… for now.
Precious Readers, for the first time in almost a decade, I’m wandering the streets with no wedding ring anymore. Here’s why:
For those who haven’t met me in person, I’m a large, fat gal. Not being self-deprecating. It’s the truth. This topic has come up a few times over the last few weeks with my hyper-health-conscious co-workers. I figure, since I already share so much of my life with you already, that I should also address this issue:
Since childhood, I’ve struggled with having a healthy weight. Yes, another American cliché of being obsessed with my size, while also not taking care of myself and being clinically diagnosed as obese.
Now, before I get started, I’d like to disclaimer this post that sharing my childhood with you is not making excuses as to why I was unhealthy. It is merely stating what has already happened in the past and possible issues that may have influenced my life choices about my health.
As I’ve shared in the past, both of my parents grew up incredibly poor in Oregon on farms. This often led to limited budget and food sources. My parents, having grown up with this experience did not want their children to ever be without anything. They also were slightly above average age at the time of my adoption. My Mom was 38 and my Dad was 39. They also both worked full-time, I was put in daycare if I wasn’t in school, and they would come home exhausted after working a full day to take care of the normal household needs. My mom making dinner, my dad taking care of the lawn, etc. Without siblings, and with severe upper respiratory allergies, I was either playing gentle games in the car port or reading. I wasn’t as active a child as most of my time was spent trying not to sneeze, cough, get sinus and/or ear infections during the year while trying to get the right allergy prescription that helped my body allow me to, you know, be an actual normal kid. This meant that while fitness wasn’t ignored, it wasn’t a high priority in our home. They were mostly focused on keeping me breathing normally and from getting constantly sick.
As much as I loved my grandmother, she often focused on the weight of me and my cousins. She would pinch our wrists and our sides. Now, keep in mind, a full-grown woman who weighs 115 lbs will still have skin gather if it is pinched. My grandmother would do this to my cousins and me and skin would gather, and she would say we were getting fat. The earliest I remember her doing this to us, I was 5 years old.
You heard me. 5 years old.
For the rest of our lives, my cousin Car Guy*, Star*, and I would battle a lifelong issue of individually varying levels of body dysmorphia. Car Guy and Star participated in sports, but Star would fluctuate in weight (while still always thin) and it took all of us many years to move past it and just live our lives. I look back on childhood pictures, and while I had a rounder face than my family, I was definitely not a fat kid. Neither were they.
But, we thought we were, and that’s what we were told, every time we visited her.
In third grade, there was a classmate, I don’t remember his name, but would greet me every day as I entered the classroom with, “Get out of here, you fat cow. Everyone hates you, you stupid, fat cow.” Standing there, in the doorway as I’ve entered the classroom. My coat and backpack still on. Every single school day of my entire third grade year. This didn’t help my self-image at all. I was also being bullied emotionally and physically by several other students, so needless to say, elementary school sucked. It was literally a couple of decades later, and after being married to a special education teacher named Pilot-hindsight is 20/20 after all-that I remembered all of the work the teacher was forced to do with that student, how much he hurt others’ feelings. He had behavioral issues and only lasted 1 year at that school. Again, it took a couple of decades to realize it wasn’t me or my body he had an issue with, he was constantly calling everyone in the classroom something horrible. However, when you’re 7 years old, you don’t always understand these things happening around you. The horrible thing he happened to tie with my identity just happened to be weight-related. He didn’t realize how much more those comments affected me over something else he could’ve said.
As a teenager, I did gain weight, and my mom was so obsessed with clothes shopping–again, never wanting me to “be without” and it was out of love–that as I got bigger, it wasn’t a big deal. I’d just get the next size up and have more clothes. I never participated in school athletics, though I wanted to do volleyball and track. My parents were concerned that my grades would slip, so when I asked, I was told “no”. While I wasn’t a poor student, but I wasn’t great. I am a strictly B-average gal. I managed to score straight-A’s my last semester of high school and the first quarter of college, but those were the only times in my life that occurred. I was that stereotypical quiet, reading, anti-social, book nerd, but I wasn’t as smart as my friends. To be fair, I went to highly strict, private, high academic performance-based, college-bound schools, so my idea of “not as smart as my friends” might still be relatively skewed compared to an average Washington State school.
As you can see, a compounded lifestyle pattern emerges. I’m already thinking I’m fat (even though in childhood, I wasn’t), thinking my body type will never change, my life had no physical activity, and athletics was not prioritized in my home. It was normal that I was “the fat kid” and I had accepted that I always would be. That was my role. I hated it, but I had accepted it.
Breakfast was never important to me. By high school, I drank coffee in the morning, no food until lunch. I got used to not eating in the mornings. Personally, I only started eating breakfast routinely in the morning about 1 year ago, and I’m now in my mid-30’s. My point was, I had already gotten into the habit of skipping meals.
When I got to college, as I’ve mentioned before, there was someone I loved and cared deeply about. We had been (what I thought of as) best friends since middle school, through high school, and both got into Central Washington University together and lived in the same freshman dorm. His mom had gotten sick during our junior/senior years of high school and went through a horrible ordeal. When we got to freshman year of college, he was away from home for the first time and was also grieving and processing everything that had happened to his mom and his family the last two years. He went from being the person I’d known and loved into a hard-partying guy. He quickly stopped talking to me and cut me out of his life, and I was completely heartbroken, confused, hurt, and depressed. When he tried to talk to me later, it was too much and I cut him out of my own life. It was too painful to relive all of those memories.
Now, by the time I reached my first year of college, I was obese. Weighing in around 178 lbs (yes, a real adult woman has shared her actual weight with you), I was unhealthy, large, and still not active. Navigating being away from home for the first time myself, not having developed great social skills, and now in a deep depression, I eventually stopped sleeping.
I also stopped eating… almost completely.
My days’ worth of food consumed ended up going from 2 meals a day reduced to ultimately: 1 water bottle and 2 soda crackers a day. That’s it. Well, for those who purposely starve themselves, you already know that you drop water weight, and your body starts pulling from the fat as energy. Because you’re literally starving yourself.
I dropped 30 lbs in 3 months.
I went from a size Extra Large down to a tight-fitting Medium. I hadn’t been Medium-sized since I was 11 years old. To be fair, now being at college, I was walking/bicycling everywhere instead of driving. (Ellensburg is a small town.) But, I was still not eating anything.
Now, here’s the kicker: With everyone who knew me growing up and in college, the response I got was incredibly positive. When I visited home, I was constantly greeted by my friends and family with:
“Oh my gosh! You look amazing! Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!”
“You’ve lost so much weight, you’re looking great!“
My friend, Glamazon* greeted me with, “Holy cow! You shrank!”
Always followed up with the next question:
“How did you do it?”
I answered as any young woman who is being told that her body looks “the best it’s ever been” while dealing with severe depression and an eating disorder would.
I told everyone it was because I was “eating better” and exercising. The truth was, I wasn’t consuming any food, barely staying hydrated, sleeping less than 3 hours per night, and in a clinically depressed state. I forced myself into focusing on my academics and no socializing (hence the straight-A’s my first quarter, but I wasn’t living a good life).
How did I stop? While I would love to credit my darling husband, Pilot, as while I was mourning an officially non-romantic, long-term relationship, I was getting to know Pilot who also lived in the same dorm. He, and the help with the few new friends I had made, helped me remember that I was still a human being trying to be a good and nice person every day. That my self-worth wasn’t tied to my body and appearance, but my personality. Some people have body dysmorphia to the point where they need additional help, and that’s good.
A separate note: Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself that you are valued, you are loved, and the only person whose opinion matters about your health is your own. Screw everyone else. Mental illness should not be stigmatized, it is always good and important to ask for help if you need it. You are not alone.
After being rejected by someone I had loved for several years, I was reminded that I was still a funny, smart, generous, and movie-loving person. After a couple more months, I started eating again. I ended up hurting myself because I took advantage of that knowledge. By now, I was in a steady relationship with Pilot, had made peace with my life without the boy/man from my past, and was focusing on graduating from Central’s Communications program.
I took that knowledge for what it was, that it didn’t matter what size I was, because Pilot will always love me for me. And he will, and he does. That didn’t change the fact that I was ignoring a responsibility to myself to be healthy. I would never encourage someone to stop eating as a method to lose weight, in 100% transparency, I went back to old eating habits. While I often cooked my own food for dinner, and tried to eat healthy for lunch, I was still not exercising, and eating portions far larger than necessary for any human being. My sophomore and junior year of college, I gained all of the weight back… and more. I skyrocketed to 193 lbs.
Pilot was always an active kid. His brother and sister participated in sports. While Pilot never did sports, he was in marching band every single year, playing the drums. Miles of walking while also getting an arm exercise in, and he was active at home. When I realized my weight was out of control again, we started working out together.
I worked out 2 hours per day, every day, and never saw a single pound melt off. I couldn’t figure it out. After 2 years of working out consistently, nothing happened. I didn’t gain weight, but I wasn’t losing it either. When I graduated, I gave up on working out. Continued eating majorly over-portioned food 2 meals a day. After several years of me being large and Pilot and I still being in love with each other, even long distance, I realized he truly loved me as a person. Not as a “trophy wife” not as “a good looking woman” who happened to like him, though he finds me gorgeous and I do too, but loved me for who I was. Scars, bad temper, and all.
Ladies, I will always be the first person to tell you that your value is not in your appearance.
Again, Ladies: your value is not in your appearance.
As much as society would like to convince you otherwise, it is not. If you like to wear makeup, do your hair, dress stylishly every day — as long as you’re doing it for yourself and no one else — DO IT. Don’t let society, men, other women, or anyone else dictate to how you wish to be appearance-wise.
That being said, there needs to be a balance between being healthy and having confidence in one’s self versus your body image being what defines you as a human being. Health is 100% important. Without it, your shorten and/or ruin the quality of your own life. I have a massive stubborn streak. I got so caught up in the newfound confidence, I once again ignored my own health. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and stopped exercising.
A few blog posts ago, I talked about the death of my Dad, my Mom’s severe orthopaedic injury, and the next bout of severe depression I suffered. While I deal with my depression and anxiety every day, this was an especially difficult time in my life. I was also working at desk jobs with a staff that didn’t care about me. At my heaviest, I unashamed, but badly peaked at 285 lbs, and hit my limit when I was encroaching a size 20 in women’s clothing. This was about 4.5-5 years ago.
Our parents are aging. As of this year, every single parent on both Pilot and my side of the family, extended elder relatives, etc. will all be 70 years old or older. Many of them are not in great physical shape and weren’t for most of their adult lives. Pilot and I don’t want fat and inactivity to be a factor of poor health for the majority of our adult lives. We want to know we’ve done everything we can to keep ourselves healthy and in decent physical shape so we have as many years together as possible for ourselves and each other.
I convinced myself that this time… THIS TIME, I’d do it right. I didn’t join a “diet,” I didn’t do a “miracle pill,” I didn’t agree to this new thing called “red light therapy.” (What the hell is that? I’m sorry, it sounds like a massive scam.) Starting 4.5-5 years ago, I started to exercise again, but didn’t kick myself if I neglected to do it every day. Guilt is a horrible spiral that backfires in your fight to be healthy. I don’t go more than 2 days without some form of major physical activity. I eat the best natural/nutritious food that I can afford or prepare for every meal, even if it’s store bought microwave meals, but I’m not “dieting.” If I eat badly, I don’t eat badly for more than 2 days in a row, and then balance it out with the remainder of the week with healthy-portioned healthy food, sometimes only veggie-based foods. (I’m still an omnivore.)
I don’t like the term “diet.” Diet implies “temporary.” A temporary solution for a life-long result. Does that make sense to you? Not to me. I was looking for lifetime change. A lifestyle change.
It started out with small changes like parking further away from entrances and walking across the parking lot more. I got dogs, which require me to walk them 3-4 times a day for at least 10-15 minutes each time. I drank waaay more water, stopped purchasing soda except for social occasions, limited alcohol intake to social occasions and 1 glass of wine twice a month maximum. Pilot is a candy FIEND. If there’s candy, sugar, or ice cream in the house, he will eat ALL OF IT. We stopped buying ice cream for the most part, or buy non-favorite flavors so it’s less tempting to eat it after dinner. If he gets candy, it’s in the mini-size so he can better track how much of it he’s eating. We eat breakfast so we don’t splurge at lunch and are less hungry for dinner. We eat 4 smaller meals per day. If we have a snack, it’s pre-portioned so we don’t mindless-eat snack or we can physically track how many small portions we’ve eaten. Since we both get up incredibly early for work, it’s hard to only eat 3 meals a day. I try to make sure a vegetable or fruit is a part of every dinner and/or lunch. I cut out caffeine. I’m sleeping more — averaging about 5 hours per night. I think I’m just one of those people who doesn’t need a lot of sleep in general.
In the short-term, I trained for my first 5K two years ago and finished it in under 1 hour. That was a major accomplishment for me, as I had never run on purpose before that training. (Sorry former PE teachers. I still hate running.) I do run/walk with Pilot in the evenings, but there is nothing you can say or do to convince me running is fun. I do it because it’s good for me, but I am hating my life every second I’m doing it.
In more of the long-term changes, Pilot and I agreed to start taking evening walks together while the weather was good to do so. We got up to 2-mile walk/jogs by the end of this summer. While people think of my nerdiness as tenfold when I tell people I still actively play PokemonGo**, I am proud of it because it keeps me walking. Pushing that walk a little bit further to hit that Pokestop or catch an elusive Pokemon. I got Pilot to start playing it with me and we incorporated the game into our daily lives, separate from our evening walks. (Go Team Valor!) On bad weather days, or to catch up with my friends, we typically meet up at the mall. Not to shop (at least for me), but to walk the premises out of the rain. (Washington State malls are huge.) It’s a great aerobic and cardio workout, and has a food court if we need water.
I still enjoy the occasional sweet, I enjoy big meals, but it’s not every day, often not several times per week. Those are made special occasions such as my weekly dinner with my mom, a visit with Pilot’s parents a couple of times per month, or a special night out with Pilot. We eat a real, regular meal before going to the movie theater so we don’t eat at the theater itself. We go to the movie theater far less frequently. (That’s been good to our wallets too). We shop at Grocery Outlet** and have a more routine set of recipes that we eat. While I haven’t gotten out of my habit of cooking for an army, the recipes are healthier and we eat them several days in a row and make them last. Pilot and I are realistic about our lifestyle. We’re super-busy people working full-time jobs and each have our own businesses to run. We keep breakfast (if we eat it) and lunch simple, while dinner is more involved nutritionally. We hold each other accountable, not afraid to bust each other’s chops about additional snacking or sweets. (While we never hurt each other emotionally, nor sling mud at each other, neither of us is afraid of a little “good old fashioned ribbing.” We have weird senses of humor.)
The weight loss has been slow. Painstakingly slow. Snail’s pace slow.
I’m losing the weight in a healthy way, and KEEPING IT OFF.
No yo-yo-ing, self-inflicted starvation, no losing weight only to gain it back and double it. I’ve found when you lose a lot of weight quickly, it’s super hard to keep it off. Again, strict dieting and exercise works, but unless you’ve changed your life to make it a daily automatic part of how you live, it’s a temporary solution for a lifetime result.
In 4.5-5 years, I’ve lost on an average of 62 lbs of fat. I’ll let that sink in a moment.
SIXTY-TWO POUNDS OF FAT.
Back to why I’m not wearing my wedding rings: I lost enough fat that my rings were falling off of my fingers. I was literally typing yesterday at work, and heard this “clacking” noise. I looked down and realized my wedding band and engagement ring (not fused together) were loose enough to hit each other while I typed, and the rings were slipping off of my fingers. I don’t want to lose my rings or get new ones. (By the way, the rings depicted are not our actual rings. Sorry for the misleading headline, but this is where it all ties together. See?)
I had to take my rings in to Shane Company** last night to have them resized smaller. My ring size went down to a 9. I haven’t been a standard ring size… ever. (I don’t wear much jewelry, so I don’t know at what point in my life I stopped being a standard ring size for women.) I realized I could go to any apparel/accessory store and pick a size 9 ring off of the rack and wear it. I’ve never been able to do that before. I’m so proud of this, and it’s an accomplishment to me.
I still have a long way to go, but I’m ready for the challenge because I’m finally approaching it the right way. The safe way. The right way. Eating right, exercising every day (if I can) in different ways, eating less fat/sugar/salt, and burning more calories than I eat. Life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon (even though I still hate running). I don’t go by WEIGHT. I go with how my body feels and how my clothes fit. I have upper body strength where there was none for most of my life, and I’ve gained and toned a LOT of muscle, all from weight lifting and training. Weight lifting will not move the needle on the scale much. However, my pants have been falling off of my ass, my shirts are sagging on me, and my underwear didn’t fit anymore. I’ve had to buy clothes a smaller size each year around August/September. I’m not winded going up staircases anymore. I don’t have to wonder if I’ll fit in certain chairs, or trying to get past someone taking up space in a hallway. I don’t have to worry if a plastic chair will creak and groan with strain under me. I don’t have to worry about as much space I will take up in the movie theater or in the car.
NEVER did THAT before until 2 years ago. EVER.
(I still hate running.)
THAT IS SUCCESS FOR ME. Weight fluctuates, sometimes hit plateaus. I still get strange looks from people when I talk about healthy eating and exercising methods because they only see me for my size right now, and see an elephant. They don’t see the lifelong journey I’ve been on and how much fat I’ve already lost. But I’ve gone from a size 20 down to, as of 2 weeks ago when I needed to buy new pants, a tight-fitting size 14. At losing 62 lbs of fat, you would think I’d be far smaller. I’m not. But, I’ve gained a lot of muscle and I haven’t been a size 14 since I was a teenager. I am now in my mid-30’s. Think about that. I weigh less from fat loss, but clothing-wise I haven’t gone down much on the clothing scale. Again, it’s not about size ladies, it’s about how tall you are, your ethnicity, if you’re prone to certain conditions or diseases, it’s about your fitness and health. Not the size of the fit.
I am not skinny. There is a huge misconception that all Asian women are stick figured, waif-ish, short women. I am definitely a thick-thighed, big calved, curvy gal, and even if I was at a healthy weight, I will never be stick-figured boy-shaped. Many women of Korean descent still living in South Korea often get plastic surgery. It’s true. It’s not even called plastic surgery, they’re called beauty treatments. This includes calf muscle reduction (didn’t I mention I have huge calves? They’re super toned and big-muscled, not fat. Just huge) and eyelid shaping turning a monolid to a creased one like women of European descent. Many women of Asian descent are “skinny” or in healthy weight categories, but suffer from diabetes types I and II. It’s a DNA thing. Here’s a few articles to help with understanding:
Side Note: You need to eat nutritionally healthy and exercise the right way for your body. Everyone’s body is different and requires different nutrition either due to ethnicity, disease, health conditions, outdoor environment, etc. Do what’s right for your body. For example: I am lactose sensitive and other health conditions.
Someone once said to me, or maybe I read it in an article — I’m sorry, I don’t remember, I think it was Nerd Fitness**? — but they said “Health is 100% nutrition. Fitness is 100% exercise.” They’re not the same thing. You can have someone who only eats organic, plant-based, vegan lifestyles, but if they’re not exercising, they’re body isn’t physically fit and can still have health problems because you’re not taking care of your body.
The nutrition and health is there with how Pilot and I are now choosing to eat, but the fitness part is still in development. The plus side (no pun intended) is we’re already doing more fitness-wise than we were years ago, and continue to build upon what we’ve already established as a daily part of our lives. I am not skinny, I’m not sure if I ever will be “skinny.”
As the great Queen Latifah once said, “What size am I? I’m a size healthier.” That’s good enough for me.
Am I healthy? I’m far healthier than I’ve ever been. I can do push ups, I can run, I can run up stairs, I can walk/run farther in one go than I ever could, my food is more nutritious, I make better choices eating when I’m dining out, My husband and I are partners in this long-term health journey, I’m still flexible, I challenge myself. I may not be 100% healthy and physically fit–yet–but I’m much, much happier. I’m much, much healthier. I’m much more fit than I’ve ever been. Hell, I might even be able to do a pull up for the first time in my life soon, but I need to keep weight training my arms.
While looking at me now, no one would think I was “healthy” because of my size, believe me, but, this is healthier than I was yesterday. This is healthier than I was a week ago. This is healthier than I’ve been in years, perhaps my whole life. I’m doing my best, I’m doing it safe, and I’m doing it right. That’s good enough for me.
I’d love to hear from you. Share your journey or fitness goals!
What has worked for you?
Have you lost a lot of weight recently?
*Not this person’s real name. It has been changed to protect their privacy.
**Not a sponsor. I have not been compensated in any way to promote this brand.