We were flipping through a stack of snapshots my Mom finally got back from my sister’s wedding. My Mom had bought two disposable cameras, one for each of my nephews, to take pictures of the wedding. Somehow the cameras ended up in my purse, and since the reception was at a bar (i.e., the nephews weren’t allowed to attend) I’d started snapping pictures at random to use up the film. My Mom was super excited to show me the pictures of Bryan and I. “Aren’t they great?” She was so happy to finally have pictures of us together.
Ugh! I can’t believe I’m that fat!
Unlike in my teens and twenties, when I thought being a normal weight was fat, at this point in my life, I truly am: My 5’3 frame is medically considered obese at my current weight of 178 pounds. Honestly, I’ve struggled with weight and body image issues my entire life; My pediatrician warned my Mom that I was already showing signs of an eating disorder at age 4. I’ve spent my entire life yoyo-ing between too thin and curvy. But even when I considered myself overweight, I never was really overweight. That is, until I reached my 30’s.
I can blame it on the age, but it really has more to do with activity level. I’ve never been one to consistently work out, but in the past, I’d always had jobs in a restaurant or retail environment. I’d spend all day on my feet, running from place to place, carrying heavy items. Sometimes I was thin, sometimes I was curvy. There was even a short stint where I was incredibly toned. Through it all, I mostly stayed within a “healthy” weight range for my height (I have to admit to a few years in the “underweight” category). But when I left management to pursue accounting, all of that changed. Suddenly I was chained to a desk for 9-12 hours a day. It didn’t take long for the numbers on the scale to start creeping upwards.
Along with weight, my 30’s brought a new-found comfort with my body. For once in my life, I didn’t mind being a little plush. My family encouraged me, perhaps out of fear I’d swing back to the other extreme. They’d constantly tell me how good I looked, how I looked curvy, not overweight. I’d look in the mirror and see what I wanted to see; Sure my thighs were a little too big, and my arms were thicker than I’d like, and let’s not talk about the pudge of my belly. I could see my flaws, but overall, I still saw me. But pictures have a way of telling another story, and I’m always shocked at what I see in those glossy prints. Looking at pictures is always a shock to my ego.
In the past, looking at pictures I considered unflattering would have been the catalyst to pushing me over the edge into less-than healthy behaviors. This time, it was a reminder to keep doing what I’m doing.
I’m not going to try to pretend that I’m busting my ass and making dramatic changes to my diet. But, then again, dramatic for me has never been sustainable. For once in my life, I’m working on being realistic. I’m watching my portions. I’m making healthier choices. I’m not denying myself anything, but I’m only indulging when it’s truly worth it to me. I’m trying to fit long walks into my schedule, which is actually something I’ve always loved doing. I’m making an effort to stay busy, especially on evenings and weekends, instead of lounging around.
I haven’t made astounding progress. But when I start to get frustrated, I remind myself that I started the year at 194 pounds. In the back of my mind, I know how far I have to go. I try not to look at the big picture; After all, having 40-50 more pounds to lose is an overwhelming thought, especially when you’ve only lost 16 pounds in the last 9 months. Instead, I’m concentrating on two things as keys to my success. The first is to maintain. For every plateau I’ve hit, for every day I’ve fallen off the wagon, I remind myself that the most important thing right now is to maintain. In the past, every setback would have pushed me towards giving up, and gaining back every pound I’d lost (and then some). The road to 194 pounds was paved with years of countless weight loss efforts. I remind myself every day that so long as I’m not gaining, I’m succeeding. I tend to be one of those people who will plateau for what seems like forever, and then suddenly drop all at once. I may not have lost any weight today, or this week, or even this month, but if I can keep pushing ahead, eventually the loss will come. And the overall goal is to keep losing more weight, not losing and gaining the same weight over and over.
From there, I’m concentrating on increments. My goal right now isn’t to lose 50 pounds, or 20 pounds, or even 5 pounds. Eventually I’ll make it there. Right now, I’m taking things in increments. When I weighed 194, my goal was to solidly establish myself in the low 190’s. After that, it was the high 180’s. Then the mid 180’s. Now that I’m at 178, my goal is to make it into the mid 170’s. It isn’t an exact number, but once I’m 176 or below, and can maintain that (because my weight fluctuates a pound or two every day), I’ll consider that goal met, and start looking towards the next increment.
At this rate, it may take me years to get back to a healthy weight range. But then I remind myself that it took about 5 years for me to get this far out of the healthy weight range. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life trying every fad diet that comes along, trying to lose the pounds as quickly as possible, only to gain them right back. I’m finding a life of moderation that I can stick to for the long haul. In all likelihood, I have a very long life ahead of me; Does it really matter if I’m still losing weight in my late 30’s, if it means maintaining a healthy weight into my late 80’s?
After the initial shock wore off, I looked at the pictures again. Sure, the image didn’t match what I look like in my mind. Seeing reality is a good reminder of why I need to stay the course. Losing the weight is important to me. It’s also important that I lose the weight in a healthy, sustainable way, so I don’t end up right back where I am now. And, after a minute, I was able to look past the weight, and see how happy we both were. It was a reminder that this really isn’t about being skinny, or being fat; I’d like to be healthy, so I can enjoy the life we’re building together for many years to come.