I’ve struggled with my weight a little bit ever since I had Henry, my first baby, back when I was 23 years old. But when I say struggled, I mean that I just gained and lost the same 15 pounds over and over following the birth of each my first three children, all of whom I had while I was still in my twenties. My weight issues at this point were nothing dramatic.
On the day of my wedding to Jon in 2007, my wedding dress was a size 8 and I felt very healthy and like I was a good size. I was comfortable in my own skin. In the 5 years following my wedding to Jon, I gave birth to both C and G in my late 30s and early 40s, and I also had several miscarriages during that period. I guess my age made it harder this time to lose the weight because in these years, I kept gaining and losing the same 20 pounds. Weight became more of an issue for me, but I still didn’t have what I would consider a serious weight problem.
But then, about three or four years ago, my weight just rather suddenly exploded. For some reason I rapidly gained (and here goes nothin’. I haven’t said this exact number out loud to anyone before, including Jon), 65 pounds from my normal weight, and haven’t been able to lose it.
Yes, I currently weight 65-70 pounds over my “normal” weight.
And this, well, weighs on me…daily. Every day I think about my weight a whole lot, and every day I intend to do better and work on losing it. In the last 10 weeks I lost about 12 pounds, but then for some reason in the last two weeks my appetite went into overdrive and I gained every pound of it back. Very depressing.
And speaking of depressing, I have no doubt that the antidepressant that I take has a great deal to do with my weight problem because my huge weight gain corresponds exactly with when I started taking the medication. I have had my doctor cut back on my dosage plus change medications in an attempt to get my weight under control, but so far I’m not seeing a huge difference in my weight loss efforts.
I have tried multiple approaches to losing weight, including Weight Watchers, which I think I intend to try again, low carb (miserable failure. I just kept eating carbs), and I’ve been talking to my friend Julianne, who has lost 60 pounds by eating keto about trying keto myself. The issue for keto for me is that the food prep seems complicated even though it actually isn’t. I MUST get more disciplined about going to the grocery store myself, plus preparing actually healthy meals instead of leaving Jon to do most of the grocery shopping. Since Jon doesn’t have a weight problem, he tends to bring home very high carb foods and prepare (delicious) meals for us that involve things like cheddar baked breaded chicken and home cut fries. Not exactly diet friendly.
One problem I have – and it sounds extremely dumb when I write it out – is that in many ways, I’m just not used to being fat. After a lifetime of NOT really being fat, when it comes to mealtimes, my sort of warped body image kicks in and I eat like the relatively normal-weight person that I was for most of my life. You know how some people have body dysmorphia where they think they look really fat when they’re actually very thin? Well at certain times I fall victim to the opposite dysmorphic syndrome. I feel like I’m at a normal weight when I actually need to lose a great deal of weight.
I know I need to exercise. I’ve been walk/running almost every day for the last few months and that’s yet to make much of a dent in my weight. People I know who have lost weight successfully tell me that I have to add weight training into my exercise routine. And/or yoga. After we get back from vacation, I’m determined to try yoga again. In the past when I’ve tried yoga I’ve felt so clumsy and out of sync with all the sinewy, coordinated people in the class that I’ve become discouraged and haven’t gone back. But I’m going to try again. I really am. People I know who are devoted to yoga tell me that engaging in a regular practice will help me with more than strengthening my body; it could help me to process my ongoing grief about losing Henry.
In the meantime, until I figure out how to get this weight off, I also need to get comfortable with where I am NOW. For at least three years now I’ve refused to let anyone take my photo unless it’s just a headshot.
That means that my children are totally missing several years of photos with me in them. Several years of photos with our whole family together in them. Several years of Christmas photos with everyone in the frame but me. Several years of milestones like J’s college graduation, E’s high school graduation, vacations and more with me simply missing from the photos. And that’s just not fair to my children. They need to know that their mother – whatever my weight – actually existed during this period when of our lives (and notice how I say “period” that I was overweight, because I am so convinced that somehow I will get my weight back under control, so this time span when I am so overweight will be just a “period” of time during my life rather than something I live with for the rest of my life.)
And here’s perhaps the weirdest thing I’ve done so far during this period of extreme overweight; we’re at the beach this week with our two youngest children and multiple other family members, and I didn’t even bring a bathing suit. That’s right, I came to the beach for a week and didn’t bring a swimsuit. Before we left town, I tried on the (actually quite cute) swimsuit that I’ve worn in recent years, and I’ve gained so much weight even since our beach trip last year that I couldn’t squeeze into it. I found this so upsetting that I couldn’t even bring myself to go shopping for a suit that fits before we left town. So yes, I came to the beach with no swimsuit.
After we got here, and I saw so many different body shapes and sizes strolling the beach and playing in the water with their kids that I became really embarrassed by my loser status as the overweight mother who bizarrely didn’t bring a swimsuit to the beach so I can’t even play in the surf with my kids and their cousins that I splurged and ordered a suit online and had it overnighted to me at our beach house. It should arrive today, and we’re here until Saturday, so as long as it fits – and it may not, in which case I plan to go to the local surf shop and find some suit, any bathing suit that fits (and I’ll return the suit I ordered when we get home) – I’ll be able to actually get some sun and play in the water with my children. And I am determined that I will do it with complete body confidence. I will even allow my photo to be taken with my family because until (not unless, but UNTIL) I get this weight off, I have to own where I am now and stop failing to exist in the record of my family’s life simply because I am so freaking embarrassed by my weight at the moment.
What I am finding when you are overweight is that it’s really hard to strike a balance between owning your body where it is – having body confidence – and working to lose the weight that you need to lose. Maybe some of you can identify with this struggle. As overweight as I am right now, I often just want to disappear physically, to become invisible. But that goes against everything I believe as a mother, a feminist and simply as a human being. I DO exist, no matter how much I weigh, and I really have to grow comfortable with accepting that. I need to set a good example for my children and I need to live fully inside my life instead of waiting for it to begin again once I lose all this weight I’ve gained. And at the same time, I need to set a good example for my children by getting healthy again.
But here’s the thing: no matter how much I weigh right now, I’m not invisible “until I lose all this weight,” and I have to stop pretending like I am.
PS: My swimsuit arrived. It’s a teensy bit too big but fits nicely. I really like it and am going to get some photos in it while we’re here at the beach 😉
Okay, here we go, wheeee! …here’s a photo of me in my new swimsuit…