When I was a little girl, I was invincible. I say this because I had not yet been exposed to the idea that my body could be compared to those of others around me. All I knew was that my legs, tan and brown in the summer and covered in mosquito bites, could get me anywhere I wanted to go. I wasn’t concerned with the flatness of my stomach (or lack thereof) or how shapely my arms were, or what my clothes where doing when I turned this way and that.
This blissful ignorance didn’t last long.
Part of my body-consciousness started when I was in fourth grade. I remember attending a family reunion with my parents and sister in Tennessee, and this gnarled old man approached me in the lobby. “Why, you must be my kinfolk!” he exclaimed. Puzzled, I clung to my father and stared at his wrinkled face. Seeing my confusion, he said, “You’ve got a nose just like mine!” He then turned to show me his profile, revealing a large, bulbous schnoz with a big hump in it.
I remember I cried for a while over that, and my newly discovered witch nose.
Shortly after, I began to realize that I wasn’t quite the same size or shape as the other girls in my class. While I had been a pretty scrawny kid, I was definitely chubbier than my friends. I started wearing big T-shirts and dressing what I now describe as sloppy. Someone called me fat in seventh grade, but I started trying to “diet” long before that.
You name it, my mom has tried it. And I did, too. There was Weight Watchers, Tops, Metabolife, Soup Diet, Grapefruit Diet, Not Eating At All… it never worked. I hoarded food when I was younger, waiting to eat ’til I wasn’t around anyone so that I could enjoy myself alone. Even if I wasn’t hungry. (I still struggle with this.)
I became a little more comfortable with myself in high school, in that I actually dressed cute, wearing the same little shirts from American Eagle and Aeropostale that were so popular with the girls my age. I made my own style. But I still hated my body. Never did I wear swimsuits or even tank tops.
My weight has fluctuated throughout the years. I lost weight right before my senior year, without really trying. I just remember having people comment on it, like a teacher or a classmate. Once, when I asked a girl if my homecoming dress looked a little tight, she replied with, “No, you’ve lost a lot of weight! We talk about it all the time.”
I tried to lose more weight before my senior prom with diet pills. I didn’t eat anything for three days at one point. It didn’t last. When the last graduation cap was thrown in the air and after my senior girlfriends and I said our goodbyes to the beach, it kinda went downhill. I packed on about 30 pounds. It was 2003.
After several months of wearing hooded sweatshirts and stretchy work pants, I joined the YMCA in 2004 and started back with the Weight Watchers points system. It worked great, and within several months, I was down close to 40 pounds. I moved to my college town after commuting for two years and enjoyed living it up. Beer and late night pizza earned me about 10 pounds, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. It was a slow gain, but by the time I had moved to Birmingham in the summer of 2007, I was at an all-time high. I was depressed and felt like this big blob whenever I would do anything with my friends. My anxiety was through the roof; I cried all the time and couldn’t handle being in public situations.
My doctor prescribed something that he thought would help. I began to feel much better, more like a normal human being. But I noticed that I couldn’t manage to lose weight; in fact, I was gaining like CRAZY. By spring 2008, it was out of hand. I gained 25 pounds in three months. I felt like a prisoner in my own body.
My medication was changed, and while it took some time for me to not feel like I might rip my hair out, I got better. I managed to lose about 5-10 pounds without really trying. I tried to modify my eating habits, but the scale wouldn’t budge. I convinced myself that I was never going to lose weight without the help of diet pills or something extreme. I cried all the time. I was 15 pounds down from my highest weight and at a stand-still.
When the New Year began in 2009, I decided I wouldn’t let my body push me around anymore. I’m in control. I took matters into my own hands and began walking with a co-worker several times a week at lunch, for about 30 minutes. I almost completely gave up soda. I portioned out snacks and planned out meals. I dropped about 10 pounds. People started to notice.
By June 2009, I’d lost about 30 pounds and joined the YMCA in my area. I took classes and used the treadmill and elliptical. One day on the treadmill, after walking for close to half an hour, I wondered what it’d be like if I went faster. Before I knew it, I was clip-clopping along at what most would deem a jog. To me, I was flying. I did what I could remember of the first week of Couch to 5k and practically floated out of the gym. (Read more about how I started running.)
My boyfriend bought me a pair of real running shoes for my birthday, and I plugged along for several months before finally finishing my first 5k that October, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I was hooked. I began running with some friends several times a week and signing up for races pretty much every month.
I finally hit my lowest weight this past April, in 2010. I’ve taken a few detours since then and am back up about 10 pounds. But I know how far I’ve come and how far I have left to go. I can do this. The hardest part is getting started, and it’s taken me two years to understand that. I know what I want, and that’s to be the healthiest me that I can be.
And when I want something… I do everything I can to get it.
I’ll add more pictures later, but here are some progress shots: