Growing up, I was a heavy child. I developed unhealthy habits that led me to a mind-shattering weight. The limit was reached around my twenty-first birthday.
That year, my mind-set started to change. From November to March, right after my European Spring Break Adventure, I dropped ten pounds just while thinking about how much my weight affected my life. There were tears and midnight panic attacks, wondering how I got this far lost and if and how I could get myself out of it. In bed at night, I hated how I felt physically and emotionally over my body. I was truly aware of it for the first time. This was an excruciating, but vital first step of a long journey.
After spending time in Dublin and London, self-conscious about my weight, how I looked, and how I felt, I joined Weight Watchers.
Those first two months, from March to May and the end of my junior year of college, I lost another twelve pounds. I felt great. I was listening to my body and making better choices. When I left college for the summer, I came to a standstill. I got lazy.
That July, we took a family trip to Montreal and I completely shifted my gears and life as I knew it. After an embarrassing trip to an amusement park, where the agonizing fear of not being able to fit on the rides came remarkably close to being true, I chose to walk up the massive hill back to the hotel instead of taking a cab. I vowed that I would never have that fear again and that healthy choices were under my control.
I’ve stood firm.
When I returned home, I started working out regularly on the elliptical machine in my basement. From fifteen minutes to thirty then to a full hour. After, I swam laps in my pool or started trying more body strength moves I learned online. Jumping and twisting, looking ridiculous, as I blasted my music and felt the racing beat of my heart reverberating with every movement.
I followed my Weight Watchers plan with renewed vigor, learning to pay attention to the nutrients in food, not the calories, how my body felt when I ate something, and how to eat proper portions. Heading back to my senior year of college, I should have been afraid that I would return to my normal ways, but I was thirty-five pounds down at that point, and there was a light in me that knew I wouldn’t fail.
My workouts increased in volume and variety. I began weight lifting and trying other forms of cardio. There was a sense of purpose and reward in formulating a new workout plan, pushing myself further each time. I felt my body becoming stronger, healthier, and happier, and I couldn’t be prouder.
My best look, at least to me, was strutting around with that red, shiny glint of sweat, as I felt my workout clothes growing bigger and bigger as I grew leaner and stronger.
People started noticing more, my dedication to exercise, my new appreciation for good, healthy food, the physical changes altering my body. That was pure fuel based on pride that kept me going. I started to love my spirit, my body, food and exercise, life.
One thing that had always seemed like a fool’s dream, to be a runner, came true. It was a slow process. That winter, at home at my local Y or in the basement gym of my college , I started to run for a minute, walk for four. When I got up to five full minutes of running, I added another minute almost every time I stepped on the treadmill. For awhile, I held on to the side rails for dear life, afraid I would fall or wouldn’t be able to keep up when left on my own. For the first time, I let go and I ran for ten minutes. Then I noticed that I was so close to a mile, just a brief three to four minutes extra and I did it. That spring, I took my run outside to the track and found I could run for two miles, then three, then four. By the summer, at home in my hilly neighborhood, I was up to five. The impossible had been accomplished.
For the first time since right before that amusement park trip in July, I cried again over my body. This time, it was because I couldn’t believe how far I had come and how much I could accomplish when I tried.
The eating only improved. At school, we were lucky to have such a great cafeteria with healthy options. I didn’t have a great way to measure, except for by sight and by listening to my body. Frequent trips to the salad bar, grilled chicken and lean protein, brown rice, and whole grain pasta with fresh veggies made me feel energized and full. I enjoyed the occasional indulgences of my favorite inside out chocolate chip cookies, trips to get frozen yogurt or ice cream, pizza and burgers, and they all became a part of a healthy diet. I truly understood the importance of everything in moderation.
Another huge factor was I started eating breakfast every day. I found that I stayed fuller for longer, jumpstarting my morning with fresh fruit, healthy proteins, and a strong cup of coffee or tea. I drank a ton of water each day. I now understood the value of food and saw it, not as the delectable enemy I could never resist, but an ally who could support and guide me if I didn’t abuse it.
When I graduated college, I felt on top of the world. I had lost 100 pounds. Now, I had the challenge of allowing my loose skin to tighten, an obstacle I am still facing today, though vast improvements have been made.
Six years since that June, I have maintained my healthy weight. Sometimes, I eat too much and I don’t get to the gym when I should. However, most days all is well and I learned that I can trust myself. My values and nutrition have changed so substantially, that I know I’ll never go back to that sad, lonely, desperate place I once was. I was proud to lose the weight, but the fact that I have maintained for so long is another feeling altogether.
The important takeaway that I hope you gain from reading this experience is that I wasn’t bad or less of a person when I was overweight. I didn’t suddenly become happier with myself when I lost the weight. Something inside of me clicked, this awakening, that moment that I realized that I was worth this battle and I wanted to be healthier, and from that inspired happiness. That happiness led to the weight loss.
I am not a doctor and so I don’t understand all the processes and formulas that occur in a healthy lifestyle. I try to do things that feel right and leave me satisfied. When you take a breath and pounce on a moment of terrifying courageousness, it turns out that you can do amazing things with a strong body and mind connection.
Move more. Eat right. Take enjoyment out of every thing that you do. Be mindful of the moment and the environment in which you are participating. Live more and live fuller. Good things, that are under your control, happen. Sometimes bad things happen too, but you’ll be better up for a fight, knowing that when faced with a challenge, you’re up for it.
Thanks for reading!