Why?

As a child, I was never really overweight, but I was certainly never waif-like. Bordering the edge of being plump, I ate anything and everything I wanted. I have pretty vivid memories of my classmates telling me I ate too much, my stepfather calling me a pig for being able to eat two sandwiches, and and my mentor telling me I would grow up to be fat if I drenched my salads in so much ranch dressing. I was self-conscious of my size even then, yet I never connected it to my eating habits. In high school, I grew sick, which caused a loss of appetite and a large amount of weight loss in a very short period of time. I went from 140 to 95  pounds as a 14-year-old girl in the span of three months. I reveled and delighted in my newfound body type, but once I recovered, I presumed my eating habits, resulting in a return of all those lost pounds and then some. Again, while I was ashamed of my body, I still never connected it to my eating habits. I wanted to lose weight, but I simply didn’t know how.

As the years passed, I continued to gain more and more weight. Stretch marks began to blossom on my hips, thighs, and even my calves. I was embarrassed of my body, and began to start hiding it in over-sized sweaters and jeans. Eventually, I grew so complacent that I even quit putting effort into my grooming, showing up to work with no make-up and dirty hair pilled into a greasy bun. Despite how horrified I was of my body, I was oddly in denial about my size. I didn’t weigh myself, I refused to look at my body in a full length mirror, I didn’t buy new clothes, and I wouldn’t wear clothes that had anything higher than “14” on the label, even though I was a much larger size than that. The few shopping trips I made ended up with me running out of the store in tears because I would still go to the juniors section, only to find nothing there fit me at all. I called myself “curvy,” even photoshopped my double chin out of pictures, and refused to admit I was obese, much less overweight. Deep down inside I knew it, but I also knew once I admitted it to myself, I would hit rock bottom.

One day, something finally clicked and realization dawned on me. I was at work, going up the four flights of stairs in the parking garage. I still distinctly recall struggling to keep up with their pace, and desperately trying to hide the fact that I was not just out of breath, but loudly wheezing. One of my co-workers stopped and asked if I was all right, and when I opened my mouth to respond, I realized I was too out of breath to speak a word. The look of pity plain on my co-worker’s face made me think to myself, I’ve become that girl. At that point, it was like waking up from a really bad nightmare, only to realize it wasn’t a nightmare; it was real life!

I started to really look back at my life the past few years. Really, really look. And what I saw frightened me: a young girl who had grown complacent and apathetic about life. A girl who lied and made excuses to avoid her best friends and family. A girl who couldn’t even go to Wal-Mart without having an anxiety attack because she thought everyone was looking at her. A girl who woke up, played World of Warcraft all day, and then went to sleep. A girl who would eat fast food sometimes as often as three times a day. A girl who had given up her dreams and hopes. I realized my physical condition had not only had emotional effects on me, but also physical, too. All of the symptoms I ignored as easily as I had the emotional. Awareness of this all just came flooding into my head at once like a floodgate, and I was overcome by shame and fear.

Still, though, it just wasn’t enough for me. I knew I had a problem, and I knew I wanted to fix it, but I was just so overwhelmed. I wanted to lose weight more than anything else, but to my uneducated eyes, I thought losing weight meant starving yourself on a lettuce-only diet while doing copious amounts of cardio exercise multiple times a day. I spent time online trying to do my research, but it all blew my mind. What were carbs, and why did they matter? How did one know how many calories to eat? How did I keep track of said calories? I didn’t think I could do it, and I started to tell myself that weight loss was for the superficial, super-human types of people. I was an awkward geeky girl who had always loved food; how could I seriously do this? I felt hopeless and alone, with no idea of how to start.

Then I found the magic motivation. I was reading a forum called Something Awful late one night after work, when I came across a fitness and weight loss subforum. Curious, since it’s a subject near and dear to my heart, I ventured in and came across a wealth of resources worded in ways that made sense to someone overwhelmed by these complex, healthy methods of weight loss. But then I came across the gold: a picture thread of physical transformations. Pictures of geeks, like myself, who were in similar places in life, who turned their lives upside down. Reading their stories evoked a deep emotion within me, seeing myself mirrored in their stories and before pictures. And so I thought, if these guys and girls- who are just like me!- can do this, so can I! So I did.

One of the most commonly asked questions about my weight loss- besides “How did you do it?”- is always a simple, “Why?” Knowing how someone accomplished something is helpful, but not always insightful; what method works for one person doesn’t always work for another. Knowing why is a totally different story, though. For me, understanding someone’s thought process makes them feel more human, more real. It makes me compare my own experiences to theirs, analyzing and being introspective about my own thoughts, fears, and motives. While I don’t know the magic motivation for you to change your lives like I did, for me, it was actually seeing that these real people did what I wanted to do. Sometimes, when you see people’s success stories or hear about celebrities losing weight, it’s really hard for you to relate to them. You don’t see yourself in them, so you dismiss them as not being real; they feel super-human, and so you put them on a pedestal. You can’t aspire to be like them because they’re different from you. Better, in a way. Stronger. But when I read the stories and journeys of these ordinary, geeky people who struggled like me, something just clicked. Knowing that people just like myself could do it was enough to make my mind grasp that yes, I can lose weight just like them.

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17 responses to “Why?”

  1. Steph-knee says :

    I had a very similar experience. I started to become chubby around 12 years old because I ate too much and stopped being regularly active. It really started to balloon after I starting seeing my fiancée and I became very complacent and just didn’t care about what I ate. I would have a full McDonald’s meal for lunch and then a whole pizza & garlic bread for dinner in the same day. The rest of my time was just spent going to work, playing video games and sleeping. Even my social life was abysmal because I was both lazy & quietly embarrassed because all of my friends were fitter than me.

    The turning point for me was when I went to try on a dress that I adored. I had finally found one in my size and fiancée and a (very slim!) friend waited outside for me. The dress fit me just fine but it looked so horrible. It really hit home just how overweight I’d become and I was so ashamed of myself – but I really didn’t know where to start.

    And then I was browsing tumblr one day and I found a before-and-after picture of a red-haired nerdy girl – it was your picture.

    When I saw what you’d been able to achieve, I knew that I could do it too. I’m 8 months in and I’ve lost 23kg (50.7lbs!). I’ve still got a bit more to go, but I just wanted you to know how much of an effect you had on me and how much you inspired me to change my life. I still play video games and eat naughty food from time to time, but I’m a lot more conscious and responsible about it, and my fiancée has also started making changes to his diet.

    Thank you so much 🙂

    • criss says :

      This is the most inspirational comment, ever. I’ve been in a food rut this whole week, and seeing this oddly enough motivated me to focus again. I’m so glad I (indirectly) helped you find the motivation within yourself. 🙂

    • Lyvia says :

      This was so soo inspirational! Thanks so much for sharing it… Although I was never overweight in my life, I’ve struggled with almost the same things you did mostly because of the way I used to see myself… then, with all the complexities about carbs being bad, carbs being good now, too much protein, couting calories, afraid of weights, I was all over the place with my fitness and didn’t have a clue of what the heck I was doing…
      After that, I also became obsessed with food, restricting everything I was eating, only to find myself binging on it later on and feeling disgusted about my own behavior… I was terrified of food and would avoid all forms of socialization that involved food because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to control myself and would end up being “discovered”. The thought of my disgusted behavior being made public was scary enough to keep me at home, in my own world, eating only my own foods 😦 It was a sad, reaally sad period of my life…
      For me, the “why” question was “running”. This alone saved me from myself. Calories suddenly stopped matter. I’ve joined a running group, met people who weren’t obsessed with food and picked up a lot from their behavior. It wasn’t overnight though. Every time I got injured and couldn’t run, my oh-so-well balanced life would all go upside down and I would eat as a comfort way for not being able to get my endorphins from running… 🙂
      I don’t know exactly at which point I started to realize how obsessed my behavior was. Everything I did, I had to be extreme about it. I was often injured because I just can’t do what my couch say, I have to go and always do more. Then, it was 2, 3 months injured without sometimes even being able to go to the gym. I think my love for running made me realize that, if I still want to run for a long looong time, I have to be patient. Do as I’m told. Not overdo it. I can’t restrict food or else I won’t be able to do my best while racing. Suddenly, everything made sense and started to fit in.

      Ohhh sorry, I got carried away here, maybe I should do a post on my blog about my “Why” as well 🙂 Thanks again, for sharing!
      xx

  2. Missy says :

    After a lifetime of dieting, I was starting to believe that nobody could actually lose the 100 pounds I needed to lose so I may as well give up. However, then I ran across all the people on 43things.com who actually did it, and I had a glimmer of hope. Maybe it’s possible after all. 🙂

    It’s so important to share our weight loss journeys with each other. Knowing others have succeeded in what I am trying to accomplish really helps me preservere. Thanks for posting this.

  3. Liberty-Belle says :

    Thank you for this. I came across your Tumblr by accident and this blog post from there… I’m not at my highest weight any more but I’m not much below it either. Have hit a wall recently and am having trouble getting started but your story and realisation that you wanted to change are very similar to my own and you’re doing a lot to inspire me to keep on going 🙂

  4. Emily says :

    Criss! I’m so happy to see you in the “real blog world.” 😉 I’ve been following your tumblr’s for awhile now! It’s great to see you posting and representing healthy choices instead of *getting skinny*

    Welcome to wordpress! There’s a whole world of Fitbloggers out here, and I hope that you love it! There’s a twitter chat on Tuesdays (#fitblog) that you should SO jump in on!

    Much love and respect. ❤

  5. Jessica Sarah says :

    Criss, you’re story is super inspirational even to someone like me who has a measly 15 pounds to lose. I think you have a strength and personal insight that can be rare in even the mose awesome of people. I’ve bookmarked this page and look forward to reading more from you.

  6. Sprinkles says :

    I love how easy you are to relate to! I’ve never actually been considered overweight, but I’ve been on the heavier side of healthy and have wanted to improve in my fitness (especially after participating in drum corps; woo! what a wake-up call last summer was, haha!). I can certainly relate to the inactive nerd lifestyle – something I’m definitely working on changing right now.

    My mom, as long as I can remember, has always been on the heavier side, although she’s always made relatively healthy food. Though she had been losing weight in 2010 and 2011, a few months ago she had surgery which caused her to put on 20-30 extra pounds. As I have a general knowledge of fitness (one of my drum corps staff members was also a personal trainer), I’m somewhat acting as her “trainer”/motivational helper. I’ll definitely be sharing information and inspiration from you!

    We won’t be getting gym memberships anytime soon due to cost and our eventual conflicting schedules, but could you suggest or refer me to beginner exercises using dumbbells? :]

  7. Ivan Najakov says :

    Actually Chriss, your problems are due to the unhealthy lifestyle we have become accustomed to living. We don’t have to do any physical work or even walk very far, while at the same time we have access to all the unhealthy food we feel like eating.
    What you need to do is limit your intake of food and get some excercise, if you do this you will find that you become thinner. The problem is you need to keep doing this the rest of your life. So it is better to just be satisfied with any improvement in your appearance, and not attempt to turn yourself into some other person.

  8. GChussir says :

    When I finished reading this article, the Terminator 2 Theme started to sound in my head.

  9. Authentic Scents says :

    I am so glad I randomly found this. Actually, I was let to your other blog from a picture someone had pinned on pintrest. I repinned it saying “I AM GOING TO DO THIS”. It was one of your photo groupings that marked your progress. Fabulous. I was once 290 at 5’6″. Over the course of one year I did WW and went down to 200, then after a terrible break up I went down to 180. You guessed what happened – I did that very unhealthful and gained it all back. A year or two ago I was back up at 290 and since then have been able to maintain 245 – not that I am proud of maintaining a huge amount of weight but better than going back up and up!

    Recently I have undergone some other big personal changes and am ready to make some physical ones. I need to get control of my life. Unfortunately, and I hate to say it this way, but being a “big girl” can effect you for the rest of your life. I am sure you have had huge confidence boosters through guys and the like – but nothing of course is better than being liked/loved than for your personality, heart, and smarts. That is always what you have to keep in mind. But that is not to say that it is “ok” to allow yourself to be that “big girl” either. It is a difficult balance, and it is always important to remember that everyone, despite having been a past “big girl” or not, has body image issues.

    I have friends that have fluctuated, some that can’t gain weight and struggle for it because they want to start a family! I can telly you are aware of all these things, but it is nice to see that we are not alone in these struggles.

    I look forward to reading more.

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