I was the success story you heard about.
I lost over 100 pounds; I was thin, active, and healthy. On the surface, I appeared happy but, underneath, a war raged.
No matter what I did, I still didn’t feel good enough, healthy enough, thin enough, toned enough, pure enough, or normal enough. Nothing could undo the excess skin and scars on my body. Underneath those very real physical scars, were unresolved, festering emotions. They were caused by a lifetime of carrying my weight as an apron—covering myself up from the world, hiding, and avoiding the shame, fear, and anxiety that riddled my life.
Emotions aren’t always logical. In the face of support and loving community, mental health disorders have a way of tricking you into thinking that you are isolated in your pain despite the evidence to the contrary.
I felt as if no one could relate to what I did—no one would understand the sacrifice it took to drop all that weight. Who could love the body that once was the way it was? I certainly couldn’t.
Food was my comfort—my drug of choice. The soothing, calming impact a warm bowl of goodness and the cool delight that sweetness brings is tantalizing, mesmerizing, and highly addictive. It was my safety blanket—my one true love.
When I lost weight the first time, I drew a line in the sand, thinking that once I’m 180, I’ll be happy. This drove me for one year—the time it took to lose 100 pounds. In order to keep up with that pace, on average, I lost two pounds per week for 12 months.
The line I drew kept moving forward. And, as time passed, there was mounting pressure to maintain the rapid loss, and I found myself back in the warm embrace of food.
Over two years, I gained almost every pound back. Ironically, I spent the majority of that time coaching others on emotional eating and health while my own life was in shadows.
I refused to see it—I would not acknowledge what was happening because I didn’t love myself enough to recognize that my body was sending me a message. Instead, I tuned it out.
It took the loss of my relationship, the loss of my business, and the loss of many of my friends for me to wake up and see what had happened. I had to soberly face my truth, which was that gain would continue to be inevitable until I learned how to love myself.
I realized I had a body and I was so privileged to be able and strong. For two months, I maintained 288 pounds without gaining a single more. Being successful with maintenance was the first step.
I remembered I loved long walks. I remembered that I could jog and walk on a treadmill listening to inspiring music. I remembered how exercise keeps my appetite in check and settles my brain. I found a mat and went back to yoga, humbling myself through every breath and pose.
I removed the shrine in my closet to my past weight and replaced it with clothes that fit and made me feel confident at my current weight. My body size is and never was the problem—the never-ending gain and abuse of food was.
I adopted a routine that highlights moving a few times a day. I stepped back into my business and explained to my clients what had happened. It’s been hard, it’s been anxiety-inducing—but worth it.
I once had a person message me telling me that as someone who clearly had 50 pounds to lose, I was in no position to help others.
On the contrary, I believe I am in a great position to help others. Everyone talks about the loss but no one talks about the regain. Everyone focuses on the new diets, but no one talks about late night binges. We need more people coming forward and expressing their truths because underneath the shiny veneer of the weight loss industry is pain, relapse, and a whole lot of body hate.
So far, I’ve lost 15 pounds, give or take. I am so proud of myself. I love how my skin covers me even after years of stretching and deflation. I love how my muscles hold my body upright. I love how my stretch marks have earned me my stripes. I love that the person I end up spending my life with will love the story my body tells about my struggle, success, and ongoing fight to live well.
So, yes, I think gaining all of the weight back was the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Now, I am self-aware. Now, I know how to ask for help. Now, I am fooled less by the illusion of isolation. Now, I am not trying to lose weight to fit into a new size shirt or to hit a target on the scale.
My weight loss is symptomatic of my new lifestyle. I embrace good food, I explore movement, and I surround myself with support so I can ride the waves of life without retreating back to my safety blanket. And, if I find myself back there, I gently guide myself back on track.
I remember how good it feels to love and accept myself.
Wherever you are, remember that the goal of being healthy is to feel good, to live well, and to be our best selves—whether that’s a size 3 or 26, small or XXXL.
You are more than a number.
Let each pound lost or gained be a reminder that we’re being called to love ourselves, first and foremost. Remember that the line in the sand is not ahead of you but, instead, underneath you.
Once you embrace that truth, you will see just like I did, that your weight is the best thing that ever happened to you.
Author: Zach Moyer
Image: Micah Sittig/Flickr
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman