Continuing last week’s theme: Perspective is an ever-changing thing, and it’s good to apply that truth not only to how we see our bodies, but the way we see our situations. In my case, I’ve been looking back a lot at my previous weight-loss journey. I’ve disparaged it quite a bit over the last few months, and it’s true that there were negative parts. Using shame to motivate. Impatience, especially after insomnia and injury slowed me way down. Over-training and under-eating at times due to impatience. Dissatisfaction with my met-goals and continually striving to do more instead of celebrating my achievements. At the same time, there was a lot of positive in my journey, and I need to acknowledge that, too.
- I decided against weight loss surgery** and extreme diets. I chose to lose slow and steady. Yes, that made me impatient at times, but I usually curbed over-training and under-eating quickly, before they got out of hand.
- My focus was on increasing the amount of produce in my diet, exercising regularly and consistently, sleeping more, listening to my body, and practicing moderation and balance. My goal was not to get skinny, but to look and feel more like myself, more comfortable in my own skin.
- While I didn’t always succeed in loving my body, I did try for body positivity as early as the summer of 2011, when I wore shorts every day despite self-consciousness, in order to gain confidence. Exposure is my weapon of choice in the war against my body-hate, whether that means wearing a bikini at the pool all summer or posting publicly about scars/stretchmarks.
So no, I wasn’t always perfect, but what weight-loss journey is? I’ve heard of all-bad journeys. I knew a girl once who lost 160 lbs in nine months by exercising 5+ hours a day and eating under 1000 calories per day. By the end, she looked like a skeleton, and a sick skeleton at that. I didn’t do that to myself. My motivations and methods weren’t always great, but I at least tried to do things in a healthy, sustainable manner. Mine was a mixed journey, possibly balancing out more on the positive side than the negative. It’s time to stop disparaging it.
Truth: It’s way too easy to blame your past-self when bad things happen, but “easy” does not make it “right.” The chaos of the last eighteen months did not come solely from the negative aspects of my weight-loss journey. I can’t blame my old-self entirely, like I’ve been doing lately. Some of it was related to my mentality on my first journey, sure, but the rest was a perfect storm of many factors that crushed the little body positivity I’d managed to gather after decades of self-loathing.
Second truth: I never could see how thin I’d gotten, and that was a significant factor in how easy it was to regain weight. Last week, I said that 155 lbs looked fat when I was there, and it did. All the pictures of me in this post are within a pound or two of 155 lbs – right on the border between a healthy BMI (154 lbs) and overweight (155 lbs). I tried to see my progress, but all I could see was how much further I had to go, how much thinner I used to be (back in my late teens and early 20s). I saw back-fat and puffy arms and thick thighs. I saw scars and stretchmarks and loose skin folds. I didn’t see anything but imperfections.
When I recently went through my clothes KonMari style, I was struck by how TINY some of those clothes were. My favorite pair of jeans? How the heck did I fit into those, and comfortably at that? Some of those shirts look like they’d fit a ten year old. If I didn’t remember wearing them, if I didn’t have picture-proof, I wouldn’t believe they’d ever fit me!
The pictures, too, blow my mind. When I was looking at these in the moment, all I could see was the imperfections. I noticed my wide shoulders – that’s bone structure, silly! – but not the size of my waist. That sort of thing. I was too close to see the bigger (or smaller, really) picture. That whole forest-and-trees deal.
Dear younger Manda,
Each time you don’t appreciate your successes, each time you don’t really see yourself honestly, you set yourself up to fall apart. Being happy with yourself does not equal being complacent. Acknowledge yourself. Learn from past mistakes. Stop the mental cycle. Only by stopping the mental cycle can you stop the physical one.
Love, modern-day Manda
**I am not making any negative statement about weight loss surgery here. It would not have been a healthy choice for me, but I know that it is a healthy (and necessary) choice for certain people and situations. Some of my very best friends have gone this route, and I completely respect, support, and agree with their decisions. I also know WLS isn’t an easy fix, nor am I implying that it would have been an easy fix for me. But at my age, and in my health, and in my situation, it would not have been a healthy choice, and I chose to go a different route, which I consider a positive aspect of my journey.