For most of my life, I've thought of myself as fat. When I was a little kid, I was naturally thin and I never thought about what I ate, exercising, or how my body looked. Of course I didn't, I was a little kid. My parents are both naturally thin and my family pretty much ate whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. I don't come from a family of light eaters.
Then when I was around 9 years old, something happened. I got chunky. I don't know why it happened. Maybe my metabolism slowed down. Maybe I gained weight a few years before I gained height. Maybe I really started eating a lot more. I don't know. I wasn't really aware of anything different. I was just a kid, living the life of a kid, when one day, at the swimming pool, a nasty, older little boy called me "fat". From then, on, I knew: I was fat. It's funny, because just one radom kid's comment, a kid that I didn't even know and have never seen again, sparked a lifelong struggle for me. Well, that, the media, our culture, and a very mean, older, female cousin. But that's for another post...
Not long after being called "fat", I ordered one of those weight loss programs from the back of a teen magazine. You know, in those little adds in the back, that often feature very shady sounding products? It was $10 and I have no idea where I got that money. I was 9. I do remember that what came in the mail was a little pink pamphlet, that's it. It had instructions for doing exercises and what to eat. I read it religiously and did the exercises in my bedroom. I started writing down everything I ate. I did not want to be fat. I was a little girl. I was 9. If I ever have a daughter, I will beg God that she never feels the way I did.
Then came middle school and high school and eventually I grew taller and therefore thinner. I was never what you would consider skinny though, and I never stopped thinking of myself as fat. Disgustingly, grotesquely fat. And if there was anything my peers taught me, it was that being fat was just about the worse thing that could happen to you. Every girl was terrified of being fat...and of course most girls considered themselves fat. When you're a size 10 and size 6 girl is calling herself fat...it's not helpful. I spent all my time comparing myself to every other girl I saw. It was miserable and awful. The first and foremost thought in my life was: I'm fat and I don't like myself. Try repeating that to yourself hundreds of times a day for at least 7 years. That was my life. And not surprisingly, that wreaked havoc on my confidence. My self worth was determined by my weight, which was never, ever low enough, which made me hate myself for not having enough self discipline to be a size 2 and therefore be worthy - worthy of confidence, of going after what I wanted, of friends, and of a guy's attention.
The first time I lost weight was before my senior year in high school. I read a book by Dr. Andrew Weil that sparked something in me and I lost about 30 pounds. I knew it was about to my senior year in high school and my family was taking a vacation to the East coast (i.e. NYC), so it seemed like the perfect time to lose weight. I was so happy. It was like all my dreams had finally come true. I was the thinnest I had been since early middle school. Now I just knew my life would all come together - I would be confident and witty and every guy would just fall at my feet. I was a size 6, but I've always carried weight extremely well and everybody told me I looked like a size 4. On the first day of my senior year, I wore express pants and a tight fitting shirt. My hair was straight and sleek, I was tan from the summer and I felt so good.
But after the first class of the day, a horrible and familiar feeling crept over me...I still felt fat and I did not feel any more confident. This was devastating to me. I had believed from age 9 that if I just lost weight, I would be beautiful and confident and happy. At age 17, I finally lost weight, but I wasn't confident and I wasn't happy. By the end of my first year in college, I had gained all that weight back...and then some.
By God's grace and unimaginable love and patience, I because a Christian when I was 18. Since then, He has been (sometimes miraculously) delivering my from my mindset of self hate and weight obsession. But let me tell you, it has been a very, very, very long, slow, and painful process.
The second time I lost weight was during my sophomore year of college. I started dating this guy that I really liked. He was the first Christian guy that I had ever dated and I was very excited. I joined Weight Watchers, but swore I would tell no one but my mother. Weight Watchers was for fat old ladies. My grandmother did Weight Watchers. I lost about 10 pounds, but I think that was more from excitement about dating the guy, than it was from trying to lose weight. I quit Weight Watchers after about a month because I liked the way I looked in pictures. A year later, I had gained those 10 pounds back...and then some.
The third time I lost weight was during my senior year of college. Once again, I was dating someone and once again, I did Weight Watchers. This time with my petite mom, who wanted to lose weight because she had recently gone from a size 4-6 to an 8. The horror. Senior year in college was an exciting time in life, I lost probably close to 20 pounds. I don't remember exactly. At the end of that summer, I left home for seminary in Fort Worth. My first semester in seminary was so much fun (the rest were not). It was like freshman year in college - staying up all hours, eating lots of junk, making lots of new friends. My Weight Watchers lifestyle soon went out the window and over the course of a year or so, I gained the 20 pounds back...and then some.
The fourth time I lost weight was about a year ago. I joined Weight Watchers with a friend because I was sick of feeling fat and hating myself and my weight had reached an all time high. This time I was determined. I lost about 16 pounds. Near the end of the spring/beginning of the summer my life got very stressful and doing Weight Watchers felt like just one more stress I couldn't handle. Once again, I quit, and once again, I gained those 16 pounds back...and then some.
Which brings us to today. My fifth attempt to lose weight. What makes this time different? I've been finding it harder to find my motivation because I don't hate myself anymore. My motivation for losing weight has always been how much I hated my fat, disgusting, hideous self. God did some unprecidented work in my life in 2008, and I don't hate myself anymore. In fact, I like myself. I think I'm smart and funny and pretty and full of worthiness. And it doesn't depend on my weight. Right now, I weigh more than I ever have, and yes, I would like to lose weight, but it doesn't affect how I feel about who I am. And that feels AMAZING. Let me say again, that feels AMAZING. I am me. Whether I lose 20 pounds or gain 20 pounds. Me. Amazing.
So, what's my motivation now? The fact that I have always been a slave to my eating and weight. I lack self discipline in this area of my life, and I want that to change. I never gain weight all at once. I gain weight slowly - a pound here, a pound there - and over the course of a year, it adds up. I do not want to lose weight because it will make my life better, I want to lose weight because I want to be in control of what I put in my body and what I do with my body. I've been letting emotions and temptations control that and it's time to stop. I want to honor the body God gave me and trust Him to take care of it. I don't want to be a size 2, 4, or even a 6. I just want to be healthier, whatever size that ends up being is fine with me.
It makes me sad when I hear middle-aged or even elderly women complaining about their weight or how ugly parts of their bodies are. I don't want to be one of those women. I want to take care of myself and maybe even more importantly, I want to love myself. Not in a way that gives myself whatever I want, but in a way that honors and does what's best for myself. The world is full of too many women who hate themselves. It's wrong. It hurts those women, it hurts the men they have relationships with, and it hurts future generations of women. I am saddened by parts of my past, but it's just that, the past.
5 years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, I want to be the kind of woman that is at peace within herself, that is a calm, gentle presence in others' lives. I want to be an example to other woman - that you do not need to hate yourself, that you can love yourself, and take care of yourself.
So anyway, I joined Weight Watchers online, and every Wednesday will be my weigh in day. When I'm tempted to quit (which I know I will be), I'm going to read this and remind myself of where I've been and of where I want to end up.