For the past 24 years I have spent about half of it feeling.. well uncomfortable. I was an active child but when we moved from our home in the woods to the center of town I felt very much out of my element. The woods that I had spent so much time wandering and exploring felt like a lifetime away. I couldn’t just ride my bike where ever I felt either. So I began a period of sitting around and watching others be active. It didn’t help that I grew up in a home where the food we ate was not healthy. I began to munch mindlessly as I watched tv not thinking it would matter.
As the few years of puberty past I felt awkward like everyone does. I couldn’t help but notice, however, that I had put on much more weight than my friends and cousins. I weighed 145 starting freshman year of high school and at 5’2 I was mortified. Changing for gym terrified me. I was lucky, however, that one of my best friends at the time was a fitness nut. In her pageant training she took me as her accountability partner. I didn’t realize when I accepted that position that it meant that I would work out with her. This ended up being the best thing that had ever happened for me! For the last two years of high school I learned how much better I could feel if I put the work in. She taught me about eating well and many types of exercise. I broadened my horizons with: yoga, pilates, belly dancing, Denise Austen, and even tried some of the dance workouts. It was fun! I lost about 15 pounds working out with her and felt amazing.. even if I didn’t look as good as the other girls around me I felt comfortable in my own skin.
After graduation, however, came college. With my accountability partner and I moving in different directions my accountability went out the window. I also was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. This syndrome can make it more difficult to lose and maintain weight loss and often results in insulin resistance, heart issues, diabetes, obesity, and if it gets bad enough can result in the inability to produce children. My heart broke at this diagnosis but I knew that my best chance of living well with this was to maintain a healthy lifestyle. At the time I was attending college in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was lucky because I often had a 3/4 mile of a walk to class one way- down a mountain, and then had to get back up. I also found that I could not eat much of the food that was served there. I ended up losing more weight. I remember the excitement of being able to button up a size 8 pants since I had been a size 12 at my high school graduation. That did not last long.
After a mixup at the financial aid department I lost my spot in the college. I spent a lonely semester at home which was spent mostly in depression. I had lost my new friends and my old ones were all of to college without me. I did little exercise at that point and did not watch what I ate. I ballooned back up and past my high school weight. After that horrid semester I found my way back to a university setting. I weighed about 165 at 5’3 but looked a bit leaner. I wore a size 14 and though I wiggled in weight between 175 and 165 I was able to maintain that size. I would work out at the fitness center but never really watched what I put in my body when I lived on campus. I tried to avoid the sugary and fatty foods but I just craved them. I was an addict. I also tended to eat to ‘help’ my moods. This was something I had learned in childhood by observing my own loved ones. My last year living on campus I spent trying to watch my food intake. My friend was getting married and I knew that I would be the Maid of Honor. I had a new boyfriend (my second boyfriend and later husband) that was health conscious and I wanted to impress him. For a year, I lived off cheerios, toast, apple sauce, occasional fruit, and lean cuisines. I kid you not. I thought that they were healthy and would keep me thin. I should have looked into these more! I did maintain a lower weight but at what cost? Those things are full of bad stuff.
When I got engaged I worked my tail off to look good. I wanted to be proud and confident on my wedding night. Not someone who tried to hide all the blemishes and stretch marks. I got down to 171 and felt as good as I did when I graduated. I was proud of myself and wanted to keep that body. We got married in June and the next 3 months I spent indoors due to horrendous heat and humidity. I kid you not, I am allergic to my sweat and since I have asthma working out in the heat just kills me. Our apartment was literally 2 hotel rooms put together and remodeled a bit. With the furniture and appliances there was NO ROOM to anything on the floor let alone work out. I put 8 lbs back on. I was bummed but vowed to get back into shape, besides we were eating very healthy now.
Then came student teaching. I must of been crazy to think that I would have time for anything besides school stuff. You are literally teaching 8 classes a day, planning, doing all the grading, and on top of that there is the stuff for finishing college that you have to finish. I let myself down by not working out but in the process of being stressed with no outlet gained 20 pounds! I was devastated and disgusted by my own body. It bothered my husband- not me gaining weight- but how much it affected me as a person. I told him once that I felt like a skinny person trapped in fat person’s body. I was so lethargic and unhappy! I was happy at the end of student teaching, not because I wanted to leave the kids I had fallen in love with, but because it meant that I had some time to get my butt back in shape.
We moved for my husbands job right after in January of 2013. I was working out about 2 hours a day and feeling great. Then I somehow tore the cartilage in my chest. I didn’t know what had happened at first. I just knew that my chest and right arm were hurting like a beast. I couldn’t breathe when I laid down and it would hurt so bad that I would need a nap after getting up and showering. I couldn’t move without extreme pain. After a few days we went to urgent care. They freaked out because the meds I was on for my PCOS could have been causing blood clots and they feared I was having a heart attack. Thank God they were wrong! Just torn cartilage. They said to take it easy for a few weeks and I would be fine. A few weeks turned into a few months. I was appalled when I read online that it can take 9 months to heal from this injury!! I couldn’t be down that long! I have bills to pay. Luckily though, I began to eat clean and the weight that I had gained during student teaching was almost gone.
I found my first teaching job in April and finished out the year there. When I stepped on that scale though I knew it bad. My clothes had grown too tight about half way through the quarter. I had ballooned past my highest weight. I remember balling when I first saw the number 196. How had I let it go that far? The doctor’s news didn’t help. In 9 months I had gone from cholesterol of 245 to one of 333! All from stress and not exercising properly!
Good news came in August though when my cholesterol levels were checked again. They were still high at 232 BUT they had dropped over 100 points in a matter of months. Now, if only my weight would follow suit. The doctors discovered in in December that I may be having issues with progesterone which can mimic issues such as hypothyroidism. I am hopeful that a gluten free diet and a slew of natural supplements will help this level return to normal so I may see progress on the scale and in my hopes for a child.
Since I am a self proclaimed foodie, the idea of going gluten free at first was quite hard. I loved pasta and breads. When I started clean eating I only ate whole grain products and sought them out when they were fresh out of the oven. I feared that gluten free would be too hard. So far, it hasn’t been as horrible as I expected it to be! Perhaps my openness about the struggles of a healthy lifestyle will encourage you.
I am now at a point where this needs to be amended. I want to change my life and my body for good. I want to be healthy for many reasons. I can’t let this win and take over my life. I refuse to be handicapped by my past mistakes. I will not wave a white flag and give into sadness or despair. I will win back my life by losing the baggage: both physically and mentally. In the process, I refuse to let go of my love of cooking. May you be encouraged by the stories I publish here along with the resources I find.