I was standing on the scale at my GYN appointment. Scared. Embarrassed. Ashamed.
The guy I was seeing at the time had been hinting about my body type. I felt the small indications and read between the lines of his comments about us working out together and healthier eating habits. They each felt like little pin pricks, making me feel even more self-conscious. When the cold, hard truth set in I had to face the fact that I just felt guilty for being too scared (or perhaps too lazy) to do anything about it.
Of course I wanted a better body and a healthier lifestyle. I wanted to be able to keep up. I didn’t want to be held back from things I desired to do because my current condition couldn’t meet the demands of an intense hike or an afternoon jog.
But there that number was, staring me in the face.
I was 24 years old, five foot five inches and 183 pounds. National standard labeled obese.
So I promised myself and him that I would never see that number again. I made a goal. I picked 150 pounds. Why? Because it was the healthy weight for my body mass index. Also because I remembered him saying 150 pounds was the weight limit for any girl who wanted to ride on the back of his motorcycle. Hearing that I didn’t meet the criteria always made me feel inadequate.
Isn’t that the way most women heartbreakingly view the definition of beauty? The absence of adequacy. If you’re enough, you’re then deemed “beautiful.” I wasn’t enough yet because I wasn’t 150 pounds.
So I started.
It was slow going. I cut out soda. Fixed healthier meals. I always felt too tired to work out, too exhausted from working several jobs at odd hours. I was constantly on the move so much that I didn’t have the time or the money to think about healthy options. Especially when a date was considered a trip to fast food joints between running errands or adventures. It was hard to keep up with my life’s demands while trying to pursue my goal.
I reached 165. Major progress. But I didn’t feel any different and didn’t see any results when I looked in the mirror. I had plateaued—everyone always talks about that happening, but I had never understood its true meaning until then. It felt like the more I pushed myself, the more stubborn those stupid little black numbers on my scale became.
So I changed diets. I did the:
• Eat Your Heart Out Diet
• The Cabbage Soup Diet
• The Hard Boiled Egg Diet
• The Military Diet
I did research on dieting for your blood type. I tried supplements. I tried counting calories. I ate several times a day to maintain my metabolism. Then I tried eating nothing all day until I would get home and eat one large meal. I bought a Fitbit. I tracked my steps. I did challenges with my coworkers. I made a food journal. I bought an exercise bike and a weight set to use at home because going to the gym was embarrassing. I felt like I had tried it all and the numbers still weren’t changing. I wasn’t changing. I was stuck. I was frustrated. I was sore. I was a failure.
It felt like the more I pushed myself, the more stubborn those stupid little black numbers on my scale became.
I felt angry when my boyfriend bugged me to work out. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to fail. Not for myself, and definitely not for him. I didn’t want to be ashamed of my body while next to him. I didn’t want him to be ashamed of me. I didn’t want to seem weak. I didn’t want to complain about the pain, the pressure to perform. If I couldn’t do a push-up, was he going to break up with me?
I had turned 25 and almost half a year went by since I had begun my healthy journey, but my boyfriend and I went our separate ways. We ended our relationship for a million little reasons. And it broke me. I had never felt more worthless and valueless. Everything we had built and worked through seemed pointless. All that time and energy. All my sweat and tears. For what?
I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t talk. I wasn’t hungry. I just cried until I went numb. And when the emptiness hit me again, I cried some more.
My mom took me out of town to the middle of nowhere. No cell service. Just us and nature. As miserable as I was, we went hiking. I can remember breaking down multiple times in the middle of a public trail, feeling like I couldn’t keep moving one foot in front of the other anymore. I was weak and tired. And heartbroken.
I went six days without eating solid food. I just wasn’t hungry. My friends and family were concerned. I tried to eat, but being emotionally ill made me physically ill. Anything I ate came right back up. Nothing settled well in my stomach. I was nauseous at even the sight of food. I drank hot teas and ice water with lemon to keep myself hydrated and a lot of coffee to keep me going to work.
Then I got back on the scale.
It was time to refocus my life back to something I could control. I had to take back my life and stop feeling sorry for myself. I had to prove to myself that no goal I set was too hard. With or without a significant other…
I was 10 pounds away from my goal. I had broken the curse of the plateau! Even if it did take something painful, I was too close to the finish line to stop now.
So back at it I went. Filling the time I would have spent crying on my exercise bike. Finding a food plan that matched my health requirements. I found that my body needs more protein to stay feeling strong and less carbs to lose weight. I learned about substituting certain ingredients in recipes and spent more hours on Pinterest than anyone who was 25 and single probably should. I did the work. I put in the time. I was focused on the discipline. It wasn’t easy. I was in pain. I felt sick while detoxing. I spent more time on the toilet than any woman might be willing to admit.
When I reached my goal three days before my 26th birthday, I celebrated with a road trip with my best friend to get a tattoo. “Faith over fear.” The personal mantra I had learned to lean on over the past months of sweat and tears and the shedding of both physical weight and emotional baggage.
And I haven’t stopped there.
Weighing a certain number was the original goal. Being healthy and confident in my own skin is the life plan. I learned that we all need the right motivation to keep us fighting for the kind of people we want to be. I needed to convince myself I wasn’t worthless. To believe I wasn’t a failure. That I could achieve my goals all on my own. But I had to go through a lot of mental obstacles. I had to face more than just physical challenges, but emotional ones. Big, scary, painful hurdles that brought me face to face with some of my largest insecurities. I had to look in the mirror and convince myself that I could see something of value all on my own.
Weighing a certain number was the original goal. Being healthy and confident in my own skin is the life plan.
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You’ll also like this episode of our podcast, This Grit and Grace Life Does Your Self-Confidence Need a Boost? – 018.