Has anyone ever dealt with Seasonal Depression, or SAD? It’s a beast, and not in the way Tina was yesterday. My goodness!
Ever since May, when I casually tossed out a reference to being formerly obese, people have been asking me for quite a while about how I did it, how big I was, and the like. I figured I should answer those questions now, on my one day off of the week. And I hope you’ve got some popcorn and a comfy chair, because this is a long one folks. After this entry I plan to soak my hands in rock salt, watch Waitress, and sleep for days.
This morning, I woke up and weighed myself. This point was a bit moot, seeing as last night after the game my family went to our favorite local restaurant and ate ourselves silly. Personally, I saved my gluttony for the escarole/white bean veggie cassoulet, one raviolo in a beet reduction, and roasted cod with vegetables. Then, after dinner, I treated myself to a piece of almond chocolate toffee which is graciously sent to our home every year by the Strother family (Hi Ann! Keep it up, our family LOVES that toffee).
Even before I stepped on the scale, I knew what it would say. I was counting on that wonderful number to flash in front of my eyes, and sure enough there it was: 135. The magic number. The number I try to stay around, come hell or high water. Even with the food binge from last night, I am still at this weight. I’ve gotten as low as 132 (on Christmas Day, of all days!) but I try to stay at the 135 marker. I’ve been at this weight since July, the longest I’ve ever successfully maintained a super low weight like this. If it creeps up to 136, 137, I don’t mind. It just means I ate something high in sodium. The last time I went over 140 was over a weeklong stay at the shore in August, when I didn’t work out and laid about for seven days. I don’t freak out nearly as much as I used to about my weight.
If you had told me five years ago that I would be living my life at 132-137 pounds, I would think you totally insane.
I was a stocky child. Not overweight by any means, but just a solid kid. I remember sneak-reading an email my mother wrote to a family friend. She talked about a tap recital I had participated in, saying something to the effect of You should have seen those chubby legs tapdancing in that dress!
As far as food went, I ate anything tied down, provided it wasn’t peas (the most disgusting food on the planet). If I wanted cereal, I ate cereal. Pizza, I had that too. Not a whole lot of fruit and vegetables went into my mouth during my childhood years, except for apples, my favorite fruit. My ideal meal was at the snack bar at our country club pool: chicken tenders, fries, and a banana smoothie, along with a few Otis Spunkmeyer cookies. God, just writing that sentence makes my heart ache, both from desire and angina.
I got made fun of, sure. Not because I was fat, mind you, but because I was the only 9-year-old girl within fifty miles rocking a tummy pooch and childbearing hips.
In spite of this, by eighth grade I had managed to become relatively popular. My weight had nothing to do with my popularity, because I wore what everyone else wore, spoke how everyone else spoke, and liked what everyone else liked (although honestly Wild Wild West and The Mummy are damn funny movies and I will spite anyone who tells me otherwise!). I played basketball, soccer, and softball, and food was just something I did with everyone else. I did have a bit of an issue with sneak-eating. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
After freshman year of high school I stopped playing sports. My high school was a bit like a college campus, complete with a dining hall that operated in the same vein (as many helpings as you want). Our convenience store, called The Daisy, stocked Hot Pockets and Ben and Jerry’s. I started buying them in pints and eating them. Soon, it became a pint a day. I was eating one entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. By myself. That is a day’s worth of calories.
By sophomore year I was a size 16. By this time, boys were starting to come into the picture. After a few rejections, I turned off that part of my brain and it remained off for years. People say to me ‘Oh, bigger girls can get boyfriends too!” This is true. But I never thought of myself as a bigger girl. I would look in the mirror and see someone who weighed 60 pounds less. Even now when I see pictures of myself from back then, I don’t see me in any of them. I see someone who looks sort of the same, but isn’t. When I finally realized that guys weren’t terribly interested in a fat geeky girl, I shut myself off emotionally and became reclusive in my skin.
When I got to college, I majored in drama. I got to my first class and my heart sank-every other girl in my class was drop dead gorgeous. Their faces screamed “INGENUE.” Mine said “Chubby funny friend” in a feeble croak. However, freshman year wasn’t too bad despite the plethora of options available. I ended up going on South Beach near the end of it, which wasn’t too bad although at one point during an incredibly ranty entry in one of my written journals I exploded “I HATE NOT HAVING CARBOHYDRATES!” But on the whole, it worked, and I probably lost about ten pounds in two weeks. I celebrated with Chinese Food, ice cream, and a Coffee Coolatta, which rendered all of my efforts useless.
There is one thing that I miss from these days: my order from the old fast-food joint up at UCONN, Jonathan’s. My roommate freshman year would go while I was at rehearsal and buy me chicken tenders and french fries, and when I went on my own I’d get a crispy chicken sandwich, extra mayo, fries, and a vanilla milkshake. I miss it. A lot. I also miss Big Macs with large fries and Diet Cokes way more than I should.
Sophomore year is when my comfort eating began in earnest. I became depressed. I dyed my hair black, wore dark clothing, wrote dark and twisty poetry at 5 AM. I was a fat Goth teen.
This is terribly hard for me to admit, but this would be a typical night: I would go to the 24 hour convenience store (EVIL) every single night after rehearsal-during which, mind you, I would’ve drank a Venti Caffe Vanilla Frappuccino plus eaten chocolate cake-and buy Orange Milano bags and Sausalito cookies. Or other days when I needed to get dinner, I’d go to Subway near my dorm and get the footlong Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki on parmesan bread w/ a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Oatmeal Cookie Chunk. I would eat all of it, and still be hungry. I was never full. Ever.
At a time when other girls were dating boys, falling in love, taking risks and finding themselves, I was eating and retreating into myself. I found my boyfriend, my confidante, and my home in food. A boy wouldn’t kiss me but peppermint ice cream from the dining hall would taste delicious no matter what.
Over winter break 2004, I grew sick of looking at myself. A picture of me on New Year’s Eve sealed the deal. I looked like a stranger to myself. At my mother’s urging I went to a Weight Watchers meeting and absolutely hated it. The idea of counting calories through the Points system seemed simple enough, but I didn’t want to rely on a book every single time I went out to dinner. What a buzzkill, right? “Honey, I absolutely love this restaurant, this is a great date night…but I can’t have dessert, my Flex Points ran out.” Please.
When women stood up and started talking about their horrible relationship with food, I had had enough and begged Mom to get me out of there. I didn’t want to stand up every week and bitch about the cake I ate. I wanted to lose weight and just be sensible about it. I also wanted to be like Sarah Jessica Parker in those Gap ads, with the cute tie underneath her perfectly pink sweater and the hipslung jeans. So, I started eating wheat pasta instead of white, drank yogurt smoothies for breakfast, and cut back on my late night cookie binges.
Some people questioned my desire to lose weight. I don’t know if they were concerned, or enabling me to stay fat. But I just informed them that because of my line of work, my body needed to be strong and healthy as well as thin. They didn’t buy it. I honestly believe they were just scared I would leave them behind.
Over the course of two months in the spring of 2005 I proceeded to lose about thirteen pounds. I did a happy dance of joy when I saw my success reflected in the mirror and in my clothes.
Then I fell off the wagon. Or rather, I let the wagon fall on me. For the next month, I stopped working out and ordered calzones from DP Dough, and welcomed B&J’s Brownie Batter back into my life.
I got on the scale in late April and nearly passed out. I had gained back everything I had lost, plus I had passed the dreaded 200 pound marker. I stared at the angry numbers as they blared 202, 202, 202.
I had never been that fat before in my life. My BMI was enough to qualify me as obese. After a moment of terrified shock, I did something new-I got angry. I had never gotten this way at my weight before. If I had seen a number I didn’t like, I would’ve collapsed into myself and felt awful, then ate my way through a plate of cookies. It all ended now. And I would never, ever see that damn number on a scale again.
Over the summer of 2005 I finally got rid of the black hair and began to work on myself. I worked out a lot and lifted weights like crazy (at one point I was doing bicep reps with 20 pound weights). Sure, I ate what I wanted, and my diet wasn’t too hot still. But I got moving, and I began to feel myself changing. My arms got humongous but it was muscle. I dropped two pants sizes. My weight wasn’t going anywhere but my inches were disappearing.
When I came back to school I realized the value of what I was putting into my body. I started to eat cereal, fruit, salads, soups, and lean meats, and unlike the South Beach fiasco of the year before, this time I did not fall off the wagon. It had finally clicked. Over the course of junior year thanks to a rigorous training schedule and mindful eating I got down to about 167 pounds. I began to love fruit, whole grains, Odwalla Bars, and Greek yogurt. Every Sunday, my day off from work and rehearsal, I cheated with pizza and garlic bread from the cafeteria.
Senior year of college, I returned from summer vacation down to 154 and a size 6/8. I felt amazing but wanted to be a little bit thinner. The ‘last ten pounds’ struggle began. I began to eat more, thinking I justified it with working out. However, I had gone slack on that aspect of my life as well. I didn’t gain, but I didn’t lose. I maintained that weight for nearly three years, until this past March. A terrible bout with the flu changed my body composition once again. I felt like a computer which had been restarted. Couple with that my move to New York, and twenty pounds fell off of me. I was reminded of the line in The Last Five Years: ‘In a year or so I moved to the city thinking what have I got to lose/Got a room, got a cat, and got twenty pounds thinner.’
All in all, thanks to stepping up my workouts and eating right, I have gotten down to the thinnest weight I have ever been. I’m not emaciated by any means, I hasten to add. I will never, ever have a sixpack, and to have one I would have to starve myself down. Nor am I unhealthy in my means of maintenance, not anymore anyway. There was a point in the fall where I did have a bit of a problem, but thanks to my wonderful family I am working through those issues. My relationship with food is slowly getting healthier. I don’t binge anymore, and when I do feel that need it’s usually because of boredom. I find something else to do right away to combat those feelings.
As far as physical exertion goes, I work out a lot because I like to. I like that feeling of powering through two hours on the elliptical, and lifting heavy weights and feeling that burn in your arms. I LOVE hitting that 800 calorie marker (and sometimes hitting the 900, if it’s a good day!). It is a daily choice I make to maintain this weight. It is a battle I will fight every single day for the rest of my life. I know that my struggle with food will always be there. if I go off the deep end, I don’t know how I’ll pull myself back. Sometimes, I wish I could eat whatever I wanted. But I don’t like how i felt at that weight, and I don’t want to be at that weight again. It didn’t feel like me. Now, when I look in the mirror, I see me.
At the end of the day it really isn’t how much I weigh, it’s how I feel at that weight. Right now, I feel good, and healthy, if a bit sleepy. I feel calm and Zen. I feel connected to the earth beneath me and the sky above me.
I didn’t cut this part because there are a few people on my friends list who seriously need to hear it.
At the end of the day, true health comes from purely loving yourself, inside and out. We are all flawed and none of us will reach an ideal if we keep sabotaging ourselves through mindless self-hate. The more vitriol you spew towards yourself, the more negativity the universe will bring to you. In my readings about paganism I find myself always coming back to the Wiccan Rede, in particular the Rule of Three. Its creed is simple: Whatever you send out into the universe, be it good or bad, you will get back threefold. It’s classic karmic law: do right, and you will be rewarded. Do harm, and you will feel those effects. This can apply to spellwork or simply your universal energy. Whatever you feel, it will be writ across your face. If you take what the universe is giving to you and offer nothing back, you will get nothing in return. If you receive the universe with an open heart, and try your hardest to propel it in a positive manner outwardly, there the benefits lie.
Sometimes, all it takes is sheer will. Growing up, all I wanted was to be happy. I was terrified of being a failure to my family. And moving home was a risk that I did not want to take, for fear it would make me out to be a failure. Now look at me. I’m working hard at my new job, I’m going to be teaching kids, I’m hopefully attending grad school next year so I can become a full-time writer, and I’m on a brand new, spiritual path. Life is wonderful if you allow your eyes to see it.
Now if I could just get rid of these winter blues…