Never again

I listened to a woman on the Half Size Me podcast on my drive to the work meeting on Monday who echoed many of my own thoughts. I thought about her words as I tried to shake off the feeling of failure. My thoughts during the drive were, “I feel fat, I didn’t workout, I ate too much this morning, I sabotaged myself…” This woman weighed over 300 pounds and got down to 160. Over the last few months she gained back 20 pounds and instead of beating herself up she reminds herself that when she was at 300 pounds she would have given anything to weigh 180. I was over 225 pounds when I had my son, 185-195 pounds prior to pregnancy. Despite gaining about 20 pounds myself over the last 3 years, I have never given up trying. I had some success and lots of failure over the last few years, but I continued running and stayed active. I made healthy choices amidst intense, frustrating periods of binge eating and equally poor choices. I sought help, I journaled, I talked to a few trusted people in my life, and I cried…a lot.

As my weight crept up, I was unable to ignore the reality that I would very soon have to buy new clothing if I didn’t do something. I no longer believe in quick fixes or drastic changes. They aren’t sustainable and they are generally not healthy. There is no magic pill and you shouldn’t have to pay exorbitant amounts to lose weight. Five weeks ago everything shifted. It was as if all of the pieces came together at once igniting a spark of change.

The first thing was an app I discovered called Hormone Horoscope. I am not sure if it’s my age and proximity to menopause, but I have become fascinated with how my hormones affect my emotions, food cravings, and weight. I have suspected for a very long time that I am sensitive to hormonal shifts throughout my monthly cycle. This app is helping me to understand more about where my hormone levels are each day and things I might expect to feel on a given day.

The second thing is that my clothing had reached a point of feeling constantly, uncomfortably snug. I refused to buy new clothing. I wasn’t weighing myself regularly, but I didn’t have to. I knew the truth. I was at my highest weight in many years and it simply did not feel right.

The third thing was an invitation to participate in a project my running coach was beginning. She is also a professor of Nutrition. For the last five weeks I have been completing a spread sheet with my workout, pre and post workout fuel, number of hours of sleep, weight, daily calories, grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates as recorded on My Fitness Pal, and notes about the day. My coach then replies. A short while ago daily weigh ins would have thrown my mental state into a tail spin, but I decided to view the number on the scale as data in an attempt to try to understand how my food intake, hormones, and physical activity all work together to change the number for better or worse.

For the first time in three years I began to see a very slow, but steady weight loss. I have no goal weight. I have no end date. This is a journey that will last a lifetime for me. I want to feel amazing, have a healthy body and mind, stay active, and be comfortable in my own skin. In the last 5 weeks I have not had one binge eating episode. I have eaten a healthy amount of calories daily with a variety of real food.

This past week was a test of patience and strength. Last Sunday after an incredibly great 22 mile run I began feeling that old familiar tug in my Achilles. I backed off of running for the week. My hormone levels were plunging. I had bouts of crying for absolutely no reason alone in my office. I wanted to eat salt by the bucket resulting in painfully swollen calves. I gained 9 pounds between Sunday and Thursday! I took a deep breath. Having documented all of this on the spreadsheet, my running coach reached out to me and recommended hot yoga, lots of water, and a hiatus on running until the fluid retention subsided. I immediately took her advice. I did hot yoga for the first time yesterday and today. It was awesome. I have reeled in the salt intake. I am drinking more water. My ankle feels better and my calves are normal size again. I am also down the 9 pounds.

This week taught me so much about myself. I am actually looking forward to next month when I can use the knowledge I learned this week to possibly stave off the fluid retention and dramatic shifts in emotions. I will be keeping a close eye on the calendar so I can be proactive as my estrogen and progesterone begin to fall. I will begin hydrating more. I will use salt free alternatives to satisfy salt cravings. I will include hot yoga in my schedule. I will also rest more, and drink more tea. I believe that awareness is the key for me.

I’m not naive and I know that I will stumble and fall every now and then, but I am so grateful that after 3 years of seriously struggling to get my weight back down and binge eating under control I am finally headed in the right direction. Psychologically that spreadsheet has done more for me than anything. It’s important for me to have someone to be accountable to besides myself. That’s why Weight Watchers worked for me in the past. Knowing that my coach is looking at my data and providing feedback gives me the encouragement to make better choices and stay strong right now. The ultimate goal is to be able to do this on my own consistently. I will get there. Until then I will accept the help and support being offered.

The last piece of the puzzle are four photos that had a tremendous impact on my thought process. For as long as I can remember, back to at least age 10, I have considered myself to be fat. I avoided being in photos and still do to some degree. I cringe almost every time I see a photo of myself. To say that I have poor self-esteem is an understatement.

Recently my mom went through all of the old family photos and she presented me with an envelope of my photos. I was a rather adorable child, but as I got older the photos became more sparse. Of the few from my late teens to early 20s, these two in particular made me feel a range of emotions from very sad to angry.

I believe I am somewhere between 22-24 in both of these photos. Aside from the way I look, heavy and unhealthy, I also felt horrible both physically and emotionally. I was a heavy smoker. I ate whatever I wanted, I did not eat any vegetables, and I was not concerned about portion sizes. Exercise was rare to nonexistent. If you had told me then that I would be in the midst of training for my 8th marathon at age 43 I would have laughed. As much as I hated myself in these photos that sentiment wasn’t lost on the world around me. I was negative and snarky. I was insanely jealous of thin people. I wanted nothing else in the world than to be thin. I was no joy to be around and that made me dislike myself even more.

Twenty years later I would like to think I am a much different person. Becoming a mom changed me in wonderful ways. I no longer hate myself though I am still struggling to love myself. I don’t feel envy towards thin people because my driving force to achieve a healthy weight has much less to do with aesthetics as it does with living a very long and healthy life. I hope the people in my life would say that I am a positive person now. I believe that I try to approach each day with a positive outlook. I’m not exactly snarky anymore, but I may always be a bit sarcastic!

I lost 85 pounds very slowly in the few years after Carlos was born. I changed my body through healthy eating and a new found love of fitness, particularly running.  As I gained back the 20 pounds over the last few years, I saw myself as I always have, FAT. Until recently at the gym when I was doing some weighted squats in front of the mirror, I did something I never do, I snapped a picture of myself.

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A tear rolled down my face as I realized something. I am not fat. That is a picture of a healthy woman working towards fit. Then I happened upon this photo from two years ago at my sister’s wedding. I was maybe a few pounds lighter than I am in this photo, but I remember feeling at the time that I let my sister down by not losing weight before her special day. I was so stressed out about my weight gain at that time. This is what I looked like.

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Right now when I look at this photo I have tears in my eyes because I am reminded that the handsome little boy next to me looked at me that day and said, “you look beautiful mommy.” My son doesn’t know me as anyone other than the person I am now. He does not know the 185 pound Aimee who smoked, ate out of control, and didn’t run. Carlos only knows a mom who loves this life and who is committed to a healthy lifestyle.

I will never again be the person in the first two photos, but I have to acknowledge her today and thank her. She taught me that everyone deserves a second chance. She taught me that it’s never ever too late. She taught me that everyone has the power to change, but it has to come from within.

And now I am ready to run! My ankle feels better, the sun is shining, and I need to get out there for a few miles. I miss it so much and I am ready to end this training on a high note. Last week was not a setback. It was a learning experience and an opportunity for growth.

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3 thoughts on “Never again

  1. As you know, I’ve also been on an upward journey for about 3 years, and it seems in the last couple months, it’s finally started turning around. It’s sometimes hard for me to accept it’s really going to be a life-long thing for me — there’s no working to get to a happy weight and locking it in. It’s always going to be work for me to maintain. But at least I enjoy being active and eating mostly healthy now, which has certainly not always been the case. Glad you had a great 22 and the Achilles issue is gone!

  2. Aimee…as I’ve said before, reading your story makes me think of my life in so many ways. Knowing how much you’ve achieved always gives me a LOT of motivation and determination. You are an amazing and beautiful woman, one that I’m proud to call my friend.

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