I sit here wondering how I can possibly go about sharing this story. What has been much more of a life story. I wish I had journaled every piece of thoughts I had along the way, instead I am in a place of reflection, combined with determination, goals, and lessons learned.
So here it goes…
To say I struggled my entire life with weight would be rather untrue. I struggled with unhealthy habits, and most likely, a food addiction. As a kid I wasn’t thin, nor was I overweight. Just kind of comfortably in the middle. Just enough to rock my self esteem, not quite enough to be seen as a problem.
I sprouted fast. By grade 6 I was nearly my full adult height, and a C cup bra size. I still remember my sister cursing me for that one. I was never comfortable in my skin. But truthfully, is anyone during their early teen years? It’s all rather uncomfortable.
In high school I was a size 14. I went with the tomboy look and resigned to jeans and baggy sweaters and t-shirts for the most part. I had my girly moments, but wet hair in a bun and some hemp necklaces was the extent of my style, and the occasional DIY box hair dye, just to mix things up a little.
I remember a couple diets as a teenager. One where I actually managed to get myself down to a size 12 and forever kept the pair of jeans from that summer as what my adult life would know as my skinny jeans (this being before actual skinny jeans were a thing). That diet didn’t last, and neither did my days in the beloved size 12s. Soon enough, I was back to 14s…and up.
My food addiction was taking over. Not in big bold ways, but just enough that breads and butters were my go to, and those were good times. I don’t remember ever looking at food labels or considering them at all important. Food was food. It’s not like I was eating 6 Big Macs a day. Just maybe one, and a milkshake 😉
I remember being very tired. All. The. Time.
I was married at 19, around 190 lbs, size 14/16 and I was good with that. I had faced the facts that “hey! you’re not a thin girl, you’re not a fat girl either, you’re just kind of an in between”. Onto another box of Kraft Dinner, white cheddar, sprinkled with pepper.
By the end of my first year of marriage I was up to 209 lbs. Along with an office coworker I joined weight watchers. Not financially fun when you’re really tight on cash, but it worked. I was excited at losing weight, and lost around 25 lbs! wooooo! Got myself down to 185 lbs and felt…amazing.
There was a small problem though. Weight watchers taught me to count points. I was reading labels, but I wasn’t actually learning anything more than their point value. I was eating zero calorie cool whip and sugar free jello on the regular. I had traded one poison for another. But it was working, so I didn’t bat an eye.
Then I got pregnant with my first child.
Enter: THROW ALL FOOD RULES OUT THE WINDOW, I’M PREGNANT!
The ultimate excuse!
To be fair, I didn’t really have cravings, more just aversions and I didn’t gain overall. Until I began breastfeeding. I was so hungry I could barely contain myself from eating everything I had 30 seconds to make. It was survival mode, and food addiction all at once. I actually left my newborn with my sister to babysit for the first time to get Taco Bell drive thru. Talk about priorities.
I got up to 205 lbs.
Then I got pregnant with my second child.
After delivery and a year of breastfeeding I was up to 225 lbs.
See the pattern yet?
I weighed my highest. 225 lbs. I was now in yoga pants, and when I did squeeze into jeans, they were a size 18. I mean, no BIG deal really, I was 190 when I got married, had three babies and only up 35 lbs? Ive heard of much worse, so obviously I was ok…I thought). We were living away from family at the time, and often it was survivalist motherhood mode, with massive bowls of cereal, leftover pasta, and cans of Pringles as regular food choices.
When we moved back to my hometown, my weight? it bothered me more than usual. I had lost my anonymity of living in a far away city and knowing no one, now I could run into high school friends, and more…I was feeling uncomfortable. I didn’t like it. This was a fresh start. I didn’t want to be struggling. This feeling sat with me for those first few weeks.
This was my first lightbulb moment.
One afternoon I had the kids out in the new house’s pool and watched them swim away in the scorching heat and wanted to join them. Then I looked around and realized neighbors would be able to see me in my swimsuit if I did this. In this moment I had my second lightbulb go off. I was missing out on memories with my children. This was no longer a normal self esteem issue. I was now becoming inactive in their lives, because of my weight.
Then the day. The big day that changed it all.
The third lightbulb.
A photo was posted of me on Facebook.
It was the biggest wakeup call of my life.
….and I quickly untagged myself from this photo….
I had had enough.
I didn’t want to run into friends, I was missing out on my kids childhood, and now I couldn’t even handle the reality of my own image.
Now, before we go any further. I realize that there’s an underlying message about self love here. One that could be told about loving your body and your shapes and curves. A message I am all about. But the deeper issue here was an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise that was crushing my spirit and causing me to disengage from LIFE.
I was tired. I was worn down. I was ashamed. I was not nourishing the one body I had to live in, for ALL OF TIME.
So what happened next? I just started. Actually, that simply.
I just started
I started living a healthier lifestyle. I slowly began educating myself on nutrition and clean eating. I began to run. I decided that 5 nights a week I would run for 1 mile. That first mile near killed me. It took me about 20 mins and I was sweating from head to toe. I thought I might puke.
“WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?”, was basically my thought. BUT, it felt…good? I no longer could be upset and angry with my body as it was, because I was actively doing something to change it. I kept going, I kept educating myself. Long behold, the weight started coming off. Rather rapidly, but at a steady pace of 1-3lbs a week. Not only that, but my run time was increasing incredibly. By the end of the second week, I was down to 12 mins for a mile. To be honest, this was truly the first time I had combined diet AND exercise as a means to lose weight. It’s like my entire life I had been hoping to cheat the system and just do one or the other. Exercise and eat whatever I want, or not be active at all and starve myself of calories.
This brought me balance. Diet AND exercise. WHO KNEW, RIGHT? The exercise portion (although extremely uneducated in it) seemed straightforward enough by simply running 5x a week. I really didn’t even own workout clothes and often ran in leggings and a regular bra and tshirt.
The food side of things was difficult. I kept overeating and then being left hungry at the end of the day. I started having to struggle through hunger pangs, and eating pickles to fill me. This wasn’t starvation, this was learning a lesson in proper intake. It wasn’t until I stopped trying to fit my old diet into my new portions that I saw this turn around.
It was daunting at first, but truly got exciting to learn about foods and proteins and see how food could be in good relationship with my body and FUEL it as opposed to just fill it.
Where I am today
Today, 3 or so years later, I can say that I live a healthy and happy life. I take care of myself and I want to pass this onto my children as well. My exercise routine today consists of at-home strength exercises 3-4x a week for half a hour, and 3-4x a week of cardio. I track my progress in the LEAF which is helping me see my progress day by day and that’s what keeps me going. I love the LEAF’s ability to track my sleep cycles too. It’s so interesting and eye opening to see how you are sleeping. It’s my favorite thing to do when I wake up, to check my app and see how my last nights rest was.
I found my body. The one I was meant to have. The one I now cherish. The one I now fuel, maintain and love.
This isn’t a story of just weight loss.
This is a story of transformation of the mind, body and soul.
One cannot be without the other.
Written by: Sarah Reynolds
Sarah regularly writes a blog where she shares her progress and advice for everyone looking to start a healthier lifestyle, you can check it out here: www.thesayblog.com
She’s on Instagram as well: @thebirdspapaya