Filling In The Blanks

I received two copies of Woman’s Day Magazine in the mail on Tuesday.  Initially, my idea was to have my husband read the article first.  By reading his face I would know what to expect and be somewhat prepared.  Did that happen?  Nah.  I tore that envelope open before my foot crossed the threshold!   There in the Healthy You section of the magazine were the words: I Lost 105 Pounds!  I flipped to the article and read through it quickly.  Hmm.  No initial damage control needed.  Then I read through it again, more carefully.  I thought it was well-done.  Nothing like I had expected, but nonetheless, well done. 

It wasn’t an article really, but more like a timeline that showed how I started and where I finished, complete with little snippets of information along the way.   Short and sweet.  Very short, actually; but I realize that landing magazine space is kind of like the equivalent of landing a good apartment in New York: it may be short on square footage but you’re grateful for any room at all.  So, while I wish a bit more of my story had been shared, it’s really okay that it wasn’t.  Shh…. I happen to have this blog, see?  And there, I can fill in the blanks to my heart’s content. 

Many of you who’ve been reading me for the last couple of years have seen the photos depicting my loss, but were unaware of my full history.   So, for those both old and new – here’s a bit more of my story.

 

Even though I was of average size growing up, things began to change once I entered college.  I’d just moved away from home and had little experience in making new friends.  Art classes were very demanding.  Those pressures combined with depression made it incredibly difficult to adjust;  it was during that time when I started using food for comfort.  All of the stress, insecurity and depression I felt were often quieted with carry-out pizza and cartons of ice cream.  Art majors spent a great deal of time working on projects so it wasn’t uncommon for me to reach for food while working late into the night.  I gave little regard to what I was eating.  All I knew was that it provided me with the tools I needed to cope with my sadness, school, roommates and relationships. 

 
By the time I graduated I had a very solid, unhealthy relationship with food that continued to grow worse.  If I were depressed or lonely, food would calm my mind. If I were anxious, food would change my focus. And if I were happy – of course, I would celebrate with food.  I lived like this for years.

When my father died in 1998, in part from diabetes complications, his death was the first experience I had in losing someone close to me.   I remember being at the funeral and suddenly becoming very self-conscious of my weight. Friends and family that I hadn’t seen in years no longer recognized me. The stunned looks on many of their faces were noticeable; on my five-foot-two frame I weighed 235 pounds.  I was grieving the loss of my father and the person I used to be at the same time.

My moment of clarity came shortly after my father’s funeral. I couldn’t shake the reality of how different my life had become, how isolated I was and how much I used food to escape the problems I couldn’t face. My father’s life ended much too soon and I became afraid that I too would become a diabetic – maybe even die young, if I didn’t change the way I was living my life.

There were lots of fad diets out there and I believe I tried them all, but the best investment I ever made for my health was an impulse buy and cost me $12.  It was a pedometer. I’d read somewhere that one needed to walk 10,000 steps a day to maintain a healthy weight so I made it my mission to reach that goal, no matter what.  I didn’t change anything else other than making a point to move, and I would find any excuse to do it. I’d march in place while brushing my teeth. I would walk back and forth in my hallway while waiting for my bathtub to fill. I’d step in place while washing my dishes or talking on the phone. Wearing my pedometer gave me instant gratification.  I could look at it and see my progress at any given moment and that encouraged me to go even further. Before long I was averaging between 16,000 and 20,000 steps a day. By creating that one goal of just moving I didn’t feel as though I had turned my entire life upside down.   Once I started feeling stronger,  I wanted to move more, and I wanted to eat healthier. Notice that I emphasize on the word ‘want’.  I did it because I wanted to, not because it was part of a series of strict diet rules I had to follow. That one good habit triggered another, which triggered another, and so-on.   Once I began concentrating on my steps and how much I was moving my body I became stronger not only physically, but emotionally as well.   Using food as a way to meet my emotional needs wasn’t as much of a priority as it had been. That’s when I knew that I was on the right path towards a permanent change.

It took more than five years to lose all the weight I’d gained. I know that probably sounds like a very long time to many, and in some cases it is – especially when you have health issues that need immediate attention.  Even though I had common weight-related issues that were affecting my way of life (severe lower back pain, stiffness, lethargy) I never treated the idea of losing weight as a race. I never set specific goals to lose X amount by a certain time. Looking back I realize that I succeeded because I made small changes, little by little. This allowed me the time I needed to work on making this new way of living feel more like second nature. For me, losing slowly and steadily played a tremendous part in being able to maintain for as long as I have.

When I was interviewed I was asked what I’d learned along the way and how the loss changed my life. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I consider my emotional health as important as my physical health.  I firmly believe they should work together as a unit when losing weight.  I had to do a lot of emotional work along the way and get to the heart of why I was abusing food before I could move on towards keeping the weight off. Maintainers will tell you: losing the weight is the easy part, and I agree with that statement. Keeping it off required a complete understanding of why I overate in the first place. Without it, I would have likely regained all the weight I’d lost, if not more.  I often say to myself, If I am fit emotionally, my physical health will follow. In other words, if I am under a great amount of stress – if I’m not taking care of my mental well-being, my physical self tends to suffer. If I’m at a good place emotionally, then physically I feel stronger and in charge of my life.

Finally, blogging has been an invaluable resource for me. By the time I started reading blogs I was already in maintenance, so when I decided to start writing Fat Girl Wearing Thin, it was initially to give others who were coming into maintenance a realistic sense of what to expect when they reached their goal. I also wanted to support and share advice to those just getting started. Never did I imagine what kind of love and support I would gain in return from such a wonderful community of people. I lost my weight on my own, but my ability to maintain has been made a lot easier knowing that there are others out there who understand where I’m at, where I’ve been and are always on hand to offer loads of advice, encouraging words and wonderful ideas. 

 

 

For that, I want to thank you!

 

X0~

Ellen

25 thoughts on “Filling In The Blanks

  1. Caron

    I’ve been watching for the magazine. I hope I can find it soon. How exciting.

    I loved reading your story. I took nine months to lose around 40 pounds so five years doesn’t sound unreasonable to me. I started by going to Curves for four months but I only lost six pounds during that time. Still, it was a start.

    Love the picture at the end. :-)

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Caron, thank YOU for sharing how you started. A great reminder that everything takes a ‘beginning’.
      …and thank you for the compliment on my photo. That is the first photo since surgery that I really feel like I’m looking more like myself. Progress!!

      Reply
  2. NewMe

    {{{{Big hug}}}}. You’re one of my favourite bloggers, not because you lost a lot of weight, but because you’re just such a fine person!! I’m so happy to know you–even if it’s just virtually.

    Reply
  3. Jill

    What a great story – and I love your hair in your last pic!
    Thanks for sharing your pics and your story – and thanks for sharing how long it took. I sometimes get discouraged because I feel like it takes forever to lose 5 pounds. That can be so hard when you read stories of people who lose 100 pounds in a year.
    Congrats on the article!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Thank you, Jill~
      It does feel like forever, sometimes. Losing weight quickly is a great motivator, no lie. But for me, if I’d done that it never would have stayed off. Sometimes you just need to forget what’s around you and push on. One step ahead is way better than standing still.
      Thank you for reading, and especially for your comment. Always good to hear from you :)

      Reply
  4. Sharon

    Love knowing more details of your story and can’t wait to see the magazine. You are and have been such an encouragement to me especially now as I’m entering maintenance myself. Like you, my original journey to lose 65 pounds in 2006 started with participation in a walking study at the University of Tennessee. They gave me a fancy pedometer and told me I had to walk 10,000 steps each day for six weeks or I’d be dropped from the study. I did it and that pedometer is still a permanent fixture to my body.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Thank you for sharing that, Sharon – I can’t believe I never knew that tidbit about you before. That is an inspirational story if I’ve ever read one :)

      Reply
  5. Cindy

    I just read your article while eating a poptart that I didn’t even really want to eat, gave half to the dogs so I could check out your blog, but first I stepped on the scales–something I usually avoid. 244, an all-time high. I have trouble with beginnings, probably due to my ocd tendencies of “it’s all or nothing.” Your article was really a motivator for me, so thanks for sharing your story. I’ll work on baby steps and go out and buy a pedometer today. Hopefully in five years I can say I’ve lost 100 pounds, and I won’t even be 60 yet!!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Hi, Cindy – and welcome!! Many, many people have trouble with the ‘all or nothing’ way of thinking. Not everyone has the same issues with food as I did/do, but for me personally, I couldn’t bear the thought of my coping mechanism (my food) being taken away from me. So, I did something that I knew I could do: wear the pedometer.

      I hope you find that a pedometer works for you, Cindy – and I’m so glad you stopped by. I hope you come back and keep me posted on how you’re doing, and remember: this community of weight loss/maintenance blogs is always here to help and support. Hugs to you!

      Reply
  6. Munchberry

    You know it feels really good to read that it took you 5 years to ditch the weight. I sometimes feel like I am screwing up keeping sort of at a standstill, but you have to do that sometimes. Get used to the new you – so you recognize yourself in the mirror, get a couple deep breaths on the way down the scale, hurdle a few non weight things that MAY have sent you off the rails as the old you. Thank you for mentioning that.

    Blogging IS so valuable. As is reading other’s perspectives!

    Congrats my friend.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I am most definitely the turtle – not the hare. I think one of the reasons why I did it that way was because I couldn’t deal with the stress of ‘performing’ on top of everything else. It came off when it came off. Now, towards the end I got a little itchy to get it off, but I think that happens with everyone to a certain extent.

      Reply
  7. KCLAnderson (Karen)

    I am SO glad it turned out well and love that you filled in some of the blanks here on your blog. And I second Munchberry’s comment re it taking you five years. I really do believe that slow and steady (with long plateaus of maintenance) is the way to go!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Definitely the way to go, Karen. I wouldn’t have made it this long had I lost it all at once. I would have lost part of my identity I think, had I gone that route. Too many things changing to have to add that to the mix.

      Reply
  8. Goodnuff

    I will also be looking for the mag, it’ll be the first I’ve bought in a long time. Blogging has been helpful to me, what I like best is that I can make it fit for me…do it when the mood hits. I always enjoy reading your posts. I’m not always sure I can, or even want, to lose weight but it is helpful to read stories about successful people. I know that the saying, If I can do it so can you, is true. I’m still searching for my beginning.

    Reply
  9. Ellen Post author

    That really IS the great thing about blogging – and reading. I appreciate that you enjoy reading mine. I certainly love having you around :)

    Reply
  10. Margot

    I’ve found your blog at just the right time for me. Seven months in I’ve lost 21 pounds. It’s a huge accomplishment, but I keep looking at those who have lost 100+ in a year and I worry about my ability to keep going at a slower pace. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to getting to know you as I read more of your posts. Take care!

    Reply
  11. Hanlie

    Thank you for posting this – I’ve never heard your story before. You’re very inspiring! I’ve come to the conclusion recently that slower weight loss is probably better overall – emotionally, mentally and physically – than racing one’s way down the scale. I can barely walk, but I think I should get a pedometer so that I can measure my progress.

    Reply
  12. didi

    I can’t thank you enough for posting about your purchase of a pedometer. I bought a better one and have been using it for the past two weeks. I record the count every night on my calender, and am now fully aware of the average number of steps I take a day. Just wearing the pedometer makes me more aware of my activity level.
    Even in two weeks time I have made a serious effort to be more active and not have “lazy” days. I don’t hit ten thousand steps every day yet, but lower numbers have inspired evening workouts, and that is a good thing.

    Reply
  13. Val

    I came way back here A.) as I was trying to find that article while B.) filling you in on the latest…(need to “bury the lead”)

    (Hey, Munch, I see you’ve taken your blog private; can I get an invite? “endurovet at Gee-mail dot com”)

    A couple of yrs ago, I felt that tingly warning sensation: I thought that my ex was reading my blog & I almost shut the whole thing down…
    Just when I think my contempt for M cannot reach new heights, it does when my son comes home begging me to “drop the case” by dropping his version of a bombshell – that M has been reading my blog & will greatly hurt & embarrass me if I go forward w/this…
    For now I’ve taken the blog private & will decide what final action to take after the hearing. Wish me luck!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Oh, Val. A woman’s intuition is never wrong. Good thing to do – you’ve got to protect yourself. Stay in touch, will you? If you ever post from same blog, it will pop up in my reader. If you move to somewhere else, let me know, OK? And take care of you!! ((((Hugs))))

      Reply

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