On Monday, I blogged about confidence and body image comparisons. I spent the better part of my childhood and early adulthood battling negative self-esteem. Life doesn’t always help; society promotes a certain look, peers can be cruel, and fashion is full of lies.
Of all of my
flaws uniquenesses – from frizzy, curly hair and glasses to being nearly 6-feet tall – the one thing that I have allowed to give me the most grief is being overweight. I weighed 9.5 pounds when I was born. It’s like I was destined to be, well, big. But as a child and young adult, I viewed that negatively. My earliest memory of my weight was when I started wearing hand-me-down jeans from my brother. They were labeled “Husky” size and I recall that bothering me more than the fact that I was wearing boys jeans.
I was a relatively active child/young adult. I played a lot outside, rode my bike, swam, and even dabbled in community and school sports. However, I never considered myself athletic. I was too busy comparing myself to my oldest brother and sister, who didn’t require a special size of jeans, or to classmates who were shaped completely different than me.
I have more negative memories from middle school. In Physical Ed class, we were required to wear uniforms. I remember my teacher digging through a pile of “oversized” uniforms searching for one that fit me. I stood behind her office door as she tossed above-average sizes my way as I tried them on, praying the next one would fit. I also remember a similar incident when I made the basketball team. Everyone else had jersey with low numbers, but my number was 54 because I required the largest uniform.
Let me stop here for a second and say that I was not morbidly obese. I was only about 10-pounds overweight at the time, but I was also freakishly tall for my age. Again, I was a just… big.
In addition to my weight, I also started to realize how my body didn’t perform the same as my classmates. I remember during my freshman year, we had to perform agility and strength tests… and I could not do a chin up. Not. One. By my senior year, I had stopped all sports. I had gained around 15 more pounds, and was one of, if not the tallest girl in my class. My giant-ness consumed me. I was awkward, uncomfortable, and officially self-conscious in so many ways.
I went on to have equally awkward experiences in college. I went to the beach with friends and was horrified to wear a swimsuit; something that never bothered me during my childhood “husky” phase. I continued to gain weight, so I started crash diets and taking supplements. I ended up completely wrecking my metabolism, so much so that later in life, it completely wrecked me.
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in my later 20s. At my heaviest, I weighed 70-pounds more than I did in high school, and could barely fit into a size 20. I would refer to my high school weight as “when I thought I was fat” and the only desire I had was to “be so skinny that I looked sick.” The way I viewed myself (and health in general) had become painfully distorted.
As my 30th birthday approached, I knew that I had to make lifestyle changes. Nothing else was working and I refused to allow myself to move into another pant size. I joined a weight loss program through work, that began to teach me about nutrition and portion sizes. The next decade of my life was spent undergoing more than just a positive physical change of losing 50-pounds. My thirties also brought about positive emotional and mental changes as well.
I still have to watch my weight — I always will, thanks to an under active thyroid, an aging body, a dislike of formal exercise, and an occasional mean sweet tooth! — but I no longer seem to struggle with it. I think I have finally learned to accept me for me. I have found confidence in my own skin, and have the wisdom to know that health isn’t, and never has been, about a body image.
Recently I had a conversation with my doctor. We both decided that, although there is room for improvement, things could be a lot worse. I’m only 11.5-pounds away from my goal weight, and I’m running 5Ks regularly. I drink 100-ounces of water a day, and I eat well-balanced whole-food meals, appropriately measured for portion control. I also keep a check on things like my blood pressure and stress levels. I’m making progress in truly becoming healthy. But it was my statement to her that she believes shows my biggest progress… “I’ll never be skinny, but I am going to do what I can to not gain weight.” In my quest to focus on not gaining, I actually started to lose weight.
Maybe that is how we should all approach life? Think about it; instead of pointing out someone’s flaws, we recognize their strengths; instead of dwelling on the bad days, we start counting our blessings; instead of verbalizing hate, we speak love; instead of thinking the worst, we pursue the best. It could change attitudes and produce more positive outcome!
Being healthy is so much more than a weight, or a dress size, or how many jumping jacks that you can do. Total wellness includes intellectual health, emotional health, and even financial health. What is your current battle? Do you allow negative thoughts to distort your perspective? What will you choose to focus on today?