I look forward to Christmas time all year long. I have the spirit of Christmas year round, but the gifts in pretty paper, the tree all lit and decorated, the visiting with family and friends, and the stockings hung by the fireplace are some of my favorite parts. Another favorite part is the special food and drink that we enjoy only at that time of year. Food and drink, two of my biggest friends and foes over most of my lifetime.
I have struggled since I was nine years old with being overweight; I am not really sure how it began. Maybe I got less active. Maybe I snacked more or ate bigger portions or less healthy food. Maybe I was soothing something inside with food. I am really not sure. But what I do know, is that between being eight years old and being nine years old, I started to put on a lot of weight. A LOT. And I kept doing that right up through elementary, middle and high school years. I was easily 40-50 pounds over the proper weight for my height by the time I was a senior in high school.
I tried some weight loss programs even in junior high school. Whether it was changing my diet or going to TOPS meetings (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly), I knew even then that losing weight was what I should be doing. I had good examples of all of the weight loss products in my family; my mom tried various weight loss programs over the years, she bought every new exercise gadget to take off the inches. It was a family affair.
As an adult, I continued this same roller coast of weight loss, weight gain. As an adult however, I added a new factor: alcohol. It was bad enough that I chose to drink way too much throughout much of my 20’s, but on top of that, the calories in a mixed drink were not even accounted for. My weight continued to fluctuate up and down. Lose twenty pounds, gain forty.
Then, in the late eighties, I went on a really radical program; lost a lot of weight very fast. I was the skinniest that I had ever been; I think I weight 118 then. For me, that is skeletal. But, I loved it. I loved that I could wear size 1, yes, SIZE 1 pants from Express. I felt in control, attractive, and noticed. I loved this low weight, this new me. I felt loaded with confidence and ready to take on the world.
But, alas, it was fleeting.
Weight doesn’t stay off by itself. Especially when the motivation is something that I was totally disconnected from. Of course, I didn’t know that I was disconnected back then. I seemed confused and surprised when the weight started to creep back up. I felt like crap about myself. I was angry that I couldn’t just eat what I wanted, drink what I wanted, whenever I wanted. That pissed me off.
Fast forward ten years. I am in the relationship of my life, my heart. We decide, as a couple, that we are going to have a baby. So we set about doing that. During our pregnancy, I decided that I would eat what I wanted, you know, cravings and all. I tried to get some exercise, too. My weight crept up, my doctor didn’t seem concerned, and my blood pressure and blood sugars were all good, so why worry?
This would end up being the highest weight of my life. After I gave birth to my daughter, I weighed 211 pounds.
It took me about seven months to really decide that, it was time to take some off. So, I started Weight Watchers, following their eating plan. I went to the meetings for a couple of weeks, and it actually was so helpful to hear that I wasn’t alone. But, then I lost my enthusiasm and availability to get there. I spent the next ten years following the program, but not really. Yet, I lost, over those ten years, fifty pounds.
Then, we broke up. Disaster struck. I could not be easily consoled. Except by food, by wine. Then, no one was there to judge me. I could enjoy the taste of those forbidden delights, in the dark of my lonely apartment, and no one knew. I was wallowing in my own misery. That misery would be recollected to me every morning that I would dress for work, and I couldn’t fit into my clothes anymore. Yet, I continued to do more of the same, didn’t understand why I was gaining weight. Not a bit of insight; it was way too painful to look at.
Fast forward again, for the last time, February of 2008. I had started a new job a few months before. I was out of any exercise routine for over a year. I felt out of shape and discouraged. I had to buy dress pants in a bigger size for my new job. I hadn’t had to do that since my pregnancy. I was totally disgusted. So, I joined a weight loss group at work. We started walking together at lunch time. We weighed in weekly. My weight went down, went up, I plateaued for three weeks. I got disgusted. I talked with a health coach on the telephone once a month. I had sore muscles. I bought healthier food. I stopped snacking at night.
But, I didn’t give up.
There was a new dynamic this time. I really looked inside, DEEP within. I faced up to the demons that had kept me from having a scale in my house ever. I confronted what about my body was so loathesome to me. I looked in the mirror, and slowly taught myself to look with eyes of love, not contempt.
I was healing. The weight loss would eventually stop, but the healing was forever.
I lost a total of 25 pounds, my last 25 pounds that I will lose for the rest of my life. I am committed to that. Never again. But I learned so much. So much that is related to where I began this post today.
I learned that no matter what, I can always eat or drink whatever I want. However, I have begun to look at the reasons why I am eating that pretzel, or drinking that wine. I am now catching myself, if I am putting food into my mouth out of boredom, or a drink into my body because of stress. I look at it, and therefore, am more aware. I write down what I eat and drink every day, to keep track. I walk faithfully. At first, I kept with this new routine to keep the weight off, to not gain it back, or I exercised every lunch hour so that I would be able to eat a bit more at night.
Then, the holidays came. For a few days, I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Drank more than usual. I wasn’t exercising at all. I felt like crap most days, physically.
I was overeating, eating until I felt overfull, and then eating even more. Why?
I got afraid. Am I slipping? Am I going back to eating and drinking freely? Will my weight begin to creep back up all over again? I felt like I was under some holiday eating and drinking spell; I started to become apathetic to whether or not I needed to follow a routine. I wanted clarity. I started to really explore it, within. I realized, and am still realizing, that I wanted to enjoy, I wanted to have everything that there was and not restrict myself. Food and drink are part of every family celebration and I wanted to take it all in. What I have come to understand, is that the food and drink is always there, there will always be more than enough, and if not now, there will be opportunity yet again. All is well. I have begun to embrace the calm of healthy living in my life.
Today, I feel certain that I can maintain a healthy weight, and stay active, and it is no longer because I want to look skinny, I want to have a nice body, I want to impress others. I have made a firm decision that I want to live a healthy, long life. I want to be strong. I want to be flexible. I want to live, truly live.
I have broken the spell, and life has never tasted so sweet.
(BTW, I REALLY didn’t expect this post to be this eternally long. I guess my heart had a lot to say about this…….)