My path to healthy balanced eating and living has been anything but smooth. Like so many who have struggled with their weight, diets, emotional eating, and body image, there have been lots of ups and downs. I hope what I write here will help you realize that you are not alone.
My Early Years
I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. My mother claims I was a skinny kid, but I don’t remember it. I just remember being the “big girl” the “tall girl” and my Dad’s “husky daughter.” I know he didn’t mean to be mean but I still shutter when I think back to him describing me that way.
I was the tallest, biggest girl in class from about 4th grade until junior high school. Kids made fun of the size of my feet and I was the last one chosen for athletic teams. I spent a lot of time as goalie in my 6th grade speed ball class, because it was hard for me to keep up with the other kids who all seemed to be smaller and faster. Did I mention I hated speed ball, and recess and gym class?
I feel like I was always hungry. Probably because I was eating so many highly refined carbohydrates. Nobody really knew the effects on the body way back then. Breakfast was usually some sugary cereal and/or toasted squishy white bread with a bit of peanut butter. By lunchtime I was ravenous and would eat whatever Mom had put into the lunch box or was served in the cafeteria. I was never accused of being a picky eater!
When I got home from school there was usually some kind of sweet treat or snack to indulge in. My Mom is a great cook and long time emotional eater, so I learned early to associate food with love.
My First Diet
I went on my first diet the summer before 7th grade. I subsisted on lettuce, fruit, and cottage cheese. I could not be swayed. I was on a mission to lighten up and feel better about myself. It worked and I experienced the first high of losing weight. But it didn’t last because it wasn’t sustainable. Soon I was back to my old way of eating.
The High School and College Years
My weight continued its roller coaster rides all through high school and college. I played tennis for a couple of years in high school and lost a bunch of weight. I loved it, played as much as I could and dropped several clothes sizes. I felt great – strong and in control of my body and my life because I was engaging in something I was passionate about. It never felt like exercise. I was happy, healthy and slender in a totally natural way for the first time in my life that I could remember.
My weight went back up in college as I alternated eating and drinking too much with excessive amounts of aerobics. I stopped playing tennis and was stressed by school, work, and my expenses. I didn’t feel good about myself. My roommates and I tried all kinds of fad diets. It seemed like the more I focused on dieting the more difficult it became to lose weight. By that time, my metabolism was probably already messed up from the yo-yo diets and I didn’t know a lot about calories or nutrition, so was consuming a lot more calories than I realized. Who knew a Dunkin Donuts bran muffin had almost 500 calories? Not me. I thought bran muffins were healthy!
I didn’t like myself very much, felt very insecure, and indulged in emotional eating to comfort myself. My love affair with Cheeze-Its began during these years. I would eat them until my stomach hurt. I couldn’t stop myself. They called to me from the cupboard and somehow they managed to allay all my insecurities…for a few minutes at a time at least.
I wanted to be thin, but not as much as I needed to be comforted by food.
Marriage & Weight Watchers
I got married right after college and moved to Michigan, for my husband’s career. We moved several times in the next few years, which was both fun and alienating. Each time I would need to find new work, and new friends, and would turn to food when I felt unsure of myself. My husband traveled a lot and I was alone with my feelings, thoughts, and insecurities. Eating and drinking was our favorite form of entertainment. I ate when I was happy and when I was sad, and when I was anxious, and when I was bored. I ate all the time. When I wasn’t eating, I was thinking about eating. Like so many of us, I was looking to food for something it cannot provide.
I joined Weight Watchers for the first time in 1992, after seeing a picture of myself snapped at New Years. (Who was that moon faced woman, anyway?) I hated what I saw and could no longer ignore how tight my clothes were and how awful I felt about myself. When I stepped onto the scale it registered weigh more than I had ever imagined, which was a shock. I don’t even know how many times I had lost the same 10, 20, 30 pounds by then. This time I felt like I needed help.
I lost the weight slowly and steadily following the Weight Watchers plan. It worked but instead of adopting it as a lifestyle, I thought of it as a diet and failed to continue to check in monthly as a lifetime member should do.
Since that time I have tried more diets than I care to admit. I became obsessed with diets and dieting books. I have read and tried: Atkins, South Beach, Marilu Henner’s Total Health Makeover, The Glycemic Index Diet, The Rosedale Diet, The Mercola Diet, The Omega Diet, Suzanne Somme’s Diet, Fat Flush, Vegetarianism, Veganism, the Ayurvedic Diet, The 3 Day Juice Fast, The Zone diet, The Cabbage Soup Diet, Body for Life, The Blood Type Diet, The Best Life Diet, Sugar Busters, and The Schwarzbein Diet. I am sure there have more that I’ve forgotten. OK, so I am a slow learner! Each time I opened a book I expected to find the secret to lifelong weight loss and happiness tucked inside its pages.
The Divorce Diet
There was one time in my life I was able to lose weight without even trying. For the first and (hopefully) only time in my life I lost my appetite while going through a very painful divorce. I wouldn’t recommend it! My friends and family kept telling me that my appetite would come back, and though I didn’t believe them at the time, it did. So, I now know that it is possible to get thin without trying, for what it is worth. I hope to never be that unhappy again. For anyone who is, my deepest heart felt sympathies. (Within everything lies the seed for something better and your appetite will return, eventually – even if you can’t imagine it at this moment.)
Yoga, Awareness, and the Beginning of a New Relationship with Myself
In 1997, I developed severe back pain and sciatica and turned to yoga for relief after more traditional treatments like physical therapy failed to help. I didn’t want anything to do with invasive procedures and something deep inside told me to get to a yoga class. Little did I know how life changing it would be.
After a few months, my back pain was almost gone and I had begun to develop a new healthy relationship with myself. One moment stands out so strongly in my memory. I was laying down in final relaxation after a challenging class, and one of my favorite yoga teachers made a statement that changed my life forever. She said, “You are perfect, whole, and complete just as you are.” I felt the tears well up inside and then slowly roll down my cheeks. Could that really be true? In that moment, I believed she was right and my world shifted. I began to treat myself like I mattered.
With an ongoing yoga practice and a new attention on nourishing myself, I lost weight slowly and effortlessly, my blood pressure normalized, and my tension headaches disappeared. I experienced a feeling that I can only describe as energized calmness. I learned to slow down, pay attention, and honor my whole self, including my body.
I learned to nourish myself with food and stop thinking in terms of “good” and “bad.” I try to listen to my body and give it what it wants – not my mind, not my emotions – my body. I have learned that I can eat one cookie or one small spoonful of Ben & Jerry’s without losing myself in a binge. I believe that it is what I do most of the time that matters and little indulgences are part of a happy, healthy, balanced life. Cheeze-It’s don’t even taste good any more. I much prefer delicious real food these days.
This didn’t happen over night. There are no quick fixes. There are no silver bullets. There is only learning, experimentation, and growth that can really happen when you begin to love yourself enough to believe it.
I now nourish my whole self – my body, my mind, and my soul. This includes returning to Weight Watchers as a lifetime member and embracing their healthy lifestyle. I know that while delicious wholesome food and enjoyable exercise are important to a healthy happy weight and life, there are other things that are just as important, if not more so. Things like healthy relationships, a rewarding career, and genuine love and respect for myself. Without these, the struggle for health and happiness are futile. I am still learning and growing and far from perfect. Perfection is no longer the goal. A life well lived is the goal.
When you move your focus off your weight and onto living a happy, healthy, balanced life anything is possible. Everyday is a new opportunity to nourish and deepen your relationship with the most important person in the world – yourself.
I’m now back at Weight Watchers and have adopted it as a lifestyle. I love the
PointsPlus new SmartPoints Program with it’s emphasis on healthy eating and living. It works because I use it as a tool to take care of myself; not deprive or punish myself.
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