By: Ann Kroger
I have always struggled with my weight. When I look back at pictures of me as a child, my eyes are inevitable drawn to my chubby, little thighs peeking out from under a blue velour dress or my rounded belly in a pink bathing suit. As a teenager, I managed a healthy weight through hours of exercise, varsity sports, and a vigorous diet of starvation and bulimia. It was ugly, but I was desperate. My self-image forced me into a corner of discomfort and unease. I thought my worth was based, not on my intellect or humor, but on the numbers on the scale.
At the age of eighteen, I ran away. That’s the only way I can describe it. I moved to Boston to get a break from the relentless pressure to be blonde and make-up-ed and thin. What I didn’t know then, that I do know now, is that no matter where I go, there I am. It was 1995. I walked down the aisle of Star Market in Porter Square, a day like any other, unremarkable in and of itself. But what I remember about this particular day is that I craved a cookie. Just one. One chocolate chip cookie. I remember the conversation I had with myself. “I can’t have a cookie!” And then the slow dawning of the realization, “Wait, why can’t I? Who’s going to stop me?” I stared at the shelf of brightly packaged delights, the cookies shaped like elves and the sandwich cookies bartered and traded at school lunch tables across the land. And then there they were. Chips Ahoy. Blue package.
Twenty years has passed since that day. I still battle my weight and my mind. Last year, I did well. I fought my weight down to 235. I was able to run a mile, swim a mile. I lifted weights and was low carb, high protein diet. I felt great. And then life happened, as life often will.
Alas, last week, circumstances conspired to get me back in the gym. In the women’s locker room, a doctor’s scale stood sentry outside the entrance to the showers stalls. I held my breath as I stood on the scale and adjusted the little weights. I stood staring at the numbers. Something must be wrong. I stepped off the scale and checked the calibration. No, it’s on zero. I reached down and pulled off one sneaker, then the other. Shoot. Hmmmm… well, I did just drink a bunch of water.
Then from the adjacent weight room, the dull thud of a dropped barbell reverberated in a reflection of my heart. I awoke me from my daze, my delusion. 287 pounds. Sigh. Although I obviously knew I had gained weight (three-year-old jeans don’t randomly start shrinking in the dryer), I had somehow deluded myself that it wasn’t that bad. How did it get that bad? Clearly I had been losing the battle for quite some time. Weight gain is emotional business. And in that moment I felt them all: embarrassment, awkwardness, shame, regret, fear, anger, the sinking sensation of “How did I let this happen… again.”
That was a couple of weeks ago. At first I was angry, I wanted to combat my way back, back to what exactly I don’t know, but to something. Three hour gym sprees, carb free, paleo, brouhaha. Since then though, I’ve had a change of heart. My whole life I have been trying to lose weight on my own will, in a variety of unhealthy ways. And I’ve been unsuccessful. My lack of success, though, is not just in the numbers staring back at me, it is the way I see myself, see my food. When times got hard, I was unable to sustain, because it was unsustainable. I was unhappy. I think that had I tried to be different in a way that fulfilled me spiritually as well as healthily, I would have dug deeper when the times got tough, rather than turning back to my former ways.
Although obesity is a serious issue, the underlying cause for countless diseases, I feel for me to be successful, I need to have a little fun in the process. I’m not going to beat myself up for returning to bad habits; I am going to use that lesson to my advantage. I want to learn how to be healthy in a way that makes me smile and laugh, that fulfills me emotionally as well as spiritually.
So, I hope you join me on this journey. Ever week, I want explore a new idea realm of weightloss and fun, spirituality and laughter. I hope to have adventures. Maybe I will learn a little about myself in the process. If you have something you would like to investigate for you, or if you have a suggestion, please let me know. I would love to hear from you. Until next week…