I love magazines. Simple, declarative sentence, yes, but I can’t think of any truer words. Magazines have been my thing since childhood. Strangely, I never considered journalism as a career until I became a journalism major, but that’s a long story. The point is, I won’t spend $4 on breakfast but I will spend it on a new Cosmo (or Glamour, Self, People…i’ll stop now).
Last night, as I sifted through one of my newest magazines for the first time, I took the time to stop and read one of the articles written by a woman who lost 50 pounds. I also read through a celebrity interview that spoke about weight and listened to the new Jessica Simpson Weight Watchers commercial in the background.
As I sat there, my mind started reeling. One of the reasons I started my own weight loss journey was to stop hiding behind the facade of an overweight person. I was very simply, done. In the past year though, that wall has stayed up. I’ve kept everything secretive for the sake of keeping my own embarrassment of originally being overweight to a minimum. As I watch these other people tell their stories of strength, I want to show mine. I am proud of myself but I feel that I can’t show it.
So, i’m taking the wall down. It’s my turn. Right now.
At age 20, I weighed 231 pounds. That number has probably come out of my mouth once because as soon as I saw it, I wanted to forget the image of it flashing quickly on the scale screen.
As a child, I was scrawny and frail. Ear, nose and throat problems early-on left me with not enough breath to eat well. When they were fixed at age 4 and 30-ish pounds though, I soon became a normal size child. I didn’t become big until 9 or 10 but honestly, I don’t even remember. I just know I continued growing and my clothes became baggier and more adult. As my friends shopped in the trendy juniors section, I was forced into the woman’s section, picking through clothes that were cute enough to get by.
As a teen, I always told myself that my weight didn’t bother me. As my friends had their first kisses, boyfriends and girlfriends and experiences, I convinced myself that I didn’t care. I would wait until someone liked me for me instead of my body. When friends would go to the mall to hang out, I was busy. Walking into store after store where nothing would fit was embarrassing and awkward, not to mention depressing.
I was the fat friend. The quiet one that always hung in the background. The one that shied away from pictures. The one that got talked to instead of with. The teacher’s pet. And while I am relatively quiet and I do put a lot of effort into school, I wonder how this would have been different if I had been thin instead. I grew up fast because I didn’t feel like a “normal” teenager.
I fell into a cycle of depression from high school to my second year of college, and while a lot of it was not body related, much of it was. I hated every ounce of me yet I didn’t know how to fix it. On Sundays, when my family would have dinner, I would often break down, crying hysterically, because I was just so sad about how I looked. Every other day though, I continued to tell myself it was fine.
I tried going to the gym on my own but saw little success. I didn’t know what to do and how to do it. I attempted running but I didn’t know how and the weight made it hard. The first time I went on a run, I just about made it halfway around the block before I had to take a breather.
Food, fortunately, wasn’t a big problem for me. I ate three meals a day and while they could have been healthier, they weren’t terrible.
During my sophomore year in college, my aunt did a program at a local gym that mimicked “The Biggest Loser.” She had success, she had fun and most of all, it taught her what to do. We talked about it, and she convinced me quickly.
In September 2011, I went to the program “casting call.” Because of classes, there was only one group I could be a part of. The one that met at 5:30 AM. I was hesitant but met with the trainers anyway. They asked me what I was looking for and I told them, very honestly, I just wanted to buy clothes from regular stores and that I was going to be 21 and just wanted to feel it.
A few days later, I received the call that 5:30 a.m. workouts would be starting in 2 weeks and that I should probably start preparing. I don’t think I was ever so excited or nervous.
The Sunday we began for orientation, I threw on my team t-shirt and while the other teams sat and talked about what to expect, we had a 15-minute workout. I could barely do a push up. Everything was difficult. I had never been so sore or tired and at that point, I realized where I was. Or at least I thought I did. After the workout, it was weigh-in time. My 2 trainers stood on either side of the scale and a man with a clipboard in front. Three people looking at the number I knew would be scary.
From that moment on, I knew I would never see that number again and made a vow to myself that once numbers go down, any number above it can never be seen again. I told myself I would win the competition. I needed to.
For the 8 weeks of the program, I was dedicated, determined and convinced myself I needed to be stronger than everyone else because I was so young. Monday through Friday my alarm would go off at 4:45 a.m. and I would throw on my sneakers, grab a banana and begin the 20-minute trek to the gym.
You don’t realize how many ways to exercise there are until they get thrown at you for an hour. High knees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks. Suicides, jumping and bouncing on medicine balls until your legs feel like they’re going to fall off.
The workouts were tough but as they got harder, they also got easier. Week after week, I found myself stronger and more motivated. The same goes for the weekly weigh-in. The first week, I was shaking as I stood in line to get on the scale. What if I didn’t lose any weight? What if all that work only equaled a pound? Less? Luckily, the work paid off and five pounds melted from the scale. The next week? Another four.
When I awoke each morning to the sunrise, I was proud of what I was doing. It felt good to know that even at school, with everyone around, I could make the choices I needed.
The program was a secret to everyone around me except my roommates and I was good with that. I didn’t want to have to explain it. Luckily, when you see people everyday, it takes longer for them to recognize weight loss. I didn’t want to have to tell people the number, the reason or anything else.
The final week of the program culminated with a challenge. Stationary bike riding, running and swimming as a team and then, the final weigh-in. I stepped on that scale almost as nervous as I was the first day. The number quickly flashed and I calculated my total: 27 pounds.
Everything in the world was achievable at this point. I had told myself I would succeed and I did–I could do anything. Through those eight weeks I learned not only how to properly exercise and eat but also a lot about my own motivation, determination and what I wanted. I had started the journey and it could only continue from that point on.
At my 21st birthday party, I put on a belted, striped dress and felt good for the first time ever. I felt confident, calm and wasn’t worried that people were looking at what I was eating or me, in general.