Epiblog – It’s My Life
I started this blog after 1 year of dieting. I had lost 60 lb and was riding high on success and praise. I continued losing weight. I met my goal, losing 107 lb. I continued. At my lowest weight, I had lost 125 lb. I went from size 24 to size 8.
People I knew and strangers alike treated me like a hero. They all wanted to know my secrets. How did I do it?! What advice could I give?! Suddenly, I was very interesting to people. They listened to me. They read my writing, commented on my thoughts, followed me on facebook in droves, and begged me to write a book. They made me feel important.
Feeling like people wanted to listen to me was not something I was used to experiencing. As a fat person, you learn to feel invisible. Friends would talk about other fat people in a derogatory way while I was sitting right there. It was as if I did not exist. Walking into stores, people used to ignore me. I never realized this until I was thin and they started fawning over me, as if all the sudden my body size made me worthy of their attention. It was thrilling and disturbing all at once.
I thrived on the attention. Posting your photo and having hundreds of people tell you you’re amazing is an unparalleled ego boost. It’s addictive. I have seen how it changes people- generally for the worse. If I had not fallen on my head and knocked some sense into myself, I probably would still be riding high on the egotistical idea that I knew some sort of secret to weight loss.
Not that eating less and moving more is really much of a secret, is it? Truly, there are no secrets.
Even when my story started to change, when I suffered my concussion and chronic back pain, when I could not maintain the lower weight, still I thrived on the praise. Now I was being praised for my ideas about body image. For self-acceptance. For promoting Health at Every Size. I believe wholeheartedly in these things, much more so than weight loss. It felt more real and true.
Yet would anyone have ever listened to me if I had not started out with the amazing weight loss story? A few would have, no doubt, but the truth is that the Before and After pictures of me are what got me attention in the first place. When I stopped using them to promote myself, the attention sharply dropped. My page “likes” slowed.
And the truth is that I do maintain 70 lb lost from my highest weight. So dieting wasn’t a total failure in my case, as it is for most people. I do not want to go back to my highest weight, and I don’t think I will. The lifestyle I lived then was very different from how I live now. I am active and conscientious about what I eat now.
What I did to lose the weight is no secret. I counted calories and I exercised. I did this very consistently. In fact, it is basically all I did. Work, eat, workout, sleep, repeat. There was no time for anything else. But at the time, I was so engrossed in my own changing size, I didn’t notice how many important things I had eliminated from my life.
Running a Facebook page and blog takes up a lot of time as well. I have read every single comment and responded to every single question over the years. I like to think that this is one reason people liked reading me online, because I was accessible and would respond. I am a real person and have been honest about my journey, even when the answers were embarrassing. I never felt a reason to lie about what was happening with me. My goal the whole time was to be a real person with real struggles.
Yet, I could never be 100% transparent. The difficult issues in my life aren’t mine alone, they involve other people. I have a career. I cannot jeopardize that. So there are some things I just cannot write about, which I have always found frustrating. My family and relationship issues are a big part of who I am. My struggles with my career are a big part of my life. In the interest of self-preservation and respect for other peoples’ privacy, I cannot write about these aspects of my life.
For some time, I have felt like I am living separate lives. My Diet Persona Facebook life and Who I Really Am are two very different things. On my page, I have tried to be magnanimous and accepting of others. I fully believe we are all very different and face different struggles. I strived not to offend. I strived not to create drama. I avoided subjects of controversy to attempt to avoid this drama and create a welcoming space for all. Yet no matter how hard I tried, it was impossible to eliminate entirely.
Some people are just plain nasty and there’s nothing you can do to avoid that.
Whenever one of these stressful interactions took place, it affected my personal life. If I was feeling upset or distracted by a stupid pointless facebook debate, I wasn’t giving my real life relationships the attention they deserve.
During the 4 years when I was hyper-focused on weight loss, exercise, dieting, and running my online personas, I did not read a single book of fiction. I rarely drew a picture.
To anyone who truly knows me, this should have been a big red flag that I had dropped the things that were important to me in favor of dieting and the gym. But the truth is that weight loss covers up any other failing in life. People did not say to me “but when are you going to start painting again?” They didn’t notice. I didn’t notice. All we chose to see was the Big Win- I lost weight! Nothing else mattered.
Only… it did matter.
A few months ago, I started to grow weary of it all. For sure, there were still things to say, memes to make and share, dinners to photograph and describe, hikes to share. But I struggled to find the inspiration I used to feel for these things. I was moving on.
Last year, I made a New Year’s Resolution to read 25 books, and I did that. I got back into sketching and painting. And I finally realized what I had lost along with the weight was the most important part of myself.
I was blinded and deafened by the praise. I can admit this to myself. Although I think my art and reading and learning and being a successful independent person and a good friend and lover and family member are more important that my size, the reaction I got to my weight loss didn’t support that idea. It seemed that as long as I was thin, it didn’t really matter what else I was doing in life – I would get the praise I had learned to crave.
I have seen this play out online over and over again with others. I have seen people built up as weight loss heroes, only to fess up and admit they were suffering from an eating disorder the entire time when things spiraled out of control. I have seen people start out as honest examples, telling truth about their own experiences, and evolve into a mess of lies and falsehoods about what they did to get where they were. I have seen so many people who on the surface appeared to be living the weight loss dream, who later admitted they were actually suffering one way or another. I have seen almost every weight loss persona I have followed re-gain weight, myself included. I have seen many of them disappoint themselves and flagellate themselves for this perceived moral failing (which is actually largely physiological- read Health at Every Size for more).
I have, at times, been ashamed to be associated with this online weight loss universe.
I believe I have been straight-forward with you all this entire time, with the exception of skipping over personal details about my real life relationships. I see no reason to lie to you. I have changed my mind many times, and will continue to do so. Living out life as a changing real person in the public eye can be a challenge, but I have been thrilled and honored at how many people accepted all my changing ideas without missing a beat. This is how people really are- we don’t stay the same year in and year out. We change.
I have changed a lot in the last year. I have reconnected with what is important to me, and I have decided to let this part of my life fade into the background for now. I am committed to bettering myself as an artist, advancing my career, and improving real-life relationships. Eating and moving are being relegated to background noise, where they belong in my life today. I do not regret any of the time I have spent changing my body or sharing myself online. I know I have helped people. I have gotten beautiful emails from my readers over the years. I know what I have done here has been important. And I know it is time to move on.
I leave this blog up as a legacy to change. People can read my journey and see a person who shrank then grew, mentally and physically. Hopefully people can find their own path to change, not out of fear or hate, but out of love and desire to respect and improve themselves. I leave my Facebook page up for anyone to read. I may decide to post again in the future, but for now I have put it all on hold. I need the time. And I need to be alone with my thoughts more often, for now.
I wish to impart to people only one gem of wisdom:
You are the expert on you. You do not need to pay someone to tell you how to live your life. You do not need to follow a blogger or weight loss success story to know what to eat or how to exercise. There is no point in any of it unless it is something you personally are willing to continue for life. What that is is necessarily different for each person.
For me, it means eating whole foods, cooking from scratch, moving regularly in ways I enjoy (hiking, walking, and yoga) and learning to be happy with my size 16 self exactly how I am. For you, the answer could be completely different. It’s YOUR life, not mine, it’s not for any internet personality to tell you differently. There is much more to you than your outer package. Your health is important, but it’s not the only thing and it is not as directly tied to your size as you think. For what is the point of life if you don’t have time to live it?
Live your life. I will be living mine.
Anyone who is interested in my artwork is welcome to follow my other blog, rockstarkate.com or my facebook page, rockstarkate. Please only follow if you’re actually interested in my artwork. I won’t be posting any diet tips. I don’t need a lot of comments or praise. Art is what I would be doing if I was the only person on earth. However, your presence would certainly be welcome if the subject interests you.
It’s been a fun, albeit sometimes confusing or frustrating ride. I will always maintain that I have learned more from all of you than you could have ever possibly learned from me, and for that, I thank you.