Every day, we try to make little changes that will improve our lives. Sometimes it's adding an extra helping of vegetables to your meal, sometimes it's leaving 15 minutes earlier so that you can avoid traffic, and sometimes it's making a point to smile at a stranger. These are all small things that can make a big difference.
But there comes a point in everyone's life when they realize they need to make a big change. For me, I was 22 years old when it happened, and I'm forever grateful it did.
Let's start off by saying I have always struggled with my weight. I'm open about it, even though sometimes it can be hard, because I think it's something many people struggle with and it's nothing to be embarrassed about. I was bullied for my weight in school. I was told I should become bulimic because I'd make more friends, and that I never had to worry about being raped because I wasn't pretty enough for anyone to want to rape me. I learned to file those thoughts away, though to this day they still come out and haunt me.
When I hit my second year of university, I was living in my own apartment with one of my best friends, and this whole new world opened up to me: I got to buy my own food. If I wanted cookies, I could buy cookies. If I wanted McDonald's for every meal of the day, I could do that too. This unsupervised world was something I had never experienced, and I took advantage of it.
As second year went on, I would see pictures of myself and think "oh it must be the angle, that's why my face looks like that." I blamed clothing stores for making their sizes smaller and smaller every time I went shopping. I blamed literally everything else in my life except for myself. That was a problem.
By the time I was done second year, I was not only miserable, but I was the largest I had ever been. I never weighed myself, but I knew that all my clothes weren't fitting and that was proof enough for me. That summer, my friend and her family invited me to go to Disney World and Universal Studios with them, all I had to do was pay for my flight and they would cover the rest. I was thrilled. The trip was going relatively well. I found myself getting tired a lot, but I blamed that on the heat (I'm telling you...literally anything else.)
Then something happened that I will never forget, and it changed the way I live my life now.
We were standing in line to get on the "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" ride, when a worker came over and asked me if I wanted to sit in one of the tester seats to see if I would fit.
"Um, no. I think I'm okay."
I was shocked. I was embarrassed. But most of all, I was in denial. I wasn't some huge person that wouldn't fit in things, was I? I played if off as a joke and then stood silently in line, trying to spot someone who was bigger than me.
We stood in line for two hours (that's not an exaggeration) and when it was finally our turn, I sat in the chair and tried to lower the safety harness.
"You'll need to hear two clicks before it's really locked," the attendant told everyone.
Click. That's one.
Then, nothing. No second click. I thought maybe I just didn't hear it. But then two, attendants came over and told me I needed the other click. They both pushed while I sucked in my stomach as much as I could. There was nothing. I was officially too fat to be on this ride, and everyone could see it.
"You can just wait in that hallway there if you want, it takes you to the gift shop," the attendant told me.
The whole walk down that long, white, lonely hallway, I bawled my eyes out. I had never felt more humiliated in my entire life. How did I let it get this far? What is my friend and her family going to say? How do I just disappear and never deal with this?
After the ride ended, my friend's mom came over and said "I'm so sorry you couldn't go on it." I held back tears and told her I was fine, and the trip went on. No one ever mentioned it again. From that point on in the trip, however, I suddenly developed a "fear" of roller coasters and didn't step foot on another ride again. There was no way I was going to put myself that situation ever again in my entire life.
Unfortunately, on the flight home, I felt that pain again. My seat belt wouldn't buckle up. My weight was officially a safety hazard, and I needed to do something about it.
That trip was in late July, and in the middle of August I was set to head back to university for my third year. I knew I couldn't go back without a plan, so I researched different weight loss programs and decided to go with a low carb, low fat, high protein diet. It was hard, but I stuck to it.
My best friend Hayley, who helped me more than words could ever say during that time, convinced me to join the gym with her, and we went almost every day. I started small, only biking for 50 minutes at a time, but it was enough for me. The weight started to melt off, and I felt like a whole new person. I was down two pant sizes by mid-October, and I was getting compliments left, right, and center. Hayley pushed me to keep going, and without her I never would have achieved any of my goals (which is still true to this day.) She gave me quotes like "focus on progress, not perfection" and helped me deal with the days where I felt like I needed to stop.
I kept pushing and pushing, and within about a year, I had dropped 10 pants sizes. I was still considered "plus size," but I was back to the size I was in eighth grade, and I couldn't be happier. My mood changed, I could go shopping and not feel extremely self-conscious, and I wanted to have my picture taken again, something that hadn't been true in years.
At one point, I had lost so much weight off my thighs, I started tripping over my own feet because they weren't used to being so close together. I was finding victory in the smallest things. I could buy shirts from the "regular" stores, granted not all of them, but it was still an incredible feeling. My relationships with my parents, my friends, and myself all changed for the better. I was happier, I was patient, I was confident. My first thought when meeting someone wasn't "well they think I'm fat anyways, so they won't like me." It became "oh man I hope my hair looks okay" which admittedly, is still a concern.
As with most things in my life, I began taking it too far. As anyone who's lost weight will tell you, your body hit a plateau at some point. It becomes harder to lose weight, and even though I knew I had lost a lot already, I needed to lose more. I began tracking my calories and making myself stay in the negatives. If I ate 500 calories in a day (the norm at this point), then I needed to go to the gym and work of 1,000. I started chewing food and then spitting it out, so that I could taste it without consuming the calories. It wasn't healthy, and I knew that, but I also knew that I loved the results and would do anything to keep them coming.
Eventually, another moment hit me that told me change was necessary. When I moved back home one summer during university, my parents saw how much I was eating. I distinctly remember my dad looking at my half a chicken breast and 4 pieces of broccoli and saying "that's all you're eating?"
I realized that I was no longer following a diet plan, but that I had an eating disorder. It was hard to kick that habit, but also...freeing. I love food, I always will, but up until that point I had been depriving myself to the point where it was the enemy. When I finally let myself enjoy it again, things changed. My first "indulgence" was a foot-long sub from Subway, and it was divine.
It wasn't easy to let myself put weight back on. It was a lot of self-deprecation as I watched the clothes I worked so hard to fit into become too small. My face didn't look the same, my thighs got thicker, and my self-esteem shot down like crazy.
Because that's the thing, isn't it? When you put on weight, no one congratulates you on getting healthy. The compliments on "you look great!" slowly start to disappear, and your left back where you started. Constantly worried about how much you're eating, you try not to eat in front of other people because you wonder if they'll look at your burger and fries and think, "ugh, typical fat person meal."
Fast-forward to now, four years later, and I'm still struggling with my weight. I'm nowhere near where I was when the roller coaster incident happened, but I'm also not where I was when I felt my best. You'd probably look at me and think that I need to go on a diet (I am) and hit the gym (I do.) You'd probably make a comment to yourself when you saw me indulging in french fries or a slice of pizza. But I try not to let other people's thoughts affect my own.
Sure, it's hard to be the biggest one out of your friends, having to shop at different stores, and watching what you eat all the time. I limit the amount of times I eat out or suggest dinner as a hangout, because I'm worried people will think "all she thinks about is food." I realize it's insanely vain to think that others are constantly thinking about your choices. But it's something I can't control.
What I can control is how I'm treating my body and my mind. Getting down on yourself because you indulged one weekend isn't going to help anything, and it's only going to make yourself feel worse.