My husband and I are in the process of losing a good chunk of chunk. I'm very lucky to have someone that understands what I'm going through and can relate to how hard it can be. Recently I was looking at pictures of us in grade school and I was pretty skinny. Very tall and (through my adult eyes) proportionately, athletically built. I pointed to one picture of me wearing a pair of uniform shorts and remembered exactly how I felt in them - all leg (the fashion in the 70's included what I consider short shorts) and very different from the other girls I knew as I was developing a small waist, filled out hips, and a very full bra - and told A that I remember being REALLY self conscious then. Even back then, at height/weight proportionally average, I didn't like how I looked. I realized as I said that to him that for 30+ years, I have not been happy with my body. That's too long to dislike the one true constant in your life!
I actually think that around the time that picture was taken is about when I began to struggle with body image. I remember being told by trusted people - including family, teachers, coaches, friends and parents of friends - that I was "huge" and "fat" and all manner of other comments about my size.
By 8th grade I was almost my full height of 5'10" and not what I'd call "petite" in terms of bone structure. My hands were big. My feet were big (size 9 by age 13 or so). I was a "big girl" (another euphemism for "fat" depending on who said it and why). My senior year in high school, despite having run, swam, and worked out all summer long, I was "welcomed" by a new soccer coach with some pretty unkind comments about my weight. It didn't matter to him that I'd been the starting varsity goalie since my freshman year and could run longer and further (maybe not faster) than many of the skinny girls on the team.
Looking back I realize that if I were in a bigger grade school, I probably wouldn't have been as tall or taller than most of the boys in school much less towering over the girls. Maybe I wouldn't have felt so freakishly large at that age which then carried over into high school.
It certainly didn't help to have people that I cared about make comments or jokes about my size and weight either. I can still remember one cutting remark that stung for years - I had just bought new jeans that I rather liked. Money was tight and getting new jeans was a big deal for me. The ink was barely dry on the receipt when a comment was slung at me that only fat people wear the same size waist as their inseam. At that time, I wore 32"x32" and felt again, freakishly out of proportion. (I'd be THRILLED to be a 32" waist again!)
For years different people tried to "help me lose weight" by commenting directly and indirectly about my size and assumptions they made about my lifestyle. That just made me more self-conscious about my weight and particularly what I was eating in front of people - especially those people who always seemed to be looking when I took a bite of anything. I remember visiting my grandparents and overhearing my grandfather tell my mom that she needed to "watch that one because she eats a lot of Baby Ruth's". (I hadn't once eaten a candy bar while visiting them and to this day won't eat a Baby Ruth.) I didn't feel accepted for who I really was - only judged by what I looked like. As stubborn as I am, I refused to give in to their perception of who I should be or would be or could be if only my ass were smaller.
Some efforts in helping me lose weight were done in kind, caring ways - helpful suggestions (made in private), role modeling through their own struggle, visits to a nutritionist, asking me to be an exercise partner etc. Some were just mean-spirited. When I lived in California, I had put on some more weight (but really was only about 20lbs over my suggested weight range for my height and body type despite being super active and fit) and suddenly I started getting weight loss brochures mailed to me anonymously every other week or so. Yeah. That helped. (I finally figured out who that was - she was a holier-than-thou skinny bitch "friend" who thought anyone that even approaches ten pounds below their ideal weight is a tub of lard. She spent years on phen-fen even though she was rail skinny.)
Over the years I developed enough confidence in myself in other ways that I stopped paying attention to the scale, the mirror etc. But then one day I opened my eyes and realized that I wasn't living the life I wanted and THAT was the reason that I needed to tackle my weight issue.
I tried a variety of approaches - work out like mad but not change my eating, eat like a bird and work out moderately, veggies only, meat only, low-carb, no sugar etc. I had varying results but always gained the weight back plus some when I "quit" the diet. I never talked to anyone about it because it felt like a really personal struggle and I'd been judged enough - I didn't need more disappointed looks if I didn't succeed.
About three years ago after losing control of my body for a while due to infertility, a blood clot, and a bad back, I woke up one morning and said "Enough is enough!" It was a few weeks before Christmas and I decided not to try to lose weight before the holidays but just be more conscious of what I was eating. By the time I really started my weight loss plan in the second week of January, I had lost six pounds with virtually no effort! I could DO it this time - I was SURE of it!
Over the next four months I lost 40lbs fairly easily through diet and exercise. Then I lost 20lbs more over the next 4-5 months very very slowly. I couldn't quite get the right mixture of calories to exercise to steadily lose weight and after almost a year of calorie counting I decided to give myself a break and stop focusing on it. I was still exercising thereby keeping that lost weight off until an old hip injury became so aggravated that I needed surgery. That threw me all off! After the surgery I couldn't exercise for months and even after I could start again, I couldn't do the things I had done before. My weight started to creep back up.
Meanwhile my husband's starts and stops at weight loss and management had frustrated him beyond words. He had all but given up and I was scared for his life. Having lost my brother in-law to a heart attack at the age of 40, that reality is never far from my mind.
About nine months ago A started a program that initially seemed to work well for him but then stalled. It was supposed to be medically guided but really they just wanted to charge him a ton of money every other week for crap food and then told him to snack on peppermint patties when he had cravings... Yeah. Helpful.
In January of this year my friend posted a picture of herself on Facebook and she looked incredible! She's always been beautiful but she seemed to have dealt with her excess weight overnight. I had just seen her six months or so before and we had talked about our struggles with weight issues - we've known each other since high school and are built similarly in that we are both heavier in the hips and thighs and smaller up top. Seeing her success, I asked her for information.
She had successfully lost 47lbs in four months doing the Ideal Protein diet and was just beginning the maintenance phase. I was impressed and started immediately. I lost nine pounds the first week and have steadily lost 2-4 pounds each week since then. Seeing my success, A started the program two weeks later and lost 13 pounds the first week and (when he gets enough sleep) loses 5-7 pounds regularly. In 3.5 months I've lost 48lbs and A has lost 68lbs in 3 months.
We feel great, have more energy and are doing things we haven't done in a while and loving it. So far so good but we both still have a ways to go.
But as I look down the road to "getting off the diet" I know that I have to continue to address those feelings that I've had my whole life regarding weight and food and guilt etc. I realize that I've actually had a good model for how to deal with some of it for many years - my mom.
Mom is a recovering alcoholic (it's funny to saying recoverING instead of recoverED because it's been about 25 years since she last drank) and one of her greatest tools is to talk about it. She talks about if/when she wants to drink or would have turned to drinking in the past and she talks about her sobriety. It's occasionally embarrassing for her kids/grand kids but it's part of her journey.
And Mom models self-forgiveness, one day at a time, moving forward, and counting daily blessings. All great tools to staying food-sober in a world of temptations.
So A and I have peeled back the curtain on our weight struggles and invited everyone that loves us or cares about us in. We aren't looking for validation or assurances but knowing that others are rooting for you and willing to support you no matter what you are struggling with makes you stronger. As we make the transition back eating off the diet, that support will be really helpful.