I am supposed to write a little introduction about myself, what I like and what I will mostly write about. I choose to introduce myself via the thing I think about 60% of the time I am awake: my weight. I am fat. I used to be a lot fatter. But I am also fit. I run, I lift weights, I meal prep, and I kind-of-sort-of like myself.
I lived my entire adult life as always being the fattest person in the room, no matter who I was with – friends, family, co-workers. I still look around any room I am in to see whether I am the largest person in it (to be fair, I also look around a room and count the amount of women and minorities in it as well). It bothers me that I do this. Subconsciously, since I was the fattest person in the room, I had to compensate by also being the biggest personality in the room. Make people laugh, tell self-deprecating jokes, tell the most outlandish stories I have in my arsenal. Make people look past the fat. I wanted to be referred to as “the funny one;” rather than “you know, the big girl.” When I decided to stop giving into those negative voices was when I started the ever present fight against fat me; which led to other problems.
What you don’t know about weight loss, or maybe you do and I am just late to the party, is that there are very serious emotional and mental changes taking place. Three years ago, I started a fitness journey that has been so rewarding, but filled with so much angst. Rewarding because I have lost a total of 80 pounds in the last two plus years (I think, I don’t own a scale). Angst filled because I have no patience and spend way too much time listening to the negative voices in my head.
The first year of this journey, was to get active. I bought a Fitbit and dove into the analytics. Simple enough, the analytics on the Fitbit and the accomplishment of routine activity kept me motivated. The second year, activity levels increased, calories counted, and a couple dress sizes dropped. Emotionally, this is where I started to falter. New clothes did not bring new-found confidence and in turn, life didn’t amazingly get better. In the past year, I joined the gym, tried classes, and continued eating healthier. I was able to talk to my friends about squats and pains of saving calories for a splurge meal. The support system for the weight loss was there, it was working. Personally, the last year was terrible for me (we don’t have time for that now). As a result, I was not prepared for the mental fatigue that hit. It makes sense it would be present, as mental breakdowns often accompany massive life changes. Why didn’t I realize I should have been preparing for an emotional journey as well? And why did I think I had to face it alone?
This is when Fat Me had tough time. I maligned her at the gym: “you will not get rid of your flabby bat wings if you don’t keep lifting this weight you fat bitch.” Fat Me was harassed when she ate: “remember that pizza you had to have last week? You see that divot of cellulite on your thigh? Your greed caused that.” Fat Me was the perfect scape-goat for why I looked terrible in all my pictures. My self-loathing became the new motivator. An important person to me and I parted ways, Fat Me got the blame. I hated my job at the time, Fat Me was the reason. Yet, I still made it to the gym at ungodly hours multiple times a day, just to kill Fat Me. I should have been attacking Mean Me.
When I decided to get serious about losing weight, I wanted to do it via sustainable lifestyle changes. Things like eat more leafy greens, get 30 minutes of cardio in, and get in on this meal prep thing. What I didn’t do was take the time to prep for the emotional struggles. The main one being that even though I was losing weight in a very evident way, when I look in the mirror all the same places were still fat. Mean Me thrived on this fuel. Rather than basking in the glory of wearing a two piece in public, I would tell people don’t look at my thighs because “they look like cottage cheese.” I could not keep doing this; I was not enjoying the fruits of my labor. God forbid my friends and loved ones say ‘you are beautiful,’ to me it was something they had to say because they were my friend. What I failed to realize is that, no they don’t. No one owes me validation. Why would they say things if they didn’t mean it? What benefit would my best friends gain from lying to me?
A few months ago, while combing Instagram for fashion tips I stumbled across a plus-size fashion blogger (I don’t remember which one). This led to the discovery of the body positive movement. Here were all these [mostly] women, younger, older, larger, smaller, from countries all over the world claiming and loving the skin they were in. Why couldn’t I do that? Seriously, why couldn’t I? So one day I just tried it. Instead of focusing on the fact that my stomach now stuck out further than my [much smaller] breasts, I said ‘but it is not one big blob. Revel that you can tell the difference between them now.’ I can’t stop Mean Me from being mean; but I can take the wind out of her sails. Try and shut her down before she really gets going. I try to drown Mean Me in the collective voices of all the people in the struggle and supporting me. ‘You are beautiful. You were better than you were yesterday.’ The realization that one can love oneself when you are not the finished product or the ‘goal weight you’ is very freeing.
All of this to say, in order to become more fit, you have to take care of your emotional health. It does no good to drop a ton of weight, put on an item from your aspirational wardrobe, but be hypercritical of yourself. You are missing important things when the focus is more about the loose skin on your legs rather than the fact that you just buttoned a pair of pants the size you wore in the ninth grade. So that is me in a nutshell. Trying to love myself, keep focus on the big goals, but realizing I need to appreciate the journey.
Every day is a struggle. To my circle: thank you for loving me when I refuse to love myself. I love you too.