Monday, November 4, 2013

My Story: How I Went From a Size 18/20 to a Size 8/10

As some of you know, I've been on a weight loss/lifestyle transformation journey since summer 2012.  Back then, I was fat, miserable, and at the highest weight of my life at 250 pounds.

I climbed Springer Mountain in Georgia, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, and hiked a week before wimping out.

So many rolls of fat and so much extra weight...I don't know how I did it.  I weighed 250 pounds and my pack was over 40.  That's almost 300 pounds on my knees, hiking and climbing mountains.  Ugh.

I can't begin to describe how miserable and unhappy I was during this period of my life.  I was in a terribly unhealthy and unhappy relationship living far from home in a place I despised (Arkansas) with no car, no job, and no friends.

This is how I looked just before I moved to Arkansas:

Me, just before I moved to Arkansas for 2.5 years of hell.

And here I am a year later:

I was SO unhappy, eating and drinking my way through the lonely days and nights.  It was nothing for me to eat a 12 inch, fully loaded hot sub with chips and large coke, then later polish off a 12 pack of beer or two bottles of wine.  Sometimes I'd make an entire tray of french fries or a frozen pizza at midnight and eat those too.  I was miserable and stuck in a place I didn't want to be.  I hadn't yet figured out that I am the master of my own destiny but my time of triumph was coming soon.

Growing up, I'd always been very thin.  As a teen, I developed quite the figure.  I wish I'd realized what a banging bod I had back then!  I was a tall, thin, hourglass size 5/6.  After I had my first child at age 21, I was a size 7/8.  When I got married at age 24 I was a size 9/10.  I thought I was fat THEN.  I swore I'd never go out of the single digit sizes.  (insert sarcastic laughter here)

Now ladies, you know what happens when you get married, especially if you are a stay at home gain weight and lots of it.  I was eating at the stove top while I cooked, picking leftover food off my kid's plates, and fixing huge meals every evening.  I felt as if I was chained to the stove.  I began to resent cooking.  I started hating food. Then, my marriage fell apart.  I took the kids and left several times but always returned. I didn't have the strength and self-confidence to make it alone.  I thought it would be better for the kids.  Insert lame excuse here. During all of this drama, my doctor put me on anti-depressants and xanax.  What a nightmare.  I felt like a walking zombie.  I went through the motions without feeling anything.  I made lots of really bad decisions and there's a lot of stuff I won't get into here in this blog but let me say I was a pretty shitty mom, wife, and human being for a while.  At this point, I'm a size 12/14.

Fast forward a few years and I'm living on my own, off the pharmaceuticals, and exercising daily.  I'm getting my shit together and feeling pretty damn good.  Out of the blue I get an email from an old flame, someone I thought was special but never got a chance to find out.  He asked if I was single and if I'd like to email and talk on the phone.  We did.  A lot.  One thing led to another and he asked me to move to Arkansas to be with him.  Like a dumbass, I agreed.  (Ladies, always listen to your intuition.  Your gut will never steer you wrong.  I wish I had.)  There were some huge red flags initially but I ignored them.  Again, I won't get into details here but suffice it to say that I knew I'd made a HUGE mistake within the first 30 days of being out there.  He talked a good game but reality was something totally different.  He didn't like the color of my nail polish. (Really?  Nail polish colors?)  He thought my clothes were too wild/black/weird. (Um, can we say "personal style"?)  We disagreed on all of the big topics such as money, religion and politics.  There was trouble in the bedroom.  He was attached to his mother's apron strings.  He discussed everything with his ex wife before he did with me.  He buried himself in his computer games.  Conversation and eye contact was non-existent. I communicated with the top of his head. The final straw was four months into our relationship when he moved his teenage daughter into our  one bedroom/one bath apartment.  Yeah. Didn't see that coming.

Anyway, now we're at the point where I began to balloon up in weight.  Nothing was going right.  I was SO homesick I was literally ill.  I'd get drunk and cry every night, pouring over YouTube videos of home.  I couldn't even watch college football if Virginia Tech or UVA was playing at home because I'd cry when I saw the aerial shots of the mountains.

This is one of the videos I used to watch when I was really sad and missing home.

So now I hope you understand how utterly sad and depressed I had become.  This is when I came up with the bright idea to hike the Appalachian Trail.  I wanted to do a 6 month thru-hike and walk from Georgia to Maine.  No problem, right?  (yeah...) I lasted a week, of which I am very proud, but deep down I knew that all I really wanted to do was go home to Virginia.  When I called the boyfriend from Georgia to tell him I was leaving the trail and coming home, I felt as if I was imposing my presence on a cranky, distant relative, not talking to the man I shared my home life with. It wasn't long after the AT hike failure that I decided I'd had enough pretending and I began to look for places to live in VA.  I went online and found what I could afford.  I made phone calls and accepted a house sharing situation--sight unseen.  I told the BF I was going home--and he offered to drive me back.  I accepted that too.  I had no idea what I was going to do when I got there but I knew I was going HOME.  To me, that's all that mattered.

When I finally got back to Virginia at the end of June 2012, I began to lose a little weight. Being out of that relationship with all of its stress and drama was huge factor in the beginning of my transformation. For one thing, I wasn't eating and drinking my feelings anymore. (I couldn't afford it!) Slowly, I lost about 15 pounds that summer, just from being stress-free and feeling happy being home again.  It wasn't until Thanksgiving 2012 that I decided to become much more proactive about my weight problem and take control of my health.  The biggest shock was when I saw a picture of myself at Thanksgiving and I didn't recognize the woman in the photo.  I had completely lost myself.  I made up my mind, right then, to make big changes in my life.  I began walking a mile a day.  I started eating better and became a vegan.  I gave up all sodas, processed foods, and for a while--meats. ( The vegan thing didn't last long because I love steak, turkey, chicken, get the idea.) Despite my forsaking of all things vegan, I did learn a new appreciation for organic vegetables.  (To this day I still love a huge a salad with fresh veggies topped with assorted seeds.)
I was walking farther every day, eating healthy foods and fixing one small meal a day.  I felt free!  No more obligation to be in the kitchen all day!  I couldn't afford to order take-out, so I was forced to budget my grocery shopping.  I got a library card and walked to and from the local branch every week, toting my big bag of books up and down the road.  I made new friends and we starting taking walks together.  I volunteered at a food bank packing and distributing boxes of food for the needy.

Here's where things REALLY began to change for the better: I got the idea to start my own business.  I borrowed $20, ordered a few things off of Amazon, found an old desktop computer on Craigslist, and I began to believe in myself again.  I had to sell my hiking gear and an old antique radio to buy the computer and business supplies but I made it work.  I was poor but dammit I was happy.  More weight came off.  I got out of the plus sizes and down to an XL.  As my confidence increased, my weight decreased.

I moved across town in February 2013 and became housemates with who I consider to be one of the best people I've ever met. She is incredibly smart and talented, owns her own business, and has a heart of gold.  She's also one hot momma but if you try to tell HER that she'd roll her eyes at you.  Very down to earth and not a conceited bone in her body. On top of all this, she is a fellow New York Giants fan.  (I knew we were going to be great friends when I saw the New York Giants magnet on her fridge the night I came over to discuss the housemate ad!) She and I are so much alike and get along so well it's ridiculously crazy.

The reason I bring her into this story is because I feel she played an essential role in helping me become the happy, successful, and slim woman I am today.  Her friendship has been such a blessing to me. Today, I call her my best friend. Thanks BFF!  Now, back to the story!

When I first moved in, I was still very heavy.  Here I am in Feb/March of 2013:

Taken in bed.  At this point, I'm not really caring how I look.

Another pic from bed.  I lived in this robe.  Here, I've started wearing makeup again but I still felt bad about myself.

Here I am in April 2013:

Now I'm going for walks and getting outside.  I'm moving my body and getting fresh air and exercise almost daily.

Now I'm getting dressed more often, wearing makeup and trying to do something with my hair.

I wanted to look pretty but pictures don't lie.  I began setting goals for myself.  Here I was trying on some of the roomie's dresses and fixing myself up a bit more.

 End of April 2013:
Now I'm beginning to feel better about me, about life, about everything.

I bought new clothes for the first time in years.  We went out and did a photoshoot for fun.  I felt good for the first time in a very long while.

May 2013:

Out for drinks!

More photoshoot fun!

Posing for the camera.

At the time, this was my favorite photo.
 June 2013:  We went to the beach and I wore a bathing suit for the first time in years.  Here I am with my little cover-up on over the suit just cheezin for the camera.

Happy at the beach.

September 2013:

Getting ready to go on a date.

Feeling very happy.

I don't have any more pictures of the old me. I am not even sad about it.  The last picture you're going to see is how I look today.  I went shopping yesterday and bought more new clothes (at the thrift store). I'm wearing size 10 jeans and a Medium top.  I also bought a few pairs of size 8s as a motivational tool.  I can get into the 8s without laying down or using heavy equipment but I don't feel comfortable  wearing them out in public just yet.  Another week or two and they'll be fine.  So ...yes...I'm in an 8 but 10s are more comfortable to me.  I'm very happy with size 8.  I'm done with losing weight.  After this month, I'm focusing on maintenance only.

Me today, November 4 2013:

Hello Size 10!  Me at the beginning of November 2013

Here's my before and after:

My Before and After

Twenty years ago, I said I'd "die" if I ever wore a double digit size.  Today, I can tell you two things:  1.  Shit happens, you gain weight, and it's not life-ending even if you feel gross; and 2.  I won't say "never" but I don't want to gain that weight back for as long as I live.

In closing, I just want to say a few things.  First, every woman is beautiful and unique.  Second, there isn't a "perfect size".  Your perfect size is the one where you feel most comfortable.  For me, I had always been thin, so I was totally miserable in an 18/20.  Some of you may feel your best at that size and that's alright.  The national average size in the United States is a 12 to 14.  Don't be misled by these airbrushed, stick-thin supermodels and lingerie "Angels".  They wouldn't know what to do with a regular meal if it came with instructions.  Eating disorders are at an all-time high.  The pressures from society to be uber skinny are dangerous and unrealistic.  My advice to you is this:  BE YOURSELF.  Honor yourself, believe in yourself, and stay true to yourself.  Never allow anyone else to dictate how you look, how you feel, or what you think.

That's it y'all.
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