Swimming carnivals. School sport. P.E. Clothes shopping. Public change rooms. Beach hangs with friends. Rude guys from school. Cross Country. Athletics carnivals. Scales. A list of things that I spent a huge part of my life dreading. If you were to ask, I would tell you that almost all of my life I’ve been overweight. Very early in life I was super tall for my age, so I was naturally a little ‘bigger’ than the other girls around me, but somehow that turned into something big and bad. Maybe even a case of self-fulfilling prophecy? I remember being in year 4 and being part of a dance festival and giving one of the school mums my size so she could make the costumes. She wrote down the other girls sizes as they said them, then it was my turn. I was just one size bigger than the other girls, and I sharply remember hearing one of the girls gasp. I mean seriously? I was like a foot taller than all of them. Was it really that big of a shocker? She was acting as if I’d just told them all I weighed 200kg. Needless to say it wasn’t the last time someone had made some comment on my weight, or that I had thought about my weight. A few years ago my family and I were going through old photos from Primary school and I was so surprised with what I saw! I was tall and skinny! How had I spent my whole primary school lifetime feeling and thinking I was fat? Honestly, the whole weight debate for me is a big looooong story (and you’re still just getting the abridged version), so get comfy (like really comfy!) while I set things up for number twelve… getting back on track with weight goals.
There is something important you need to know about me. I. love. food! I always have and definitely feel I always will. Somewhere my mum has a picture of me at my first birthday with a piece of cake in each hand. This is pretty much my life. If calorie free scrumptious cake existed…I so would! After a few years of trying to figure out my weight and health I have been able to bring my initial problems down to two things – 1. I love food and that tended to out weigh sensible portion sizes and 2. Most of the things I loved to do didn’t involve a lot of movement, like reading, writing stories, scrap booking, watching movies. Essentially I ate too much and didn’t move enough. This became an out of control issue when I was in high school. I eventually got a job with money that could buy me whatever food, whenever, and a license that could take me to said food wherever, whenever.
My mum had her own share of bulge issues to battle and frequently would be trying to help me to figure things out. I felt like I had tried the healthy-eating-exercise-going-to-make-a-change-thing FOREVER! Every time I would get so serious and excited about it because this time it was going to be different. Every time – FAIL. In year 10, a few of my friends all got on the health wagon, so I jumped on too. I lost 8kg! This was the most I’d ever done before! But, then Christmas hit… and it was all undone, and then some.
I’m the kind of person that feels that events can be improved with the right kind of menu. It makes me happy! So when things went wrong I shoved some food in the situation and felt better for, oh about 12 seconds. So then I would add some more, same thing happened, and I’d easily established a vicious cycle of emotional eating. It’s a pain in which the thing that you think makes you happy is actually the thing making things worse. It was unhealthy. I was unhealthy. I was in the first year of university study after 18 months of hectic family problems. On the scales I stood at my heaviest, and I couldn’t remember the last time I saw less than triple digits. I remember waking up and getting on my feet and feeling the pain of carrying as much weight as I had been. My mum had recently had heart surgery and I was starting to seriously freak about the reality of my own health. Things had to change and I needed to be the one to change them.
So I started with what I thought was manageable. After her surgery, mum was put on a healthy eating program and I joined in. It was hard. I had to learn to say no and realise that food was fuel for my body and junk fuel was going to give me junk results. It was learning to undo a lifetime of bad habits and unhealthy thoughts. I started walking for 45 minutes each day with the goal to do it for 21 days. I wanted to make it a habit, and I figured if I could do it for 21 days I could do it for more. It was hard. When walking I would pick a tree not even 10 metres away to run to… and at first I couldn’t even make it. I would sweat and work out to the point of feeling like I was going to die… that my heart was going to light on fire and that would be the end of me. The whole thing was tough. And if anyone is thinking, “What a cop out, just put down the mars bar and go for a run. It’s really not that hard”, I say to you, you have clearly never battled with the struggle, so please don’t judge what you don’t understand.
I’d never done it before and I was scared that it would be like all the times before. One of the main differences this time around was that I went about things prayerfully. I told my Heavenly Father about my concerns, my desires, and my weaknesses and prayed that I could have His help. I was beginning to make these changes and was losing weight. With heavenly help I was making and keeping my commitments. I had this amazing increase in energy, my body didn’t hurt like it used to and I was smashing personal goals. I ran 5km. Consecutively! I didn’t even know that my body could do that. Most of all, I was more comfortable in my skin. Roughly a year in the making, and I’d lost 52kg!
**Personally I think the word ‘lose’ or ‘lost’ is ridiculous because I didn’t lose that weight as much as I ran and ate it away**
Either way it felt like the biggest accomplishment of my short life and it was proof that I could do hard things. But it wasn’t the end. I still had more weight to ditch to be clinically termed ‘healthy’.
I had people again make comments on my weight. Congratulations on the weight loss and what’s your secret type stuff. Sometimes people didn’t even recognise me. I was feeling good about myself, but I knew my body and I wasn’t quite out of health trouble. I had a few people who would make comments like “oh if you lose any more there won’t be anything left of you” which were mostly said in playfulness, but then there were some who had serious concerns that I was losing too much. But I knew I was still carrying excess fat and my waistline was still in the ‘danger zone’ for diabetes. I loved feeling lighter and looking thinner, but it was about my health.
I continued on my journey to lose weight, but something changed. I wasn’t totally aware of it at the time, but I eventually came to see that my thoughts had become unhealthy again. Only this time it was in favour of exercise and healthy eating. I became obsessive with working out, what I ate, how much I ate, and the consequences of treating myself every now and then. My goal went from health to weight. In December 2012, I had my first trip to America and I spent about a month before hand freaking out about the food and putting on weight. The weight was put on, but obsessive thoughts and acts got rid of it shortly after I got home. I remember one time eating a slice of cheesecake while watching TV, then heading to the box to figure out the calorie content. Once calculated, I jumped on the treadmill then and there and started running it off. I couldn’t enjoy food anymore because it had just become a reason to exercise. I had begun to let my worth and self esteem be dependent on the number I saw on the scales, or by the number of calories I’d eaten that day. It was a new kind of unhealthy. It was the beginning of some serious self loathing. I got rid of all my ‘before’ photos as I couldn’t stand that person and how she’d let things get so bad. I felt trapped and I knew I needed help.
I had spent a year undoing a lifetime of unhealthy habits, and somehow I’d also been undoing a truth I had known my entire life. I was a child of God. I was a daughter of a Heavenly Father and it was more than just a pretty thought. After getting some help (from a beautiful woman who has now become a cherished friend) I reconnected with some powerful truths. I have a divine potential. I am made out of heavenly things and I can do incredible things. I am a broken person, but that’s okay because it’s not the end of my story. I can be whole again. My worth was determined before I came here to earth and nothing I do here can change that. I cannot earn it, but only learn to understand its greatness. I started to try and love myself again. Sure, that girl in the before pictures got into a healthy mess, but she was also the one that got me out of it. She was me, and I needed to stop thinking I was so superior to her. I just needed to accept her.
It would be really great if I could tie things up with a nice little bow and say it was all done there. I actually thought it was. I’d made a promise to myself that I’d never see triple digits again, and that I’d never let myself go back to what I was. I ended up half keeping that promise. What happened exactly? Life. Along with my imperfections.
I got married at my thinnest, pretty determined to not be that person that puts on weight just because they got married and got comfortable. I kept at my habits. I didn’t stop exercising because I’d ‘caught’ my husband, but other things crept up on me that I never expected. At the time I didn’t realise it, but I got home sick. I loved the excitement of moving into this new part of my life, but it was different and I was having some trouble adjusting. I’d spent 22 years in the one home and spent a long time walking the same tracks and being familiar with my exercise surroundings. I was now in a new place and it didn’t feel like home. That was strike one.
Early into our marriage, Josh and I decided to start growing our family. We didn’t let anybody know and we were not as well versed in fertility and pregnancy as we are now. Six months in and I found myself with an incredibly painful period. It came with shockingly sharp pains, to the point that I really struggled to walk. This went on for 3 days before we both caved and told our mums, wondering if it could possibly be a miscarriage. Long story short, it was an unexpected ectopic pregnancy resulting in emergency surgery and the removal of one of my fallopian tubes. This experience completely wrecked me. I was in the middle of my university studies and I didn’t know how to live anymore. What I wanted, and how I felt about things changed on an hourly basis. Unknowingly, I fell into a heavy depression. I felt useless and pathetic. I had so much support around me, but it didn’t seem enough to bring me out of it. I think when people don’t know what to do they bring you food because they want to help somehow. And I found myself with a lot of ‘help’. I fell back into old emotional eating strategies because I didn’t know what else to do. Strike two.
Still in a depressive state, I continued to work towards finishing that semester of study, well after everyone else was done. It was a new year, and I cried and cried with the frustration of wanting to be done, but not wanting to do anything with myself. Through definite miracles I got that semester finished (with the best results I’d ever had) just 2 weeks before the next one was due to start. There was a lot of stress riding on this coming semester as I would begin my first practical experience as a high school teacher. The workload was not an easy feat. Thoughtful planning meant that several assessment tasks needed completion within a short few weeks before the prac started. My health was heavily compromised. I was sick 3 times within 5 weeks and still soldiered on. Prac started and every day I was finishing with throat lozenges. It was an incredible experience with amazing people. I quickly grew to love them and their crazy ways – what else would you expect from a Creative and Performing Arts staff room? One thing I did quickly learn was that they were food people. There would often be a cake or packets of cookies on the communal table and with frequent gentle nudges to have some, it made stress eating all the more easy. Besides, when you’re sick and stressed, who really wants to eat a carrot? Strike three.
I was becoming more and more uncomfortable in my skin, and sick of the increasing amount of clothes in my wardrobe that I was avoiding because I knew they no longer fit. I tried time and time again to get back on the health wagon, but it felt like every time I jumped on, it was too fast for me to hold on. I’d known what I could do before. I’d run 5km. I’d ditched 52kg. And I gave myself a whole 3 seconds to get back to where I had been. This was impossible and an unrealistic expectation, but I set it, and every time fell short. Another excuse to quit. I started to believe that I had done it once and could never do it again. The last two years had proved that right?
Fast forward and we are looking at just 3 months ago. Josh and I had both just finished our university degrees and were over in America visiting my family. Same deal again. I thought I had my period until a few too many irregular symptoms and mild cramping caused me to think otherwise. I peed on a stick and cried when I saw that it said ‘pregnant’. It had been nearly two years since we started trying and over a year since the ectopic pregnancy. I started freaking! I was in another country and I wanted to get started on checking my bloods and hormone levels. I had eaten pizza with pepperoni the night before! I eventually chilled, we made it back home, and I started the doctor end of pregnancy to-do’s. A measly 4 days home and I was at the hospital trying not to freak because I was bleeding. Scans and tests were done and I got to see that 6 week miracle with a beating heart. I was sent home and told no precautions were needed, but with pain and bleeding still continuing I ended up at my mum’s on bed rest. 5 days and it still hadn’t stopped. It got worse and I was at the hospital again, this time down one heart-beat. I was shattered. It all seemed so right. We were both finished study. Josh had just gotten a full time job. I didn’t have any work commitments. We had spent 2 more years building our relationship. We were more ready than we’d ever been. But it wasn’t right. With prayer and pondering I was able to quickly see that. The first thing I saw that was needing serious help was my health and my weight. Strike four.
I was determined to handle things differently this time. I’d been down the depressive-pathetic-feeling-emotional-eating path before. Maybe there was nothing I could have done in some ‘re-do’ situation to get past it last time, but it was a teaching moment and I was determined to learn from it. It wasn’t about my self-worth this time, but about my health and feeling comfortable in my own skin. I got hyped and started walking every day. I was going back to the basics of what I knew. It worked last time, and I started believing it could work again. I needed to start re-learning all those things I’d forgotten. I needed to get those healthy habits back in my life. And I did! I exercised. I ate right. I even started on an exercise program with a friend. And guess what? I sweat, and felt like my heart was on fire and… it didn’t work. For 5 weeks I kept at it, determined to make this time different, and instead I found the ever annoying yo-yo. 1kg down. 1kg up. 1kg down. 1kg up. Seriously? I didn’t understand. I was doing exactly what I had done to make it work that last time, but I was at a loss. I mean, I did feel good about myself because I knew I was doing good things, but there was a huge level of frustration because I felt I wasn’t progressing as I should be. I figured something must be wrong, so I went to see another beautiful friend and energy coach who helped me figure some things out.
My mind was willing. My body was hurting. The two were out of sync. I was ready and kicking to ditch this weight and improve my health, but my body was struggling to keep up to the pace I was setting. As she put it, my body had been “put through the ringer” twice, and in a short amount of time. I needed to take things a little easier, and love my body for all the amazing things it had managed to do to survive the stress, and emotional experiences of the past 2 years. It was still working, and that needed recognition. I cooled it on the exercise program and went back to walking. After catching up with my friend Leia, I learned a little bit more about what I could do food wise to help my body out.
Now, I’m beginning to turn into the ‘takes photos of her food before she eats it’ person because I love food and seeing how pretty it looks and how much goodness it has in it is something I take joy in! I make bliss balls. I eat nice cream. I had my first smoothie bowl yesterday. I eat kale. On a regular basis! I am becoming THAT person. And my body thanks me for it. It has been 4 weeks since I saw my beautiful friend and started being considerate of my body’s healing process and I have ditched 3.4kg.
“Eat when you’re hungry. Rest when you’re tired. Relax when you’re stressed. Step back when you’re overwhelmed. Listen to your body.”
It is amazing what happens when we do that… when we love and respect our body for all the things it can do, instead of criticising it for what it can’t do. There was a time I used to freak if I missed out on a day of exercise. Now if I feel my body needs to sleep and rest for a day instead of working out, then that is what I do. I wasn’t finished my health and weight journey 2 years ago, and I’m not finished it 2 years later. The reality is that it is part of my life’s journey, and that still has a long way to go.