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When did I start to hate my body?
I can’t remember when I was first aware that I should hate my body but I’m pretty sure it was sometime in my childhood. I’m thinking it had something to do with my mom’s frustration with my constant need for snacks and her well meaning, but ill informed, advice that if I kept eating the way I did I would get fat. That and being dragged to Weight Watchers meetings (just to wait not participate) with her and my aunt, two of the most beautiful, strong, and amazing women I’ve ever met. It was then that I knew my body was something to fight against, to shrink, to be ashamed of. And when my cousin and I got shushed so hard for loudly saying we were going home to eat homemade lasagna after a meeting (only after weigh in don’t ya know) I learned that I needed to be ashamed of what I eat too. Awesome.
What about before?
Up until I was almost 12 I’d say I was pretty happy with how my body performed, and I didn’t hate how it looked. I wasn’t super concerned with how it looked as long as I could do the things I wanted to do. I maintained a pretty active lifestyle, as a kid in the late 1980’s/ early 1990’s tended to do. I remember trying to perfect back walkovers in my yard for hours after school just because I wanted to be able to do it. Or bike riding around the neighbourhood just because. We also used to spend every recess and lunch hour just walking laps around the school. That all adds up to keeping a kid in pretty good shape.
And then it all began.
When I started spending all my time with a boyfriend instead of doing all those other after school activities is when the weight started to pile on the first time. We spent every weekend watching movies or playing cards and eating snacks and drinking soda. I inadvertently cut out a huge amount of physical activity and added on massive amounts of treat food (I hate the term junk food, because all food has a purpose) which of course had the expected effects. Throughout the course of our almost 2.5 year relationship (ages 12-15) I put on probably 50 lbs and found myself at my heaviest (up to that point) weight of 190 lbs. One great thing about said boyfriend is that no matter how many times I said I wanted to diet he would remind me that it wasn’t necessary. What was important was loving myself as I was before I tried to lose weight. He was the first person who told me that you can’t hate your body into being what you want. I didn’t believe him. And then we broke up.
But wait! I lost the weight!
Of course I took it pretty hard. It was junior high school and I’d had the same boyfriend for pretty much the entirety of it. He was my first love and I was devastated. Combine the loss of appetite the devastation caussed with the sudden end of the weekend long snack fests and I lost a ton of weight. My mom was kind enough to buy me a much needed new wardrobe, which inadvertently rewarded my rapid weight loss and cemented in my mind that thinner is better.
But then I gained it back, plus more.
I went a few years before I gained a ton of weight again but of course I was larger than other girls and so I always thought I was fat. It’s that old saying all over again “if only I could be as fat as I was the first time I thought I was fat”. When I did gain the weight again it was when I was with another long term boyfriend and this time the weight gain was due to depression. This particular boyfriend was emotionally damaged and incapable of really loving another person and that took its toll on me. I began to eat to fill a void (which of course I didn’t even notice until it was way too late) and the pounds started to pile on. I also quit smoking during this time and I replaced smoking with eating, just like every quit smoking guide warns you against. (I still wouldn’t go back to smoking. Even with the extra weight I feel so much better.) We were together almost 8 years and I steadily gained weight that entire time. I topped out around 220 lbs. And then we broke up.
But wait! Then I lost the weight again! (But it was harder this time)
Towards the end of the relationship I took a promotion at work and moved to a different city in a different province. I credit this move with all the positive changes that followed. While there I began to work out regularly and follow a “clean eating” plan. I lost 50 lbs and felt amazing! I remember visiting my grandfather’s house and running across the field with the little cousins and doing cartwheels again just for fun. It was great! Theeeeen I started to restrict my food even further. I was off dairy, I was off sugar, I was cutting out caffeine (my current lifeblood!), and I was working out twice a day. Some days my workouts totalled out at 3 hours. That is a lot of life to spend working out when it’s not your job. But I was alone in that city and all I did was work, do online university classes, and workout. I was happy. Until I wasn’t.
A perfect storm of loneliness and lots of time on my hands
Living in a new city alone is so hard. It was close enough to home that I could visit any time I had a couple of days off but still not close enough to be able to see friends regularly. I was a manager at the store I worked at and it’s difficult to be friends with your staff without compromising your position. I chose not to risk it and so I didn’t make any friends. I started to get lonely. At this time I was accepted to my faculty of choice in university and was on my way to becoming a registered dietician. I can now admit that part of my reason in choosing that path was because it would force me (at least in my mind) to maintain a low body weight. Because who would listen to a fat dietician right?! So stupid. But it was also at this time that I was reunited with that first boyfriend, my first love.
Oh, and then I got pregnant and gained it all back, plus even more!
We met in person and it was all the same as it ever was. Quickly we made plans to be together again and he moved to be with me in that city. It was only a few months before I was pregnant! Then we moved to a different city, even farther from my family, while I was pregnant and I transferred to a new store within my company and things were great. The pregnancy progressed as expected. I stopped restricting my food and allowed dairy and sugar and caffeine once again. Near daily peanut buster parfaits from Dairy Queen became a thing. I had three weeks of vacation time to use up before my maternity leave (In Canada we get a year) and I stopped working early. And then the weight started to pile on, much more than recommended for pregnancy. I had been working retail for years and spending almost 8 hours a day on my feet. To stop that so abruptly cut out the majority of my daily activity but I maintained my eating habits much to the chagrin of my obstetrician. I was somewhere around 270 lbs when I gave birth, most of that weight gained in the month and half leading up to delivery.
And then I lost weight again, sort of, and gained it back.
I lost a little weight after the first baby was born but not much. And withinin 8 months I was pregnant again. This time I was able to keep the weight gain under control. We’d moved to yet another new city and I hadn’t gone back to work. At the time that baby’s birth I was around 230 lbs. But it was a difficult birth and I had a hard time adjusting to having two kids under two (haha, who wouldn’t right?!) and I gained weight after I had him. I was 257 lbs before I decided to do something about it. Enter the new eating plan.
And then I lost more weight again, but it was so much harder than the last time
It wasn’t a bad plan entirely but I was starving all the time and it was hard to stick with. I gave it up and found something else, a program at a local gym. That place became my second home for almost a year and a half. I loved the group workouts because all the people in my group were so encouraging. It’s where I discovered my love for lifting heavy things and became interested in powerlifting. But it was also a fight gym, full of fighters training and cutting to make weight. It was difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with food and exercise when surrounded by people who were constantly cycling through fight prep and recovery and regular folks obsessed with losing weight or looking sexy for summer. I left to focus on powerlifting and I was also trying to lose about 7 lbs to make weight for a powerlifting meet. It was my first meet and I didn’t really need to make a weight class per se, but I’d signed up with the belief that I’d continue to lose weight as I had been. I didn’t.
That didn’t last, I gained the weight back, plus even more!
I had to move up to the next weight class and I wound up placing third. It was an amazing experience and I swore I would do it again but almost as soon as it was over I stopped working out and started gaining weight.The day after that meet I married my first love, the love of my life, and we’re still going strong. But I haven’t stopped gaining weight since then and that was almost 2 years ago. I have a great set up for weight training in my basement and I have a hard time just getting the workout in. I’ve been obsessing about weight for so long that I just want to eat like a normal person. The more I tried to lose weight the more I ate and gained weight, Every time the thought of eating reasonable portions came to mind (or restricting as it should really be called) I would start feeling an insatiable hunger. But we went over that part las time in Am I Enough? so you know it already.
Now I think I’ve found something permanent (and it’s nothing I can sell you)
Next time I’ll update on what I’ve been working on lately and how that is working for me so far. Whether this turns into the kind of success story you’re looking for remains to be seen but I hope you stick around to find out.
Until next time,
Chantal the secular homemaker