Wellness: Before

Part 1:
My struggle with weight began in August of 1998. Before then, I had always been thin and athletic. That month, I had a procedure done on my teeth, which led to a set of hidden infections that took eleven years to discover and clean out. In those years, the infections showed themselves in seemingly unrelated ways: near-constant illnesses, random allergy symptoms, bipolar symptoms, hypoglycemia, and a weight roller coaster where I would go up or down by 20-30 lbs in a few weeks unrelated to diet/exercise. In September 2009, the last infection was cleaned out, and within weeks, all of the above symptoms literally disappeared. At Thanksgiving in 2009, I began to work to lose the weight I gained while sick.

Before the first infection, I weighed 125 lbs, a weight that is actually undersized for my 5 ft 6, medium-to-large build (ie I look like a skeleton in photos). The ideal weight for my body type is between 140 and 160 lbs. By the time my last tooth infection was cleaned out in September 2009, my weight had reached 260 lbs. My goal was to lose 100 lbs to reach the top of my healthy weight range. Once there, I want to lose another 10-15 lbs, but my primary goal was to lose 100 lbs.

(1998 @145 lbs, 2009 @260 lbs)

My journey downward began with three changes: an exercise challenge, trading in my dreadmill for an elliptical, and learning how to differentiate between physical and emotional/mental hunger. With these three changes, I lost 20 lbs in five months. I stalled out there because my exercise was never terribly consistent, I got lazy about paying attention to my body’s cues, and I had no social support system to rely on. I maintained the weight for another seven months, leading me to Thanksgiving of 2010, exactly a year from when I’d started trying to lose.

By that time, I was pretty depressed about my weight loss efforts and felt hopeless about ever losing more. The week of Thanksgiving, I woke up from a dream that I was writing a memoir about the four things fat women can’t do without people staring at her: eat, exercise, think, or be happy. Waking up from that dream sent me into an even worse depression, and I began to eat-as-punishment over the next few weeks. The worst part was knowing that that’s how I felt, that I was invisible when I wanted to be noticed, and noticed when I wanted to be invisible. I was walking around in a cloud of shame. I regained 5 lbs between Thanksgiving and New Years.

As 2011 approached, I knew I had to do something drastic. I HAD to change. I seriously considered lapband surgery, but chose instead to give myself one more chance to lose properly. I started the year with little changes again: consistent daily exercise (5-6 hours per week), more water (100 oz/day), more sleep (8 hrs/night), healthier but reasonable foods, and always paying attention to hunger cues (something I’ve discovered since is called intuitive eating).

(2009 @260 lbs, 2014 @155 lbs)

Using these basic guidelines, as well as help and support from Sparkpeople.com, I lost 54 lbs in 2011 and 27 lbs in 2012 (total loss 96 lbs). I hit my goal of 100 lbs lost in February 2013, lost about 5 more pounds, and then went into maintenance. For 1.5 years, I maintained my weigh loss without a problem. After that, things got complicated, which leads to Part 2 of this story.

Part 2:
In mid-2014, my family underwent several changes including a series of cross-country moves (four in three years). These moves, as well as other factors, led to marital and family problems. During our first year away from San Antonio (in Boston), I was under constant stress, ever-present trauma, and personal PTSD triggers. Depression, anxiety, and agoraphobia led to disordered eating habits and a rollercoaster swing up and down about 20 lbs. By the time the ever-present trauma abated and the source of the stress was removed (Aug 2015), I was heavier than I had been when it all started, but all things considered, not doing too badly.

(2014 vs 2015 after a year of trauma)

For a time, other factors came into play: a combo broken foot and sprained ankle; a house that turned out to be full of black mold; emotional strain dealing with deferred grief from the year of trauma; an antidepressant that caused weight gain, etc. I was dedicated to my health, but something was really wrong with my body. I was diagnosed with all sorts of disorders both physical and mental, but my body didn’t react the way it’s supposed to when those diagnoses were treated. Over the years, more symptoms cropped up: chronic fatigue, autoimmune antibodies, anosmia, severe inflammation, hives, sudden weight gain in bursts, and more. I kept looking for the answers, but none were forthcoming. My initial issues (disordered eating, broken bones, etc) had all been sorted out, until I was doing everything right to regain my health. However, no matter what I did, my body stubbornly refused to respond to my actions. Something was still wrong.

I finally found the root cause in December 2020, when I discovered that I was allergic to the mattress I’d been sleeping on literally since the month after the trauma abated in 2015. So as I healed my mental health and relationship with food, and took all the obstacles out of my body’s way, this constant contact allergy was holding me back – and, indeed, making things worse. It’s no wonder that all the symptoms that cropped up between 2015 and 2020 were of the inflammatory/immune-response variety!

Altogether, the year of trauma plus the 5.5 years of allergic contact led to an overall weight gain of 85 lbs, mostly in the first six months after getting the new mattress. Now, as 2021 begins, I’m off on a new journey to re-lose that weight. It’s still early days and I have no idea what permanent damage may have been done over the years due to the massive inflammation this allergy caused. I have no idea how my body will react, or if it’ll be too late to get back on track. But I have hope that things will be better going forward.

And that brings me to Part 3 of this story, which is on my Wellness page! For more details about individual years/weights/etc, or for pictures along the journey, please see my Weight Journey Timeline page.