Monday, March 03, 2008

Battle of the Bulge

Last week, I gave y'all a whole lot of drama. At first, I was worried that I should space out the posts of my personal life. My fear was that I would run out of things to write about. But, this weekend, I realized that I could post for WEEKS about this stuff without running out! So, no worries... the Romance & Relationship posts will be back later this week. For now, I wanted to update you on some other stuff I'm getting into...

Here I go again.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my body since elementary school. I can remember the promise I would make at the end of every school year, always promising myself that I would come back to school the next year new and improved. Thinner. That’s really what I meant. But, before I knew it, the summer would be over and I’d start the school year looking the same way that I had when I left three months before.

As a very small child, I was mad skinny. People used to ask my mother whether she fed me because my legs were like twigs. My grandmother said I looked like one of the kids on the “Feed the Children” infomercials. I can remember my mother begging me to eat. But, I was too busy to eat! I never stayed still and, for some reason, I just wasn’t interested in food. I can remember my parents taking my brother and I to O’Donnell’s, a seafood restaurant that used to be here in DC. If a kid ordered from the kid’s menu and finished all the food on their plate, they could go to the “treasure chest” to pick out a prize. I would always order fried shrimp. Now, I suppose that there couldn’t have been more than six shrimp on the plate, right? I mean, it was a KID’S meal after all. But, I can recall giving a shrimp to my mother and my brother and still not being able to finish the food on my plate. My whole family would have to take some of the shrimp and fries just so I could get some treasure. I can guarantee you that I do not have that problem anymore!

The weight started creeping on around third grade. I look at one school picture from second grade and I was a normal-sized little girl. By third grade, I was a bit chubby. By fourth grade, I was downright plump. I went to a school where I was the only black girl in my class. I stuck out like a sore thumb, with my round face, round belly, slightly protruding breasts (I developed early, then stopped early!), and very fuzzy hair. I was always popular – always considered one of the cool kids, though I’m not sure why. I never felt comfortable with myself, but I carried myself with a fake air of confidence that other kids were either too immature or too self-absorbed to see through. I fought and fought with my body for years. I tried everything, including Weight Watchers before they began using the points system and you had to measure every bite of food and count calories, too. That was a lot of responsibility for a twelve year old!

Middle school and high school weren’t so bad. Occasionally, someone would remind me that my weight was creeping up, but for the most part I was still an acceptable weight. I thinned out in high school and, by the time I reached senior year, I was at my ideal weight. I can remember back to a few months before my senior prom, I can see myself standing in my bathroom staring at the scale, frustrated because it wouldn’t go below 115 lbs. I ran downstairs complaining to my mother, “I can’t get past 115 lbs! What am I gonna doooo?” She looked at me with a serious expression and said, “I guess you’re going to have to go on a diet. You don’t want any bulges to show through your prom dress.”

I had been on a meal plan that included french fries and fruit punch for lunch Monday through Friday. I finally made the decision that in order to lose those pesky 5 lbs, I would stop eating french fries and leave the fruit punch alone. Sure enough, I had lost those extra 5 lbs. While I had always promised myself that I would wear a Cinderella-esque prom dress, I ended up buying a pale green, slinky slip dress that showed everything – good and bad. Because my mother had made me self-conscious about bulges, I was determined to look toned in that dress. So, even though my 110 lbs frame was sleek and slender, I wore a girdle under my dress. I remembered looking in the mirror and feeling sad because I thought I looked fat. I weighed 110 lbs and was wearing a size 2 dress. I look at pictures of myself from that night and I can’t help but to think how different I look now. If I thought I was fat then… well, what the hell am I now so many pounds later.

I started to really pack on the pounds in college. College students are warned about the “freshman 15”, but I gained the “freshman 30”. Maybe more now that I think about it. It happened so quickly, not only did it shock everyone else, but it shocked the hell out of me. I came from a family where eating out was uncommon. My father had been diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes when I was in middle school and so my parents didn’t keep treats and snacks and such around the house. We barely had juice in the house much less soda. Rarely had air-popped popcorn much less potato chips. We didn’t use butter, barely used sugar, and just about everything was baked, not fried.

When I went off to college, I was introduced to a little thing I’ll call food-freedom. Food-freedom is a dangerous liberty for someone who loves food. Basically, I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted, and whatever amount I wanted of it. Hot wings at midnight? Sure! Belgian waffles at 2 am? Why not? I did it all. I never thought of the consequences of my actions, so I was genuinely shocked when I hurt my ankle during my sophomore year of college and went to the health center for an emergency appointment. They weighed me… and I was sickened by the scale’s read-out. How could I have gained so much so fast? The saddest part about it is that I did nothing to prevent myself from gaining more. By then, I was hooked on eating whatever, whenever. So, the pounds kept on coming.

LA Weight Loss, Weight Watchers, Atkins, the Zone, South Beach… I’ve tried them all and failed miserably. The one time I lost weight was during one of my “off-again” periods with Jeremy. I was so sick and depressed over the possibility of Jeremy being out of my life that, with the help of LA Weight Loss, 15 lbs melted from my frame in 2 months. Of course, then Jeremy and I got back together and I packed the pounds on again until I reached my all time highest weight during our last summer together. He had been so busy trying to get back into my good graces that he was taking me to dinner a couple times a week and I was eating whatever I wanted when we went out. I was in law school, so whenever we stayed in, I didn’t feel like cooking so we’d eat pizza or Chinese.

These days, I am approaching my 30th birthday. I am frightened by the chatter I hear around my office that says that after 30 it’s much harder for a woman to lose weight. Having been in such a violent battle with my weight for so many years, I find it hard to believe that losing weight could get any more difficult. So, the prospect of an even more challenging uphill battle with my body has me scared shitless. Also, someday, I would like to produce offspring and I am aware that my body will change – most likely for the worst – as a result of this experience. I kind of want to make sure that I’m not starting the pregnancy journey with an already-jacked up body. It would be good to start with a somewhat slim body and to then progress from there. I would also like some time to enjoy a slim and svelte body before I become a mother. That would be nice…

So, I know that people say that you should just enjoy the body you’re in. But the truth is that, no matter how hard I try, I won’t be happy until I lose some of this weight. Do I think I’m fat? No. But I do think that I could stand to lose a few pounds and tighten up in a few areas. So, in an effort to make that happen, I have been watching what I eat and exercising. I am taking it slow because, for the last several years, I haven’t really been paying attention to the food I eat nor been cognizant of the overall unhealthiness of my body. This has been challenging. I had made the decision to give up meat for 40 days in observance of Lent. That really hasn’t been that difficult. But add in the fact that I am now trying to eliminate sweets and fried foods, limit carbs and foods high in fat and cholesterol, and that doesn’t leave me with much to eat. I’ve mostly been eating fruits and vegetables and beans and loosely following Dr. Ian’s Fat Smash Plan. The good thing is, it’s more of a lifestyle change than a diet and I’m not hungry. With past dieting experiences, I will have exhausted all my points or calories or whatever it is I am counting and I’ll be sitting at home at the end of the day listening to my stomach growl like an angry lion and not being able to eat anything to satisfy it. This time around, I don’t seem to have that problem.

Now, who knows how long this kick will last? I’m just taking it one day at a time and remaining hopeful that this time I finally get it right. I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and I’ll be honest! If I screw up, then I screw up. With past eating programs, I would fall off the wagon and stay off. My attitude was, I already messed up, so I might as well go all the way. But a friend said something today that made perfect sense to me: “Don’t ever tell yourself that you’re off the wagon.” Seems simple right? But my attitude beforehand has always been defeatist. And if I start the battle already accepting defeat, then there is no reason to fight in the first place.

My plan is to go into this Battle of the Bulge with guns blazing and emerge victorious.

But, we’ll see…


SeeLaHSeeSYoU! said...

When you're ready, holla at me. We already spoke about certain things that you need to work on and I'm glad you're taking that step. I hope everything works out for you. Please don't let stress hinder your goals.

Enjoy your day.

Sargeant Bulge said...

I'd venture to guess most women our age have a similar sentiment when it comes to weight gain. It's comforting to read your words which echo my own feelings. It means I'm not alone. And it means someone else is doing something about it. I want to join you. I'm tired of wanting and not doing. Thanks for the timing of this Lovely Brown Girl!