I’m inspired (as usual) by a repeated conversation I have with so many of my weight loss clients. “You have no idea how hard it is for me.” Usually followed by some kind of compliment, like “you don’t have a weight problem” or “you know what to do” which I appreciate greatly. Here’s the thing, though. I do have a weight problem, and I don’t always know what to do for myself. I’ve know how hard it was to lose weight since I was in 5th or 6th grade. More on that in a few…
I see many stories floating around – “I lost 65lbs in 5 months on (enter the name of any diet/supplement here)”. These stories are completed with photos and smiles and amazingly supportive comments. I LOVE THEM – the smiles, the cheers.
Then I talk to them, months later, because the weight is back, plus more. Life got in the way of counting points, using small containers to put food into, entering every bite into an application. Weight loss wasn’t all it was cracked up to be – there were still these feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, failure. Self-blame – “I’m lazy, I didn’t exercise enough, I binged because I was restricting too much.”
And then..the words that make my heart sink to the floor: “I’m going back on diet or supplement (XYZ) because IT WORKED.”
What if we explore why it didn’t work, why it wasn’t sustainable, and why it didn’t fit into your lifestyle? What if we figured out how you can eat the foods you enjoy and focus on health and progress, rather than restriction and set backs? I think about this every day. This is what nutrition counseling with a professional is (upcoming blog for sure).
And here is my journey:
I grew up with an older brother and a neighborhood full of kids. While I definitely made him play his fair share of barbies, we were outside quite a bit. You know the story – “When I was a child, I came home when the streetlights went on.” I played soccer and started cheerleading at a young age. My mom cooked every night, and we have a vegetable at pretty much every meal. We had occasional treats and snacks, in hindsight it was a pretty good balance. In 5th grade or 6th grade, something happened. We didn’t have cell phones, I wasn’t playing video games all day, I was active, and I had access to healthy foods. Still, I gained a lot of weight. It wasn’t my thyroid, maybe a little to do with hormonal changes, who knows. But here I was:
Now back then I was going to be a teacher with my best friend. I was set on that. Then came middle school. Kids are kids. And kids made comments. Thankfully, I had some great people in my life to keep me proud of all my accomplishments, but my friends had an impact. And I internalized their words and attached them to my self worth. I looked at magazines and beautiful women who had amazing bodies, and decided that I was going to be like them. Why not? I could totally do this.
And so, I did this. I started calorie counting, dieting, and exercising when I was in middle school, and by early high school I was pretty happy with where I had gotten to. I still remember the feeling of waking up one morning and realizing I could see my hip bones. I have no idea what my weight was, but at one point I was wearing a women’s size 4 -6, and buying medium size shirts instead of extra large and size 14- and I was thrilled. There was still something wrong though, because this determined my value in my mind. Didn’t matter that I was a straight A student. Didn’t matter that I had great friends and family. I was completely focused on my appearance (and all that was and was not ok with it by my judgement).
Cue the career change. I started applying to colleges for Nutrition Science and Psychology. I worked at a fitness center, obtained my certificate to teach group aerobics, and took college courses my senior year in high school to prepare me for this dream.
I wasn’t ready though. I went away to college (University of New Hampshire – honors program, Major in Nutrition Science, Minor in psychology) and without going into too much detail, took full advantage of the freshman 15+, had a great time, and was still caught up in appearance = value. Part of me cringes, part of me is thankful for the experience. Reflecting on all the things I could’ve done different, I needed a new start. I transferred to Russell Sage College, and continued my goal of a degree in Nutrition Science.
So what happened to my weight? Let’s just say bring on the dieting! Hey – “it worked for me before!” Now I was equipped with some entry level nutrition classes and some serious science, but I still lacked the insight and patience. I went up and down and up and down and landed right back into an women’s size 16-18. Then back down again – and I ended up married and pregnant with my first child during my dietetic internship.
This emotional eater learned quickly that divorce is the only stressor that helps me eat less vs eat more. So back down I went to those size 6’s within a few years after having my little guy. I’m telling you no matter what I did, the 4’s were not happening. At all.
To keep this long story short – I again battled with my weight and body image, until I finally met someone who told me he accepted me the way I was and supported me in getting the help I needed. I stopped smoking (tried and failed that many times as well!), and even after having another little angel, have learned the power of lifestyle change, self-love, and have stayed within a weight range of about 10 pounds over the last 8 years if you don’t include my pregnancy (I love to eat when I’m pregnant, just saying!). I’m not perfect, but I have learned (both in the text book and in real life) that it is not easy, and dieting doesn’t work.
Why am I sharing this? A few reasons – I’m sure some people look at me and think “She’s a dietitian?” because if you compared me to the magazines, my body is very different. While others look at me and say “She’s a dietitian!” thinking I’ve never had to worry about these issues, while not realizing I struggled with them for the majority of my life. I am so proud of where I am now, and know that there is only better things to come!
I have made it my mission to help empower clients around food, and help them achieve their goals. I hope my story inspires you to love yourself more, and focus on all the incredible things you are rather than the number of calories you’re eating today <3
Let’s make more long term success stories!