To be fair, I will warn you that I am about to talk about my weight.
If you want a quick exit, I’m opening a proverbial window for you to jump out of right now. I get it. I won’t take it personally.
Generally speaking, I subscribe to the idea that (unless you are the best friend or the sister), no one really cares to talk about this. Most people would rather fold fitted sheets all day than listen to a woman drone on and complain about her weight. Bearing that in mind, I’ll try my best not to do either.
But let’s all be real here; there aren’t many things that happen to me that I don’t write about. I tend to live my life as an open book. So lets call this one the Chubster Chapter and just get on with it, shall we?
If you’re just opening up your books, you find me in the midst of a minor identity crisis. I say minor because ultimately I know who I am and I don’t find my worth in my weight. I rely mostly on my sense of humor for that. (Get it? It’s still the wrong answer. I’m being cheeky)
Actually I seem to be involuntarily ‘cheeky’ these days due to an unprecidented amount of recent weight gain.
I’ve always been a person who loves food. I love to cook it, I love to eat it, I love to share it with the people I love. It makes me happy. To be clear, I’ve never had an eating disorder and I don’t claim to have a dysfunctional relationship with food, it’s more of a love affair, really.
As a teenager and all throughout my twenties, I was lanky and thin. My family gave me the nickname “Twiggy”. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, without a second thought or consequence. If you haven’t jumped out that proverbial window yet, but you are starting to want to slap me a little bit, don’t worry. I get it. Stick around.
It’s not all chipotle burritos and rainbows forever.
During my first pregnancy I gained a startling 50 pounds, obliterating my figure right along with my foolish expectation to remain petite throughout my pregnancy. Yet, I was still relatively young and relatively resilient and bounced back in a short amount of time. “Whew!” I thought. “Good. My body knows how to fall back in line. That was close!”
The second time I got pregnant I adopted a “don’t fight the funk” attitude and packed on 50 pounds again. What was I thinking? Hadn’t I learned the first time? Fifty freakin pounds?! They don’t exactly lose themselves, ya know. But I didn’t care. I was happy and jolly and generally unconcerned with anything other than eating Oreos and planning out the nursery. Even after enduring a traumatizing and dangerous delivery with my son by way of emergency C-section, I was still unprepared for the trauma of the physical aftermath. I recall standing in front of my bathroom mirror a week after my son was born and crying hot tears as I surveyed the damage. My boobs looked like they belonged in a National Geographic magazine, my stretch marks were more visible than ever, I had a crooked scar from the rushed C-section incision that looked more like a Nike swoosh than a straight line. I was war-torn. I was heavy. Inwardly and outwardly. My once lithe, speedily metabolized body had ushered me into motherhood and then promptly betrayed me. I was sad. I was mad. I was motivated.
For the first time in my life I had to work really hard to get my body (and myself) back. It didn’t come so easily after the second baby. I was older. I was exhausted. My colicky baby left me little room for thought other than survival. My stomach muscles had been sliced through and left for dead. But I remembered what it was like to feel happy in my own skin and I badly wanted that back. I busted my butt and I worked hard and eventually, I did it. I lost the weight. With time the stretch marks and C-section scar faded into obscurity and are no longer even noticeable. The body is a mysterious thing.
It is also unpredictable.
I am sad to confess to you that over the course of the last five years I have gained and lost the same fifteen pounds roughly 5 times. I’ll do intense cardio, intense diet restrictions, feel intensely miserable, lose the weight. Then slowly, inexorably I begin to put it back on.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
I am also sad to tell you that this time around five pounds quickly turned to ten, and then fifteen, and now I have twenty pounds to lose to get back to my normal, happy weight. I feel overwhelmed. I feel pissed at myself for letting it get to this. A few weeks ago, I had Husband take some “before” photos of me, for a point of reference as I work on getting back in shape. Looking at the pictures I was shocked at what I saw.
I felt sad. I felt disillusioned. I didn’t recognize this version of myself. Deep down I still identified as that effortlessly thin 18-year-old. I didn’t recognize this woman in her mid-thirties who’d become soft around the edges.
Let’s just say in that moment I realized that I can no longer wear horizontal stripes. I have what Amy Schumer refers to as an “at risk chin”.
Now, I’m treading lightly here. My words only apply to me. I realize that not just for myself, but for many women, any kind of body-image talk is like opening up a can of worms. I realize we each have our own uniquely personal issues, goals, and difficulties. I realize that generally speaking, I’m not a large person. I’m not fishing for reassurance and I’m cerainly not trying to minimize or maximize my own personal set of issues or project them on to anyone else.
I’m just keeping it real.
The reality is that I’ve never had a good grip on my health or fitness for a very extended period of time. I put in short stints of extreme work and then go back to slacking off either in my diet or in the gym, and I am currently reaping the effects of that. I’ve never had much of a balance when it comes to these things. I’ve never cared about being strong- only about making sure all of my soft bits didn’t fold over onto each other. I’ve never fully intended to carry out any fitness regime past the point that the scale showed me what I wanted to see, and certainly not for forever. I’ve never found the balance between fitness and normal everyday life.
To be honest I don’t have the time, the energy, or the heart to continue in this unhealthy yo-yo pattern. I’m too old for this crap.
I recently reached out to a friend whose physical transformation over the last couple of years has been mind-blowing. She’s now super fit- but more importantly, she seems super happy with how she’s doing it. She’s not making herself miserable to get where she wants to be. Does she work hard? Yes, absolutely. But she also goes about her normal life and eats normal foods without sweating it. She found the balance.
I had to know the secret.
When we met up, she took one look at the food journal she’d asked me to keep for the previous week and immediately told me I was not getting enough calories.
More calories you say?
She also told me I needed to ease up on cardio and focus more on strength training.
Okay, alright. I see how that makes sense.
She told me I needed to heal my metabolism.
Tell me about it.
Then she told me about counting macros.
I had literally never heard of this method before. As a lifelong carb lover it was as if the skies opened up and an angel told me I get to keep carbs as a part of my diet. Not only that, but they would be a main component of my diet.
Ummm, where do I sign?
The idea behind counting macros is making sure you take in the proper ratio of carbs, protein, and fat to keep your metabolism constantly burning up food as it’s fuel in order to preserve muscle and burn fat.
(At least I think that’s what it is. I don’t know, I could be way off. That’s what I got out of it.)
I don’t have to completely cut out any major food groups as long as I stay on track with my daily macros? I can be kind to my body while working towards my goals? I can take a less extreme approach and still get results?
I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and I am not lying when I tell you it’s the happiest I’ve ever been while getting healthy. I’m still getting the hang of the macros thing- of what that amount of carbs/protein/fat actually looks like on a plate, and what equals one serving versus five servings. It’s a real eye opener. But I love the element of freedom that it offers.
If I want a glass of wine (that “if” was a formality by the way), or if I know that I’m going out to dinner for a date night, I can account for that in the morning and work around it with my other meals to get where I need to be by the end of the day. I love knowing that I could eat a burger if I wanted to, yet oddly I find myself eating healthier than ever before because I am focusing on getting the good nutrients that I need rather than focusing on denying myself foods that are “bad”. Funny how that works.
As for the weight lifting- I am still quite out of my depth with all of it. It intimidates me. But I’m showing up and I’m doing it and learning as I go. I’m surprised to find that something I have dreaded and avoided for years is turning out to be something I actually enjoy!
For the first time ever, I feel like this is something I could adopt into my everyday life…like forever. I’m not just waiting to be done with it. I’m not saying it’s the only way or even the best way. It’s just another tool in the toolbox. There are literally hundreds of different ways to get fit and it will look different for each person.
For me, it’s a step in the right direction.