This week I started working out again, and I said I would post about it weekly on order to keep myself honest. This is my first post about it, and it may be far more honest than I intended to be.
I would like to say that I've been fat all of my life, but that's simply not true. I've been told I was fat most of my life. My parents started commenting on my weight very early. I started to mindlessly eat more right after my sister left home when I was 9, and puberty was just around the corner for me. I remember driving to our new state in the U-Haul, eyes closed and half asleep next to my mom, hearing her say that I looked like a fat little pig while I slept. The more I heard comments on my weight, the less active I got and the more I retreated to the television and frozen pizza. My teenage years were built on a diet of frozen pizza and soda.
Becoming a teenager with body issues is incredibly hard for everyone, and my issues were no different. In the land of skinny awkward children, I had developed early. I was strong armed into wearing a bra at the age of 10, because I was getting whispers from boys in class who were talking about my boobs. I had an hourglass figure by the time I was 12, which I had misunderstood to mean I was getting fat. I wore baggy clothing to hide my changing body, and to ward off street harassment from my skeevy neighbors who knew I was a child but did not care. This just made it easier for me to eat and not notice if there were any real issues with weight. On the flip side, I was surrounded by friends who were far smaller than me dealing with their own body issues.
Growing up in an era where the supermodels had transitioned from thin yet curvy, to waifs emulating the disgusting term "heroin chic", it was hard to look at my size 8 frame in the mirror and be comfortable with it. This was the early days right before the hype of size 00, but I could already see it happening with my peers. My closest friend, a pixie who wore backless tops and who still wore children's clothing at the age of 16, would constantly tell me about how fat she was. She would poke at an invisible layer of fat on her stomach telling me to look at how heavy she was. When I'd point out that I was considerably larger than her, she'd brush it off and say, "Oh, you're fine. I'm the one who's fat." fully not realizing that her poor self image was making mine worse with each comment. Another friend, far smaller than I was, would do the same thing, bemoaning not being able to fit into a 00 pair of jeans. I never commented on my own body or weight unless it was brought up, but unfortunately it was brought up frequently. Eventually I started getting really sick of the negative comments, and any time someone who was a smaller size than myself would make one, I'd lift my shirt and slap one end of my belly, causing the rest of it to ripple like water and telling them to get over it. This would either make them laugh, or shut up and shoot daggers at me with their eyes.
As an adult, my weight and metabolism issues started to catch up with me in the form of hyperthyroidism. So a couple of years back, I decided I wanted to see just how in shape I could get if I really put my mind to it. I started P90X on my own, signed up with a friend to meet with a personal trainer once a week, and started tracking everything I ate meticulously. In part, I was doing this for myself to feel fit and healthy at the time. But looking back this was also a challenge to my teenage self, the girl who silently suffered and felt awful about herself amid the sea of negative speech.
While the working out made me feel strong and powerful physically, the control I had over my food seemed to have a stronger effect on me. This is so easy, I would think, not actually looking at how unrealistic and unsustainable it had become. I allowed myself chocolates and other treats, but only a square or a morsel a day, and only after I had finished my workout. I spent many, many days sweating it out to hammer curls and toe lunges while staring longingly at a one inch square of chocolate. I convinced myself that if I work real hard, that will be the only time the half cookie I preciously laid out on a napkin will be eaten. If I skipped an exercise, that cookie was going into the trash. I needed these dangling carrots just to make me feel like this was all worth something.
I wasn't only tracking things I ate, but ingredients of things I ate. As an avid cook, I would use the fitness tracking system to write down every single detail of what I made and figure out how many portions I could split my food into to meet my calorie goals. So instead of putting in that made chili, I would input every single ingredient, right down to the teaspoon and bay leaf. Then I would split that chili recipe into a dozen little containers, effectively giving me a 1/4 cup of chili for every day for the two weeks, keeping my calorie count just at the bare minimum I needed to function. I would be afraid of actually leaving my house to eat at a restaurant with a friend, because that would mean I wouldn't know the exact amount of butter that was used in my dish. Those days, even just eating something would cause me great anxiety. I started seeing food as good and bad, and doubling my workout time if I ate a teaspoon of peanut butter. I kept telling myself I was doing a good thing, that this is what it takes to lose weight and be healthy. I wanted to see just how small and strong I could get, and that wouldn't be possible if I had things like people and food in my way.
A few months into keeping my schedule, I commented to a friend that I felt like I had effectively built myself my own little prison. I never saw anyone, I never did anything. All I ever did with my time was track calories and work out. I was in the best shape of my life and it showed. I lost 50lbs and got back down to my high school weight; but I had no life or interests outside of exercise and work. I started to get anxious about being around friends even when there wasn't food involved, because it meant trying to hold a conversation and realizing I had nothing interesting to talk about. I started insisting that any and all social activity I had with friends be something physically active, because it's all I knew anymore.
Eventually I decided it was time to try dating again, after all I was looking really good. But I had anxieties about dating as well. I just knew that the moment I met someone, I would lose my strict eating and workout schedule. I needed to choose between being actual people and my workout buddies on TV. I started dating someone, and sure enough my activity level dipped a little. In fact, when I first started dating my ex boyfriend, I told him he was the reason I had gained 10lbs back in the first month we were together. I fully regret that now, this was all my own undoing. I was rediscovering interests outside of exercise and growing more comfortable, far too comfortable, with eating out again. My priorities shifted, and my thyroid continued playing tricks on me, and soon enough all of the weight I had lost was back again.
Now, I'm back to being single and my thyroid has been completely removed. I stopped working out entirely and battled depression for a while, and am now trying to find balance again in my life. I don't care much about how good I will look in an outfit anymore, or whether or not I will ever fit into a certain number size (spoiler alert: I will never fit in to a 00). I miss the physical strength I had when I was at my strongest, but I don't miss the loneliness and complete isolation I subjected myself to. I'm no longer fighting for that insecure teenager, no longer taking the words of others and relating them to myself somehow. Everyone has a different story and a different reason for why they want to get in shape, and none of that is my business. I don't plan on tracking my food like I did, or tracking it at all. This time it's all about me, in the present moment.