This past winter I heard an acquaintance whisper, “Wow, she really let herself go,” as she walked away from me after a friendly exchange near the plus-size clothing section at Kohl’s. Our quick exchange was filled with hugs, smiles, and an introduction to her boyfriend. It was a turning point for me. Only moments before I had a little breakdown in the fitting room as a pair of sized 16 jeans lay on the floor, unable to get over my bum. It took several minutes to stop my tears and pull myself away from the corner where I sat, cringing away from my reflection.
Only a year prior, I would never have let an article of clothing drop me to the floor of a public store, much less allow a woman’s unkind words affect my head space. With my weight gain, I had lost other traits: my confidence, my self-awareness, and my pride.
It may seem surprising to my thin friends, but millions of us who are overweight know that we are fat. And we even know how we got fat.
It may seem ludicrous, but there was not suddenly a morning I decided to stop caring about my own personal health, my appearance, or my life expectancy. I didn’t look at my adorable wardrobe, throw my hands in the air, and exclaim, “I’m over you!” I did not happily store away those cute clothes into a tote labeled “Ashley’s Some-Day-Again Clothes” while choosing to instead wear baggy shirts and leggings every day. There was no conscious decision to stop counting calories, no epiphany to begin dodging eye contact with my reflection, and no valuable excuse to continue paying for a gym membership I never used.
I had the misfortune of blaming some of my weight gain on medical issues and hormone imbalances. There was a point when I physically couldn’t workout on the orders of my physician. During this time I fell into a little depression, unable to escape through my usual means: running, spinning, lifting, etc. The endorphins were missing in action. So I turned to another type of comfort — food.
Little by little food became a crutch for stressful situations, a comfort during special celebrations, and a reward for reaching the weekend. Even though I knew I was using food incorrectly, I didn’t stop. It was easier to push my guilt away than confront what was actually happening — I was letting my laziness control my wellness.
During the 2019 holiday season I came face-to-face with the big ugly truth though. As I reflected on the year, I realized my constant excuses of busyness, medical issues, and depression were not legitimate reasons for allowing my health to diminish. While attending my annual physical exam during Christmas break, I was shocked at the scale’s digital reading. Embarrassment followed as my doctor told me my BMI had crossed the threshold into obesity. I was officially at my highest weight ever. And, by this point, I only had myself and my laziness to blame. I no longer practiced healthy options when it came to my lifestyle. I needed to make a change, and quickly.
I spent the remainder of my break coming up with a game plan. I knew I needed to adopt healthier habits in order to reclaim my life. Literally. Not only for my own well-being, but also for my husband and future family — my doctor had explained how my high BMI decreased the possibility to become pregnant and the potential risks if I should.
Deciding to gradually add new habits into my routine throughout the beginning of 2020, I began with increasing my movement. I joined a run training class in January and a CrossFit body transformation group in March. Though the restrictions placed due to COVID has limited my group-fitness opportunities, I have been focusing more and more on eating cleaner and moving more. Every day I am seeing changes in my body and my attitude, and regaining control over my mindset. My lifestyle is transforming into something I can be proud of once more.
With all this in mind, I am proud of myself for recognizing my use of food as a crutch and comfort over the past couple years. I have recognized that my emotional well-being is in-tune with my physical well-being, and am committed to taking the BIG step forward in achieving my goals. Let’s do this!