This is the most difficult part of my weight loss to write as I have worked really hard to rewrite the story of my past and define who I am based on my own thoughts and feelings- not the actions of others. But, I have a background I’m sure a lot of people can relate to. I have always been bigger, never obese, but always a little heavier than my friends. I remember being self conscious about my weight as young as 7 or 8 years old and always felt less than because of it. I grew up with a very thin and athletic brother and would compare myself against his athletic abilities and all the attention it would earn him. I accepted the identity of someone who was unathletic and didn’t care about fitness or health. I could just be funny and act like I didn’t care and that would be good enough. Throughout high school, I experienced fairly severe anxiety and panic attacks which I would cope with by turning to food. My unathletic, fat girl identity paired with my emotional overeating led me to gain a significant amount of weight slowly throughout high school. These toxic patterns reached their peak my freshman year of college as I was attending my hometown university after being rejected by my dream school. I had disconnected from high school friends and wanted more than anything to leave my hometown and start a new life. Thankfully, I reapplied to my dream school and got in. That last year back home was rough, and I gained 20 pounds in the few months leading up to school. I was the heaviest I had ever been but was so ready for a new beginning.
Throughout my first semester at school I had naturally shed the first 10 pounds through the little changes made in my lifestyle. My college campus was large and I had to walk everywhere, I spent less time alone, eating, and more time with friends enjoying life. I still ate absolute junk food, but I was actively enjoying my life again and had less reason to seek food to find relief from my own mind. That winter a new friend of mine made some harsh jokes about my weight in front of a group of friends, and it destroyed me. A lifetime of insecurities were exposed, and I couldn’t deny my weight problem anymore. She said it out loud, clear as day and I couldn’t hide from it. It didn’t take long after that for me to decide I was ready to lose my weight and lose the title of ‘fat-friend’. I was going to get myself skinny if it was the last thing I did. So I did what most frantic 19 year-olds do when they want to lose weight; download a calorie counting app and go to the gym. I had set a goal of losing 20 more pounds (30 total that school year) by the end of spring semester.
I set the calorie app to the lowest setting it would go, something like 1,200 calories a day. But like most people on weird restrictive diets, I would blow past my allotted calorie amount some days and then have to compensate by barely eating the next. I remember feeling so much shame if I didn’t eat the amount to app told me and going to the gym multiple times a day to earn my dinner. However, I had enough days in the beginning that I completely over ate that my weightloss for the first couple months was slow, not to mention I was still eating fast food and drinking alcohol nearly every weekend. As my deadline approached, I got desperate. I was so determined to meet this goal. I was going to make it happen no matter what. I got ‘serious’ and dialed my calorie intake to 800 and walked for an hour a day. This worked, quickly, and the high of losing a pound every 3 days was enough for me to never go over my calorie limit. Ultimately, I did make my goal and even though I lost it through complete willpower and restriction, I was proud.
I started off my summer with 30 pounds gone and felt great. However, the excitement wore off fast as I hadn’t actually learned anything about myself or my body other than how to restrict myself using a calorie app. At that point I was so ready to never look at that app again that I stopped tracking what I ate. Even more quickly than I lost the pounds they came back on. I would weigh myself occasionally and would see that I was up 5 pounds, so I would reinstate my calorie app and restrict myself back down. And again and again this cycle continued for the entire summer. It was beyond frustrating and I was mentally exhausted. I may have lost physical weight but every single pound of my mental weight was still with me. A similar cycle continued through fall semester and I was so ready for a change.
I knew I wanted to lose more weight, but I could barely fathom being able to maintain another 10 or 20 pound weight loss seeing how much I was already struggling. I had dabbled in self help prior to this time, reading an occasional motivational book or blog post, but now I was all in on figuring myself out. I ended up finding a podcast that I LOVED, Losing 100 Pounds with Phit-n-Phat, which is more directed at middle aged women with a lot of weight to lose, but I couldn’t care less. It has changed my life and if you know me, you know my love of the host Corinne Crabtree. From there I discovered more and more free resources online, which I will share in a different post, that gave me the tools to manage my anxiety and my mind around food. I started to chip away at all the BS stories I had been telling myself about who I was and why I wasn’t good enough. Instead of hating myself down the scale, I wanted to love myself to lose the weight.
January of 2019 I began implementing some of the weight loss methods from the self help podcasts and books. I would write down what I was planning to eat the day before, began journaling, started drinking enough water and figuring out the hunger scale (all things I will create separate posts for). These little changes made all the difference in my ability to not only execute a plan but also start building a relationship with myself. I was setting realistic goals and showing up for them. At this point I was working a retail job right next to an ice cream shop and would still plan ice cream on the regular and anything else I wanted. And I still lost weight. The difference was that I was no longer reacting to life and retreating to food for relief, ice cream and other ‘treats’ became intentional and enjoyed without guilt. The shifts in retail also pushed me into meal prepping. My 30 minute break wasn’t enough time to run over to the food court and eat, so I would have to pack food. I started off just preparing a few meals for the week which saved me money and helped the pounds come off. I expected to lose my final 20 pounds that spring, just like I did the year before. With these changes I lost 10 more pounds and maintained through the summer.
Throughout the summer I had a great internship with a lot of heads down work so I was able to listen to podcasts and books everyday. I listened to an audio book every week and dozens of podcasts. I also journaled about my goals every morning before work and exercised every evening. I also had a lot of time to reflect on why I really wanted to lose the last 10 pounds. I was already at a healthy weight and didn’t technically need to continue losing weight. My ‘why’ for the last ten pounds was about creating the life of my dreams and becoming the best version of myself. Going back to school with all my new self-help knowledge and inspiration, I decided that I was going to commit to waking up at 6 AM every morning and starting my day with journaling and exercise. I also was committed to meal prepping all of my meals and eating foods that my body could actually digest. I cut lactose and fast food, which had gradually been happening anyways. I felt so much better and the rest of my weight came off. There were challenges and mental obstacles to overcome, of course, but all of the small changes I had made through that past couple of years had accumulated and all the time and energy I had invested in my own brain and relationship with myself are what made the real difference.
This weight loss has been about so much more than 50 pounds for me. It has gifted me an entirely new life and relationship with myself. Now that I am on the other side and confident that I will never have to lose this weight again, I want to help other people who are struggling with the same things I have. I feel like I have designed a new life for myself, and I want to inspire others to create the life they dream of. I never imagined I could lose 50 pounds in college, but I am proof that it is possible. All of your goals and dreams are available to you, so let’s get after it.
Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.Pema Chodron