When this topic came up, I wasn't sure what type of problem I'd share because who doesn't have problems?
Then I felt my heart tug at an issue I've had for about 17 years: my weight.
I know that majority of my readers are women, and most of us exercise to be healthy and keep our weight down, try to eat healthy, and may have struggled with our weight and body image at one time or another in our lives. And there are men out there who struggle too. It seems to be a universal issue, at least here in America, so maybe more of a national/cultural issue.
The first time I noticed I weighed more than other kids was in the 3rd grade. As part of an annual check up at school, we got weighed and measured by the school nurse. I don't remember what other kids weighed, but I do remember that at 8 years old, I weighed 95 pounds. I remember this number so well because this one kid asked me in front of everyone how much I weighed and I replied with the truth, not thinking anything was wrong with me. But as the group around me started laughing and expressing their amazement that I weighed that much, I knew I was different.
I knew I weighed more than other kids, but I didn't see myself as bigger. I thought I was normal and even though I weighed more, I didn't think I was different.
Do you remember the first diet you've ever been one?
Every summer, up until the age of 10, was sent to visit with my grandparents in California. When I was 8 years old, my grandma restricted the amount of fried foods I ate, bought non/low fat items (non fat milk, non fat brownies, not fat candies, low fat waffles are what I remember most). That's the first time I ever remember being told I can't eat something because it would make me gain weight.
The focus wasn't on fresh fruits and veggies, but more on fat-free versions of the foods I loved. I still ate Lucky Charms but switched my 2% milk for non-fat. Or low-fat waffles with fat-free margarine and low-fat maple syrup.
That summer I lost 10 pounds. My grandma was so proud of me. I thought I was too. Until I was old enough to realize how ridiculous it was to have an 8 year old child feel proud of their self based on a number on the scale.
When I returned home for school that fall, my diet didn't change at all. My dad was the cook in the family and he worked nights. My mom cooked, occasionally, but didn't have much of a healthy diet either. The dinners I remembered consisted of Pizza Hut delivery, Taco Bell, and soda. Once in awhile my mom would pull out the cook book but I honestly can only remember 2 dishes she made for me.
On the weekends I was involved in a lot of activities: hula lessons, gymnastics, voice lessons, piano lessons, ukulele lessons. My early mornings started with a McDonald's breakfast and than a stop at the convenience store for snacks "for the ride". The ride, mind you, was only 30 minutes but my mom would get a snack (chips and soda) and of course so would I.
The next summer I was 9 years old. My grandma's friend had found this wonderful liquid supplement that burned fat while you sleep. It was called Calorad and it tasted horrible. I had to take a spoonful of my "medicine" every night before I went to bed. And a few times a week my grandma would take my measurements. I don't remember if it worked or not, but we never went back to it.
After that summer, I returned home to find a new diet to welcome me: Berry Trim pills. I had to take 2 or 3 pills before breakfast and dinner. The potent berry ingredients would magically melt the fat away. At 10 years old, I was already taking diet pills. I don't have to hold the suspense for you. It didn't work.
I didn't return to California that summer because I started playing sports. I got involved in canoe paddling and basketball. The sports activity was good, but my diet never changed.
In the mornings before school, I got up by myself and made my own breakfast which usually was a bowl of cereal. Made my own lunch which was a turkey sandwich (turkey, bread, mayo, no veggies), maybe a small piece of candy, and a soda or a juice. I didn't have any guidelines in what to make for myself so I packed what I wanted.
After school snacks are the same story- my mom would nap after work and if I woke her up to ask permission to eat something, she'd get upset and tell me as long as I was only having "one" it was OK. So one soda, one ice cream cone, one bag of popcorn, or whatever else I could find would have to hold me over till dinner.
Between the ages of 10 and 13, I hit puberty and my growth spurt, and gained close 40 pounds in the process. 6th and 7th grade was extremely hard for me, I was in my awkward stage, became forgetful, and got made fun of on a daily basis. My best friends and I were no longer speaking and I felt like the school outcast. 8th grade was a little better as I started to feel more comfortable in my skin.
Once I entered high school, things started to work out for me. I maintained my weight and grew about 3 inches so people would comment that I "lost tons of weight" or I got "so skinny!". And because I was still playing sports, I developed a lot of muscle and toned up. I still was overweight and chubby, but I felt more comfortable in my skin. And the number one the scale stayed the same, well until senior year.
The diets however, did not stop. My junior year of high school my mom put me on these weight-loss patches. I wore them on the inside of my bicep and had to drink at least 2 L of water a day. My paddling coaches and some classmates noticed the weight loss. A few people thought I was on the birth control patch. But as soon as I got off the patch the weight I lost, plus a few more pounds, came back.
After high school I moved for college and began attending the University of San Diego. All of a sudden I was surrounded by tall, lean, tan blondes. I never felt more insecure in my life.
The great thing though about being a student is that a lot of things are offered cheap or even free. And our campus fitness center was no exception. The end of my sophomore year I got really interested in exercising and eating healthy to lose weight. I learned about the dangers of diet pills through many health magazines, websites, and books. My junior year I started to take it a bit more seriously and lost 20 pounds.
I was happy, healthy, and comfortable being me. I was able to drop a few more pounds my senior year by watching what I ate and consistently working out.
And now? Well, after graduation I moved back to Hawaii. I wasn't working out as much and started to chow down on all the local foods I missed. Over the next 2 years after graduation, I gained 20 pounds. I held that weight steady for about a year, until the wedding planning started. I gained another 10 pounds.
That's where I am now. I started this running journey because I was sick of having goals to lose weight. I now focus on improving my running and making healthier choices when it comes to my food. I haven't lost as much weight as I wanted, but I did lose 10 pounds from the wedding stress!
And I'm going to continue to work on me. No diet pills, no fad diets, no crazy elixirs. Just good old fashion exercise and healthy eating. I don't regret anything I went through, except for the fact that those pills/elixirs/patches may have messed up my metabolism, but I learned some pretty hard lessons, and those lessons help motivate me and remind me that being healthy may not be easy, but it sure is worth it.