It’s no secret that I was overweight growing up. I went through the phases most kids go through – lean during some months/years and more ‘filled out’ during others, but if you line up photos of me from age 1 to age 15 you’ll see a steady upward climb toward obesity. I think my family was disappointed that I ended up fat, but given the size of pretty much every member of my family (immediate and distant), it probably would have more surprising if I had ended up thin – sad but true. More sadly still, most kids today will probably end up in the same position as 18 year-old me, given the skyrocketing obesity rates in the western world.
I’m going to check my modesty for a minute and say that losing 100lbs is probably the thing that I’m most proud of in my life. To say that my weight loss took dedication, courage, willpower and strength would be an understatement. I’m so so grateful for being at a healthy weight today, but I truly wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t lived most of my life as an overweight/obese person. In the spirit of embracing where I came from, I thought I would step back into my old self and talk a bit about the five things I wish someone had told me about weight loss before I embarked on this journey – both good and bad.
1. Your Body Has A Memory
Sometimes I look in the mirror and think “Dang! Look at those muscles. ” Other times – maybe it’s in yoga class, maybe it’s when I’m reaching for something, or maybe it’s while I’m running – I’ll catch a glimpse of the excess skin on my triceps, stomach or thighs and I’m knocked down a few pegs. I’d like to say that I see these remnants as symbols of my weight loss journey and that they remind me of how far I’ve come – but I would be lying. Forgive me for being dramatic, but I hate my excess skin and it breaks my heart a little every time I see someone running in shorts and realize my legs will never look like that. Admittedly, it could be a lot worse, but still.
2. You’ll Still Feel Like A Fat Kid Sometimes
When I was overweight, I remember looking around one of my classes and realizing that I was the fattest person in the room. The truth is, sometimes you’ll forget that you’ve lost weight and you’ll still look around the room when you’re in a meeting or at a party and wonder if you’re the biggest person there. I’m pretty sure that with time this will fade, but I’m three years out from my weight loss and it still feels fresh to me.
3. You Might Feel Worse Sometimes…
I came to the realization about a year ago that avoid parties, bars and clubs more now that I’m thin than I did when I was overweight and obese. For the life of me, I could understand why – I mean now that I’m a “normal” size shouldn’t I want to flaunt it in cute outfits and go out as much as possible?
And then it hit me: now that I’m an ‘average’ size (and not plus size), I’m in competition. When I was big, I just assumed no one was paying attention to me so, although I felt unattractive when I went out, I didn’t feel like I didn’t measure up to the thin girls because I didn’t even consider myself to be in the same category. Now, every time I go out, I feel like I’m being measured against the other girls. Given the issues described in #1 (Your Body Has A Memory), this is very difficult for me to deal with. Forgive my terrible attitude, but I guess I feel like I’d rather not compete than compete and lose I’m working on this, I swear!
4. But Life IS Better
I’ve read my fair share of weight loss articles online, on blogs, and in magazines over the years and the resounding adage seems to be that being skinny won’t make your life better. I disagree wholeheartedly. When I was overweight, waking up and getting dressed every day was the bane of my existence. I dreaded picking out and outfit like some people dread going to the dentist. Of course I still have [many] days where I feel bloated and puffy and heavy, but I have go-to outfits that I know that I look objectively good in. I never felt like this was the case when I was fat.
Aside from the physical, losing 100lbs has also improved my self-worth and increased my self-esteem across the board. I know that if I was capable of losing 100lbs without a crazy diet or ever seeing a personal trainer, I can do just about anything. The weight-loss and maintenance process taught me more about myself than any other experience has.
5. The Novelty Will Wear Off
When I first lost weight, I couldn’t go anywhere without people commenting on how great I looked. The community of friends, acquaintances and coworkers I had built in Ottawa had only ever known me as fat, so when people saw that I’d lost weight, they were amazed and generally had infectious enthusiasm. In the moment, I hated the attention that losing weight got me and dreaded answering questions about it, but now that the novelty has worn off, I miss it. When I meet new people nowadays, they meet and get to know me as “Thin Danielle”; for most of the idea that I was 100 pounds heavier at one point is absurd.
So bear in mind as you lose weight that eventually, people will stop noticing and the continuation or maintenance of your weight-loss will need to come 100% from within. You’ll need to dig in and find some intrinsic motivation to carry out the process even when the thin you becomes the “normal” you. If you can carry on despite no one noticing, though, I think you’ll learn an incredible amount about yourself and what drives you.