I took this picture exactly seven years ago today. December 1, 2009 was one of the most important days of my life and I didn’t even know it.
At the time, I was borderline obese and depressed. I couldn’t walk up the stairs to our bedroom without being winded at the top. I couldn’t run a mile – I could barely walk a mile.
I had been skinny through high school and like everyone else I gained a few pounds in college but not anything to be worried about. Before my wedding I crash dieted to fit into a wedding dress that was accidently ordered a size too small and once the wedding was over I let myself go. I gained 45 pounds in two years. I was a size 14 shoving myself into size 12 jeans. I had a nearly 40″ waist.
That morning I was sitting at my kitchen table surfing the internet. I had just polished off a giant stack of pancakes, some eggs, toast with jelly, coffee and orange juice. As I sat there I could feel the rolls of my stomach touching each other. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I cried, not figurative tears, real tears. I had tried loosing weight several times, unsuccessfully. I had done Weight Watchers with some friends, I joined a gym and tried working out. None of it worked. I lost weight in the short term but immediately gained it back plus some. I couldn’t stick with anything for longer than a few weeks. After three years of trying to loose weight, I felt like I was stuck in a body that I didn’t belong in.
I’m a smart girl, I knew that loosing weight meant changing my entire lifestyle but it was so hard and I didn’t want to work hard.
But something happened that morning while sitting at the kitchen table. I had what was the most important epiphany of my life, I realized that the only person I was hurting by being overweight was myself. I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? Why are you letting yourself get away with this? Why don’t you stop being so weak and do something about it?”
That very second I got up from the table, got my camera and the tripod and set it up in our bedroom. I put on my swimsuit, took some pictures, I weighed myself, took all my measurements and wrote it in a blog post, hoping that the accountability of the world would motivate me to follow through.
I did some research and found out exactly how much weight was safe to loose in a week (1-2 pounds) and how many calories I could eat to meet that goal (1,500) and I stuck to it.
Y’all, the first few weeks were hard. They were so. hard. I knew nothing about nutrition. Nothing. Zero. It was one big game of trial and error. I started by shaving off the little calories I didn’t need, like the jelly on my toast (50 calories) and the sugar in my coffee (60 calories x 2 cups). I quit putting syrup on my pancakes (200 calories).
Later, I gave up the toast and the pancakes altogether. I quit drinking juice. I gave up bagels. I gave up donuts. I gave up anything that didn’t stay in my stomach very long. By trial and error, I learned that if I ate eggs for breakfast, I would still be full at lunch and all I would need was a handful of almonds to get me through until dinner. I learned to eat something small before we went out to eat and order a broth based soup instead of a hamburger. I learned a lot about nutrition.
By process of elimination, I unintentionally cut out all the extra sugar in my diet and many of the processed carbs I’d been eating. If it didn’t keep me full it wasn’t worth the calories.
By Christmas, just three weeks later, I’d lost 9 pounds. I knew I needed to add exercise for any weight loss to really stick but I had no idea where to start. My previous attempts at being a gym rat failed miserably because I hated the gym. I tried it again anyway. Unsurprisingly, my disdain for that little cinder block building didn’t go away because I was on a diet. I hated the smell. I hated the machines. I needed something I didn’t hate.
One day, some time around the New Year, when it was time to make the dreaded trip to the gym I did something that changed my life. I put on my running shoes instead and slogged through a three mile loop. I walked a lot, ran a little and cursed myself the entire time. It hurt. My lungs burned. I didn’t love it…but I didn’t hate it either. A couple of days later I did it again. That April, just four months after I started running, I ran my first half marathon.
All in, it took nine months to loose 45 pounds. The diet change and learning about nutrition helped me loose the weight but running… y’all, running saved me. I found something that I truly loved, something that brought me joy that I could dedicate myself to every day. If you want to know why I talk about running so much, why it is such a huge part of my life – that’s why. It saved my life; it’s a strong statement but it’s true.
I spent the better part of the last seven years trying to forget that me – I even deleted my fat pictures off Facebook. Most of the people in my life now didn’t know me then and don’t know this me ever existed. It was a dark time that I don’t talk about much.
Recently though, I’ve met several people who are in a similar situation to the one I was in. Talking with them forced me to think about how my experience impacted my life. I’ve realized that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I had always been thin. I wouldn’t be as motivated. I wouldn’t be as dedicated. I wouldn’t be as strong. I wouldn’t be as successful. It fundamentally changed me. They encouraged me to share my story.
Now, most days, I run because I found a hobby I love. But on the days when I didn’t sleep well, or when I’m sore or when I would rather sit on the couch and drink a beer but I go running anyway, it’s because of this.
I don’t think about this picture much anymore, but every December 1st I do – not because I want to but because I can’t help it. It was that important.
Today, I’m sharing my story with the hope that it will help one person who feels trapped by their choices find the motivation to make a change.
Just because you’re not happy with who you are today doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Start small. Educate yourself. Pay attention to what you’re putting in your body. Go outside. Take the dog for a walk. Ride a bike. Go for a jog. Find an activity you like or at least can tolerate. Surround yourself with people who share your desired lifestyle. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something about it. Make the decision to try. Sometimes, that’s the hardest part.