Thursday, July 23, 2015

Back Story (Part 1)

If you look back at photos and videos of my children's early years, you might come to the conclusion that I wasn't around very often. It's like I didn't exist those years.There is no evidence to prove that I was there. Even my Facebook profile pictures from this time period are comprised solely of pictures of my children.

Recently I came across a video clip of me at my son's first birthday. I'm holding him in front of his cake for the Happy Birthday song. My words to celebrate this major milestone in his life? "Make sure you don't get any of me in the picture." You end up seeing only a fragment of my shirt, the backdrop of his Birthday Song. No mommy smiles, no kisses or giggles shared. Just me, being concerned about being captured forever on video at the size I was. Shame and guilt ruined what should have been a joyous memory to look back upon.

I discovered this lack of visual proof of my existence for those years when I started losing weight and went searching for a "before" picture. I quickly found there were none. The only "before" pictures I have are from after I had already lost 25-30 pounds, before I reached my heaviest, or a handful of side shots of random body parts that I had not deleted or cropped out. In this age of digital photography and camera phones, all I had to do was hit delete on any picture I couldn't stand to look at, and *poof*, evidence of my size was gone forever.

This makes me so sad, for so many reasons. I am sad when I look back and remember the swirling darkness I felt as I was letting my weight spin out of control. I am sad that my kids will have no pictures of me smiling and laughing with them when they were little. I am sad that I couldn't find it in myself to be defined by something other than my weight. I am heartbroken that I gave myself worth and found my identity solely in the size I was.

I recall so clearly the day I sat in a Burger King drive through wondering what to order. For a split second I thought about ordering something healthy or small, and then I looked at my size, and decided, "Screw it, I'm already fat, I'm just going to order the double steak burger with french fried onions and cheese, and the super sized fries." I felt completely trapped in my size. Immobilized. As though I was forever doomed to be the size I was. I had been yo-yo dieting/gaining weight since 4th grade. I had battled anorexia and bulimia and compulsive overeating all my life, living one extreme or the other. I felt destined to be large. This was just going to be my fate, and I needed to learn to accept it, embrace it, and feed it with enormous amounts of comfort food.

This happened shortly before I found I could barely squeeze into the seats at my daughter's piano recital; before it dawned on me that I had no energy to play with my kids; before I realized I sent them to do an inordinate amount of menial tasks for me, because I lacked the energy to climb up the stairs to get the remote control, or get my phone that I had left on the table. Right before my husband bought me a size 3 XL winter coat, after I outgrew my smaller ones; before I stepped on the scale and saw a 3 in the hundreds place. Right before I had a moment of emotional despair when half of my crunchy cinnamon bagel seemed to disappear from the bottom of my bag, and it dawned on me my emotional attachment to food ran way too deep. Right before I started to feel like the mom on "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?", and before the worry seized me that my children might be embarrassed to be seen with me. Right before I felt deeply convicted that God says he gives us a Spirit of self-control, and I was doing a horrible job displaying it. Right before God brought me to the verses I Corinthians 6:19-20: "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." *ouch*

All of those life shattering realizations propelled me towards an epiphany "I have got to do something different this time." Something had to change, and I couldn't do it on my own. I had to truly surrender it the Spirit of Self-Control. The ONLY one who could help pull me from this cycle of despair and self-destruction.I had to be willing to give it up, turn it over, and get myself out of the way. I had to give up control in order to get control.

Slowly, things started to change. I started to eat healthier foods, and less of them. I started to exercise on the Wii Fit, walking around the digital island, and practicing yoga and strength training with the help of the little white board. Then, someone I knew on Facebook started posting about losing weight and running a half-marathon. And the seed was planted.... be continued...

Screen shot of me from my son's 1st Birthday. Only evidence I have that I was there, except as mentioned above.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Life in the Extremes and between....

Having spent the majority of my adult life morbidly obese, I became very used to being the largest person in the room, sometimes even the largest in the building. I was self-conscious, and acutely aware of my size in relation to everyone else. I would scan a room, looking for someone else on the larger size. Was there even anyone slightly overweight besides me? This was not a comfortable place to live, but it was a place I became comfortable in. It was familiar. I had a unique, albeit not desireable, identity. I was sure of my place and where I fit in, or rather stuck out.

At 106 lbs less, I am no longer the largest person in the room. I struggle to figure out what my current size even accurately is. I now scan the room, looking at people of different sizes and wonder, "do I look like that?", and "is she my size?". No longer sure where I fit in. Do I still look overweight? Am I average? Thin? I sometimes feel like I'm floating without an anchor, or struggling to see clearly through the fog.

I have far surpassed all my original goals, set when I started this journey. I wanted to be healthier. I wanted to be able to have energy to play with my kids. I didn't want my kids to be embarrassed by my size. I wanted to end up under 200 lbs. I wanted to fit into "normal", non-plus-sized clothing. I wanted to be free of my emotional attachment to food and no longer enslaved to eating in excess. Check, check, triple check. I've gone farther than I ever imagined I could. I've run more miles than I ever thought possible, I've conquered every distance challenge I reached for. And yet, this restlessness remains. I do not feel like I'm at my goal weight, I don't feel like I've arrived. I feel this need to keep pushing. To keep setting goals. To lose 25 more pounds. To run faster, further, to build muscles and tone up. I'm not yet satisfied, and I begin to wonder, when will I be? I'm wearing a size small, when I started in a size 3xL. I have a hard time accepting this as factual. Surely it's just vanity sizing, or just this one or two or twenty brands of clothing, I tell myself.

It's as if, after losing my fat-girl identity, I'm a ship without a sail. As though I'm chasing the other extreme, to be extremely thin, extraordinarily toned, so that I find myself the opposite extreme of where I started. Why do I sometimes feel the need to cling to life in the extreme? Is it a safe place to hide? A way to get out of having to figure out who I really am?

Working through this crisis in identity is the unexpected collateral (and benefit) of extreme weight loss. Not one I expected. You always see depressed "before" shots and glowing "afters". No one talks about the mental challenges that are deeply rooted in this dramatic life change. It's a growing process, and I find that as a person I have grown more mentally than I have shrunk physically. Every day I learn to love who I am deep inside, aside from my weight. To find my identity in my heart and soul, in who I am, not what my weight is. I have had my outer physical layers peel away, so there is no more hiding behind my weight. Growth often comes through pruning, and pruning is often painful, but becoming more fully who God created me to be each and every day is a priceless gift of this journey.

No matter where you are in your life story, I hope you can learn to love who you are right now, today. Love yourself enough to want to become the best version of yourself. Enjoy the journey, expect to experience growing (and shrinking) pains. Life is complicated and messy, and so is weight loss, or any attempt to improve yourself. But it's so definitely worth it. Let's grow along this journey together.