I honestly am kind of loathing writing this. Not because I actually don’t want to, but because it involves sharing hard things in my life that I honestly wish I could just hide, but I know when we want to heal, move forward, one of the things that helps set us free is to be transparent.
I have honestly struggled with my weight for a long time. I can pick out certain pieces of my past, and of course like all things, negative things stick in our mind far more easily than positive things. I can remember comments from family members when I was a young girl about “being first in line for food at every family gathering,” or a comment in high school from someone I was in a group conversation with who said “You guys I would rather die than weigh 200lbs!” Little did she know that I weighed about 195lbs at the time….I chuckled with the rest of the girls, but internally it was just one of the many things that was a catalyst to my struggle with weight, and body image.
For some reason my entire life I had this number set in my head of what every girl should weigh, and I have no idea why, but that number was 125lbs. I honestly can’t remember the last time I weighed that….3rd grade maybe?? I have always been tall with a muscular build, and when I weighed 195lbs I was definitely overweight, but because I was so tall, that weight never looked the same on me as it did on others. Sure I wasn’t stick thin like many of my friends, but I looked maybe a few pounds overweight….not as much as I really was.
Once I went to college I started caring more about my body but not in an unhealthy way, at least at first. I started running several times a week, and cooking for myself and just with a few lifestyle changes, I think was in the upper 160s by the time I got married. At that time, that was a far cry from the 195lbs I was in high school so I was confident in my body, and felt healthy, and didn’t care much about the number on the scale in that season.
If you’ve known me for a while, I wrote a blog post maybe 3 blogs ago (haha!) about my struggle with an eating disorder. I never was intertwined in it nearly as deep as some become, but it was definitely enough to cause concern. I was at the time weighing myself multiple times a day, and depending on the number on the scale, would determine what I was allowed to eat (or not eat) the rest of the day. That happened early in our marriage. When I finally confessed what I was doing to David, he told me that was absolutely not ok, and took my scale (and it’s batteries) away so I could no longer weigh myself. After I finally told people what was going on, it became much easier to break the unhealthy cycle and start to heal both emotionally and physically. A few years passed and I was in a pretty good place- eating well with typical indulgences but in moderation, and running or doing HIIT workouts 3-5 times a week. I think I got myself down to around 157lbs in that time period by doing Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred, and counting calories, and I was definitely healthy, but for me it was hard to maintain that unless I was working out a lot, and really watching what I ate. It seemed simple to lose that weight…..I created a calorie deficit (1# = 3500 calories so in order to burn a lb of fat I had to create a deficit in my diet of 3500 calories. I did this spread out over a week (500 calories less per day) and lost 4 or 5 pounds within a month. This was a far cry from the 125# which somewhere in that time period I realized that I would never be that….ever. I would seriously be severely underweight if I ever weighed that.
When I got pregnant with Abbie I gained 40lbs which some may say isn’t bad compared to what others gain, but when the average is 20-30 and you hear comments from “helpful” people about how back in the day they only gained 20lbs you again label yourself as “failure.” Turns out it was my pregnancy with Abbie that ended up resulting in my autoimmune disease: Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism. It was about 3-4 months postpartum when I was struggling to lose weight despite watching what I ate and working out that my doctor decided to run some bloodwork, and discovered the culprit. I think by about 11 months postpartum I was back to my pre pregnancy weight. Then 3 years later, Alex came along, and I gained less than 30lbs that time, but I think it took me closer to a year and a half to get it all off, and honestly that pregnancy just wrecked me….it was the catalyst to many of the health problems that I started having that sent me on a wild goose chase for a year to find doctors who would help me find answers. I know what it’s like to have doctor’s basically call you “crazy” and “there’s nothing wrong with you.” You know what you do with those doctor’s….you leave….and you keep searching, and you don’t give up, because you deserve to be treated with care, by someone who will actually listen! Turns out…I wasn’t crazy….I did indeed have anxiety, borderline depression, accompanied in full by panic attacks, and as we ran test after test after test so many things became more clear- I had adrenal fatigue (meaning my adrenals were stressed to the max, and needed a lot of help and support to heal or I was going to just collapse). My thyroid levels were really bad again causing weight gain, the anxiety, irritability, poor recall, and exhaustion. I found out I had an overgrowth of candida and bad bacteria in my gut, which if you aren’t aware your gut is where so many things start….if your gut/digestive system is in good health, it makes a huge difference in how the rest of your body works, or doesn’t work (if it’s not functioning well). That all being said, when we moved to Pennsylvania I was in the middle of a year long trek to find doctors who would actually help me. In April of 2016 I finally had an appointment with a doctor who helped me tremendously! I had about a million tests in April done, got the results back in May, was loaded up with supplements, and a diet plan (one of the issues that comes from autoimmune diseases is developing sensitivities to many foods so I basically went on a Paleo diet that was on steroids- no nuts, no dairy, no coffee, no gluten, no corn or grains whatsoever, no legumes at all, or nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant). I ate meat, vegetables, healthy fats, and low glycemic fruits. I kid you not within about 4-6 weeks I lost 15-20lbs by only changing my diet, and I think was down to 152 or 153lbs at that point. I had abs…my arms were ridiculously toned….I loved what I looked like during that time, but honestly in hindsight, I realize now that even that is not a sustainable place to be. I wasn’t supposed to exercise because of all the healing that my body needed during that time. Exercise, although good, causes stress, and because of the severe amounts of stress, I needed to limit my exercise to walks, less strenuous activity, and really listen to my body, but then around months 5 or 6 post starting this diet, I noticed how weak I felt. I no longer was as strong as I once was. My posture wasn’t great, my back was really hurting. I started trying to workout more, but not excessively, still taking it easy, but trying to regain some of my lost strength.
I didn’t want to live that way for forever….only eating meat, vegetables, healthy fats, and limited fruit. Since then my body has healed tremendously, and I have been able to enjoy foods once again like nuts, seeds, and legumes. Life got a lot easier once I could have some of those things back. I am still entirely grain free, and nightshade vegetables seem to bother me, but I basically eat paleo now instead of insane version of paleo. All that to be said because somewhere along the line excuses crept in again….I can eat plantains, and sweet potatoes, and then I discovered plantain and sweet potato chips, and let me tell you….just because it’s “healthy” does not mean consuming a whole bag is good for you. Somewhere along the line I started binge eating these “healthy” foods again, and emotional eating became a thing again, and then last Christmas I had my check up at the doctor, and my anxiety was back, and I felt “off” and assumed my thyroid levels were once again wacky, and it was there that I found out I had gained 20lbs!! ( I had stopped weighing myself ever since Dave took the scale away so I had no clue….my clothes were a little tighter but I still could fit into them. The only time I ever weighed myself was on scales at other peoples houses maybe a few times a year just to make sure I wasn’t gaining too much). My thyroid levels did come back high so we had to adjust my levels a few times, and I began to watch my calories. It took me awhile, but I was able to lose 10lbs, but now here I sit again, and I feel stuck. I’ve been trying to lose this last 10# since April. Don’t get me wrong I have much to be thankful for healthwise, but right now….these eating issues that never seem to go away entirely….the constant up and down struggle with my weight, and body image that I have had my entire life….the inability to lose weight when you try 4x as hard as other people, and still can’t seem to drop a pound because your endocrine system doesn’t work right…..just sucks sometimes. It really does! I’ve had people as an adult who brush my struggle with my weight off because I technically look “skinny enough” to them so I’m just the “skinny girl complaining about her body”, but it doesn’t matter if you are someone who is super skinny who struggles to gain weight, or really overweight, we each have a story, and your story matters! Your voice matters! Whether I look skinny to some or not doesn’t really matter…I knew spiritually, emotionally, and physically I wasn’t in a healthy place.
And so I tried one method to approach for my diet which basically limited my already limited diet to almost no fruit, and increased my workouts to way more intense than they have been since I started this healing journey, and I’m almost through week 2, and I can frustratedly report that the scale hasn’t budged….at all! So I sat down last night, and instead of figuring out my own way I prayed (well duh! Probably should have started there in the first place….). My body is unique, and I need to approach my body in a specific way, and who else can give more wisdom on that than God? As I came to him I felt myself breathe a sigh of relief to release something I didn’t even realize I was holding onto…I was idolizing some ideal number on a scale, and when I didn’t see that number appear it was linked to my self-worth, and identity. I had become enslaved to achieving this weight as my ultimate goal, and when I got there I would feel like I was “enough” again. “Worthy” of….of what? How quickly I forget God’s promise from “Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
As I walk back through my story I see how over several years in my adult life I lost like 40lbs, but I remember even when I was at my lowest weight how I still thought “maybe just 5 more lbs, yeah that would be perfect.” So when does it stop? So as I prayed I felt more wisdom, and peace about what to do than I have had in a long time. This struggle I have with food, is a stronghold that has taken the place of God in my life many times, and it may always be a struggle, but I don’t have to be enslaved to this struggle. I can acknowledge the battle, but I don’t have to let it win. As I prayed I felt God reminding me how much of a role my adrenals healing plays in all of this…messed up adrenals means you have ridiculous levels of cortisol in your body. Cortisol = weight gain. Strenuous workouts = high levels of cortisol being released. So not only did I already have high levels of cortisol, but I also was releasing even more with the type of workouts I was choosing. I can still keep working out, but need to focus on walking, light jogs, less strenuous workouts, and to keep my strength up participate in lifting, but just be mindful that I have to move more slowly than others can. Food wise my body needs carbs (good ones remember like sweet potatoes, and berries) to heal specifically some of the issues I have- I was limiting my carbs so much my body was fighting me because it was going into starvation mode. Water- I seriously suck at drinking water and many people are chronically dehydrated because they don’t drink enough water so I knew I needed to start being better about this too! Nutrition wise- overeating is probably my worse enemy. I like to snack, and eat at night, and really in regards to my diet, I already eat all healthy things, but I do need to be mindful about my portion control, not binging, and only eating when I am hungry instead of when I’m bored or emotional, and my scale was becoming a problem again….so I took my own battery away
The reason I was loathing writing this so much is because in order to do so I have to admit that I’m a failure. I couldn’t wait to share the celebratory “I Lost 20lbs!!” post, but to wait to do that means that I don’t let you in on the journey….to share only celebrations is misleading to realize how flipping hard the actual journey really can be, and that sometimes we fight like hell, and we still lose, or that actually making it to the finish line means skinned up knees, bruised egos, and bloody knuckles, but to fight with intention…..that means we don’t care how long the battle is…we keep on keeping on, and we don’t stop fighting!
So friends wherever you are in your own battles, I’m cheering you on! You don’t have to listen to the lie that you “won’t ever get there,” and you also don’t have to listen to the lie that your self-worth and identity are solely linked to actually getting to your destination. That’s crap….every single part of the journey is something God is using to mold and shape you into becoming more like Him!