That title sounds pretty big, but I believe that it’s true- if we allow it, our personal history- both successes and failures- can help to form our particular destinies! My history as an overweight teenager has helped to form my destiny as a Health Professional. We all have a story, and this month, I am sharing again an article I wrote in 2013 about a chapter in my life story!
I grew up in a family where I don’t really recall being taught much about food. Of course food was there, but not information about what healthy eating was, and how to establish a healthy relationship with food. This was common to the era, so I am not in any way accusing or judging my parents. My purely sweet Paternal Swedish Grandmother truly was the Sugar Queen. We knew stepping through those magical kitchen thresholds that fresh baked cookies and treats adorned the multiple tins stacked on the shelves. We were never stopped (that I remember) from over eating these delicacies and yes, that became a problem!
Holidays meant overeating. I remember my sister and I stuffing ourselves into a food coma and throwing ourselves on the bed in the spare bedroom at Grandma’s with our pants unzipped waiting for the excess to digest! We really did not know any better at the time and obviously lacked some common sense!
Food was associated to guilt- there were people starving, so what was on the plate had to be eaten. That’s a tough one! There are people starving. I don’t take this travesty lightly at all and do my part to alleviate hunger, but whether or not I clean my plate doesn’t really help the hungry. Awareness and giving to the hungry is what helps them!
Time passed. I moved into puberty and started to put on weight. I remember once saying to my dear Grandma Etta, “I’m getting fat.” Her answer was, “It’s baby fat.” My answer was, “But I’m 13!” I kept putting weight on as a teen and by the time I was 18 I was about 60 lbs. overweight. We all hear things that brand us, and in high school a boy I liked said to me, “You would be pretty if you weren’t so fat.” Ouch. I never forgot that pain.
I moved to CA at age 19 after another devastating blow in regard to my weight. I sing, and my DREAM was to tour with an East Coast Choral Group. After auditioning I was called into the Director’s office with high hopes. He said, “You have the most pure alto voice, one of the best I’ve ever heard….” (It was mine. I was jumping up and down inside.)…. “But because of your weight, we are not going to be including you in the fall tour.” (Jumping began slumping inside. A little piece of me died right there.) In his defense, they had costumes I was simply too large for. My size didn’t fit their ideal. End of Plan A.
Plan B was to come to CA to visit a friend (I’m a native New Yorker.) I gained even MORE weight when at first before I decided I really wanted to lose weight. I didn’t really have a healthy eating skill set yet, so my weight loss method of choice ended up being bulimia. Yup. I wish I didn’t have to type this, but there you have it. This is how I initially lost weight. Once the weight was lost, I started working out and thus began my fitness career. I got the exercise part, but the eating part was a very slow journey of understanding and victory. I struggled with bulimia for a really long time- in and out of this very addictive and shame inducing behavior. It was years of information gathering before I actually began to IMPLEMENT what I knew about healthy eating, learn how not to eat poorly, or how not to over eat to the point of such regret that I felt compelled to purge.
“Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.” It sounds easy, but it was HARD to change my bad habits. I made a resolve that the RESULTS (guilt/shame) were no longer worth the pseudo “satisfaction” of indulgence. I put myself into a discipline of daily CHOOSING that I was not going to do “this” anymore. I RESOLVED to make a change. I cannot underestimate the power of a personal contract, reinstated one day at a time, reinforced by the payoff of feeling GOOD about your choices rather than looking in the mirror at the end of the day with regret, yet again. I stopped excusing my excesses and started calling them self abuse. I traded that in for balanced moderation and self care.
I am grateful to my big sister, who loves me to bits and pieces, who is a very healthy cook. She has taught me so much about right and wrong foods, and I am eternally grateful for her.
I can honestly say that I consider myself currently a healthy person. I have been “out of order” in just about every area of life at one time or another, and with the help of God, friends, counselors, teachers, mentors, my sister and my daughter I have done what needed to be done to make positive changes in the way I think, speak, treat others, allow myself to be treated, and how I honor my body. I feel “on track” in my key friend and family relationships, in my spiritual life, at my job (!), and within myself. It has not been an easy road, but I am so grateful to currently be who I am and where I am.
We all have a story- I share mine simply to let you know that if you struggle with your weight, with your eating habits, with being a healthy person, I GET IT! You CAN change, I know you can. Grab onto hope and dream about what is possible for you.
My hope in my family is that this “bad buck” stops here generationally and that my kids and grand kids have healthy, happy relationships with food!!