I never had much clarity about why I was so heavy to begin with until I had gotten pretty far into losing weight, but now I feel like I understand it pretty well, so here it is.
The short answer is that I ate more food than my body required for my activity level. Now here’s the long answer:
I was not a heavy child, but when I was in the 3rd grade, I contracted a very nasty case of mononucleosis and that’s when my weight started to increase. It wasn’t helped by the fact that I was not interested in sports or outdoor activities. I was a very bookish person. All I really wanted to do was read and draw. So that’s what I did. I did very well in school and I was involved in all the non-physical activities: band, orchestra, chorus, drama, debate, the chess team, knowledge masters, national honor society, the art club. And I was heavy. My prom dress senior year was from the women’s section, a size 18.
I don’t remember being very worried about my weight most of the time when I was in high school. I had some moments I can remember when it was brought to my attention that I was obese. I remember these as very shameful and embarrassing events. I did not date anyone, because nobody wanted to date me. I had a ton of friends though, and when I think about high school, I can think of many more irritating things than being the heavy chick. It wasn’t so normal then- all of my friends were cute little things and I do remember being jealous that they could wear those little shorts and not have stuffed sausage legs sticking out.
I lost weight when I went to college. My home life was not the greatest in some ways, and I did a lot of watching TV and eating bags of chips. When I went to college, I was on a meal plan and even with some late night pizza runs and drinking, I lost a significant amount of weight.
I lost more weight after I dropped out a year later. I worked 2 jobs and just wasn’t eating much. I was also taking a lot of No-Doze. Now I was dating, and I got a boyfriend at age 19.
Then we moved in together and moved to Boston and I ended up heavier than I had ever been- I don’t know my weight then but I remember being about a size 22. In retrospect, I didn’t even really notice gaining weight. I know that sounds weird but it’s the truth. Soon I was always wearing a long flowy skirt and a big men’s shirt. But it was like I was blind to my own body or something. I would see myself in a picture and not recognize me.
I was with Boyfriend #1 for 5 years. We moved to Philadelphia. Yadda, yadda, yadda, we broke up. Then I did probably the stupidest thing I’ve done and I lost all the weight I had gained in less than a year. I don’t know my start weight, but I can guess I lost about 100 pounds or more. I ate one meal a day. Usually a Wendy’s cheeseburger. And I walked all over the city. And I drank. My friend and I joked we had “drunkorexia”. I think that might actually be a thing.
People were really complimentary about this, which in all honesty made me feel awful. I knew I was doing something pretty bad to myself with not eating and drinking, but all I got was praise. It pushed further into my head the idea that my weight was the most important thing about me and that health be damned, I would just keep getting thinner since obviously thinner was better. And I definitely did not think I was thin enough.
The next several years a lot of crappy things happened family wise, and I ended up going back to college to get my degree, which I got and the coveted Best Portfolio award when I graduated. I was hired at my job before I graduated, it meant a transfer back to Massachusetts.
I gained back a lot of the weight I lost slowly while I lived in Philadelphia. By the time I moved I was size 18 again. In hindsight, I think that was more about drinking than eating. I basically had the habit of not eating all day, then eating one big meal and drinking until late at night. Life of a bartender. But I was on my feet all day also, so the weight just crept on. I went back and forth about caring. I never cared long enough to make a dent in it.
I met my current boyfriend right before I was to move, and he moved with me. Now I had a desk job and a car. I gained weight at record speed. I was up to a size 24 by the time I moved to Phoenix 2 years later and got on the path I’m on now, and started losing weight for the last time.
Those are the practical facts of my weight history. I’ve left a lot out. I’m sensitive to over-sharing with a bunch of people, many of whom I know in real life, especially when it involves other people, and family members. I also didn’t detail every single diet and up and down, just the major ones. We’d be here all day, otherwise.
Then there’s the underlying history of those facts the whys and hows, this is the part I never understood before now. I ate for all the wrong reasons. I definitely ate to try to deal with feelings I didn’t want to deal with. And I restricted myself so much, I practically ensured that I would eventually binge. In my mind, this was okay because if I didn’t eat all day, then I could eat as much as I wanted at night. I’m not stupid, although I now feel pretty stupid admitting I thought that. I also had a lot of jealousy and anger toward other people who, from my point of view, ate whatever they wanted and never gained weight. I figured I must have a slow metabolism. I must be meant to be heavy.
I never really learned to eat right. I ate what tasted good, what was easy, and what I could afford. I’ve always liked vegetables and salads and things like that. I certainly cooked some healthier meals. I always liked cooking. But I always ate way too much- and I didn’t even realize it. The first time I realized it was when I started calorie counting. “Oh shit. THAT’S a serving??” It was immediately clear what had happened.
I used what others around me ate as a guide. Both times I got into a relationship, I gained weight. I ate what my man ate. Well, guess what? A woman does not generally need as much food as a man. And both of my boyfriends were able to eat a lot and not gain weight. My current boyfriend eats almost 6000 calories a day for his bodybuilding goals. If I eat more than about 2400, I will gain weight.
I never liked exercise. Gym class was torture. Hated it. Used any excuse to get out of it. I never learned the joy of movement. I thought people just went to the gym to torture themselves. It was much easier to just not eat, I figured. (again, brilliant, I know) I had disdain for sports. Never liked the “jocks” at my school. Meat heads. I was a classic nerd in every sense of the word. I was much more into intellectual pursuits and I was irritated by people who were obsessed with sports.
I think I started initially gaining weight when I was a kid because the case of mono knocked me out. I had no energy. But then, I never really recovered from it. Maybe if I had been into some kind of activity, I would have, but I just ate and watched TV and read. I tried to stay out of people’s way. I did my school work. I had horrible insomnia, and I was often late to school. On weekends I would sleep for well over 12 hours, a habit I continued until I was in my late 20s.
I drank too much.
It was a flurry of factors that led to my physical state, as I imagine it is for most people. It’s complicated. And I think that’s one reason it’s so hard to change it. It isn’t just one thing. It’s everything. The whole way I was living my life had to be rearranged. So I rearranged it.