I’ve been asked more and more about my recent weight loss. How did I do it? How long did it take me? I awkwardly answer as quickly as possible and try to end the conversation. For a long time, I didn’t feel proud of my weight loss at all, in fact, I was embarrassed by it.
See, the truth is that I didn’t try to lose weight. No intentional diet, no gym pass, no pills or gimmicks. What happened was that I got sick. I’ve battled depression, anxiety, and PTSD since I was Noah’s age but right after the picture on the left was taken, a devastating series of events occurred that spiraled me deeper into the familiar darkness of depression. My panic attacks began to increase in both frequency and force. The low that sticks out in my mind is the time that my dad had to call 911 from the side of the 5 freeway, as my husband knelt next to me in the gravel where I was face down, violently gasping for my next breath.
I felt completely out of control of my life and by extension, the lives of my children and family. I was drowning in our circumstances that just seemed to get worse by the day. I didn’t sleep well or often. Most nights I would stay up, sitting in bed long after Tim had fallen asleep, holding my chest and praying that my racing heart wouldn’t give out. I had no appetite and would often go days without putting anything aside from coffee in my body. I started to feel less like a human and more like 3 mental illnesses stacked on top of each other wearing a trench coat.
I ended up losing just over 70 pounds in the span of eight months. And that’s when the compliments began.
“Oh my god! How much weight have you lost? You look great!”
“Wow! You’re so disciplined!”
I would thank them and move on with my day as quickly as possible, but I couldn’t shake the pain I felt knowing that someone was close enough to look at me, really look at the circles under my eyes and the way my shoulders sagged and be stoked that I was losing weight. Like that was the end all be all, like that’s what was holding me back. I felt scared and alone and every well-intentioned compliment drew me further into myself.
At the urging of my husband and parents, I finally pushed past the fear and shame and sought medical help. I always thought that I should be able to just suck it up and be positive and that things would be better. I held myself to such an impossibly high standard and then gave myself zero grace when I failed at “being happy”. It took me years to treat myself with the love and respect that I dole out onto others, but it’s made all of the difference in making some lifestyle changes:
1. Food: I went from going days without food to eating small, healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. It has been surprisingly difficult for me to do this and I actively struggle with making the choice to eat. One aspect of my treatment is that I now take Prozac and a side effect is loss of appetite. It’s scary how easy it is for me to unintentionally go days without eating. I allow myself to get lost in the hustle of life and put my well-being on the back burner. So I have started making myself a lunch to take to work every day. I try to get creative and stick with things that will pack a protein and nutrient punch without being too heavy. I eat small snacks throughout the day. I order green juices. 99% of the time I definitely don’t feel like eating anything, but I make myself do it anyway because I know that my body needs fuel to do the things I need it to do. It’s an active choice to suck it up and fuel the engine.
2. Caffeine: After years of living in a gross cycle of chugging espresso and taking Excedrin migraine to keep the perpetual headaches at bay, I finally realized that I was making everything worse for myself. The constant flow of caffeine made sleep impossible, which made me tired and nauseous constantly, which made me a miserable jerk. I still drink 1-2 cups of coffee a day, but the espresso had to be weaned out of my caffeine dependent body. And at my doctor’s request, I’ve dropped the Excedrin in favor of peppermint essential oil and good old fashioned Tylenol. To be very honest, the caffeine withdrawals were rough and I wanted to cave and grab my triple espresso to make everything better
3. Sleep: I started taking melatonin to help me fall asleep at night and get my body back into a normal sleeping pattern. I’m still working on making good choices when it comes to choosing sleep and rest, but I’ve come a long way from my old 2-3 hour per night sleep schedule.
4. Exercise: I make sure that I get outside and walk daily. I even enlisted my kids into keeping me accountable by making sure that we take the dogs out on our walk every night. I honestly started this not for the purpose or benefit of exercise, but to force myself into doing something with my kids when all I wanted to do was shut out the world. It quickly went from one more obligation to the sunshine in my day. The effects were immediate and the kids started to get their mom back. The one who is silly and fun, who is always down to read one (or two) more stories at night. The one who takes them on exciting adventures and leads by example. Once again, it started as a choice to suck it up and show up for my kids. But before I knew it, it has become a necessary part of my routine and I even sneak in solo walks first thing in the morning before my kids are awake to make fun of my hand weights.
5. Community: You may have noticed that I am transparent, maybe even uncomfortably so. It’s just that I spent so many years keeping quiet– disregarding my voice and my story. It wasn’t until I began to let my guard down and until I began to get to know others who had similar stories, that I realized the importance of sharing our stories. So I am an open book and I love to talk about the struggles and hurdles that I have overcome and that my family has overcome together because I truly believe that we need each other and that we need to be real. We all love a pretty Instagram filter and a good quote for a caption, but I have become obsessed with people who are brave enough to share what darknesses they have walked through so that may help shine a light for someone who is still lost in the shadow of their circumstances. There is a purpose to the pain we endure beyond our own personal growth and it is to allow real connections, real community, real support.
Nowadays when I receive a compliment, I can genuinely accept it because I know the work that I put in that no one gets to see. It’s more than weight loss. It’s finally knowing that I deserve to and need to take care of myself. It’s understanding the difference between weight-loss and wellness. It’s knowing that regardless of how I feel or what my medical chart says, I am so worth loving and my value is not and never will be tied to a number on the scale.
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