Beauty, Confidence, and the Concept of Being “Brave”

Tess Holliday has been rocking headlines over the past week when she was announced to be the newest model signed to MiLK Model Management’s roster. At 5’5″ and a size-22, she is (by her own admission) essentially the biggest plus-size model ever to be signed to a major agency, an amazing feat in and of itself.

I’ve followed Tess (known also by her birth name, Tess Munster) on Instagram for quite a while, always admiring her for, yes, her insane beauty and ALWAYS on-point eyebrows, but also for being such a fierce and admirable woman. She is the creator of #effyourbodystandards, a social media movement that preaches and promotes self-love, body-positivity, and acceptance regardless of size.

 
Now, it probably comes as no surprise (sadly) that Tess gets lobbed a lot of hatred and judgment on her IG account. I’d say about two-thirds of her negative comments seem to come from ignorant jerks (via such meaningful and eloquent comments as “Ew!” or “Fatass!” or, best of all, tagging their friends with a couple of laughing emojis), and the rest come from concerned citizens of the interwebs (“She’s beautiful, but you have to wonder if she’s healthy?” or “Her confidence is admirable, but promoting obesity is just as bad as being too thin!”).

Now, I don’t really feel like traipsing down the rabbit hole with regard to the idea of Tess “promoting obesity” because I honestly think that it’s flat-out ridiculous. The fact that Tess exists at her current size in no way means she is promoting or glorifying having a fat body. She’s just Tess. This is not about obesity glorification or the promotion of unhealthy habits. This isn’t even a discussion about Fat Acceptance or Health At Every Size or anything like that. It’s about accepting yourself in general, and I do firmly feel that Tess is a real champion in the body love and self-acceptance sphere.

Of course, haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate, so it’s a good thing that Tess is also a champion of shrugging of them haterz. And even if she wasn’t, she has more than enough loyal fans willing to jump into the fray on her behalf.

Besides, while hateful comments do always seem to find their way onto her posts, the majority of comments are ones of adoration and admiration. There are even quite a few heartwarming stories of the self-acceptance that Tess has inspired in her fans. Which are my favorite ones to read, of course. It’s really wonderful to see how Tess has helped others take steps away from self-hatred and towards self-acceptance.

But, alas, just like the negative comments come in various forms, comments telling tales of self-discovery and acceptance are not the only kind of “positive” comments that I see. No, the one I feel like I see more and more often on Tess’s photos, or on the photos of the many other strong and beautiful plus-sized women that I follow, and even occasionally on my own photos, look a little more like this:

“Your confidence is incredible! You go, girl!”

“You’re so pretty! I wish I had your confidence!”

“Damn girl, work it! Confidence is sexy!”

And it’s these comments that never really sit that well with me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment being shared here. I know that these comments are well-intentioned and, in fact, accurate. Tess is confident, and confidence is sexy. Tess is a very beautiful woman who has no reason not to be confident in her beauty… other than, according to society, the fact that she is fat.

Because people don’t say, “OMG! You’re so confident and inspiring!” to folks who aren’t fat. They don’t say it to your average straight-sized model, or to someone who doesn’t have some kind of obstacle in front of their beauty — whether it be their weight, a scar, an amputated limb, whatever. You don’t say, “I wish I had your confidence!” to someone who has no reason not to be confident. To someone whose beauty you have no reason to question.

It all reminds me of this quote from the ineffably wonderful Mindy Kaling:

It’s the same when people say, “You’re so brave!” I’ve gotten that one, too. Like, really, I’m brave for putting a picture of myself on Instagram? I’m pretty sure that impulse stems out of my personal vanity, not some drawer full of bravery that I have on reserve.

I mean, jumping in front of a car to push someone out of the way is brave.

Standing up for someone being bullied is brave.

Going to teach children in Ghana or build houses in Chile or rehabilitate Russian sex workers is brave.

Having the strength to leave an abusive relationship is brave.

But just, I dunno, living my life at an above-average weight? Not being ashamed of myself because I’m not conventionally thin? Really, that’s what is considered brave? Oookay.

Now, sure, for Tess, maybe it is a little bit brave. But only because she knows that every time she posts a photo of herself online, she’s going to experience so much negativity for it. So it’s not the actual act of putting herself out there that is brave, it’s doing so in our current fat-shaming culture. I know that if I were in her shoes and received the kind of crazy, in-your-face, outspoken hatred that she receives on a daily basis, I imagine it would take a heckuva lot of bravery for me to keep doing what I was doing too.

I don’t think that the general standards of what is considered “beautiful” are really going to change anytime soon. Take a look at Greatist’s article about how the standards of beauty with regard to body shape have changed over the past century to see what I’m talking about. Even with the variations in the cultural norms of the time, there’s not THAT much of a difference in what’s “ideal” — it’s still best to be slim, to be tall, to be white.

But, that being said, I do think that other aspects of our societal attitude towards beauty is starting to shift. It’s becoming more and more acceptable to, well, accept yourself, even if you’re not that perfect size 6. We’re starting — just starting — to put more of an emphasis on how you feel about yourself than how you look to others. On loving yourself, whether you consider yourself a work in-progress or totally happy as-is. And even though there are tons of hateful people and “concerned” citizens and inflated egos that might be working against her, I think that Tess Holliday is helping to tip the scale in the direction of love.

My Big Fat Fabulous Life and Fat Shaming Culture

So yesterday I watched a couple of episodes of TLC’s new show My Big Fat Fabulous Life, which debuted last week. The show centers around Whitney Thore who, at 5’2″ and 380 pounds, reached internet notoriety after her “Fat Girl Dancing” video went viral on YouTube, in which she gets diggity down to a Jason Derulo song.

The show seems, at least thus far, to be trying to focus its gaze on Whitney’s venture into teaching dance classes, losing weight, and loving herself unabashedly along the way. Definitely three things I can get on board with, especially since as far as I’m concerned, girl can really dance! She’s also pretty funny, has a vibrant personality, and I do think that she makes for good TV.

Of course, as with most shows on TLC, I find myself a little bit torn about how I should “feel” about it. On the one hand, I appreciate the show’s attempts to portray an obese woman (relatively) honestly on her quest to live her life doing what she loves (dance) and get healthier without a specific focus on weight loss (though that is something that Whitney says she does want to achieve.) I also appreciate that she offers a frank portrayal of the difficulties she has being obese (chub rub, she has to have her mom help shave the back of her legs for her, etc) while not being apologetic about it.

But on the other hand, there’s also something, I don’t know, not quiiiiite right in the way that the show shapes its message. Whitney has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, something that I admittedly know very little about. I understand that it can cause sudden weight gain and make it very difficult to lose weight, in addition to a myriad of other symptoms, and I don’t doubt that it has had a very serious impact on Whitney’s life. However, at least within the first few episodes, I feel like the PCOS thing is continuously shoved in viewers’ faces. Like, “Just so you remember, Whitney has PCOS! Her weight isn’t her fault! Don’t forget!”

There’s also the fact that the show does seem to focus on some of the more ridiculous (for lack of a better word) occurrences in Whitney’s life. I guess this is an argument that you could make about any kind of reality TV, to be fair, since these things tend to make for better TV. But when the show is spending so much time focusing on things like Whitney’s pants splitting at the grocery store, taking her measurements but the tape measure is too small to fit around her, trying on heels at the mall and almost toppling over… it still feels a lot like making fun.

Overall, I do think the show has a lot of good going for it. I try to take all reality TV with a big grain of salt, but for the most part, I do like this one. It helps, of course, that Whitney’s got a really likable persona — she really is pretty fabulous! And even with the skewed lens that TLC might be filming the show through, I can still appreciate its messages about self-acceptance, body love, and encouragement to those beginning their health journeys.

For me, the real heart of the show is in its portrayal of how Whitney has been treated due to her size. The show really shines light on the culture of fat shaming that we live in (something you can also pick up on in about 0.043 seconds of reading the comments on her YouTube dance video). In Episode 2, Whitney is walking out of a store with her friend, when a guy in a car stopped at a light calls her “Shamu.” In the same episode, she and her friends read hateful comments about her from folks on the internet, which say things like, “You should lose weight and then dance, not the other way around!” To which Whitney responds, “How am I supposed to lose weight if I can’t exercise?!”

And there’s the rub. America wants it both ways: we’re to lose weight, be healthy, and stop being the lazy fat asses we obbbbviously are, but ehhhh, nobody really wants to see it. We need to make like Monica on Friends and somehow magically lose all our weight in secret. (As a sidenote: I’ve been rewatching Friends since it’s been put on Netflix, and while I’m still in love with like 99% of the show, including the total lack of internet and shocking number of denim overalls worn, I gotta admit I don’t really love the Monica-was-fat jokes anymore. Go figure.)

Anyway… I recognize that I am super lucky to never have experienced outright hatred or animosity because of my size. Granted, given the fact that I put my entire life out here on the interwebs, I have experienced my fair share of anonymous comments and concern-trolling, but I’ve never been laughed at to my face. I’ve never had to deal with people gaping in awe at my girth. I’ve never felt outright discriminated against because of my weight. I’ve never incited commentary from random strangers out in public.

That said, I absolutely still feel the effects of our fat-shaming culture. We live in a world where people actually think it’s not okay to love yourself if your pants are over a certain size. Where people feel free to comment on your body and your choices because “it’s not healthy” and they’re “concerned.” Where if you are overweight and aren’t actively trying to change that fact, to lose weight, to slim down, you’re lazy and a “bad role model.”

We live in a culture where one of the worst things you could possibly be is fat. Far worse than being stupid or unsuccessful or mean or selfish is being fat.

Which is why, despite the fact that it may still be working out its kinks, watching My Big Fat Fabulous Life made me pretty happy. It’s chock-full of positive messages, even if there are times when Whitney herself is clearly not as totally body-confident as she would probably want us to believe. For example, she almost turns down being in a plus-size fashion show in episode 3 because she’s worried that there won’t be any clothing that fits.

Regardless, it is a show that challenges common misconceptions about weight + health, and the idea that you can’t love your body if it’s not the perfect size-whatever. And that’s something I know I can get behind, since even as I am working on my own personal fitness and trying to lose a few pounds, I’ve long-acknowledged that it’s unlikely I’ll ever be conventionally thin. Even at my lowest adult weight, I was still donning a size 12, and even with me trying not to make my weight the main focus of things this time (trying being the operative word, haha), I still need all the help I can get in shifting my mentality.

Oh, and as one last aside, episode 3 makes a big deal out of Whitney making herself a banana and mayonnaise sandwich for breakfast — apparently this is a thing in the South?? Would love to hear if any of you guys have eaten this concoction before… I mean, peanut butter and banana sammies, sure, but banana + mayo?!

Three Learnings from the Weekend

Alternate blog title: Two useless things and one really long rant about being discouraged.

So I learned a few things over the weekend.

#1. Mid-January is evidently the best time to buy a new calendar.

Sure, you miss out on, uhh, knowing what day it is for a couple of weeks, but you save big money! Some random store at the mall was advertising 75% off calendars, so I snagged this smexy Marilyn Monroe calendar for a whopping $3.97. #girlcrush

#2. I don’t know why I’ve ever bothered drinking from any water bottle other than my Hydro Flask before.

I bought one over the summer after witnessing its magical cold-maintaining powers at the pool one day thanks to my friend Lara. Despite sitting out in the summer sun for an hour and the outside being hot to the touch, the inside water was still ice-cold! Literally, there was still ice inside! Epic.

I kind of forgot about it after the summer heat faded, but dug it out again recently as I’m trying to increase my water intake (given this whole thing where working out makes me sweat about 50x more than I used to… and I’m already a really sweaty person…) and I’m still so impressed by it’s Elsa-like powers to keep my water iceeeey cold. I know that it’s winter, but drinking copious amounts of water is SO much easier for me when it’s cold. I think cold water just tastes better.

 
#3. My body doesn’t want me to be sane anymore.

Here’s the skinny (HA, apt choice of words) on losing weight this time around: It. Is. Not. The. Same. As. Last. Time.

I’m just a little over two weeks into my — shudder — journey (I really hate using that term, but hey, you gotta call a spade a spade sometimes, eh?), so I realize that this may sound super whiny and annoying and entitled and generally make me sound like a brat, but I am feeling super discouraged right now. Why, you ask? Well, because despite carefully tracking my food (I use My Fitness Pal) and working out six days a week, I have yet to lose a single pound.

Yuppppp. Not one.

So, here’s the thing. Logically, I can kinda understand. My body is “adjusting.” Maybe it’s holding onto some extra water. I’m on my period (sorry dudes.) I get that there does technically exist some kind of reason why this may be happening.

But.

I don’t really know what that reason is.

And emotionally, I am not able to make peace with it. Because the last time I made some serious changes to my eating habits, you know what happened? I lost TEN POUNDS in one week. Yes, back in August of 2010, the very first time I started counting my calories, tracking my food, and cleaning up my diet, I had lost ten fracking pounds by the second time I weighed myself. I kid you not.

Now, again, LOGICALLY I realize that it was almost all water weight, that I was probably super bloated from my terrible eating habits and blahblahblah. It’s not like I was really expecting the exact same thing to happen this time, but I did expect SOMETHING to happen. I mean, even with all my admittedly half-hearted attempts to reinvigorate/kickstart my weight loss over the past couple years, I’ve at least been able to drop a pound or two in the beginning. You know, before giving up again. Heh.

Look, I know that weight loss isn’t supposed to be my main focus this time, my overall health and fitness is. And that’s still true. I am genuinely excited about the non-scale related changes that I am starting to see — completing P90 moves faster or more easily, my waistband leaving a shallower impression in the skin on my stomach, being able to hold a plank for more than 5 seconds (seriously, that’s how about how long I could manage the first time), feeling something that resembles muscles underneath my squishyness.

But, all that being said, as someone who, in the past, has really only measured her progress by the numbers on the scale, it is still SUPER frustrating that I am not losing anything. Frustrating and so, so discouraging. I just don’t understand how the scale can be staying the same when I AM seeing the above-mentioned changes!

If I was doing something blatantly counterproductive to my weight loss, that’d be one thing. If I was accidentally overcompensating for my new workout regimen by eating way more than I’m burning, if I was not actively tracking my calories and thus there was a big disparity between what I thought I was eating and what I was actually eating, well, that would explain things.

But I’ve been tracking my food and counting my calories quite diligently over the past 10 days. I’m averaging between 1500 – 1600 calories/day (some days lower, some days higher, of course), so wouldn’t you think that I should have shifted down a pound or so by now? Am I eating 100% clean? Of course not. But even if I ate, say, pizza, I kept my portions in check, logged it, and compensated with my food for the rest of the day.

Even if I was underestimating my calories and logging less than I’m actually eating (which is technically possible, since I do have to making estimations when I eat out and whatnot), I can’t imagine that the difference is so great that I’m actually eating at maintenance level for my current weight. I mean, I weigh a lot. So, even without working out, or hell, even without walking around my daily life, my BMR is around 1,900 calories just sitting there, doing nothing but breathing.

I really wish I could blame this on something. I know I talked above about how there might be a few reasons why things are progressing so slowly this time, but there’s no real way for me to know for sure what the reason is. And I honestly think it would make me feel better if I could just figure out what specific something is making the numbers stay stagnant. If I could identify the problem and attempt to “fix” it.

But, sadly, for the most part, there doesn’t seem to be anything I can pin this on. Nothing apparent to me, at any rate. And while I’d love to be able to lay claim to the old adage that “muscle weighs more than fat” (technically a fallacy — muscle is more compact than fat, so it takes up less room, but a pound is a pound), that really shouldn’t be a factor at this stage in my fitness, or at my current weight.

So, I gots nothin’. Le sigh.

I know that I need to keep a level head about this. After all, these things take time, and two weeks is barely any time at all when you’re talking about a lifelong journey (there’s that word again). And I know I really shouldn’t compare this time to the first time, because there are so many factors that have changed. I’m older, for one thing. I’ve already lost and gained a significant amount of weight, so my metabolism may not be functioning quiet the same way. And the fitness thing is, as I’ve already explained, a really big change for me, so maybe it is just taking my body some time to figure out how to deal with that, haha.

It’s just… hard. I don’t want to feel like this — emotionally tied to a stupid number on a stupid scale. I want to be able to be confident that what I’m doing is making a difference, whether the scale wants to admit it or not. I want to feel proud of hitting milestones like two weeks of daily workouts — a real achievement for my lazy ass! — instead of despondent because it’s not working fast enough.

But… I also want the reassurance that what I’m working for (because it really does feel like work right now) isn’t in vain. I want to be able to see myself doing this — eating well, working out, leading a fitter life — well, I dunno, like, forever? And it’s just hard to really imagine that without receiving any kind of incentive or motivation along the way. I mean, you wouldn’t work at a job you didn’t like if you never got paid, right?

But hey, I just gotta stick with it, right? Discouraged or not, unmotivated or not, I keep going. I whine a lot, but I keep going. Who knows, maybe this week will be the week that things regulate and the number starts dropping. Or maybe once my monthly ladybusiness is all tied up and I’m feeling a little bit more balanced, I’ll just feel differently. Maybe I’ll be able to focus more on the positive notes that I totally glossed right over in this post, haha.

So here’s to the next two weeks, and the next two after that, and the two after that. With hopefully at least a little bit of good news, a smidge of motivation, and a few encouraging results along the way. Okay, rant over. 🙂

Every Day I’m Struggling

I know that this is like, the ultimate white girl problem, but I really struggle with working out.

I’ve just… never really liked it. I didn’t grow up in a super active family, I was never very athletic and don’t have great physical coordination. I don’t love getting sweaty, and I hate being obligated to shower (especially with my various hair colors, where it’s important not to wash my hair too frequently.) Working out is not something I’ve ever been able to easily work into my routine (primarily because I never tried that hard to work it into my routine, but I digress), and it’s not something I’m used to doing on a daily basis.

The P90 schedule 

But, as you are aware, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and really shift my health and weight loss efforts to have a major emphasis on fitness.

Which, you know, means I actually have to work out.

And, amazingly enough, I am! Frankly, I’m pretty impressed with myself for simply being able to say that I’m two weeks in to this daily working out thing and I haven’t missed one yet! Given that I’m pretty sure I could win the Guinness World Record for World’s Laziest Woman, that’s a pretty big milestone for me.

But before I give myself too many self-congratulatory pats on the back, I gotta be honest. Because while I did work out yesterday, it was the first day where I almost didn’t. I almost skipped my workout, and I almost broke my streak.

Sure, I’m sure I could’ve mentally justified it if I had gone ahead and skipped out on my gettin’ sweaty time. I was tired — I didn’t fall asleep until 3 AM the night before.  I had a lot of work stuff on my plate. It was cold and I feel like I’m getting sick and I wanted to take a nap and blah blah blah. Miraculously, I managed to hold steady against all of these built-in excuses and peel myself off the couch long enough to work out… at about 9 PM.

Now, I know, I know, the important thing is that I didn’t skip it, that I did do it, even if it was late in the day, even if it was as a last-resort, and I should feel good about that. Except, I didn’t really feel good about how the workout went either.

My muscles were heavy, my body was aching, and everything seemed like it took three times as much effort. So I only really made it about halfway through the workout before essentially giving up and just half-assing the rest of the moves.

And I didn’t feel so great about that. Which is also kind of a new feeling for me, because who would’ve known? Who really cares if I don’t give my 100% during a workout? It’s not like Tony Horton is going to crawl through my TV set to give me what-for. But, as it turns out, I care! Who knew?!

And after giving it a little bit of thought, I think that I came to some important realizations that will probably be good to note as I continue through this journey:

1. Taking a rest day is important.

I didn’t take my rest day on Sunday like I was supposed to. I did an extra day of cardio because I had started P90 mid-week, and I wanted to make sure my first week started strong. And as someone who has always had a disproportionate number of rest days over workout days (you know, like, 10:1, ahahaha), I didn’t really realize that giving your body a day to recover — even if it doesn’t feel like you need to recover — is an important thing.

I think that my body feeling sluggish and my legs feeling heavy and all that stuff is, at least in part, due to me not giving myself enough time to really recover. Not that I’m here running marathons or anything, and hey, maybe when I’m a little bit more fit, I won’t really need a full rest day, because my body will be much more used to pushing itself. But at least for now, while things are still new, my body’s still adjusting, and my muscles are still being woken up from their long, long slumber, I should keep a closer eye on things and let myself rest if need be.

2. Turns out, fueling your body right matters.

I’ve never been a huge fan of health lingo. I’d kind of roll my eyes or find my mouth forming a smug little smirk anytime I read references to “fueling the machine” or “feeding the temple.” I mean, it’s just EATING, right?! Well, maybe it’s not, exactly.

Turns out that if you are trying to lead a more active lifestyle, these terms start to take on a little more meaning. The timing of when you eat really does impact how energized you feel — i.e. “You gotta fill the tank before going for a drive!” (LOL eyeroll.) I used to go most of the day without eating, and would only finally eat my first meal of the day in the mid-to-late afternoon. But now? If I expect myself to workout in the morning, I need to make sure I’ve eaten something beforehand. Only, not right beforehand, because my acid reflux is bad enough without sprawls and burpees contributing to the issue, haha.

Yesterday, my eating schedule got a little messed up due to a series of appointments & meetings that I had mid-morning. So I didn’t really end up eating anything of significance until around 2 PM, and I do think that contributed heavily to my lack of motivation to workout.

Furthermore, due to my slightly hectic schedule, for the first time in the past two weeks, I totally picked convenience over nutrition. Which actually brings me to my final point…

3. Not all calories are created equal.

I like to think that I’m pretty knowledgable about calories at this point. I’ve been counting ’em for a long time. I can tell you off the top of my head how many calories are in an egg (70) or a banana (90) or a cup of romaine (8). And while I was losing weight the first time around, I took a lot of pride in being creative with my daily calorie counts.

I felt (and I do still feel) that it’s totally possible for you to continue going out to eat and ordering in, and still lose weight. Because a calorie is a calorie, right? Even if you eat out a lot, you can still make food choices that keep your calories a little lower. And if you were to spend two-thirds of your daily caloric allotment on fast food, but still stay under your overall intake goal, it’s not that big a deal. Because as long as your total number of calories in is lower than your total number of calories out, you’ll eventually lose weight.

Weeeell, I still believe that’s true. Kind of. However, when you add physical exertion into the equation, the type of food you’re ingesting becomes a lot more important. Suddenly, your body is actively utilizing the calories you ingest for energy. To make it so you are physically able to do the sprints and the press jacks and the side lunges and the tricep dips. And the kind of energy your body extracts from a McDouble (390) is definitely different than what it might take from, say, a salad with grilled chicken, tomatoes, bell peppers, red onion, and avocado (which could land you around 390).

Given my poor performance yesterday, I feel pretty confident that the kinds of calories I need to consume matter a little more than they used to. I had a lazy, convenience-driven day yesterday, and I really felt it in my muscles when I worked out. I felt sluggish and heavy and just general not-great. So while a calorie may just be a calorie when it comes to weight loss, a calorie is NOT just a calorie when it comes to fitness.

So, yeah. Consider these my beginner’s lessons learned thus far. Granted, it may be a little bit silly for me to be trying to spout these wisdoms now, with my active lifestyle still in its relative infancy. But, hey, a learning is a learning, right?

I mean, all that said, I am still proud of myself for rallying and working out yesterday. In spite of the many factors I had working against me, at least I can say that I tried! And some activity is always better than no activity, there’s no doubt about that.

Besides, today is a brand new day, so hopefully with some better fuel in my system (oatmeal for breakfast!) a full-night’s sleep (in bed by 1 AM!) and a more normalized eating schedule (awake in the single digits!), I’ll be back to sweating it out and feeling good about it in no time!

The Slow Gain

In the past four years since I started this whole blogging thing, I’ve gained weight and I’ve lost weight. I’ve gained and lost in the small-picture, week-to-week sense — 2 lbs lost here, a pound gained there — and this minute yo-yoing of the scale inevitably proved inconsequential, as in the long run, I made it to a whopping 60 pounds lost in total. And so the individual gains that may have happened along the way were, of course, overtaken by the individual losses that I experienced.

But, of course, as we now know, I’ve also lost and gained in the greater, bigger-picture sense, with a much less celebratory outcome — sure, 60 pounds were lost, but then 10 pounds were gained. And then maybe 5 pounds were lost again, but another 10 were gained. And so on, and so forth, eventually leading to a grand total of 50 pounds slowly and surely attaching themselves back onto my body over the course of the years that followed.

Yeah, I know, that’s a lot. Just like 60 pounds is a lot of weight to lose, 50 pounds is a lot of weight to gain back. But here’s the thing, it really didn’t SEEM like a lot at the time. Each pound that crept on really seemed to do exactly that: creep. Unlike in my previous life as a binge eater and general destroyer of my body, I didn’t think that I was doing that much particularly unhealthy stuff. I wasn’t sneaking Baconators into my dorm room, I wasn’t tiptoeing around the kitchen at midnight, I wasn’t pretending like I didn’t already eat dinner only to go have a second dinner with friends.

Sure, I also wasn’t running anymore, and I had stopped counting my calories, but it’s not like I was diving headfirst into a pile of chili cheese fries every night either. I ate lots of normal, healthy, whole foods (and occasionally some unhealthy foods too, of course), with the key word being “lots.” I was simply eating more than I should have been eating, and not moving as much as I should have been moving.

And so the weight, it came. It came slowly and quietly and in the dead of night, and it’s almost like I didn’t even notice it was there. I say almost, of course, because in reality I did notice.

It’s not that I was in denial about gaining weight. Denial suggests that I had no idea that I was gaining weight, that I was filling back out, that my clothes were getting tighter. Of course I had an idea. Of course I knew. I mean, I was having candid photos of me taken on a monthly basis! It’s not like it’s something I could really hide. When you’re fat, it’s not like you don’t KNOW you’re fat. Sometimes you just don’t care. Unfortunately, when it came down to brass tacks, I still did. Care, that is.

So it wasn’t that I was in denial over gaining the weight. I was in denial thinking that I didn’t care I was gaining it.

I didn’t want to care. I didn’t want to continue feeling emotionally tied to a number on the scale or label in my pants. I didn’t want to look in the mirror and be discontent with what I saw. I didn’t want to untag myself from photos on Facebook that I didn’t “like.” No, I wanted to be able to find that glorious place within myself where I could not care about my size, where I could look in the mirror and smile without a caveat, where I could simply love me for me.

And don’t get me wrong, there was not a small amount of soul-searching that came with trying to force myself not to care, and amazingly I did come out the other side with a much richer understanding of how awesome I am.

But, as much as I truly do believe in self-acceptance, body-positivity, and loving yourself no matter your size, weight, or body type, what I think the whole “me not caring” thing really came down to is that I just didn’t want to TRY anymore. Losing weight is easy but it’s hard. The theory is simple but the practice takes dedication and willpower and I had the mistaken thought that losing weight would be a one-and-done thing for me: I’d lose the weight, change my habits, and be at a happy size forever.

As I’ve learned, it’s a constant, constant struggle for me. Regardless of whether I’m 180 pounds or 230 pounds, I’m not the kind of person who can play it fast and lose with her portions. I am going to need to keep an eye on how much I eat for the rest of my life. And that’s a hard thing to really wrap your head around. It’s the kind of thing that makes you not really want to bother trying to lose weight.

And yet, here we are again. Partially because I’ve totally jumped on the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon this year, but moreso because I’m simply ready to start trying again. After all, my happy weight is any weight at which I feel happy, and I’m just not feeling my happiest at my current weight anymore.

Of course, starting back down this road again does beg some questions: What’s my goal this time around? What am I gunning for? Why now? And, of course, given that I’ve tried rebooting my weight loss several times over the past couple years, what’s different about this time?

What are my goals? Well, I admit that I’m not totally sure where my goals lie at this point. I know that I want to lose a bit of weight, but I really am trying to maintain a focus on my overall health and fitness as opposed to just my size.

Why now? Because, well, why not? I don’t think I need a specific reason to want to lose weight, get healthier, or shape up, but I guess that, just like the very first time, it boils down to a lot of different factors all reaching their tipping point: I want to be able to wear my old clothes again, I want to tone up, I want to feel confident having my photo taken, I want be able to keep up with my energetic almost-two-year-old niece, and I want to set up habits that will help keep me healthy and strong as I continue to get older. I’m still pretty young, so yeah, I can carry an extra 50 pounds around and it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But in another 5, 10, 15 years? Knowing that I’d just be making things more difficult for my future self, why would I wait any longer?

What’s different? An emphasis on fitness, being active, and actually trying to establish a true habit of working out daily is a HUGE difference for me. Even when I was being a weight loss rockstar, exercise was the most minimal part of my routine. I was really only working out or running when I had a specific race to train for, and even then, it was probably only three times a week. Approaching this from the fitness side of things feels like I’m coming at this thing from an entirely new angle.

So here’s to another onslaught of incremental losses, miniscule gains, and my overall weight loss, fitness, and health. Let’s see if it finally sticks this time, shall we?