Today, after my morning meditation I turned on GMA to find a beautiful young woman speaking about her experience on the reality show Extreme Makeover-Weight Loss Edition (another one of those programs I avoid like the plague). It’s been all over the air waves via commercials, and apparently premiered last night. She indicated that over the last year she lost 161 lbs, and currently was down another 30lbs. Congratulations! I can so identify.
I know from my own personal experience how weight, especially being overweight can affect you – even long term, even when you no longer carry around the extra pounds. In my case, an extra 100 lbs…at the same age as this young woman (I believe her name is Rachel), I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia – but frankly I was just fat, today I would have been considered obese. A total change in lifestyle was needed and fast. My 5’6″ frame was a staggering 210, a size 16. Gulp.
As a child I was chubby…adorable at 2, sad and bully material after the age of 10. My parents liked to say “you are just big boned”…ah, no I am not. Elephants, rhinos and hippos are “big boned”, which in my head translated to “you are a hippo”. I was overweight as a child, a teen and a young adult. I was tormented/bullied at school to the point of tears. I was ridiculed at home for eating too much – I was never instructed, schooled or treated for my fat-ness. (As I was raised by wolves, I so understand this today.) It wasn’t until a doctor gave me the information about what was wrong and what I could do about it did I make the necessary changes. I was 21 years old.
I started by changing my diet to a high protein, low carb diet Monday through Saturday. I walked a lot. It wasn’t until about 3 years later that I joined a women’s gym. Sundays were a day where I could eat whatever forbidden food I wanted – with one caveat. I had the smallest possible portion and only one serving. If I wanted to have pie for dessert, it was a thin slice. Mash potatoes: a serving spoon portion. A cookie, was just 1 cookie – not a dozen. I took the weight off slowly, having started in October I was down 100 lbs by July. I had lost so much weight my grandmother was concerned that I was dying. I finally had ankles. Don’t laugh, when you’ve never had ankles – seeing them below your knees is a huge miracle.
Being overweight in a thin world is akin to being blind or deaf in a seeing/hearing world. My father was 6″3″ and lean. My youngest sister would become as tall and as lean. I was compared to them a lot. I was also miserable at home, stemming from other issues, but nonetheless – miserable and alone.There wasn’t nearly the pressure then as there is today on “being thin”, I get it. It doesn’t make it any less painful today as it was in the 60’s. Being overweight, even a little…SUCKS. The physical toll is pretty obvious, but the emotional toll is life long. Even today I still have body image issues, not every day…but I continue to work at changing my internal thought process around to meet the reality.
My demons don’t haunt me anymore…oh, occasionally one will surface and I’ll wave it off with a salute and a nod, “I see you – now go away”. Shoo. Oh, I still have body image issues, I do not know of a woman alive who doesn’t, every once in a while. We don’t want to admit it but they are there -lurking. When dining out, I still read all of the menu selections before ordering the salad, dressing on the side and obsess on dessert until it’s actually time to order it and then I remember who I m today and how I continue to squeeze into those size 8 jeans I love so much. I remember how it took me several years to stop going directly to the size 16 dress rack at major department stores to dress my new body.
So it was wonderful to see and hear this young woman talk about her year of change on GMA. Changing what foods she ate, exercising every day and discovering who she was underneath the pain of being obese. Or in her case, “super obese”…(where were these shows when I needed the help?) I didn’t watch the show so I don’t know what her particular demons are/were, apparently she acknowledged them and is now aware of her triggers. I hope she will be able to continue her journey. I hope she has put into place a defense mechanism that will sound the needed alerts around: the people who will attempt to sabotage her, a day of low self-esteem and a car that will drive as if on auto-pilot to the nearest donut shop or against all possible odds – a credit card and a fully charged cell phone to order in.