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.

Rx for Advice

The internet.

A floppity jillion bytes of Facebook posts and Tweets and reblogs and fanfic and Wikipedia pages and pirated torrents and, of course, porn — all zooming around at the speed of web. (I promise that link isn’t as NSFW as it seems. It links to a Youtube video of a song from the musical Avenue Q… though, actually, the song lyrics themselves probably ARE NSFW. Lulz.)

In today’s day and age, we have unfettered access to pretty much anything you can imagine on the net. But of course, not everything out there is necessarily going to be of value or interest to you. You have your niches. Your interests. Your bookmarks. And for some of you, perhaps this very blog is part of that list (and thanks!). And for some others of you, infinitely more dangerous sites may also be part of it.

It may not be a surprise when I tell you that I am totally addicted to the internet. I check my phone approximately 80,000 times a day. I am on Facebook and Twitter pretty much nonstop, and, of course, I write this blog (almost) daily. I mean, let’s be honest. It’s almost at Tom Haverfordian levels. And to some of you, that might seem insane. (Of course, as I type that, I realize that’s probably not true, since if you found my blog, you probably also heart the internet.) But as “damaging” as all the time I spend online now might seem, I know for a fact that it used to have a far more nefarious impact on my life.

When I was in the deepest throes of my eating disorder, I was a frequenter of the internet in very different ways than I am now. You see, the internet is like a proverbial (sugar-free) candy store for dieters and people who are looking to lose weight. It offers endless diet and weight loss websites, with everything from Weight Watchers Online to personal blogs like, oh, hey, this one. And that can be a great thing. You can find healthy tips, support, camaraderie, and more within the very loosely designed walls of the interwebs.

But you can also find a lot of not-great things, too.

I used to spend hours surfing the web for diet tricks, weight loss tips, and (God, I hate this word so much) thinspiration. I was desperate to find that quick-fix, that one, somehow unknown trick that would finally net me the size 4 body I always dreamed of. I think some of you may already know where this is going. It took about .0003 seconds for me to stumble upon pro-ED sites. Sites that not only showcased, but actively promoted anorexic and bulimic behavior. Ones that provided tips for how to hide your eating disorder, how to trick yourself into thinking you weren’t hungry. Sites that posted picture after picture of beautiful, thin, photoshopped women as “thinspo.”

It was a dark time for me. You all know this. And I don’t think that any moderately self-aware woman would find a site like that and not be instantly aware of its influence. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she still won’t succumb to it. “Skinny” still has a lot of power. I’ve spent over 2 years writing this blog, and trying to promote HEALTHY weight loss. I know how taxing and wearying years of crash- and yoyo-dieting has had on me. I still bear the emotional scars of my disordered eating behavior, and I have come a very, very long way from that. My journey is still not perfect, I still have flashes back to my disordered thinking and eating, but I work to promote the fact that being healthy IS more important than being thin. I do believe that. And even though I am still trying to lose weight, I no longer do so at the cost of my health.

But, if tomorrow someone were to approach me with a pill that would magically make me thin through almost no effort of my own, if I was shown proof that it worked… even if it had side-effects, even if it wasn’t healthy… would I still be tempted? Of course I would. There’s absolutely no question. That’s the kind of power that being thin still has on those of us who struggle with being overweight.

So to be honest, I didn’t actually start this post to talk about pro-ana or pro-mia blogs. I tend to get a little carried away because I know they can be incredibly damaging, especially to young people. But I also think that most of you guys are probably (hopefully) beyond the reach of sites like that. I actually wanted to talk about those other sites out there that engage people who are interested in healthy living and weight loss. Sites like — gasp! — this very blog.

My blog is literally accessible by anyone with an internet connection. And whether you’re a 35-year-old woman who just had her first baby (congrats!) and is trying to shed a bit of baby weight, or if you’re an overweight teenager, like I was, who just wants an idea of where to start, you have equal chances of finding me. With that in mind, I feel it is my responsibility as the blogger behind this site to stand behind my words and actions. I promote myself as a healthy living blogger, as someone who is trying to lose weight “the right way.” So I need to make sure that while I try to lose weight, I’m doing it “right.”

Now, that being said, I know that I’m not a dietitian, nutritionist, personal trainer, or medical professional. I have my own experience, and that’s it. I do offer my own set of advice on how to do so, but I always encourage those who might consider taking said advice to do so with a grain of salt. It’s not as if I have the credentials to prescribe weight loss advice, and I don’t try to pretend that I do. Now, as it happens, I do believe my advice is relatively sound, but that’s kind of moot. The bottom line is that I would never actively try to encourage my readers to sacrifice their health for the sake of weight loss.

My concern is that I feel there are others out there who, while they may promote themselves under the same label as a “healthy whatever blogger”, they don’t feel the same responsibility. They preach things under the wrong heading. You can’t label yourself a healthy living blogger, or a healthy weight loss blogger, or a healthy anything, and then offer scores of blatantly unhealthy advice. Well, perhaps my wording is off. It’s a free internet. Technically, you CAN do whatever you want. But that doesn’t mean you should.

Yes, pro-ana and pro-mia sites are undeniably dangerous and toxic. But people who follow those kinds of sites probably know what they’re getting into. They’re probably looking for it. On the other hand, those who Google “healthy weight loss tips” and stumbles upon a series of recipes for things like shredded carrots embedded in sugar-free jello, might not really realize what kind of “advice” they’re really getting.

“Hmm,” they might say. “Well, that doesn’t seem too healthy, but it clearly worked for this girl, and look how great she looks! Look how much weight she lost! Look how much healthier she looks now that she’s thin.”

I should probably put it out there that this really (really!) is not meant to be a smear campaign against anybody in particular. I just feel like there is a lot of interesting discussion to be had behind wielding the internet responsibly. It just bears a little thought, both from a blogger- and from a reader-perspective. I find the implications of both sides to be endlessly fascinating. There was a panel at the 2011 Healthy Living Summit that touched on this concept.

Buuuuuuut, since I’ve already waxed serious for 1,300 words, I think I’ll cut myself off now, and hand over the reins to you all.

Do you feel that bloggers — healthy living bloggers, especially — have a responsibility for the advice they offer? Or do you feel the onus is more upon the readers to vet the kind of blogs they follow?

Septembering My Resolve

Jeebus.

How in tarnation is it already September? It really is true that you lose all concept of time once you’re out of school (milk it for all it’s worth, kids!)

Since it’s still not technically Autumn yet (I go by the solstices. Come on, September 23rd!) I’m not going to do the customary “Things I Love About Fall” post quite yet. Don’t get me wrong, I do love Fall! But even though things in DC have cooled down a touch as of late, it is still very much Summer. That pumpkin spice latte can wait a few more weeks.

Pumpkin Spice Latte
source

That being said, the realization that it is suddenly the last quarter of 2011 hit me pretty hard yesterday. Thanks to someone (::coughmysistercough::), I realized something mildly horrifying about my weight loss journey thus far. Yes, I have lost upwards of 60 pounds in the past year, which I consider to be a serious accomplishment (though I sometimes have to remind myself of that, especially in comparison to some of you other amazing people who have lost more and done it better than me, haha.) BUT! As Jenny so lovingly reminded me while we were chatting yesterday, in all of 2011, of which we are entering into the ninth month, I’ve lost less than 20 of those pounds. Urk.

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January 2011 (~207 lbs) vs. August 2011 (189 lbs)

So I have come to this embarrassing revelation, and am now kind of having a meltdown about it.

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Thanks sis. (December 2008)

You all know that I’m no stranger to indulging. My motto is that life’s too short not to be able to eat french fries or cupcakes; a healthy, balanced life is not about deprivation. I’ve been saying for a while now that I’d rather it take me a year to lose twenty pounds if I am enjoying my life, than to lose it in 3 months while being miserable.

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Well, that’s still true, but I think I’m finally exiting denial-ville about exactly how frequently and how much I’ve been indulging. Because pretty soon it’ll have been a year. And I will have lost 20 pounds. And, surprise, surprise, I’m not really thrilled about that.

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Oops.

I’m sure every single one of my family members is rolling their eyes at this post, since they’ve all been telling me this for a while, but just like when I started my weight loss journey, it all depended on me coming to terms with it on my own. I’m just difficult like that. But whaddya know? Here I finally am.

So, for about the bajillionth time this week, I’m strengthening my resolve. I’m going back to basics and back to what I know works. Keep an eye out for the return of Daily Eats posts that I’ve been majorly slacking on this past month. Calorie counting is a pain in the butt, but it’s making a comeback (losing weight isn’t easy, after all. We know this.) I know that I can’t expect to lose 35 pounds in 4 months like I did when I was obese, that’s just silly. But I can expect more of myself than this. Than losing the same pound over and over again. Than seeing the scale go down only to go back up again.

I still have a long way to go. Let’s do this.