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?

A Shift in Perspective

Happy Monday, folks!

Hopefully you all had rockin’ weekends — mine was pretty busy with not one, but two different events that I worked on Saturday. First up was the Taste of Falls Church, where Intern Sean (heh) and I manned the Yelp booth and challenged many a folk to some rousing rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors in exchange for rockin’ swag.

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I know it doesn’t seem like rock, paper, scissors would be that fun at first glance, but people got really into it! Full credit goes to my beautiful coworker (and fellow blogger!) Kimberly for thinking it up. Plus it’s always a huge hit at family friendly events like this one, because it’s A) free and B) kids know how to play it. Really well, actually. Most of them kicked my butt.

The second event of the day was an Elite Event at Glynn Jones hair salon in Old Town Alexandria. It was my very first salon event so I was admittedly a wee bit nervous, but it turned out so fabulously! Elites got to nosh, sip, and watch (and if they were lucky, get selected for!) demonstrations on blow dry technique, updos, airbrush makeup, and more.

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So Saturday was a tiring day for sure, but a lot of fun at the same time. And I got to make up for it yesterday with just about the laziest Sunday I’ve had in a loooooong time. All I did yesterday was sleep, cuddle with schnauzers, cook, sleep some more, and then give all my money to Target. In my defense, I think I’m a little bit under the weather — Mia was sick pretty much the whole time I was visiting her in Macon, and given her penchant for sharing food (aww!) and my penchant for being a sucker and letting her shove said food into my mouth, I think it’d be more surprising if I didn’t catch whatever she had.

Sickness be damned, though! I’m not feeling too terrible (thanks to the probably 15 hours of collective sleep I got yesterday), so this week I’m determined to continue the good gym habits that my sister helped me start to establish on what shall henceforth be known as the Healthiest Vacation Ever. I’ve marked some classes at my gym that looks interesting and have booked time in my actual calendar to make sure I don’t book any calls or meetings during those times. So now it’s just a matter of actually, well, going!

Now, if any of you are skeptical as to my ability to keep my enthusiasm for working out up, well… I don’t blame you. After all, I don’t exactly have the best track record. I’ve never been shy to admit my utter hatred of working out, getting sweaty (ironic, because I’m probably the sweatiest person on the planet even just standing still and breathing), and just generally exerting myself. I wasn’t a particularly active kid — I played basketball in middle school because I was tall. And I wasn’t very good at it. Growing up, my family never put a real focus on fitness or being active, so I never thought of it as an important thing to incorporate into my daily routine. (This, I have to say, is somewhat funny to me now given that my sister is a marathoner who teaches fitness classes and my dad bikes like 20 miles every single day.)

So I never learned to find the joy in being active, and, obviously, that translated into my adult life. It wasn’t for lack of trying, though. When I first started out on my weight loss journey and found myself immersed in the world of healthy living blogging, I definitely tried. Everyone tells you that you just have to find an activity you like doing, and then you’ll want to that thing and, by default, you’ll want to be active. So I really did try to find something I liked.

I went to the gym. I walked. I ran. I swam. I did yoga. I did hot yoga. I did Zumba. I did CrossFit. Nothing stuck. I never got myself into a regular routine, and when I did go, I still found I was forcing myself to, and only because I knew that it would help me burn XX amount of calories.

Of course, as I discussed in my last post, I’ve also only ever thought of fitness being a means to an end for weight loss.

But hey, it did work for a while! I mean, even if it was unwilling and forced, I still did get myself into gear long enough to help me shed some weight, tone up, and be fit enough to accomplish quite a few fitness milestones. I was running 5Ks and 5 milers and 200-mile team relays, after all. It’s just that even when I was doing those things, even when I was legitimately in shape (well, in shape for me, at least), weight loss was still my primary focus.

But, obviously, using weight loss as a motivator for fitness can only last as long as you are losing weight. So when I stopped actively losing weight, I stopped feeling a need to dedicate time to fitness, and that, amongst other things, meant I ended up gaining back a lot of the weight I had lost.

Which is why I can say, even with my track record of failing at maintaining a regular fitness routine, I’m actually feeling fairly confident about seeing this through this time around. Because I really do feel like my motivation, and my perspective, has shifted. Do I still find myself thinking about my weight, thinking about how I look, comparing myself against the standards that the media has set forth? Of course I do. I’m only human, and I’ve got over twenty years of negative body image and weight obsession to fight against.

That being said, it takes up only a minimal, miniscule amount of my thoughtspace now. And without all those negative thoughts weighing me down, without the constant, continual focus on how any activity, any food, any choice will ultimately affect my weight loss…well, who knows if all the things I thought I felt about working out and being active and being fit weren’t wrong all along?

I sometimes feel that within the body positive/fat acceptance culture, there’s almost an expectation that you shouldn’t want to work out or eat healthily or whatever, because doing so means you must still want to change yourself. And, more specifically, you must still want to be thin. You must still secretly be working towards conforming to society’s standards or whatever. And I know that most people don’t think that way, and it’s not indicative of the entire movement in any way, but I do believe it is a sentiment that exists.

And so I have struggled with the idea of whether or not I’m really, truly, honestly rededicating myself to fitness because I want to, or because I still feel like I need to. Am I honestly doing this because it helps me sleep better and it boosts my energy and it is healthy? Or is it just because it will help me look better?

I guess only time will truly tell since, based on past precedence, we already know that if it’s the latter, this current burst of motivation won’t stick for long. But I do know that it does feel different. I’m not weighing myself. I’m not counting calories. I’m not using food as a reward system. I’m not limiting myself to not buying clothing because I want to wait until I’m smaller, or purposely buying clothes in a smaller size to “motivate” myself.

I’m just loving myself. And as much as I used to only think of it in relation to my weight and size, I know that being active in some form or another is just one more way to love myself. So that my body — curves and flesh and fat and muscles and stomach rolls and ligaments and stretch marks and all — will be around for me to love as long as possible.

The Power of Words

I like words.

I mean, I must, right? I wrote an entire book that consists of over 80,000 of them, and I’m working on another. (Slowly, slowly, hahahaha.)

I don’t know if it’s because of the whole Shakespearean pen being mightier than the sword thing, or if it’s just because I love to hear myself talk (which, of course, I do), but I just really like words.

There are quite a fair few words that I have a particular affinity for. I don’t just like them, I really like them. Words like:

  • Effervescence
  • Proclivity
  • Defenestrate (literal meaning: to throw out a window)
  • Irrevocable
  • Kerfuffle
  • Ineffable

But then, conversely, there are a handful of words that I really, really, really hate.

And I don’t just mean the bad words, you silly goose, I mean that there are a few words out there that incite nails-on-a-chalkboard-esque cringing from me. Maybe it’s because of the sound it makes when you say it aloud, maybe it’s because of the way it looks when it’s spelled out, maybe it’s because of its meaning (or the fact that nobody seems to know how to actually use the word correctly — I’m looking at you, irony), maybe it’s because OH MY GOD THAT IS NOT ACTUALLY A REAL WORD. A-hem. But for whatever reason, some words are just the worst.

And because I love you guys oh, so very much, I’m going to go ahead and, potentially causing myself (and other word-sensitive folks) irreparable harm, list some of them:

  • Moist
  • Irregardless
  • Squirt
  • Viscous
  • Phlegm
  • Sanguine (most confusing word ever — it’s derived from the Latin word for blood and yet means optimistic?!)

So, yes, I guess I should refine my original statement to say that I like most words. But I think I should note that the word I hate most in my entire earthly existence isn’t even on this list. It’s a word that I hate so very, very much that I don’t know if I want to write it again here now.

And what is this awful, terrible, no good, very bad word, you ask?

  • Fat

hate the word “fat.” I hate it so much that sometimes I get angry just thinking about it. And do you know why I hate this word so much? It’s not because of its meaning, or because of how it sounds, how it’s spelled, or any of that.

It’s because I honestly think that I could trace almost every bad feeling I’ve ever had about myself, every ounce of self-loathing I’ve ever felt for my body, every time I binge ate, every time I forced myself to throw up, and even now, the self-worth I feel as a (sort-of) adult, to that word. So many of my thoughts and actions throughout my life have gone into attempting to avoid being called that word. 

I hate that any word in any vocabulary of any language has ever had that kind of power over me.

My first memory of being called fat is still vivid. “Aiyah, you’re getting fat,” was precisely how it was phrased, a few words from an aunt who I’m sure had no idea the impact those words already had on me. She didn’t really mean anything by it, I’m sure. I couldn’t even tell you exactly how old I was — 8, 9 maybe? — but that comment marked the exact moment I consciously realized that getting fat was bad. (I don’t know if it’s important to note or not, but I was not a heavy kid. My struggle with my weight really began when I hit puberty.)

Of course, I’d soon come to realize that it wasn’t just bad to be fat, it was the worst possible thing you could do as a girl. By most of modern society’s thinking, that is. Forget being cruel, bigoted, jobless, uneducated, selfish… no, no, being fat was, of course, much worse. I like to think that the tide is beginning to turn on that particular train of thought, but then I make the grievous mistake of reading the comments on certain posts on Facebook and, well… whether it’s under the guise of concern-trolling or it’s actual hatred for non-standard body types, people are pretty damn nasty.

I know that for me, even with the strides I’ve taken and how far I’ve come in my journey of self-acceptance, I still fear being called fat. Lately my emphasis and goals have been in accepting and loving my body as-is, and so I try to exude an aura of self-confidence and body love despite of — or rather, because of — my size. But in reality, I am still so affected by the words and opinions of others, and I’m still afraid of other people calling me “fat.”

There are a lot of awesome folks out there working hard to redefine the word “fat,” and regardless of your feelings about the merits of being fat vs. thin, or of your opinions about what it means to be at a healthy weight, I think that’s something we should all support. This isn’t a post about fat acceptance or the obesity epidemic, it’s about taking away the power from a word that can, at least in my experience, cause immeasurable harm to one’s ability to love oneself.

This is about taking one more small step towards being able to take back the word “fat,” to reclaim it, to return it to its roots. Roots that most definitely did not include making someone feel like they are less worthy, less beautiful, or less deserving of love just because of their size. For all the nine-year-old girls out there who are barely on the cusp of learning what it means to own their body at all, I think it’s so important that we do start to turn that tide.

“Fat” is just a word. It’s a word that, in this context, is used to describe appearance — the same as “thin” or “fit” or “tall” or “short” or “brunette” or “blonde.” But we have injected so much significance and negativity into those particular three letters, that it has the power to affect us more than any of those other words ever could. (Well, I guess you could argue that the word “thin” has as much of an affect, just in a different, much more positively accepted way.) So in attempt to take one small step towards changing that, if for nobody else but myself, here I am, embracing it. This is my personal attempt to redefine that no good, very bad word in my life:

I am fat. I have fat on my body, just like every other human being on this planet. I have more than some, and less than others, and the particular amount of fat that anyone has does not define their worth as a person.

Of course, I’m sure I’d still feel less than amazing than if someone else were to call me fat, since my natural inclination is to assume everyone else does so with the implication of judgment and insult attached, but hey, it’s a step, right? And while I do hope one day that, as a society, we can help de-awful-fy my least favorite word, for now, I’ll just work on making these words more of a fixture in my vernacular:

  • Worthy
  • Beautiful
  • Honest
  • Significant
  • Memorable
  • Wonderful

What’s Different the Second Time Around

Sooooo, apologies in advance that this entire week is evidently full of super heavy posts. I’m thinking it’s like 25% because I have so many feelings about restarting this whole weight loss endeavor, and like 75% because — as evidenced by the tears that welled up in my eyes during last night’s viewing of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse on FX — I am PMSing pretty hardcore.

So last week I finally manned up and openly admitted that I’ve regained the majority of the weight that you all watched me lose once upon a time. And it was probably one of the hardest and most emotionally taxing things that I’ve done in a really, really long time.

I mean, c’mon, it’s hard enough having to admit you’ve gained weight… to yourself. But add in an entire internet audience, and, as I’m sure you can imagine, it becomes just a liiiiittle harder. And as if that weren’t enough, lest we forget, this is the SECOND time that I’m having to admit it. So, we take everything that was difficult about typing out my weight and then pressing “publish” that very first time, then we pile on all of the victories and defeats that accumulated in the following couple of years — wherein I actually LOST 60 pounds and was feeling pretty good about myself — and then multiply it all by the fact that everything I already went through ended up being for nothing. Because here I am again.

So yeah, it sucks.

And I’m going to be honest and admit that I’m already really struggling this time around. Not struggling to get back on track, because I’m actually doing pretty well so far: Tracking all my food, eating well, getting some exercise in, doing a lot of good things in that department. No, instead I’m struggling with all the mushy, icky, complicated emotional stuff. I’m struggling with the HOW. As in, how could I possibly have let myself regain FIFTY pounds? How could I not have noticed, how did I live in denial for so long, how could I not have stopped myself sooner, how could I have let it happen at all?

After everything I went through the first time, after all the progress that I made and all the things I accomplished and all the ways that I grew AND all the ways that I shrunk, how did I get back here?

As I explained in my post last week, I’m not really 100% sure. I think the main thing is that I stopped really caring about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, I stopped prioritizing good choices over easy choices, and I just stopped paying attention to my weight. And for someone like me, someone who loves food entirely too much, someone who is oftentimes physically repulsed by the thought of exercise, someone who has a known history of abusing food, abusing her body with food, and abusing herself because of how she’s abused food… not paying attention is pretty much an automatic precursor to backsliding.

So when I try to think about what’s different now, the second time, I can’t think about how maybe it’ll be easier because I already know what to do, or how because I’ve already done it once before, that must automatically mean I can do it again. No, all I can think about it how much harder it already is. And I’m not even really talking about the actual losing weight part: the calorie counting, the working out, the being accountable. That stuff is honestly all the same, because, yes, I have, done it all before. I do know that I can do it, and while I hate all of it just the same, it really is just like falling back into old habits. It’s the emotional weight that is now attached to every pound I gained, a weight that still remains even as they are starting to fall back off.

The stakes feel so much higher this time. I’ve already failed once, after all. Who’s to say I won’t fail again? Who’s to say that this won’t just be ANOTHER huge waste of time? I mean, no, I know that it wasn’t really a waste of time the first time around. I learned a lot of things about myself, I finally started to really fight back against my addiction to food, my binge eating, my relationship with my body, with myself, blah, blah, blah… but still, when you look at the hard facts, when you break it down to the fact that a year ago I weighed fifty pounds less than I do now, it’s hard not to see it all as a total wash.

One of the most difficult things that I’m having to face is how easy it was for me to gain all the weight back. I mean, it’s not like I was going to the drive-thru every night and cramming fifty pounds worth of Baconators down my throat. I clearly wasn’t trying to gain weight. I knew my eating habits weren’t great and I wasn’t getting much exercise, but it’s not like I was going balls-to-the-walls here, either. It was a pizza night here, a pasta night there, going out for a friend’s birthday here, sharing an appetizer AND getting dessert there. The pounds came back on slowly enough that for the first 10 or 15 I barely noticed anything (since 10 pounds on my frame one way or the other doesn’t exactly make for an earth-shattering different in appearance). And after I did kinda-sorta start to think maybe I was gaining weight back, I was entrenched enough in my habits that I guess I just didn’t want to think about it.

So, yes, the fact that it was so easy to gain all that weight back — and how capable I was of ignoring the gain — is absolutely terrifying.

Because everything about this second try seems hard right now.

I’m really not trying to pull a sympathy plea here. Just like I tried really hard not to come up with excuses in my initial post, I’m not trying to backpeddle and plug them in now either. I got myself back into this situation and I’m the one who wants to change in the first place, so everything that’s happened and everything that will happen moving forward is on me. I’m not looking for anybody to baby me (well, that’s not really true, I actually love being babied, according to the still-growing collection of stuffed animals hiding in my closet), I’m just trying to be honest. Honestly trying to figure out how I got back to this point, and honest about why, even though I’m going through a lot of the same motions, it all feels different this time.

Because now, on top of the shame and guilt for having already failed once, there’s this overarching, pervasive layer of fear. Hell, maybe there always was, and I’m only just now recognizing it. I’m scared, okay? I am scared that I won’t be able to get back to where I was. I’m scared that even if I do, I’m just going to regain everything all over again. I’m scared that even if I don’t regain a single pound, I’ll never be able to stop paying attention, stop prioritizing, stop caring so damn much about my weight. There won’t ever be an end, there won’t ever be any reprieve, and I’m scared knowing that I will continue to have to fight for the rest of my life.

I’m not saying that it’s not a good fight — to fight for your health, to fight for yourself? It’s probably one of the best fights out there. But the thought of fighting, all the time, from now until forever? To have to continue to carefully portion out how much I eat, to count calories, to be mindful at all times of what it is that I’m eating and how active I’m being, not just whilst losing weight but forever afterwards as well? Find me one person on this Earth that isn’t exhausted just thinking about that.

The fact is, I will always love eating. It will probably always be the thing I suggest when there’s something to celebrate, the first thing I want to do when something’s made me sad, the way I like to bond with others. But as much as I love food, I do know — whether due to years of misguided dieting or having a bad body image or maybe just because I’m programmed this way — that it’s entirely too easy for me to take it too far.

And I definitely do not love what overeating does to me. I don’t like feeling bloated or having digestive issues or being fat. I don’t like being out of shape and weak and exhausted. I want to be healthy, I want to be strong, and, as I discussed yesterday, sure, I also want to look bangin’. The point is, I do want this. And so for now, I just have to keep going down this road, and hope that part of the reason that this second time around feels different is because it is also destined to end differently.

Now and Then

So, alas, this post isn’t about the absolutely marvelous 1995 movie, Now and Then.

No, sadly (though we can get into all the various ways in which that movie changed my life when I was 7 another time) this post is simply about, well, me. And I would apologize for that, only I’m pretty sure that if you didn’t like to read about me talking about myself, you probably wouldn’t be on a blog that literally has my name in the title. I mean, just scroll back up to the header if you need a reminder, haha. There’s a picture of me, too. Just saying.

Anyway, one of the things I like best about this blog is how it enables me to have open (and thoughtful and intelligent and generally awesome) conversations with you guys about topics that are really near and dear to my heart. These also tend to be topics that not everybody really likes to talk about. So when I was able to submit myself for an opportunity to sample ON’s new line of Activewear and discuss how my workout wardrobe has changed over time, I jumped. Like, seriously, jumped right out of my desk chair. Not just because I was so excited to get a $50 gift card to go pick up some new Activewear items (don’t get me wrong, I was totally excited for that — $50 goes REALLY far at Old Navy! I got FIVE things and only went like $8 over!) but because I was also immediately inspired to re-open and re-discuss one of those hard topics. But one of those really necessary ones: body acceptance, body image, and body confidence.

Let me paint you a word picture. I went to James Madison University for college. JMU is a beautiful little (well, not really so little) school down in Harrisonburg, VA–the furthest south I have ever lived. It’s a really gorgeous place, with the old (er, historic) campus on one side of highway 81 and the newer part of the campus on the other side, bridged by… uh… a bridge. And when I first enrolled, as a wee young Freshman, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and totally naive to the concept of skipping 8 AM classes (oh, how quickly that changed) one of the shining gems of the newer part of campus was–and I’m assuming, still is–UREC. The University Recreation Center.

Actually, I just realized I don’t need to paint you a word picture. I can show you a real picture. Heh.

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Pretty nice, right? And it was–er, is. It’s got tons of machines, an indoor track, raquetball and basketball and whateverball courts, group fitness classes… and a ROCK WALL. Sweet, right? Only, I never got a chance to test out the rock wall. Not once in my four years there. In fact, I could probably count the number of times I actually ventured into UREC on both hands. (Well, okay, maaaaybe it would take three hands.) ‘Cause here’s another thing you should know about JMU. We have a widespread reputation throughout the state of Virginia (perhaps further than that?) for having really hot girls. I know. I’m so proud.

So anyway, here I am, just one of thousands of faces, enrolled in a school that is literally known for the hotness level of its female students. Talk about pressure. And, of course, we all know I had my eating issues, and my body issues, and those led to my weight issues… and by the time I started realizing that my weight was getting out of control, by the time I actually wanted to DO something about it, well… things didn’t go very well.

See, at first I thought, Okay, here we go. I’m going to go to the gym every day and eat super well and things will work out, you’ll see! Except I was already ashamed of my body, ashamed that I had gained so much weight, and comparing myself to every Jessica and Lindsay I passed certainly didn’t help (seriously, there were, like, six Lindsays living in my Freshman dorm). Because you know what those girls spent their spare time doing? Working out. Doing yoga. Going running. At UREC. In spandex capris and tight tank tops, and sometimes just in their sports bras. To say it was intimidating is like calling a jaguar a cat. UNDERSTATEMENT.

So each admittedly infrequent time I would actually get up the nerve to go to the gym, I was so afraid. So afraid that someone would see me, that they would judge me, that they would know I don’t belong. So I’d put on my baggy t-shirts and my loose-fitting sweatpants thinking that they hid my bulges, and I would pull my hair back and stuff headphone in my ears and pretend like I wasn’t watching the taut-bodied, long-legged girl reading Glamour on the elliptical. I’d huff and puff for maybe 10 minutes and then would get too discouraged to keep going, because I was so certain that SOMEBODY was going to look at me and think, “Ew, why is she even here? It’s not like it’s going to help…” and then I’d make sure I grabbed a grilled cheese sandwich from D-Hall on my way home.

Yeah, I know. It was messed up.

But the point of this story isn’t to dwell on the sad-sack Gretchen. Eventually she found in-office gyms and home workout videos and a diet that finally worked, and she ended up pretty okay. The point is to focus on the things that made her feel like she needed to cover up, to hide, to feel ashamed. Because even though, yes, I was overweight, it’s like there was a rule that said I wasn’t allowed to like the way I looked, or wasn’t allowed to associate with the skinnies, or wasn’t allowed to look cute at the gym. It was all self-imposed. A symptom of my complete lack of body confidence. And the ironic part is that before my senior year, I wasn’t even “that bad.” I didn’t reach my highest weight until 2009, the year that I graduated. I’m sure that I think I’m still heavier now than I was when I started college. (I graduated from high school around 185.) But, man, 197 pounds feels really different on this side of the void, that’s for sure.

I wish I had some photos of myself in “gym clothes” from back then. (But of course I don’t. I would never have let anyone take that photo, haha.) I wish I had something to really show you how low I thought of myself back then, how I thought I needed to hide, that how I looked was somehow offensive. How I hid my curves and rolls and completely HUMAN imperfections under unflattering giant t-shirts and old pairs of stretched out Soffe shorts.

So I don’t have photos of exactly that, but I do have a couple of photos that might help show what I mean:

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These photos are unrelated to gym apparel, obviously, but they make a point. Here I am, in giant, oversized sweatshirts–which I wore A LOT in the hopes that that they would fool the world into thinking I was smaller. Silly, right? Because in reality, all that wearing big, baggy, oversized stuff does is make you look oversized. Which makes you feel oversized, which makes you not want to show off the goods that God gave you. And the cycle continues.

So. We thank our lucky stars that those days are done, and we revel in the fact that the same girl who used to think like that and hide her body, well, now she wears stuff like this:

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And like this:

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I got a camera remote for Christmas and I am SO EXCITED but still figuring it out, haha. Can you tell?

And she doesn’t just wear them, she feels legitimately awesome in them. Confident. Unashamed. And yes, it helps that she’s lost a lot of the weight she put on during college and beyond. But her stomach still bunches up when she does crunches and things still jiggle when she’s on the treadmill and–gasp!–her thighs will always (ALWAYS) touch. But who cares? She doesn’t. And neither should you. What she does care about is the fact that the sweat-wicking technology in her tops helps keep her cool, and the spandex in her bottoms help her stretch and bend and reach without showing the world her buttcrack.

Old Navy has always been awesome about providing clothing that fits almost every shape and size of woman. It’s why it was one of my favorite places to shop THEN, and it’s still one of my favorites NOW. Because I appreciate the fact that they make it so that you can look good, no matter what number is stitched on the inside label of your jeans. I’ll go into detail about the actual utility of the pieces I’m wearing in a later post (for your reference though, I’m rocking the Active GoDRY Mesh Tanks and Active Fold-over Yoga Pants in both pics, with the Active GoDRY running top added in the second). The point is, workout apparel like this — clothing that clings and is fitted and has technology that helps make us better and faster and stronger… that is what’s important. And the fact that it all comes in awesome colors and flattering shapes and helps us look cute even when we don’t have that perfect body yet? That’s just gravy, man.

AdvertisementThis post is sponsored by Old Navy. Check out Old Navy’s Active wear in stores or at oldnavy.com. Active by Old Navy is 40% off until January 16th! I received a gift card and stipend for my participation but my words and opinions are 100% my own. #GetYourActiveON