information. Eating no longer scares me. Going on vacation without being able to work out no longer scares me. Living a life of engagement no longer scares me.
If anything in this post resonates with you, if you’re working out like crazy, spending all of your time in the gym and still not seeing the results that you so desperately seek–I understand.
Reach out and let’s talk.