Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Head Games

On this crazy journey I've been on for the last few months, I've come to realize that weight loss is almost all in your head...if not 100%. At least it is for me. 

I have tried countless times in my life to lose weight and have had times where I was fairly successful (though never as successful as I am now). Yet every single time, I ended up reverting back to my old ways. What the heck, Brain? Y U sabotage me? 

I've been trying to figure out what makes this time different than all the other times and it is definitely my brain, no doubt. My head is "in the game" this time. I'm all in. 

The most successful time I've had prior to now was before a wedding where I was a bridesmaid. But I did it for the event, not for ME. Once the event was over, I went back to my old ways - even though I didn't think I would - and not only gained back what I'd lost, but a lot more with it. And trust me, it didn't need friends tagging along.  And now that I think about it,  I think that's the very definition of yo-yo dieting! Just NO!  

And that is not what I'm doing this time. This time, I'm changing my life, my brain, my thinking. Myself. Will I have times where I "splurge" - absolutely. This is a lifestyle change, not a diet, and to be able to eat healthy the rest of my life I will need to have times where I can have cake or cookies. If I deprive myself of everything, I fail. I know me. If I think about not ever having another piece of cake, it's all over. This fat lady has sung.  

And I have learned something else about myself! There is a huge difference in me planning on splurging vs. eating something on a whim or out of "peer pressure." 

It really hit home after a graduation party a few weeks ago. But I have to go back to the Las Vegas trip to explain. Before I went to Vegas, I had splurges planned. How I would allow myself to "cheat" but I hesitate to use that word because if you plan it in and stick to the plan, is it really cheating? Is that a trigger word? Negative internal conversation that hinders progress? Possibly. Anyway, I knew I'd be drinking Cokes and eating things I don't allow myself normally. And that was fine. It was planned. And I stuck to it and didn't overdo anything but still allowed myself to eat and drink things I don't normally. All in moderation, right?  And I was mentally prepared for the scales when I got home. And I handled it well! I was sort of proud of myself.

Fast forward a few weeks to the graduation party. I formulated my plan. (LOL that sounds ominous, but I assure you it wasn't an evil plan, just one piece of cake to celebrate with everyone else.) And then it happened. Of course, we were at a Mexican restaurant. I love Mexican food. And it started. Everyone else was eating all the things. So I said aloud something to the effect that I didn't know if I wanted to splurge or not. And maybe I said it aloud secretly hoping someone would encourage me. Looking back I think that's exactly why I said it aloud. And I love my family to pieces but they're nothing if not obliging. So people started saying things like "oh go ahead, you DESERVE IT!" Encouraging me, assuring me that one meal wouldn't hurt anything. And I caved and had several things I shouldn't. Once I started, I just went totally off the rails. But it wasn't like Vegas where I planned it and knew it. I felt dirty.  Like a weak-minded "fat person" again.  I felt like a failure. 

For me, weight loss is so tenuous, and so much in my head that this was not good. I ran the gamut of emotions. I failed. I suck. I'm weak. And then I got a lot angry with myself and a bit angry (as much as I'm ashamed to admit it) at them.  "Well THEY caused it! Don't they know it's hard enough living there with everyone else eating whatever they want, 95% of which I can't have?  Don't they know things like 'one bite won't hurt' and 'you deserve it' are detrimental to me?" Of course, they didn't cause anything. I did. Me. But it took a few days to gain some perspective and start figuring out how it happened, why it happened, why it was so different than Vegas for me mentally. And of course there were people there who were seeing me 95 pounds lighter for the first time and I felt pathetic shoveling all the wrong things in my mouth in front of them. That was another clue for me - what others think about what I put in my mouth does not matter. At all. And because I allowed myself to do that, unplanned, and because I felt like I failed, all those old thoughts crept back in. 

Honestly, it scared me more than anything. I was terrified I was going right back to my old ways. Just like every other time. 

I guess what I'm saying is that as amazing as the weight loss is - continues to be - the most amazing part is what has happened, is happening, in my brain. My thinking. Seeing that I am stronger than I thought. That I can succeed. That even with freak out moments and glitches and slip ups I can still overcome and get my head right again. I'm learning so much about myself on this journey that the weight loss is almost secondary. Almost.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Who Ate My Psyche?

No, seriously. Who or what ate my psyche? Because this person inside me is not this size so I can only assume I was swallowed whole by something. 

Am I the only one who ever feels this way? I don't think I am. I'm pretty sure nearly every overweight person out there feels like a "normal-sized" person trapped in a cocoon of fat. 

Weight loss is a topic most of us have thought about at least a time or two. For some of us, however, it's a thought that never goes away. It's a way of life. My name is Ashley and I am one of those people. I have been overweight pretty much my whole life. But that's changing and I would like to share my journey with you. 

I have been thinking of starting this blog for a while, but it's not easy to put the thing that's caused you to hide your whole life out on display for the world to see. And that's exactly what being overweight has done. I allowed it to cause me to miss out on life. I wasn't just a "little chubby." I was obese. Technically, I still am obese. I hate that word. I remember the first time I saw it in correlation with my name, it was like I'd been punched in the gut. I was a teenager and I had been labeled as "obese." Over the years I've decided labels are really bad. Because I had been labeled "overweight" my whole life and then "obese" as a teen, I got it into my head that I was DEFINED by those things. I realize now those labels don't define me. Yes, I have a lot of fat on my body, but I am not fat. "Having fat" and "being fat" seem like such minor differences, but they are a huge change in your thoughts and the way you feel about yourself. 

Having fat on your body should not define who you are. It's taken me a very long time to realize that. I am a kind, generous, caring, sarcastic, sassy, hot-tempered, stubborn woman. All sorts of good and bad things mixed into one. Those things are part of who I am and aren't likely to change. Having fat on my body isn't something that's a part of who I am. I can change that at any time - and I am. The experiences I had while suffocating in my fat cocoon helped mold me into the woman I am today, and for that I will forever be grateful. I have discovered a strength in myself that I never knew was possible. One that includes writing this blog post and putting my weight out there for the whole world to see. 

My highest weight was a number I never expected to see. It brought shame and intense sadness with it. I initially started losing weight in April 2015. Prior to that I hadn't been on a scale in years. I was depressed and I felt like I was in a hole I would never be able to crawl out of so instead of doing something about it I kept sitting on my butt and drinking Coca-Cola because that made me happy. Happy for the moment anyway. What it was really doing was making everything worse and making that hole even deeper. 

In the photos below you can see a photo of me wearing the same shirt one year apart. A shirt I used to feel comfortable in now feels like I am wearing a blanket. The photos on the left were taken in July 2015, and I had actually lost about 10 pounds at that point (though I'm not sure any of that was even visible). The photos on the right were taken August 5, 2016. I didn't start seriously losing weight until December 2015, so even though there is a year between the photos, there is only about 7 months of lifestyle change represented. 

Left: July 2015/Right: August 2016

Can we just take a moment to laugh at the fact that my before pictures were taken at the M&M Store? That wasn't planned. I avoided photos of myself like the plague but this was during a trip to Las Vegas and my friends wanted photos, so I joined in. I knew I was big, but until I saw myself in these photos I had no idea just how big. You don't see yourself in the mirror the same way you do in a photo. I almost deleted them when I saw them, but I told myself no - you're going to want to see this someday. You're going to want to remember what you felt like on this day because you don't ever want to feel like that again. We were walking the strip in Vegas and since I was about 3-4 of everyone else I felt like I was slowing everyone down. They didn't act like that or make me feel bad at all, but I knew if I wasn't so huge I'd be able to keep up. There will be more about this trip in subsequent blog posts, as there is too much for this one.

Left: July 2015/Right: August 2016

The shirt that fit me just a year ago looks very tent-like now.

A few years ago I became friends with some amazing women. Women who loved me despite the fact that I was hugely overweight. This was a huge revelation for me because all of the friends I had grown up with ended up going their own ways. Some left in a very hurtful manner, some just because we grew up and life separated us. But since I had it in my head that I was not as good as everyone else because I "was fat," I contributed losing them to my weight. I didn't make any other good friends. I had my mom, we're very close. But your mom loves you no matter what, right? I had a family who loved me, but nobody outside my family who I could hang out with or talk to. So, when people started befriending me and liking me for ME, regardless of what I looked like, it was pretty amazing. I finally had a best friend I could talk to about anything and everything. I really didn't ever think that would happen. I think forming these friendships and knowing it was possible for me to be loved is what made me start dragging myself out of the hole I had been in for years. 

Me and my best friend, Sheila, one year apart.
Left: July 2015/Right: July 2016

When the time came that I finally decided I HAD to do something, I just happened to stumble on a weight loss story from a Facebook friend. She was a fellow nail art blogger, I didn't know her very well. She didn't have nearly as much to lose as I did, but even so, her thoughts before she lost weight were very similar to mine and they struck a chord. I commented on her status saying how her story inspired me and she sent me a private message offering me encouragement and tips. 

So, I decided I was going to get started. Then it came time to weigh myself. Regular scales wouldn't weigh me, I had to get an "extended weight" one. I don't think most people even think about needing a scale that goes past 300 pounds. Just needing one of those is an embarrassment. I remember stepping on that scale and not wanting to look down. Then I did and looked at the number in disbelief. 402. How in the world did I ever let myself break 400?! The last time I had weighed before this I was around 325. I knew I had gained some, but I had no idea I had gained that much. I was mortified. But I resolved to never see a 4 at the beginning of my weight again. 

I counted calories and lost 23 pounds over the course of the next few months (it was coming off VERY slowly). It took me about 3 weeks to get out of the 400s. Between being in my 30s and having some health issues, my metabolism seemed like it was now non-existent. I was very discouraged. I fizzled out and stopped trying as hard. I didn't completely stop, but I only half-tried. I gained back most of it in the latter half of the year. 

Then, I'm not sure what happened, but I just woke up one day feeling different. Determined. I had done the low carb way of eating years earlier (before it was a "thing") and had had great success with it. I had considered trying it earlier in 2015, but didn't want to completely give up my Coke. I had a serious Coca-Cola addiction and doing low calorie I could still fit in a can a day, which was the main reason I had tried low cal over low carb to begin with. But I was feeling worse. My health issues weren't going away and I was tired of not being able to move without hurting. I was a 90-year old in a 30-something body. I guess I had the "I've had it" moment you hear about. I weighed again on December 7, 2015 and was at 394.5. At least I hadn't broken 400 again, but I was pretty close. But I was adamant I was going to go down from here and not gain it back. I felt like I had flipped a switch inside. I am losing much faster with low carb than before, plus cutting out Coke and pretty much all sugar. The last time I weighed (August 6th), I was down 95.4 pounds, with a current weight of 306.6. I still have a very long way to go, but I have no doubt I will get there. I can't wait to get out of the 3s! The last time I was below 300 lbs I was probably 15-16 years old. And it's so close now!

I know I still have a lot of weight to lose. I am still over 300 lbs. (barely!) and weigh more than most people's "befores," but I feel so good! I sit on the floor a lot due to my job and it was so hard to get up at 402 lbs. It is so much easier now, and I know will just continue to get easier. But, maybe most importantly, I feel confident. Never in my life have I felt confident. I never understood how other "plus size" women could feel confident. While I still want to continue to lose weight and improve my body, I get it now. I am starting to love myself just how I am and that's the biggest revelation on my journey so far. 

I hope you'll follow along on my journey with me.  I'd love to break out of our fat cocoons together! 


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