- THE FINAL INSTALLMENT -
I am going to be honest from the very start. This post is probably going to seem more than a bit jumbled. That’s because I have never shared any of this. Most of it anyways. In writing at least. Of course I have had conversations about it, but for some reason, my attempts to get it all out of my head and my heart and onto “paper” have proven challenging. Because putting these things, these photos, these feelings and thoughts and memories in a blog for the world to potentially see, it turns out, can make a person feel uncomfortably vulnerable. So please, bear with me. Really this is a collection of a lot of things that somehow represent my journey to cleaning up my act in regards to my health. I am not claiming to have the answers or the end all solutions or even the most practical/simple steps to getting healthy, I am simply going to share bits and pieces of my heart and my journey and show you how I got from here to there and how I am still in the process of getting from here to somewhere else. My prayer is that it will speak to your heart, encourage you on your own journey, and remind you that we are all in this together.
11th grade on a mission trip to Peru representing a magazine for teen girls.
I wouldn’t say I was unhealthy as much as I was uneducated. But, my being uneducated resulted in me being unhealthy.
I suppose I grew up at the end of an era. When fish sticks, frozen nuggets, and Jiff peanut butter on rainbow bread were all the rage: the more convenient, the better. From what I could see, no one was reading labels or substituting white flour with almond/coconut/rice/_______ flour or sugar with a “healthier,” more natural sweetener. Packages were bright, eye-catching, and nothing was better than a Lunch-able on field trip days.
Honestly, I was never made fun of for my weight. It seemed I was the only one who was painfully aware of it. I suppose people could have been talking behind my back, but I really don’t think that was the case. Thank God I had my personality going for me and though I was very overweight, I never lacked for genuine friendship nor did I miss out on opportunities because of my size. Looking back, I am so very grateful for both of those things. High school wasn’t a nightmare for me, I actually rather enjoyed it.
But always, for as long as I can remember, I have been uncomfortable with my body. I suppose in a lot of ways I used my personality to guard that insecurity and I figured I would just be funny and charming and not even give people a chance to notice my size, I just wouldn’t give them time to not like me. And usually it worked. The problem was, I just didn’t like myself very much. What I saw in the mirror anyways. And I was anything but kind to myself about it. I was so busy convincing everyone else to love me that left no time for learning to love myself.
I used to say and think I didn’t like swimming and going to the beach. Really, I didn’t like buying or wearing a swimsuit let alone ever being seen in one. And beaches and swimming pools require swimsuits. I suppose I could have done the whole shorts/t-shirt thing, but to me that was just calling attention to what I and everyone else knew. I was too fat to rock a swimsuit. I would have never taken a picture in a swimsuit. So, sometimes when I feel stuck or like I have so far to go, I look at this picture of me in a swimsuit. And I think, yes, I have a long ways to go still, but look how far I have come! I have to keep reminding myself of that. I am awful at giving myself credit for the work that I have done and the things that I have accomplished in regards to living a healthy lifestyle. I am so hard on myself and I only ever see all of the things that still need to change. But over the last few years I have not only worn a bathing suit (fairly confidently) on the beach and with friends, I have also let photographs of myself in the swimsuits circulate on social media. Of course I am far from a swimsuit model, but this is a small victory for me on my journey to health and loving myself and my body.
It’s been a long journey. For a while (and sometimes still) I had a very unhealthy relationship with food…because I was mad at food. So I rewarded and punished myself with food. If I finished tasks, I would let myself eat something and enjoy the food. Of course this wasn’t a conscious thing, just something I have looked back on and realized. I still struggle with the guilt of enjoying food…especially something I know is bad for me. I would rather feel hungry than full. All of these little things I have had to start paying attention to. I have had to learn about healthy calories verses unhealthy and accept that my body does in fact need calories to thrive and even to lose weight.
Thank God for this woman, Heidi that “accidentally” showed up in my life. I had dropped a lot of weight in college (in not so healthy ways) but after my first year living in Seattle, I was stuck. I was tired. I wanted to reach my goals. I wanted to finally be happy with my body. So, I decided to hire a trainer. Someone who would whip me into shape and get me where I wanted to be. I got so much more. I got a friend and an educated health professional who helped me understand what is important in regards to health. She taught me how to make being healthy a life style and not a fad that would quickly fade. She helped me overcome my body hate and be proud of each stride we made. She helped me understand that those numbers aren’t everything and that what’s going on inside matters more. She taught me how to read labels and to make the best choices whenever I have a choice to make but also to not obsess. To pick up wherever I left off and to keep going. She set me free to live a healthy, happy life. I ran a half marathon when only a year before I could barely make it a mile on a treadmill. She walked (and ran) with me every step of the way. She changed my life.
I have always loved shopping and clothes and fashion, but for a long time it wasn’t any fun for me because I hated how I looked. I hated that I wasn’t slender and tiny and dainty and all of the clothes I would have loved to wear didn’t look how I wanted them to. For a long time in high school, I told myself and everyone else that I was a “jeans and t-shirt” kind of girl. I only ever wore pony tails and I never bothered with make up. But you know what, that was a lie I told myself and everyone else to feel better about the fact that shopping and fashion was hard and uncomfortable. It was code for covering up the fact that I wanted to hide and not draw attention to my appearance.
Fast forward a few years…I finally started getting healthy and began coming out of hiding. That girly, frilly, fashionista part of me started to emerge as I began feeling better about myself and confident in my health and my body. Now shopping and fashion is fun and therapeutic for me! It’s one of my favorite self-unveilings that I has happened along this journey. I love to express myself through my style and I am so thankful that I can finally have fun with that!
This is by no means the full story or even an in depth version of the parts. These are some of the highlights and I suppose a celebration of sorts of how far I have come. In fact, as I write this I am not in the best place as it pertains to my health. Actually, I just got on the scale for the first time since Christmas and I am beating myself up because I should be trying harder and doing more and some of my clothes fit differently and so on and so on and so on.
Here’s the thing friends, we have got to learn to be content with where we are…in ALL things. This one is a struggle for me. I remember being 235 in a size 24 and thinking if only I could be 200 pounds in a size 18 I would be happy forever. Then I was 198 pounds in a size 16 thinking that if I could only be a size 12 I would certainly be content. And here I am in a size 14 telling myself that I would cap it off at a size 10. You see, this game of self loathing and “if only” could go on forever. It’s challenging. To my core. I have even referred to it as “the thorn in my flesh.” But it doesn’t have to be. Because every day I get to make choices. All sorts of choices. Choices about food and working out and groceries that I put in my cart, and most importantly, choices about the things I say to myself and that I let myself believe.
I am still learning to make the best choices whenever I have choices to make. Remember, we are in this together. I know I need the encouragement to stay strong and to continue doing my best to lead a healthy life. Let’s get the conversation started! Share some tips, some thoughts, some struggles…and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Let’s help each other on this journey!