For as long as I can remember, I have had a misconception about my figure. Growing up, I felt I stood out as the biggest of all my friends, even though I was the shortest at 5’2”. I wanted to be strong and lean, with small hips. Instead I was weak. Or that’s how I saw myself. In reality, I was only about 125.
Most of my friends had tiny, little bodies and could wear and eat whatever they wanted. I always covered up in jeans and baggy t-shirts. They would take pictures of themselves at the lake in their bikinis. I would make up excuses as to why I couldn’t join them. I felt like everyone would judge me and I would be the “fat one”. Looking back, I want to shake that girl and tell her to wake up!
I remember being at a festival with my boyfriend and his best friend. I overheard my high school boyfriend tell his friend I had a big butt and from then on I was ashamed of it. The word “big” to a girl more often than not sounds like “ugly”, “disgusting”, or “unwanted”.
Being from the South, I did not have great food education. I thought fried chicken, buttered corn, rolls, and pie was a well-balanced meal. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted. I was not on any sports teams. I worked after school, so I didn’t factor in exercise at all. Basically, I was cheating myself.
When I went away to the University of Kentucky, I learned more and more about fitness and nutrition by talking with some of the girls in my dorm. I was scared of gaining the dreaded Freshman Fifteen, so I tried to pay more attention to what I ate and, with walking all over campus, I was able to actually lose some weight!
Then, sophomore year, I got a job at K-lair Grill. Let’s just say nutrition went out the window for a while. K-lair specialized in greasy cheeseburgers, spicy fries, and their crowning joy: biweekly Fried Chicken Strips. People would line up around the building on chicken strip night. They were delicious.
I got to eat free when I was at work and, since their healthy options were lacking (as were my finances), I started packing on the pounds. I reached my then highest weight: 145 pounds. I thought that was horrible. I felt so fat, but I couldn’t seem to muster the desire to do anything about it. I mean, I was working 25 hours a week, going to school full time, and had a boyfriend who loved to go out to eat. Who had time to worry about calorie intake and exercising?
My junior year of college, I moved into an apartment with three other girls. I never knew it would change my life forever. My roommates were Jenny, Jennifer, and Carolyn, a fellow food lover. Over time, my relationship with Carolyn grew. We bonded over the love of cooking and the Food Network. She was going to school to be an RD and helped me realize my food choices weren’t exactly the healthiest ones. I was one to grab frozen pizzas, bags of barbeque potato chips, and regular Coke. When I went out to eat, I almost always ordered a cheeseburger or chicken strips. I liked to think I was a foodie, but I really just liked watching people make stuff on TV.
After a while, and much education from Carolyn, my food intake began to change. It was gradual…choosing sweet potatoes over white potatoes, opting for grilled chicken instead of fried, and the mother of all changes: switching to DIET soda. This, my friends, took some perseverance. After all those changes, I still didn’t really lose any weight though. After all, I was still eating crap at work and not exercising, but I told myself I was being healthy and didn’t really think much of it.
After we graduated, Carolyn moved to Nashville and I moved to Dayton. My husband and I got engaged in July of 2006 and, instead of losing weight and becoming fit as most brides did, I put more weight on. I’m not sure if it was the stress of planning a wedding, the unhealthy eating habits I had due to my retail job, or something else altogether, but I ended up adding 20 pounds to my frame. When I got married, I weighed 165 pounds. It was the most I had ever weighed in my life.
A couple things happened then. First, the husband decided he had put on some weight and wanted to lose it. Being a typical guy, he lost 20 pounds in a matter of months. With him being so much thinner, it made me want to try to lose some weight too.
Second, I finally woke up after 28 long years and saw “the light”. I had a conversation with myself one day that went something like this:
“You are 28. You are overweight. I know you want to have kids at some point in the near future. Don’t you want to be at a healthier weight before you even begin to go through pregnancy? You want the best for your baby, so why not give yourself the best now? When you eat crap from McDonalds, you get hungry an hour later, so wouldn’t it make more sense to eat healthy food and then, if you get hungry an hour later, eat a small snack? You won’t feel as guilty about that scenario. Why not just try it for a few months without giving up? If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But if it does work, imagine the difference you’ll feel about yourself!”
So I tried it. Something you should know about me is, in the past when I have tried to “get healthy”, I have done well for about three weeks and then given up. If I didn’t see results after three weeks, I just assumed I would never see them. Why torture myself with diet and exercise if nothing was going to change.
This time, I was diligent. I counted calories, logged everything in Calorie King, and tried to get as much walking in as I could. You know what? It worked. I started my journey around this time last year and, after about five months, I had lost 20 pounds. I still am not quite where I would like to be, but I feel healthier now. I can run, I eat so much better, and I just feel good. I treat myself the way I deserve to be treated and I don’t feel like punishing myself every day. And you know what else? I am happy.