I wanted to wait until I could wrangle up some good “before” photos to write about my weight loss, but honestly, doing so was a greater task then I imagined. For years I hid and ran away from every camera in sight. The picture to the left was taken when I was a camp counselor and during the all-camp “Color Wars,” one of my coworkers had to throw Cheerios at my face which was covered with peanut butter. I think I’m 16 in this picture.
When I was a kid, I was a normal weight; I ice skated; and fit in with my peers. I come from a line of overweight woman, so my mom always held her breath I wouldn’t take after the women in her family. Holding her breath didn’t work, and around fourth or fifth grade, I began to put on weight. I don’t even remember how or why it started, but lack of activity (I quit ice skating when I was 11) combined with poor eating habits probably had something to do with it.
At my heaviest, I think at age 14, I was probably 190 pounds (I’m 5’6”). I say probably because I never weighed myself. Even at the doctor’s office, the nurse wouldn’t weigh me because I requested she (or he) not do it. When I was 15 I decided to try being a vegetarian because I read an article in the newspaper about how vegetarians were healthier and lived longer than non-vegetarians. I lost about 10 pounds when I gave up meat, but 5 pounds came back on. I was a terrible vegetarian because I knew nothing about nutrition. Think huge bowls of (white) pasta with marinara sauce, pizza, bagels with butter, etc.
Being a heavy teen was emotionally…awful is the best word I can use. I didn’t get picked on by my peers, because I made sure that I blended into the background, and stayed quiet and sweet to everyone. But inside I was unhappy and depressed. I didn’t think I’d ever get a boyfriend, and going shopping with my thin friends was terrible since not even the largest sizes in stores like Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe would fit me. I swam with t-shirts and board shorts on, if I couldn’t avoid the water altogether that is.
I did meet a boy when I was 16 and we dated for two years. He gave me some confidence to know that someone could think I was pretty, despite my weight. Right before my senior year in high school, he started training to be a body builder. Through him, I began to learn about nutrition and how the foods we eat can affect the way we look and feel (note I didn’t say proper nutrition…no one should live off canned tuna and egg whites).
Starting my senior year, I was already looking ahead to Prom. I was so happy that I was going to have a date (because, you know, we were going to be together forever. Ah, first love). I did the math: “If I start losing weight now, 9 months from now I can look really good in my prom dress.” So that’s what changed my life. One night and one dress.
I never counted calories, but I slowly made changes to my diet. I stopped the twice-weekly Jamba Juice runs, gave up fast food and packed my own lunches instead of eating a bag of chips and a cookie for lunch (then eating everything in the kitchen when I got home from school). I decided being a vegetarian was annoying me too much so I became an omnivore again, eating chicken and turkey. After a month or so, I started exercising. I dusted off (literally) the treadmill and started by walking for ten minutes. Ten became twelve, fifteen, etc., and the pace increased until I was doing what I’d today call walk/jog intervals. Then my
too-muscular boyfriend suggested I try weight training, giving me an old Tony Little tape (oh Tony, that ponytail…). Eventually, my size 16 clothes went from being tight to being so loose my friends had to order me to buy new clothes.
Below is a picture of me on Prom night. (I swear my hair looked gorgeous in person.) By then I was probably down about 25 pounds (I still didn’t weight myself) and I was thrilled when my (size 14) dress had to be taken in at the waist. Boyfriend and I broke up about a month after Prom, which kind of started me down a somewhat unhealthy path when it came to diet and exercise. (That, and what I now know is called a plateau.)
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my story. I think it’ll be three parts total, with one spanning graduation through college, and one from college graduation until the present. I hope it’s interesting/useful, but I’m also largely writing this story for myself.