Before we begin, I’d like to throw in a little trigger warning: this post deals with weight loss and trying to achieve a healthy weight. So if you’re struggling with an eating disorder or other body issues, please skip this post.
Today’s topic is one that I’m a little hesitant to write about, if I’m honest. These days, it seems like my social media feed is full of body positive messages. I love these posts and fully support the movement of women (and people in general) being comfortable with our bodies as they are, rather than being subjected to unrealistic and harmful body standards, to the idea that women’s bodies should be constantly changed and sculpted to fit some impossible ideal.
So… it’s a bit of a weird thing to say I’m trying to lose weight. I don’t talk about it much outside my close friend circle and, of course, the Weight Watchers app. I almost feel bad, or guilty, for wanting to lose weight. Like it’s a failure to fully love and embrace myself, that if I just try harder to be happy with this body, I’d be better off. And yet…
In 2018, I finished graduate school and had the time and money to see a primary care physician for the first time since moving to Pittsburgh two years ago. Stepping on the scale showed me what I already knew–I’d gained a great bit of a weight in graduate school. The note my doctor slipped me at the end of our appointment mainly had tips for managing my IBS, but at the very end sat the word “overweight,” along with suggestions for how to get back in the healthy range.
I’m categorized as “overweight” on the BMI measurement, one measurement that’s increasingly criticized for not giving a full and accurate picture of health, yet still seems to reign supreme in doctor’s offices. Nevertheless, the word hits home. Not (entirely or only) because of beauty standards surrounding me, but because of how it felt to exist in a body that didn’t want to be this shape.
Nothing in my closet fit properly anymore, and just getting properly dressed for work in the morning was a chore. Even trying to go out with friends or leave my house could provoke utter agony.
Any time I saw a non-selfie photo of myself, I wanted to cry. Who was the woman in those photos? You could see it in my posture–I was stiff, uncomfortable, afraid of being photographed. The easygoing, carefree girl who looked effortlessly pretty in photos was long gone, replaced by this person who wanted to hide. Case in point: here’s a photo of me with my boyfriend on a lovely weekend when I got to show him my beautiful city of Cincinnati. I want to love this photo, but I just can’t stand how I look in it (of course, Andy’s eyes are closed, so it’s not either of our best).
On top of this, running, which should have been getting easier, was causing me knee and back pains it never had before. The extra pounds weren’t assimilating–it felt like I was dragging them around with me, a constant downer on my mood. My body didn’t seem to want them, refusing this new normal in a way that left me exhausted.
Plus, the eating habits I developed during school were wreaking havoc on my already sensitive gut, leaving me frequently bloated to the point that my stomach pushed out, straining against itself, in a perpetually noticeable, even painful way.
In spite of my misery, I couldn’t quite seem to stop putting on weight. My old habit of counting calories clearly wasn’t working for me anymore. And so, I decided to join WW (re-branded to stand for Wellness that Works). By putting myself into a program rather than whispering empty promises in the night, I declared that I was actually going to do this thing. Not tomorrow, not next week, but now.
Though I cooked healthy homemade meals through most of college, I’d started eating out, ordering delivery, and eating things like melted cheese on tortillas for meals. Following a points program that ranked food for health has helped me re-prioritize healthy, home-cooked food. (This curry I can’t take credit for–Andy made it). Now, a month in, I’ve regained my joy in cooking. In finding new recipes and trying new food combinations. I feel lighter in so many ways, and I can feel myself getting stronger, too, as I couple my healthier food choices with yoga and half marathon training.
Now, a little over a month into using Weight Watchers to return to healthy eating habits and proper portion control, I’m down 10 pounds from my doctor’s visit weight. While IBS still does its thing occasionally, managing what I eat with a health-forward (rather than calorie-centric) mindset has greatly reduced my symptoms, leaving me feeling at home in my body once again. There are still days (and weekends, and weeks) where I struggle with wanting to stress eat, but overall I feel more optimistic and in control.
I’m still working on loving my body as it is, rather than saying I’ll love it once I achieve a particular number on the scale. It’s more about how I feel–and right now, I feel so much better than I did when the doctor handed me that piece of paper. I even bought myself a few new clothes from Modcloth’s warehouse sale to celebrate.