Wednesday, June 3, 2009

battle of the bulge

I've struggled with my weight and body image for as long as I can remember. I mean to some degree what girl hasn't? But growing up with three sisters, each of which has legs that seem to go on for days, wasn't always easy. I was the "big boned" one. The jiggly one. The one with a pretty face (i.e. the one who could definitely afford to lose a few pounds).

I was an active kid - I've always loved sports and exercise. I ran, jumped, tumbled and cheered my way through high school. But as my late teens and early twenties arrived, those years of bagels, muffins, and chocolate chip cookies started to take a toll on my body. I couldn't eat the way I used to, even with the amount of activity I was doing.

So I started dieting. To be honest I think I tried every diet in the book. From South Beach to Weight Watchers to diet pills to yes, even hypnotherapy. But nothing worked, at least not to the degree I was hoping for (in hindsight I realize what unrealistic goals I hoped to achieve in such short time spans). So after about three weeks of attempting the newest diet craze, I'd give up and stuff my face with cookies. And those extra few pounds just stuck to me like glue.

And then came college. Binge drinking and late night junk food runs. Enough said. I'd spend hours upon hours kicking my butt in the gym, only to head to the bars and down three shots, five beers and a nice big slice of pizza at 3 a.m. And I wondered why I couldn’t lose the weight? Ha!

Post-graduation I was convinced the weight would just fall off. I cut back on drinking, started eating "healthier" (no more 3 a.m. food runs) and was still running and working out 5/6 days per week. And I did lose some weight. About 10 pounds actually. But I still didn't have that rock hard body or those 6-pack abs that all the other girls at my gym so proudly sported. In fact, people (me included) barely noticed my weight loss. I just couldn't understand it. I worked out just as hard, if not harder than those other girls at the gym, but my body just stayed the same. It was so frustrating...

I'm not really sure when or why I had my "ah-ha" moment. But one day I just decided that eating fat-free, 100 calorie, artifically sweetened, fake food was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I'd become a constantly hungry, food obsessed, still overweight, exercise freak. And I said, NO MORE!

I took a good hard look at the foods I was putting into my body and realized that all those so-called "healthy" foods were really just mounds of processed junk and artificial sweeteners, not doing anything to help fuel my body in a healthy way. Diet cokes, sugar-free snacks, light microwave dinners - all staples in my meal plan. And the thing is I was never satisfied. I would polish off a pre-portioned micro dinner, chug down my diet coke and still be yearning for more.

So as terrified as I was to add full fat (aka real foods) back into my diet, I did. And you know what. It's true - what they say is true. A half a scoop of full fat ice cream is so much more satisfying than eating a whole tub of that reduced fat, artificially sweetened crap. Taking this into mind, I began experimenting with more whole foods. More natural foods. Less processed garbage and more goodies straight out of the garden. I eliminated the artificial sweeteners, kicked my diet coke addiction, and started using raw honey and agave nectar to sweeten up my meals. I've been eating whole grains for years, but I'd always just bought the whole wheat bread with the least calories. Now I look for ones with high fiber content and as few ingredients as possible. Even if that does mean more than 45 calories a slice. If I can't pronounce the first three ingredients on the label, it's probably not something I want to put into my body.

I've also started to incorporate a lot of principles of the raw food diet into my meals. A banana with raw almond butter, to me, is just as satisfying as a Skippy PB and jelly sandwich on light wheat bread. And a whole lot more filling. But that said, I really don't consider any foods off limits. If I really want something, I eat it, enjoy it and move on. I'm no longer on a diet. I've made lifestyle changes I can life with. I use the intuitive eating method - eat when I'm hungry, stop when I'm full. (pretty simple right!?) And I'm losing weight as a result.


I'm not trying to preach here. I'm not a nutritionist or a dietician. I just want to share what has worked for me and how I went from an anxious, food obsessed girl to a happy, driven, healthy woman.

Above all this - the most important thing that I've come to realize on this journey is that being skinny isn't going to make all your problems go away. Sure, maintaining a healthy weight and body shape is a great goal to aspire to. And it has its rewards -more energy, more confidence, etc. But you can only change your outer appearance so much. What is even more important is the inner you. The type of person you are and the type of person you strive to be. I still have a few pounds to go on my weight loss journey, but the fact is I’m finally learning to appreciate myself for the person I am on the inside. And I couldn’t be happier.

So thank you for reading my story, for appreciating it and hopefully learning a thing or two from it. I hope you continue on this journey with me to a better, healthier, more fulfilling life.

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