Before we get started, I want you to know that when I am talk about health I am never talking about size. For some people there exists a relationship between size and health, but many people are healthy independent of size. This is important to keep in mind, as there is a great deal of sized-based discrimination in the world.
Now then, let’s go back to the beginning. When I was 20, I put on weight. A lot of weight, really fast. A few things piled up all at once to cause this. I had reconstructive surgery on my right shoulder, which caused my activity level to plummet from reasonably active to not at all active. It took about six months after surgery to learn to lift my arm over my head again, and I used it as an excuse to do not much of anything. I was living in Victoria, BC, at the time, studying creative writing at UVic. I lived in a big student house, skipped classes to play Nintendo, and phoned the convenience store down the street to make sure they had what I wanted before I could be bothered to walk there to get it. I was lazy. I definitely didn’t understand nutrition; a big bag of licorice didn’t contain any fat, so I could eat the whole thing, right? I practically lived on peanut butter M&M’s and Doritos in those days, and frequently made meals of plain white rice. That girl turned into a nutritionist?!
I got away with living like this for a little while. Then, suddenly, my clothes didn’t fit anymore. I remember one night getting dressed to go out to a nightclub with my roommates and going through half of my wardrobe before piecing together an awkward outfit. And I remember a particularly humiliating moment not long after when, as I was paying for some candy, my then boyfriend literally took the candy out of my hand at the cash register, picked up my money, and marched me out of the store in front of a long line of customers. Though my parents were never anything but graceful about my weight gain, I do remember the shock when I returned home after several months away and was, well, big.
How big? Honestly, I don’t know. It would be nearly four years from then before I stepped on a scale, and by the time I worked up the nerve I had already lost some of the weight. What I do know is that when I did finally step on the scale and then entered my height and weight into a BMI calculator I was overweight (BMI is a flawed tool, we’ll be discussing it more later). I also know that from what I believe my biggest weight was to what my current weight is, I reduced my body weight by nearly 20%.
I don’t remember the exact moment I decided I wanted to change. I do remember plugging my height and weight into a calculator on the Weight Watchers website and being incensed at the amount of weight they suggested I should lose. Then I told that number to a co-worker who just kind of shrugged.
My first attempt at weight loss began then. I photocopied the Weight Watchers Points booklet and began keeping track of what I ate in a journal. I lost about 10 lbs, felt incredible, and promptly went back to my old ways and put the weight right back on. Some time later I decided to have another go at it, and mentioned it to a friend who told me she had joined Weight Watchers online. Going to meetings had never appealed to me, but the online program gave me much more cohesive tools to track my diet and exercise than going at it on my own did, and I became a part of a supportive online community. After six months of seriously working at it I lost 25 lbs and reached my goal weight.
Around that time I started dating this cute triathlete I had had my eye on at the pool. We moved in together after around half a year, and started cooking and eating together. I’d find myself sitting down to dinner with a plate of food the same size as this guy who worked out for 4 hours a day. Yep, the weight came back. Not all of it, but enough of it that I didn’t feel as good anymore.
So I got back to journaling, and the third time was a charm. I learned portion control. I learned that I could fill up on healthy foods and feel great, or I could blow my points on junk and still feel hungry. I got back down to my goal weight once more, and then started running. I became fitter and leaner still when I started running, something I had only viewed as an awful sort of punishment when I was bigger, but suddenly was enjoying. I loved how I went from feeling lethargic and slow to energetic and strong. That was about eight years ago, and while my weight naturally fluctuates a bit, I’ve maintained it ever since.
I think the total amount of weight I lost is somewhere around 40lbs, but really, I can’t be sure, and really it doesn’t matter. To Live Well isn’t about a number or a size, it’s about being healthy and feeling good. To Live Well is a journey, this is mine.
For a while now I’ve wanted to talk about nutrition as well as other aspects of health and wellness in ways not necessarily attached to recipes. I’m really excited about this series, Live Well. I’ll be posting in this category about twice a month and will be including some guest posts from some really fabulous people.