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.

Dear Diary

Please note: this is a very emotionally heavy post. It may be triggering for those of you who have had or are dealing with an eating disorder. There is also a small amount of profanity in one of the quoted sections that follows. Not that I think you can’t handle it, but as this is usually a family show I just wanted to give you a heads up.

I took a trip over the weekend. Not to a place, but to a time. Specifically, I went to revisit what you might call my version of the Dark Ages.

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An on-and-off journaler for most of my life, I found myself stumbling rapidly back into the past when I came across several of my old diaries. Entries spanned intermittently from 2004 to 2009, carrying me through high school to the end of college and the very worst of my struggles with disordered eating. Reading through them was like seeing snapshot after snapshot of me spiraling down to my very lowest place, while concurrently climbing to my highest weight. What started off as, in my opinion, innocuous teen angst, turned darker and more raw with every page. Cracking open these emotional hydrogen bombs sent me rocketing back to a time when I was so clearly lost. And I don’t think I even realized until now just how damaged I was.

April 4, 2007

Obese, depressed, socially awkward, disgusting, and on top of that, I’m just a fucking failure at every fucking thing I do. No wonder no guy wants me. I’m just going to end up fat & alone, like I am now but with more pets and no friends. You disgust me. You make me want to throw up. You sick, obese cow. You don’t deserve to continue breathing, let alone eating.

I was just shy of 19 when I wrote those words. According to that same entry, I had just weighed in at 213 lbs. I’ve been saying lately that I’m very fortunate not to have received any negative comments on the blog yet, but naturally I fear the inevitable day when someone is cruel to me on here. After taking this (unfortunate? fortunate?) trip down memory lane, however, I don’t think that there’s a single person out there who could be meaner to me than I was to myself.

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2007 seems, without a doubt, to have held the worst of it. Or at least the most detailed parts. I’ve written about my issues with binge eating here on the blog, and lightly touched on the fact that I also dealt with depression. I guess that in the process of healing though, I blocked out (or at least downplayed) the worst of it. Reading my real-time thoughts from this era of my life has made me painfully aware of just how dark things got, how depraved my desires were, and how twisted my methods became, all in the name of “thin”.

March 24, 2007

I can’t believe I keep slipping like this. This really has got to end. Tomorrow you are waking up and either A) going to UREC {the campus gym}, or B) not eating. Those are your two options. And since you can’t really go to UREC… I guess that means NO food for you. You’ve done it before. You can do it again. The one thing you haven’t been doing so far is COMMIT!!

These are just the words that I wrote, of course, not necessarily what actually happened. And while the physical pages of my diaries have stood the literal test of time, so have the actual memories that accompanied them. Thankfully, I’ve changed since then (though my obvious aversion to exercise is clearly something I’m still working on!) and thankfully, I was never very “good” at not eating. I only know that in conjunction with what I wrote, this is what I would tell myself most mornings: Don’t eat. Don’t succumb. Be “strong”. And I’d try to do exactly that for as long as I could. Sometimes I’d hold out until lunch. Sometimes until dinner. On very, very rare occasion, I might “last” until the next day. But fortunately, my body always figured out that I was trying to starve it down to a size 6 before long. Unfortunately, you probably can guess what came after. Enter: the binge.


Summer 2009

There were days that were normal. There were days when I “simply” overate (or ate poorly), but didn’t binge. But there were far too many days filled with subterfuge and lies, hidden and hoarded food, restriction, binges, and even purging.

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting I did eventually seek help for my depression (I wasn’t a student there, but was understandably affected by this tragedy.) It just never even occurred to me to give the same sort of attention to my issues with food. I don’t think I understood that most girls didn’t have the same twisted relationship with every meal. And so it continued, and while some days, some weeks, some months got better, I still continued to get bigger. There are entries from the earlier journals I found where I’m cursing myself for weighing 185 pounds, and it makes me so sad. Not because it’s the actual number that matters all that much, nor the fact that I’m not quite back there yet (soon!), but because I simply wish I had known then what I know now.


May 2009

I’m not sure why I felt compelled to share this time of my life with you all. It’s embarrassing. It was a sad, dark time, and I think it would have been easier for me to pack my diaries away and gloss over it with a two-sentence mention followed by 12 pictures of the dogs. I guess I just feel that it’s important to show you where I came from. Or maybe it’s just important to show myself.

We blame our obsession with thinness on so many things (society! the media! the fashion industry!) but often forget that we are our own worst critics. Sure, eventually my weight got to a point where it was a medical concern (or at least, it would surely have become one), but there are a lot of pounds between 185 (arguably average) and 246 (obviously obese). I was my own Mean Girl — my vanity constantly telling me that I needed to be smaller, that I needed to try harder. I pushed myself into my disordered eating, which of course did exactly the opposite of what I wanted in terms of my weight, and I need to own up to that fact. I’m just so thankful that I did eventually hit my tipping point, and, well, you know the rest of the story.

I would be lying to you if I said that it’s been a perfect, binge-free journey since Day 1 of starting this blog. I think that these urges are something that I will have to continue fighting for the rest of my life. Think of me what you will after reading this post, but I feel that rediscovering my diaries is a bit of a Godsend — I’ve been fighting against backsliding particularly hard lately. I’ve been living in a constant state of fear of going back to that place, and I think that may have been a big factor in why I haven’t been making much progress with my weight loss lately. Better to stay here than to take it too far, right? I know now though that I will never spiral that far down again. If nothing else, I know that you won’t let that happen. It’s thanks to you I’ve even made it this far.

Errrrr.
September 2011

There isn’t a moment of the past year that I’ve regretted when it comes to my health (a few unfortunate wardrobe choices though? Perhaps.) I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight towards my goal. I’ve continued to heal from my twisted relationship with food. I’ve grown and evolved in my ability to know myself. And hey, I’ve even run a 5 miler to boot! The only thing I do wish is that I would have had the courage to change earlier.

Thankfully it’s never too late.