I am 55 years old and I weigh 258 pounds. I weighed 107 when I was in high school and when I got pregnant with my daughter. During my pregnancy I topped out at 157 pounds and dropped to 125 pounds when I left the hospital after my daughter was born. I maintained a weight of between 118 and 135 pounds all through my twenties and early thirties. By my 33rd birthday my weight had crept up to 145 pounds…then 150 by my 35th birthday…then 200 by my 36th birthday…
Once, while getting a massage, I found myself apologizing for how fat I (thought) I was at 150 pounds, and instead of doing what most women do when a friend is complaining about being fat (“You’re not fat! You look great!”), the massage therapist disrupted my automatic body-shaming conversation with this: “So, why do you think you got fat?”
I was so startled that I answered with the first thing that jumped into my head: “I think I was trying to become impervious but I just got fat instead.”
Wow. That massage turned out to be more valuable than a therapy session and although it wasn’t any less expensive I gained some deep insight into my dysfunctional relationship with my body and I got a massage out of it. It’s amazing how powerful the right question can be.
If only I’d acted on that information right then, when I was 35.
Why I didn’t could fill several very drama-filled books. Suffice it to say I wasn’t ready to act on it. Simply taking in the full meaning of my knee-jerk response to that question blew my mind for several more years. Then as time went on I got used to being fat.
So, why am I telling you this? Because it’s the New Year and that’s the traditional time that overweight women everywhere resolve to “lose weight.”
But it’s not that simple is it? It certainly wasn’t that simple putting on the weight. The reason I told you what I weighed at all those different ages is so you can see that the first twenty-five pounds I gained were a slow, gradual progression; but the next fifty pounds came on very suddenly. I had a health issue at that time that required me to take a medication that slowed down my thyroid to a crawl. I only had to take the medication for six years but the medication slowed down my thyroid forever. I gained forty pounds in just a couple of months right after I started taking that medication. The last ten pounds crept on more slowly.
You’re probably thinking, “Well, maybe if you’d just get off your butt and get moving you could lose some weight.” Trust me–if being active guaranteed weight loss I’d have been back down to 107 pounds a long time ago. I am a very active person. I have been hiking, walking, bicycling, alpine skiing, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, and kayaking for decades. I put between 9,000 and 11,000 steps/day on my Fitbit every day just in my classroom (that’s how much teachers are on their feet on the job). I had to change some of my activities after I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2015 (I don’t go alpine skiing any more, and I’ve cut back on the Nordic skiing). I haven’t been quite as active since I broke my leg so badly in June of 2018; but that changes this year now that my leg is finally back to full function.
Yes, metabolism slows as we age. In my case it was more than that (the thyroid-slowing medication).
And then there’s that thing I revealed about myself to the massage therapist: “I think I was trying to become impervious but I just got fat instead.” In that moment of realization I was confronted with the fact that I was in an abusive relationship and putting on weight was my unconscious way of “protecting” myself.
My point is this: we all have stories about, and reasons for, our weight gain and difficulty losing the weight. The reasons and the stories work together to keep us from achieving our best possible health. Until we unravel those stories and reasons, any weight loss goals we arbitrarily set for ourselves are doomed to fail.
I have decided to accept the reasons for why I have been carrying this weight around for so long. I have decided to change the story I tell myself about why I need this extra weight. I have been carrying around the weight of an entire extra person for fifteen years. I’m tired of carrying her around. She needs to get off and go bum a ride with someone else.
If you are someone who faces similar challenges, I invite you to join me this year on a journey to change our story and improve our health. I’ll be posting what I’m doing, how it’s working, and what I’m learning here every day this year.
What is the biggest health challenge that you face that you might be able to do something about? How might you begin to change your story? Comment in the area below and we can have a conversation and support each other in our efforts.