Before I started becoming healthy, I dealt with a lot of self-shame and negative attitude towards my appearance. I’d struggled with my body image a majority of my life, but had ballooned exponentially after freshman year in college. I was young, on the brink of self-discovery and was pointed in the general direction that all of us 20-somethings are – decide the rest of your life in the next four years of college or you’re wasting time. I was so unhappy with my then-living situation, stressed out with my undergraduate work and ultimately my graduate program, that I adapted the emotions and pressure I felt and internalized it. It began presenting itself in my eating habits more so than before.
Being an empathetic human being has often led me to feel intense and multiple emotions about so many things at once, it caused and continues to cause me stress to this day. This past scenario made the fact that I was (and still am, to a point) an emotional eater that much worse. As the stress consumed me mentally, the preferred outlet was to eat… which then created a vicious circle of shame and guilt over eating, and so on and so forth. It wasn’t until I saw the difference in my friend’s life after her transformation that there needed to be something done about my cycle - as described in my first post and what a Final Straw it was. If you would have told me that there was struggle after reaching these goals, I’m not sure the old me would’ve believed you. All I wanted was to be “skinnier” - that’s it.
People never tell you the emotional side effects of weight loss; just touch on how much ‘happier’ you’ll be. You see it in the media and how glorified it is in movies; the individuals who go through the process of shedding 50+ pounds do it quickly, with little struggle, and then magically their lives are better and have no adversity to face. That’s a boldface lie, and anyone who’s done what I’ve done or lost a significant amount of weight at all will agree. They never explain how it truly morphs your self-confidence. They don’t mention previous experiences and how you’re still the scared individual living in a mental fat suit instead of a physical one.
Living heavier, as some of you know, you learn to become invisible in certain situations; dating for example was an extreme paradigm shift for me after I got fit. Before my hard work showed and my slow transformation began, I was in college and I felt inconspicuous or as if prospects looked past me to other more attractive females at first sight. I usually won suitors over after showcasing my “beautiful personality” for a longer period of time. With their attitude “well, she has a pretty face”, they gave me a chance. *After* the majority of my transformation, and recently single from a three-year relationship with the aforementioned “friend-zone-turned-boyfriend”, I was thrust into a world where men seemed to lock in on me, like hunters for foxes. Instead of their eyes gazing to the girl behind me, I was their target, and that was a new (more) bitter (than) sweet experience.
Another thing they don’t mention is how anxious you become about ‘relapsing’ into your disease – filling a void with food and compensating through over-indulgence. I have nightmares of becoming as heavy as I once was. When I wake up I frantically throw together my gym bag and head in to work out, trying to ensure that never happens. Perhaps I should have done a little more research in the beginning of my journey... I had no way of knowing that there would be some anxiety to anticipate with how intense I would manage myself. Or how I would watch the scale with the eye of a hawk, and worry about any movement of the red needle any higher than where I was the previous weigh in.
This generation says “The Struggle is Real” – well, I completely get it. This privileged struggle is completely valid and 100% real. The mental aspect of shedding who you used to be so that your outside matches your inside is the closest thing I can explain it as… that I still am who I am, regardless of size.
I’m definitely happier with my health, and for that, I’m grateful for my journey and the straw that broke my camel’s back. It was a great way to work on myself and feel pride in setting a goal and knowing I could reach it. I’ve never had trouble in that department, though. I told myself day one of college that I would go on to graduate school and receive a Master’s degree and that’s just what I did… but it was more for the sheer fact that I had always failed in my attempts to get thinner or to feel pride in my body, not just my mind. I’d have to say that back when I was heavier, I had less to truly worry about. I was able to eat what I liked when I wanted it, but there was such guilt in every bite and self-loathing that I didn’t really let anyone see.
Now, I’m so incandescently happy that I don’t wheeze after one flight of stairs or lose my breath as easily while running… or that when I bend my legs, my thighs don’t feel like they’re going to burst like a summer sausage out of its casing. I’ll work more on building my inner-fatty’s confidence and telling her that she’s a beautiful creature inside just as well as outside, if you will with yourselves. Be gentle with yourself- you’ve criticized yourself for years, so now it’s time to approve and see what happens.