A DIFFERENT PERSON
This is a tough post to write. Vulnerability at its finest.
I want to revisit the me 30+ pounds ago, reflect upon how different I’ve become, and remember why the weight loss means more to me than just a pretty picture.
DISCLAIMER: I am now recovering from a restrictive eating disorder… and now that the fog has lifted, that photo of me on the right is terrifying. I now look much like the girl on the left again, and I couldn’t be happier. Read all about my recovery here and here, and then read on with caution.
THE PHYSICAL DIFFERENCE
Being 30 pounds lighter is… just that. Lighter. Running is easier. Getting back into running was a lot faster, as I’d gotten on and off the running bandwagon plenty of times and can attest to the difference those extra pounds make on my knees, lungs, and overall energy level. Because those pounds weren’t present, my fitness level skyrocketed in a short amount of time.
It’s also been a huge money-saver. I was eating out (usually some form of fast-ish food) almost every day. I was also eating more often. Now, I prep and pack most of my meals (mostly lunches and dinners). I eat about every 2-3 hours. I eat A LOT. And it’s still far, far less expensive! The idea that healthy food is costly is a ridiculous myth.
Thirty pounds (and counting) ago, I kept noticing favorite items getting tighter, and had to slowly add bigger items to my wardrobe. When I started healthily maintaining my lighter frame, I realized I could dig back into the closet where the smaller clothes hid and start wearing them again. Basically, I was shopping in my own closet!
I used to feel crawling-out-of-my-skin uncomfortable. I’d avoid going to social events or even the gym because of how self-conscious I felt. My mental image of who I truly was and the image in the mirror were alarmingly different. I still struggle with feeling comfortable in my skin, but I feel much more at ease in my body: on stage, running, in a bathing suit. It’s even gotten me experimenting with clothes I had always told myself I couldn’t wear or pull off.
I used to hit a mental fog at work multiple times a day, usually after lunch (food coma) and then the minute I got home. I couldn’t do anything productive after work. That’s a laugh now! Somehow I get through a full week’s work and still have enough energy for another 25 hours of musical theater, which requires a TON of dancing and time on my feet. And we haven’t even mentioned training for a half marathon. While I am perpetually exhausted these days, I think I might’ve completely died if I attempted this lifestyle with my previous unhealthy habits.
THE MENTAL DIFFERENCE
The physical differences have been a lot of fun to notice. But what’s the most meaningful is the mental shift.
I’ve struggled with body image issues my whole life—not feeling pretty or thin enough, and judging my worth as a human being by the appearance of my body.
It’s something we all learn one way or another, unfortunately—especially females. And as children, we unconsciously subscribe to these ideas without really pausing for thought. I should look like this and I’m not of much value if I’m heavy.
It manifested itself in (and, perhaps, because of) my perfectionism and caused on-and-off disordered eating for most of my pre-teen, teenage, and adult life. Self-worth went up when weight went down, and vice versa.
And when weight went up, so did self-punishment. Ironically, punishing myself for being fat BY being fat: pretending food was pleasurable but also using it as a way to further hate myself. It’s a vicious addition to self-hate. Can I get an amen?
Diets, starvation, running just to lose weight—honestly, all of it backfired. It was all done out of a desperation to be good enough. And it is my strong belief that when we do so, we end up finding ways to be even less enough. It’s the way the addiction survives.
The only way out was with what I did. Yes, I went through a seriously stressful time that caused most of the weight to fall off (read about that here). But when I finally regained my composure, I realized that this was my opportunity to keep the weight off—since I had been a professional at gaining weight back.
I realized that weight and body image issues are not action-based. It’s not just a “Oh, she just needs to eat less and workout more” situation. It’s energy-based. It’s founded in the thoughts you think about yourself, about self-worth, and about food and exercise.
I started choosing thoughts that felt good, which is how I knew they were true.
- I trust myself around food and to make the best food choices in the moments, as they come.
- Just because I made what I might deem a not-so-great food choice, doesn’t mean the next one can’t be great.
- Food is meant to be enjoyed, delicious, pleasurable! It isn’t meant to be a chore (just “fuel”), nor a punishment.
- I’m going to make a list of things I love about myself—things that don’t change no matter what I weigh.
This slowly morphed into what I now know is Intuitive Eating. It also helped my all-or-nothing brain start to see things on a spectrum instead of one end of the pole or the other. I started realizing that you can’t get it right and you never get it done. That taking care of your body is a lifelong commitment, not just one you “complete” and then move on to some other task.
This state of fluidity has been liberating. I can’t figure out if I’m going to be 30 pounds less my whole life. I can’t worry about gaining it back or never gaining more muscle definition or new strides in my workouts. All I can worry about is what I’m doing today, this hour, this minute. The freedom and the power that this gives me is incredible.
HAVE YOU STRUGGLED WITH BODY IMAGE?