August 19, 2014

Red shirt

In my absence, I've been busy, per usual. My Spring semester ended finally, and what a relief it was to close the book on it. That was probably the hardest semester I've had since I started teaching, in terms of work load, difficult students, and administrative whatnot. Yesterday was the first day of my Fall semester, and I am hopeful that this year, even though not everything will be easier, it should all go at least a bit smoother now that I am no longer new and have a year under my belt.

We had a hectic summer - my plan to "take it easy" was turned on its head not long after my break started. The biggest thing that happened was that my husband, son, and I drove up to Connecticut to meet my new baby niece, but also, to get my teenage brother and bring him down to South Carolina for a few weeks. My mom had a stroke last summer and still struggles with her recovery, so this was not only a way to help her out, but a chance to see my brother and for him to have a fun summer with his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. Unfortunately, both my husband and I used my brother's visit as an excuse to not only overeat, but to make poor food choices, both at home and in restaurants.

There were a lot of good moments, though. We took my brother all over our area, and even did a weekend trip to Charleston. One day we were heading out to go to a nature preserve, and my brother, who seems oblivious most times to temperatures, was wearing a long-sleeved shirt. I told him he needed to change, that it's South Carolina low-country in mid-July, super hot and humid. He said he didn't have any short-sleeved shirts that were clean, so this is what he ended up wearing:

Now, consider this picture from a few years ago:

It's me, wearing that shirt as I leave California for the last time, heading to San Francisco to catch my one-way flight back to Chicago.

I handed the shirt to my brother, then cried. I scribbled a quick note to myself as we drove to the nature preserve:
... my brother needed a shirt to wear and he borrowed one of mine from when I was thin. I cried. I remember wearing it. I remember how it felt. I remember being at my smallest size and thinking I was a giant cow. I remember beating myself up emotionally for a whole year for seeing numbers like 196, 198.
Today, nearly 100 pounds heavier, I wish I was the size I was back when I thought I was so fat.
It was a really shocking experience for me, to see something like this. The year when I lost the weight, and the year after, were a very difficult time for me, especially in terms of self-perception. I lost the first 100 pounds in six months, then couldn't understand why I couldn't recognize the girl in the mirror. When I moved to California, I maintained my weight (at the most plus or minus 7 pounds) for a year. Instead of giving myself permission to maintain and let my mind catch up, I fought myself mentally for the entire year.

I was so fixated on numbers the first time around. This blogger lost X pounds and she's a size Y. I was so obsessed with getting to where everyone else was that I didn't stop to recognize and accept that I hadn't started at the same place as those other girls, so it isn't entirely reasonable for me to expect to end at the same spot.

I don't know if I will ever be 135 pounds -and honestly, I don't know if I want to be. I do know, though, that the nights I spent crying because I weighed 188 pounds and that I was still considered obese on the BMI scale until I weighed 185 ... that was just silly. I'm not punishing myself for these thoughts anymore - I've already done enough of that - but I want to recognize this obsession and hopefully prevent it from happening again.

I am hoping that things will be different this time. My goal is to take time as often as I can to practice self-care in ways that do not involve food or exercise - doing things like getting a haircut, wearing nice clothes, painting my nails, etc. I want to love my body and be grateful that the work I put in manifests itself in physical changes. I want to get to a place where I am ready to maintain, and I want that place to be based on how I look and feel, not how anyone else thinks I look or what anyone else is doing with his or her own life and his or her own situation.


Amanda said...

It's so much harder I think the second time around. When I had Reagan I gained back all that I had lost, and then kept gaining after I had her. Once I saw my original starting weight, it just felt all so...purposeless. Starting over again is incredibly daunting, and especially as a mom (and new spouse!), because there is so much else that demands your time.

I think you're on the right track though...when I finally started seeing the scale move in the "right" direction again, I did it the "right" way. The first time I had lost the weight it was through severe restriction, liquid diet type of crap...this second time it's been a very mindful journey - I want to do things the right way to be a good model for Reagan, and I also wanted to make sure there wasn't any self-negativity. The weight came off much slower the second time, but it was ok, because this time it's not as much about the end-number destination, it's about everything I'm learning on the journey. That sounds way too hallmark-card I know, but going in with both eyes open and truly making food-relationship changes, exercise-relationship changes, instead of thinking of short term results...I won't say it just "clicked," because I know that I could go back to a diet of pizza and dr pepper easily... but it's definitely been better this second time around.

I know I'm rambling, but just know that you can do this. You need to mourn of course, because gaining back the weight and seeing old familiar and terrifying numbers is...well, terrifying. But at some point you have to mourn that yes, there was a slip, but yes, you have all the reasons in the world that it IS justified. Mourn it, but then know that you can mindfully start again, and you will be back to 100 pounds lighter soon once you are ready. Just, as you've already pointed out, don't forget to love yourself along the journey - you need to write down all the amazing things about yourself and turn to those pages when you're starting to feel down.

Much love from cowtown! <3


Jessica said...

I love your ability to reflect on your past weight loss and use that reflection to define what you want your future weight loss to be. I think your ability to be reflective will make you successful!

FogDog said...

Your post has resonated with me, as I am starting all over again myself. I'm currently at around 350 (haven't officially weighed myself yet), but in 2010 I was at 260! It's hard to face the fact that you have to start all over, but I think it is important to look forward instead of looking back. Yes the road ahead is long, but you need to take that first step.

FogDog's Weight Loss - Starting Over (Again!)

LovelyDreams said...

For me, the mental work is the hardest part. While I have a goal weight in mind, what I REALLY want is to be able to handle my emotions without eating them or starving them. That's my ultimate goal, and I'm seeing a therapist to help with that (amongst other issues), but's hard.

Louise said...

I'm so glad to see you back here posting!

Amy said...

I think the other side of this is looking at the reality that you feel much the same about the number you see now, as the number you saw then.

It's always going to be a battle of sorts until you let go of that element of it and truly focus on how you feel!

I can only imagine how difficult that moment was for you, it's hard to compare ourselves to ourselves, and feel regret or shame or guilt.

But truly, when I think about how I felt at X weight vs X weight, it's not the number that made an impact on how I felt about myself, it's learning to love yourself and feeling good regardless.

Was I kind to myself today? Did I eat well today? Did I exercise today? Live as presently as possible!