It took me a long time to understand and accept much of what brought me to this place in life – it has been quite the ride so far.
I was a chubby kid from a broken family that grew into the mousy kid in school who was picked on and then an even larger adult with my own dysfunctions. I lived in a very toxic situation with my biological mother until I was a preteen, then into a very volitile alcoholic situation with my father and stepmom.
To say it was difficult was an understatement. I developed a binge eating disorder in my early teens and remember hiding in my closet eating cold soup or Chef Boyardee straight out of the can, or hiding food at my friends house or in a little hideaway we built in the woods. I was too afraid to eat in the cafeteria at school and home wasn’t safe either so I developed some very disordered eating patterns.
I made my fat a shield many, many years ago. I was molested in my teens/early 20s and at some point I worked out that staying in the 200-230lb range kept most people from seeing me. I was just another overweight girl… An invisible…
At that weight, I was not big enough to draw tons of attention as a morbid curiosity, but just big enough to keep most people from looking twice. I could comfortably, for the most part, not exist on people’s radar. After so many years of being the target of ridicule and bullying – the escape of just fading into the background was a welcome relief.
Don’t get me wrong – I wanted to be healthier, to be able to run with my dogs, hike trails without feeling like my lungs are going to explode, buy clothes in “normal sizes”, not hide from cameras, feel better in my own skin…but I wanted to be left alone more.
I think there comes a time in every overweight persons’ life when they have had enough. Had enough of being looked at while eating, or at least being paranoid about it. Had enough of not being able to buy “normal” size clothes off any rack in any store. Enough of not being able to keep up with their kids, or in my case, dogs. Enough of not feeling good enough, not worthy of love, praise, accomplishment. What is it that so closely ties our waist size with our ability to be loved, even by ourselves?
I have wanted all these things, on some level, all my life, but I was at my heaviest yet. Why? And what was I willing to do about it?
In 2005, while living in New Zealand, I was married and comfortable but I decided I was ready to make a change. For the first time in my life, pushing 300lbs, I decided I wanted those things more than I wanted to stay hidden.
I fought tooth and nail to change my eating habits, and on WW Momentum (Core) / Simply Filling Plan I was able to do so… 11 months in and I was down to 187lbs, having lost over 90lbs. (I was down to about 200lbs in this photo).
I was feeling better and proud of my success. My WW leader and the meeting girls were great. I wasn’t as far along in health changes as I thought I would be but I was making great progress.
Then one night while on my walk, I became visible again. I was walking my normal route and a car with 4 guys began to slow down and they started yelling out the window at me. They drove up to the light and turned around coming back in my direction.
I can’t tell you what they are saying – the blood was rushing in my ears and I was panicking. DANGER Will Robinson DANGER… It was late and the stores were closed… I didn’t know where to go so I ran like a erratic squirrel… This just further spurred them on and they began revving their engine and laughing…
Finally I made it to, funnily enough, an open Pizza Hut, and in tears called my husband to come get me. For reasons of his own, that later contributed to our separation, he refused saying I was being silly and shouldn’t be out so late anyway and he was tired after work and didn’t want to come out again and to just walk home.
In that instant – I knew I had made a huge mistake… What was I thinking… Why would I ever want to draw attention to myself again, why would I ever want to be back on the radar??
So I stopped. I eventually got home that night but I stopped attending meetings. I folded in on myself and made myself as small as possible… The only safety existed in invisibility and I had started waving a flashlight in the dark…I had lost 102lbs getting down to about 175lbs but I was too afraid to continue any further.
I maintained around that weight for many years, eventually left that marriage and in 2010, needed to move back to the US.
Things were very different in New Zealand in terms of food quality and availability and lifestyle. They have very strict food additive policies and many things the FDA allows here are banned there and in many other places overseas. Fresh produce and seafood were plentiful and from clean sources. Butcher shops were readily available for fresh meats. I walked to work everyday and walked to the next town over on the weekends. There was a beach within minutes of most places and I lived in some amazing locations, took frequent road trips and for the most part, was pretty healthy.
I didn’t really understand how different it was living there until I started developing numerous autoimmune issues in 2014, and I began putting back on all the weight. Over the next few years I struggled tremendously and put back on all 100lbs + some.
I was basically just miserable.
I spent much of 2017-2018 learning to deal with this side of things – the mental journey is just as important as the physical. But as the Universe would have it – I was going to have to deal with both.
What I thought was first an IBS overreaction or food intolerance that flared up from time to time – became a much progressed autoimmune inflammatory response that never goes away.
I lost most of my hair, was in constant abdominal distention, developed non-diabetic neuropathy in my hands and feet and couldn’t walk across a parking lot without issues with my lungs and blood pressure.
I have seen 8 types of specialist, had ever poke, prod, test and scan we can think of, have done numerous elimination diets ruling out allergies or intolerances to everything from gluten and dairy down to specific proteins. I spent years looking for answers or at least a little relief but things just continued to get worse.
What started with a sudden 18lb gain overnight in May 2017 – has progressed to a constant now. We thought IBS at the time, but it wasn’t… Or at least not only that. I have learned so much over that time and for the most part, have what I can, under control.
I was reacting to everything – sometimes in major ways…
Finally I found a doctor who figured it some of it out. Histamine Intolerance + Mast Cell Activation Syndrome + Insulin Resistance (plus a host of other goodies that I already knew about)… A complicated hot mess that basically means I react to everything.
This wears on you after awhile and my mental health suffered. I am a soft, sensitive person anyway, but this has been difficult on so many levels. The very doctors who are supposed to help you when you are at your most vulnerable have, in many cases, reduced me to hysterical sobbing in my car. Fat shaming and being told you are lying about your food logs or dismissed as uninformed or unintelligent because you can’t possibly be experiencing what you say you are… The US health system has failed so many people and I understand why.
My previous weight loss stopped because I was handling the food but not the issues that brought me to that point in the first place. I was treating my body symptomatically – dealing with the physical part only because it was the part I COULD control.
In terms of where I am now – there is no cure, or even much relief, for histamine and mast cell issues. It is basically a diet controlled, avoid your triggers, kind of thing.
But in my case, those triggers can be anything food related, chemical additives, preservatives, emulsifiers, artificial sweeteners, the environment itself, changes in barometric pressure (when storms come through), too much heat, my heart rate getting too high – basically if a blade of grass blows the wrong way – my mast cells launch a defense and overproduce “warrior cells” – thanks guys! Now settle down…
In 2019, my health started to go downhill even more and as of 2021, it is extremely difficult. I went from using a cane occasionally to buying a walker, I limit my time out to very short trips, need help to do basic shopping and home tasks, struggle with my breathing, heart rate and blood pressure on a daily basis and have had to start considering safety options like Med Alert since I live alone.
So to do my part – I eat as clean and whole foods based as is reasonable, try to keep my reactivity triggers to a minimum and just take each day, and each pound, as it comes…If I didn’t, if I just threw in the towel, I have no doubt that I would balloon up to 400lbs in the matter of a year.
I am blessed to be able to work from home on my own schedule and work around my limitations. And this year I set a goal to go back to New Zealand next year (2023) for 6 months to see if it created a marked improvement in my health. If it does, I will have to give serious thought to what to do next.
For now I am doing the best I can from day to day and continuing to work on my general wellness. #justkeepswimming