Have you ever been in a rut? I sure was two years ago. My marriage was rocky, our business was failing, I was 50 lbs. overweight and, wouldn’t you know it, the invitation to my 20th high school reunion landed on my doorstep.
Nothing was working for me: not running, not pre-packaged foods, not diet pills, not crazy “cleanse” diets. I felt desperate and out of control, so I decided to take drastic measures.
At the age of 38 and wearing size 14 (I’m 5’2”), I decided to enter a bodybuilding bikini competition. ‘Cause when your middle aged and your doctor tells you that you’re borderline obese, is there really a better time to enter a bikini competition?
Long story short, I lost the weight and changed my entire lifestyle in the process. I learned so much I wrote a memoir about it called She’s Losing It! (My husband named the book.) It’s like Pumping Iron, only if Tina Fey played Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ultimately it’s a Rocky for moms who find the inherent humor of combining strength training with potty training.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Sometimes your weight can be used as a scapegoat, as in, “My life would be wonderful if I just lost X pounds.” But losing weight didn’t equate to immediate happiness for me, because life is messy.
I’ve spoken with other people who lost weight ranging from 40 to 200 pounds, in a variety of ways. Some through gastric bypass, others through support groups like Weight Watchers and some, like me, through bodybuilding. Do you want to know what the biggest adjustment was between our “before” and “after” selves? We were –
No Longer Invisible
And with adverted eyes and shame we admitted to each other that sometimes we missed feeling invisible.
It seems like a paradox – how someone could be over 200 lbs. and feel invisible? Aren’t they the largest one in the room? But as person after person I spoke to confided to me – when you’re heavy it feels like people avoid looking at you in an attempt to be polite. Men ignore you to try to date your thinner friend. Once you become fit, suddenly people you’ve never met before are complimenting you and everyone seems friendly, and you wonder why they weren’t friendly when you were heavy.
Emotions run raw and vulnerable. No one I ever met, it seemed, had any idea how many feelings would be released once they got fit. Trainers and dieticians can help you reach the goal, but once you obtained your ideal weight there is often a sense of abandonment.
I Lost the Weight. Now What?
While happy to have lost the weight, certain fears kept creeping up on me:
- Intense fear of gaining all the weight back
- After being known as the “funny fat girl”, what would my new identity be?
- Discomfort in social situations – not sure how to handle compliments, afraid women might say mean things about me now that I was thin.
My friend, Regina, put it in perspective for me. She said that I shouldn’t change myself (bigger or smaller) for anyone else; I should do what was right and healthy for me.
It’s two years later now from my first competition and by and large I’ve kept the weight off. Sometimes I still slip up, like this summer, when my mom was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer. Instead of hitting the gym I hit a box of tissues and chocolate chip cookies. But with the help of my gym buddies (they did a cookie intervention) and family I’m back on track now and training for a huge goal: competing in the bikini division of the Arnold Classic this spring.
Life Is Messy
My advice? Don’t let your weight be an excuse as to why life isn’t perfect. It’s never perfect. It’s messy and wonderful too. Here are some tips for dealing with your own weight loss journey:
- Accept yourself no matter what the weight on the scale says today. If you can make peace with yourself when you are 230 lbs. it will be that much easier when you are 130 lbs.
- Consistently choose healthy eating and exercise as a lifestyle. This is the only way to avoid yo-yo dieting and remove the fear of gaining all the weight back.
- Force yourself to get into social situations to regain confidence and make supportive friends. You are no longer invisible and that’s a good thing, because you’re someone worth knowing at any weight.
Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two. She once spoke five lines on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and currently flips houses with her husband in Austin, Texas. You can check out her blog about fitness, nutrition and dealing with small children at www.sheslosingit.com. Her book, She’s Losing It! will be available on Amazon.com this holiday season.
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