Sunday, January 1, 2017
Real Talk About Health & Body Image
Today, January 1st is traditionally the day that people embark upon their "resolutions," little promises to themselves that generally end up lasting a few weeks to a few months at best. A vast majority of individuals seem to make resolutions related to weight loss, and unfortunately making healthy lifestyle choices every day can be very difficult to stick with.
I generally like to keep my blog pretty lighthearted and not discuss many personal matters as it is my "happy place," a sort of refuge to get out of my own head and discuss fun and frivolous things such as nails, wax and shopping. Many of you may not know this but I'm a pretty anxious person and I try to distract my mind from obsessing about the things that concern me by living a pretty low stress lifestyle and focusing on the things that bring me joy. Whether this is avoidance or just a good coping strategy I don't know, but in the spirit of the new year I have decided to open up a bit and talk about some more serious matters from time to time. Since weight loss and being healthy are such prominent topics right now, I thought I'd share a bit of my journey and thoughts on body image.
As a child and teen I was always an average and healthy weight. In the 8th grade I was only about 5ft tall and weighed around 100lbs. The first couple years of high school I gained about 4 inches of height and hovered around 120lbs. I had a couple of good friends who were heavier than me and I witnessed them being teased for being "fat" and felt so bad for them, but it never occurred to me then that I could ever become overweight myself.
To be fair I have never had particularly healthy eating habits nor gotten an above average of physical activity on a regular basis. I was a much pickier eater as a child and my parents generally let me eat whatever I wanted. Sure, there were some fairly wholesome home cooked meals but there was also an abundance of my favorites like chips and ice cream. In high school I would usually end up eating donuts or French fries or pizza for lunch every day and it never seemed to cause a problem. I had PE freshman and sophomore year, but other than that I didn't play any sports or exercise regularly. I never made the correlation between healthy habits and weight at that time because it didn't seem to affect me; I generally assumed I was always going to be naturally thin because I hadn't seen any evidence to the contrary. By my senior year I had reached my adult height of 5'6 and weighed around 135lbs. Even though it was just the normal maturing process of my body, a family friend noticed that my clothes were becoming a bit tight and commented on how I had "put on weight." Although I knew it was just an offhand comment and not meant to be mean, it upset me. This was the first time I ever began to feel like I was "gaining weight" even though I was not overweight and that was actually the ideal healthy weight for my size. What I wouldn't give to be near to that weight now...
Anyway, at the age of 19, one year later, I married my high school sweetheart who was also an average, healthy weight ar that time. My wedding dress was a size 8 and my weight between 135-140, and that was probably the last time I ever felt good about my weight. After that I began taking birth control pills and I feel that change in hormones was the first catalyst in a long series of events that would lead to me struggling with my weight ever since.
After about 4 years my husband and I felt it was time to make a career change and both left our jobs. He was away doing training for nearly 2 months and that was probably one of the most difficult periods of my life. We has never been apart and I was shocked to be at a heavy weight, somewhere in the 190's. Plus I had just gotten my driver's license because I would need to be independent while my hubby was away. I had never been a very confident driver to begin with and I was promptly rear ended at a stop light a few days after he left. I wasn't injured but it was extremely traumatic for me and also gave me the added stress of dealing with insurance and car repairs. To top it all off, my grandfather who had been battling cancer for 10 years suddenly took a turn for the worst and passed away shortly thereafter. It was extremely difficult to go to the funeral without my husband to support me. But I digress. Even though I was depressed and lonely during this period I decided to try and lose some weight since I had just quit myjob and had a lot of free time. I began to walk everywhere since I was fearful of driving anyway and attempted to eat healthier food options. By the time my husband returned home I did manage to lose about 12-15 pounds and did feel a sense of accomplishment in that and felt better about my weight overall. That was at the beginning of 2012 and that was the last time made a real effort to lose or even manage my weight.
Right after that my husband and I unwittingly made probably one of the worst lifestyle choices we possibly could have and would spend the next two years traveling the country in a big rig, getting very little excercise and eating a ton of fast food.
This was probably the most tumultuous 2 years of my life to date. While it was interesting traveling the country and seeing new sights, it also wrecked havoc with our sleeping and eating habits. Husband's truck driving could require us to be awake at any hour of the day or night and we were often quite sleep deprived. Plus when living from truck stop to truck stop you often only have access to fast/fattening foods.
I would have to visit the doctor every several months to get my checkup and prescription renewed, and I was very alarmed to see my weight creeping up every time I was weighed. It sounds foolish now, but it never occurred to me that I could weight over 200 pounds; that seemed just an astronomical number. But over the months of bodily neglect it happened and I blew right past 200. Every time I checked my weight it was worse: 215...225...
By the time we finally moved back home in early 2014, I was absolutely appalled that I weighed around 250. It took me several months to decompress from that hectic lifestyle and get used to having such creature comforts again as having unlimited access to bathrooms, food and a safe place to sleep. I wish I could say that I dove into losing weight and making healthier decisions, but I did not. Even though I was no longer sitting all day and eating junk, I never really found the motivation to start a regular exercise program or give up sweets and snacks. A lack of motivation is definitely my biggest obstacle.
Present day I hover around 270lbs. This is the most difficult part for me to talk about because I never discuss my weight with anyone. I feel that people would never guess just by looking at me that I was quite so heavy. I love fashion as an expression of myself, but I also wear my clothes as armor; I've gotten quite good at picking out flattering garments that disguise how much excess weight I'm carrying around. I like the ego boost of sharing my outfits and nails and having people praise my looks. Honestly, who doesn't? I think I somehow feel that I have to validate to society and to myself that I can still be beautiful and stylish at any size. I am fortunate that I haven't really been negatively targeted for my weight. The online communities I've participated in have been largely positive and my family and friends are very close knit. Obviously they are aware that I've put on weight over the years but no one really brings it up and I don't feel judged for it. Oddly enough, my husband who had also put on as much weight as I have has had the opposite experience. Somehow everyone seems to think it's okay to point out how much weight he's put on. Co workers, family, friends; he seems to get it from every direction and I don't understand why. Sometimes it's in a joking manner and sometimes it's expressing concern for his health, but I wish everyone would just stop. It's not like he doesn't know and he's probably more unhappy about it than I am.
I say all this to make the point that I don't want to lose weight to be "prettier" but because I want to feel better physically and not develop health problems in the future. Having been obese for a few years now, I'm honestly surprised I am still quite healthy. I fear that it's only my youth and strong constitution keeping me healthy because diet and exercise wise I'm certainly not taking the best care of myself. I do get a Dr.'s checkup a few times a year and my blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar have always been normal. My greatest fear is that if I don't make healthy changes soon I will end up with diabetes or heart problems 10, 20 or 30 years from now. I rarely get sick, have never been to the hospital, never even had a broken bone or sprain. My greatest fear is I will end up with some health problem I could have helped prevent. My husband is also concerned about this; he is 31 and has already been treated for sleep apnea and has seen a heart specialist because of excessive swelling in his feet and calves. Fortunately his heart is fine right now but it probably won't be in another decade if we continue on our current path. Plus, if we decide to try for children, pregnancy is more difficult and riskier for overweight women, so that is definitely another concern.
You would think all of this would be enough of a motivator for us to make changes but we both struggle with apathy a lot.
Not my usual type of humor but it made me chuckle. Anyway, the first thing that I would like to do for myself is cut back on sugar. I've already taken a couple of steps towards this, such as not drinking my weight in sugar and only having unsweetened tea and water. I need to do other things such as avoiding sugary cereals and pastries at the grocery store. Once the last of all the left over sweets from the holidays are gone I should not buy more.
The other thing I would like to do diet wise is rekindle my passion for cooking and start making more well balanced meals with fresher ingredients again. My husband usually works late and we don't eat dinner together most nights so I don't usually bother to cook elaborate meals and just graze on snacks all day.
I mainly just want to feel less fatigued overall. We shall see how I do with this and if it makes a noticeable change in my health.
I thank you for reading this far and supporting my blog and musings. I am happy to discuss any of these issues with my readers should anyone feel so inclined.
Have you ever struggled with your body image? Do you have any personal goals or resolutions you would like to accomplish in 2017?