As I sit on the peaceful sun porch of Chez Gainey this first day of 2014, I think back to where I was one year ago at this time. It wasn’t a very good place. Oh, I was happy with most areas of my life, but the glaring giant pink elephant in the room was my weight. I was fifty pounds heavier, and feeling very frustrated with my seeming lack of ability to do anything about it.
Weight is a battle I have fought since I was a little girl. Money was very tight, and Mom did the best she could, but I grew up on a diet of Southern fried food and lots of potatoes…any way you could think of cooking potatoes, we had them. Lots of them. Food was also a source of comfort and a symbol of love in a home broken by divorce.
When I went away to college, I began my true battle with the scale. I would starve myself and work out really hard and get thin, only to return to unhealthy habits and put it all back on again….and usually the returning pounds brought friends. Such a frustrating cycle, and it always chipped away at my already shaky self esteem.
In the early days of my first marriage, something truly unhealthy clicked in my brain, and I felt an overwhelming need to be thin and what I perceived as beautiful for my husband. I developed anorexia, which was followed by bulimia, truly terrifying diseases. I paired this with exercise, eating painfully small meals, making myself throw up, and then going for a long run, completely out of control. I think food and my weight were the only things I felt I could somehow control in that relationship. I struggled for about eight years off and on with the madness…I am thankful that I’m still alive to write about it today.
Throughout all of this, I have maintained my love affair with exercise. Even with all of my weight fluctuations, I did 10 K’s, a half marathon, a dualthlon (that almost killed me), got certified to teach kickboxing when I turned forty, walked thousands of miles over the years with my dogs, and I have a library of exercise DVDs that would make a hoarder giggle in delight. But…exercise is only part of the equation.
Last January I turned fifty, and I wanted to give myself something very special. I wanted to once and for all figure out this weight thing and get on a healthy track so that I could really live my life. Things would have to be different. I would have to change…but for real this time. I would have to come to terms with food.
I talked things over with Dan, who has supported me and made me feel beautiful no matter what the scale said. I decided to start with a medically supervised diet to kickstart things and get the weight loss ball rolling. I put a fitness app on my iPad to track everything I ate and drank, as well as exercise and nutrition. We stocked the house with the food I was allowed to have on the diet, and I got to it the day after my fiftieth birthday.
While the weight started falling off, I was miserable. The dangerously low calories that I was allowed to consume left me sluggish and feeling awful. However, once I commit to something, I follow through, and I stuck with it for the month that the diet lasted. By the end of the month, I was down twenty-eight pounds. Though I will never put myself through that hell again, it did get me excited about losing weight, and the app on my iPad taught me about portion control and made me think twice before I reached for a second helping or another glass of wine.
I continued to exercise, weigh myself regularly, and track food. I made better choices most of the time. My goal was different this go around; I was going to let my body tell me what my healthy weight was, instead of trying to force myself down to an unrealistic weight that I could never hope to maintain (especially living with a man who can cook like a dream…I call him The Carb King).
The morning we left for our trip to Italy last July, I stepped on the scale to find I had hit the fifty pound mark. I had reached the weight where I felt healthy and fit…and now the goal was to maintain. Always the hardest part for me. Thankfully, we walked eight to ten miles a day in Italy, so I was able to enjoy the trip immensely and not sabotage my progress.
The holidays were my biggest challenge, but some how, some way, this morning I stepped on the scale and found that I had officially maintained my weight since the season of debauchery began on Halloween. I do know what the “some how, some way” was, though. I continued with the changes that have worked- I exercised regularly, I made better choices, saving my splurges for things that were truly worth it (let me just say that the eggnog cheesecake I made was definitely worth it), and I weighed myself faithfully on Wednesdays and Sundays. That was key, as in the past I would avoid the scale because I was afraid to see what it said. Now I know that the scale is actually my friend, letting me know if I need to cut back a little bit…instead of waiting until fifty pounds had found their way onto my body.
So, today I am thankful that I gave myself the gift of health and fitness, a new lease on life. I am not perfect, and I realize that this is a battle I will have to wage for the rest of my days. That’s okay, though, because I am worth it.
Happy New Year!