The Journey Back From Fat

Posted on Posted in Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, Weight Loss

You don’t realize when it’s happening that you’re going to end up fat.  It’s a slow creep. You notice you’ve gained a few pounds or your clothes are tighter.  You start buying larger sized clothes. You turn your body a little different in the mirror. You shrug and say it’s not that bad.  I’ll worry about it tomorrow.

One day you walk into your favorite store and nothing that they sell fits you. Your too tired to move.  Sitting on the couch is about all you can muster at the end of the day.  You don’t want to go out. Sitting is uncomfortable. Standing is uncomfortable. You make excuses for not taking your kids to the park. It’s too difficult. Maybe that’s your turning point, maybe it isn’t.  It seems like it will be too hard, it will take too long.

Then this happens.

At my heaviest I weighed 180 pounds.  For over a year I tried going to the gym. I would go sit on the elliptical machine for 20 minutes. I would try to go again that week but I would make an excuse for work making me too tired. I would try again. Nothing changed. I wasn’t losing any weight. This doesn’t work.

I noticed other things, too. My skin was going through some horrific transformations. I started trying to learn new makeup techniques to hide the blotchy patches on my face. My pores seemed so large. I bought every pore filler and skin smoother I could get my hands on.  The skin on my face by mid-day carried a sheen like the top of a greasy slice of pizza.  Blotting papers, powders and expensive foundation were new items in my makeup bag. My skin was also breaking out in little red and white bumps all across my nose, cheeks and forehead. I had strange bumps showing up in odd places across my body.  One appeared on my shin and another on my ankle. Ripples were forming on my thighs.  I would not let my husband see me naked. I didn’t really even want to see it myself.

The Beginning of the End

In December of 2013 I had a health scare.  I went to my doctor because my belly was growing at an alarming rate. That couldn’t be fat! Well some of it was but some of it wasn’t. My uterus had developed multiple fibroid tumors that had quickly grown to the size of a 5 month pregnancy.  Before we could schedule a surgery my ovary surged to the size of a grapefruit and twisted. I had both removed in emergency surgery.

My hormones were crazy, my brain was foggy and my kids were driving me crazy.  I hurt everywhere all of the time. When I traveled for work I would come back and need two days to recover. I felt tired all of the time. If my husband mentioned going to a concert or planning a trip I usually had some excuse to shoot it down. I just wanted to stay at home where I could lay down or find a comfortable spot.

My confidence at work took a deep dive. My job requires that I do a lot of presentations and build up influence to adopt new things. How could anyone look at me and think they should listen to me?  Who would believe that I know what I’m talking about?  I’m a hot mess!

There were a few things that were building up to September 29, 2014.  While shopping at the mall I caught of myself in the mirror. You know that feeling when you catch a glimpse out of the corner of your eye and you have to stop and think what did I just see? I passed a fat lady with bad hair. Oh my god that was ME!!

That summer while sitting in a hotel room in some random city I caught an episode of Extreme Makeover Weight loss edition on TV. I remember feeling jealous of the participant.  At the reveal scene she looked amazing.  She was glowing with happiness.  I wish I could be instantly transformed like that.  She took a year to make that transformation.  Immediately the thought of working on this transformation for over a year stopped those thoughts in my head.  I’m addicted to instant gratification.  I have zero patience for something that would take that long to accomplish.  Still I enjoyed watching others succeed and the next thing I know my Netflix binge watching obsession found the ‘Biggest Loser’ (I know the controversy and I have my own thoughts on that but I’ll save it for another post).

In August while on a shopping trip I went into my favorite store.  I picked up a few items to take to the dressing room.  I cannot express the amount of grief that I felt when not one of the multiple items I had picked out fit me.   I couldn’t shop at any of my favorite stores.  I went to buy a new bra and the largest size at that store didn’t fit me.  It was devastating.  I wasn’t inspired enough to change. To be perfectly honest I didn’t know how to change.  I felt defeated and without options.  Instead of doing anything I just didn’t buy anything.

My youngest child delivered my last straw. My 6-year-old daughter was upset and crying.  I went to pick her up and hold her and tell her everything would be ok.  I couldn’t lift her.  I could not hold her in my arms for more than a few seconds.  She was too heavy for me to carry.  She was barely 40 pounds and I couldn’t hold on to her.  I had to hand her over to my husband so that he could console her.  I was that mom.

It wasn’t on that exact day that things changed.  It took a few days for me to get past the grief and the guilt.  Oh, the guilt. On September 29, 2014 I woke up and changed my life.

My 6-year-old daughter was upset and crying.  I couldn’t lift her and hold on to her.  She was too heavy for me to carry…That was my last straw.

There is so much to tell that happened after that day. Even just writing the beginning it’s hard to imagine that I felt and thought so complacent, devastated and without options. How little I knew and all of the misconceptions that I had.

The Journey Back

When I look back I can see how easy it was for my life to get that way.  It wasn’t depression that made me fat.  On the contrary I got that way because I was happy.  I was happy playing with my kids.  I was happy hanging out with my husband.  I was happy going out to eat and enjoying the fried, breaded, covered in cream sauce, buttery goodness food.  I was having fun drinking bottles of wine and Manhattan cocktails.  I was enjoying being lazy and sitting around watching TV.  I didn’t connect the terrible feeling I had the next day with the rich and processed food I was eating.  I didn’t connect my tired feeling from lack of moving.  I didn’t get fat because I was sad, I got fat because I was busy having fun and didn’t pay attention.  The fat creeped in.  You wake up one day and realize I’ve let myself go.  I don’t like it but I don’t know what to do.  That’s when I started to feel bad.  That’s when I got depressed.  I had my fun and now I was paying the price.

When I did finally hit my last straw the first thing that I did was hit the books. I bought several from various authors and started reading. I searched on the internet and read every blog, article and posting I could find.  I had a deep desire to learn why the hell this was so freaking hard.  I put what I was learning into practice. What I learned changed my life.

Now that I’m on the other side I realized that like so many I had it all completely wrong. Those 30 second sound bites in talk shows and commercials are creating myths in your head of what it means to be healthy, fit or lose weight.  I learned that at times even the experts don’t know the exact answer.  The variables are so wide and there is still so much that we don’t know about the human body. Experts make recommendations with the data that exists but there isn’t a one size fits all solution or perfect combination. The industries involved have us setup to fail with sound bite marketing messages that give you the 10,000 foot view without all of the underlying information that you need to make an informed decision.  To give them credit they only have 30 seconds to make you aware.  We then translate that sound bite into a new definition to conveniently fit our agenda. What might have been a sound recommendation Now doesn’t even faintly resemble the original comment.  For many our current diet and habits have broken our brain chemistry and taste buds. We crave all of the wrong foods!

It is a myth that you can’t have your ideal body if you don’t have a chef, nutritionist and personal trainer.  I didn’t have any of those things.  I didn’t join any programs.  I didn’t follow any special plans.  If someone packaged it and gave it a name I didn’t use that.   I don’t do the Paleo, Mediterranean, Whole 30 or any other diet with a name. I didn’t do Orange Theory, Cross Fit or other special workout program. No DVD’s, weird dancing bursts in my living room or fancy classes at a fitness center.  I did have a gym membership at our small local gym. I am a 45 year-old woman with 3 children, a more-than-full time job who travels constantly.  I am the poster child representation of the person who should have the most trouble with losing weight and getting healthy.  So how did I do it?

The short and simple answer is I learned how to eat right and exercise.  You didn’t want to hear that did you?  We all want a magic pill or secret answer.  It’s easier to believe that it requires a lot of money or specialized resources for a life that is fit and healthy.  We want this because if it requires special resources we have a valid excuse for not caring for ourselves.  If we spend the money on a package we can blame the provider for our predicament. It doesn’t require any of these things. It might be easier if we have money to throw at the problem.  But it isn’t necessary. The cold hard truth is if we are fat it’s because we ate too much of the wrong things and we failed to move. I promise if you can accept that fact it gets much easier to change. If it’s your fault at least it is within your control to fix it.

The Power of Adaptation

Your body is an amazing vessel that will adapt to its surroundings.  That adaptation works both ways.  It will adapt to good food and exercise or it will adapt to bad food and being sedentary.  Moving it away from where it has adapted is always a challenge.

Your body will crave the food that it receives consistently.  If you change that food it will at first struggle to resist that change.  Given enough time it will eventually adapt and then crave the new foods.

I changed my diet to eating mostly whole foods.  I eat them in a state that is as close to the way that they grew in nature (meaning I’ll eat a whole apple before I’ll eat applesauce).  I stay away from processed foods as much as I can, especially white flour, sugar and man-made over-processed oils.  I don’t eliminate any foods but I do have foods that are in the ‘eat-a-lot-less-of-that’ category.  My taste buds have fully adapted to eating whole foods.  I can’t stand the taste of most processed foods anymore.  I haven’t eaten at a fast food restaurant in more than 2 years because I can’t stomach the thought of eating that kind of food.  The thought of it makes me ill. You won’t find me eating pizza not because I won’t allow myself but because I just don’t like the taste of it anymore.

About 6 months after changing the way that I ate I noticed a significant change in my skin and how my body worked. My pores got smaller.  My skin tone improved. The weird bumps faded. I no longer felt the urge to wear makeup everyday. The oily sheen was long gone. Who knew!

I started to exercise.  It took some work to get my body used to moving.  It took a year before it became a habit.  I now have a steady routing that involves cardio-vascular activity and strength training. I run because I love the mental break I get. I lift weights because I love the feeling of being strong. The hardest part of both of these changes was getting past the barriers I had in my head.

You Only Need to Take the First Step

The hardest step in any journey is taking the first one. It can feel so overwhelming and daunting that many of us won’t take it. I resisted taking it for so long because I want instant gratification or I want nothing.

It’s your brain that is stopping you from beginning your journey. So that’s what I fixed first.  To serve my need for instant gratification I broke it down like a project manager into smaller milestones and goals.  I didn’t look at the part that was overwhelming.  My first step was something small, something doable.  Something I could achieve.  Each time I knocked one down I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I wanted to feel that way again which drove me to tackle the next. Before long I had achieved so many of my goals that nothing felt overwhelming anymore.

I started with a desire to see myself skinny again. Now I seek health, happiness and an active life.  I didn’t realize how much I had separated myself from life and activity. How much my immobility had impacted my desire to get out and live life. Each step I took towards improving myself I moved towards improving my quality of life and my relationships with my loved ones. I can have happiness and enjoy my time with my family without losing my focus on caring for myself.

That’s the story of how I got here.  How I got to fat and how I came back.  There’s plenty of detail along the way.  I’ll share more in my next articles.  For now I’ll share with you my simple rules. I follow these everyday and my life is all the better.

  1. Be happy and live a full life but never lose focus on caring for yourself.  It is your key to getting the most out of every day.
  2. East mostly whole food as close to the way it grew in nature.
  3. Move with intensity. Your goal is to be strong and agile. If you stop moving your body will adapt and stop being able to move.  That happy life you enjoy will end up on the couch with someone else holding your kids.

This is me now. I can bench press that little one and outlast her at a theme park.  This is me happy but happy and healthy and enjoying life!

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