The Shame & the Silence

It’s all too familiar a scenario. Days spent sitting in front of a computer, your typing fingers pretty much the only parts of your body receiving any kind of exercise. Exhaustion settles in from the mental and social battles you’ve fought as part of your job, even though physically you’ve accomplished very little. And due to that exhaustion, you’re ready to just toss something quick and easy (and bad for you) into your mouth so that you can decompress. And so your nights are spent in front of a TV, catching up on missed shows or Netflix queues, or laying back on the couch reading a book.

Unsurprisingly, the lack of movement, the diet of terrible and delicious food, the sedentary life you’ve groomed yourself into leads to the things you know they lead to. Your clothes start fitting tighter, some stop fitting altogether. You push them into the back of your closet to help you forget. You hate the photos that other people take of you. You untag yourself, you delete. You stop looking so closely at yourself in the mirror. You only concentrate on the things you still like, the things unaffected by what you’ve been doing to yourself: your eyes are still nice. You can still have fun with your hair. And hey, your shoes always fit.

Your mood shifts at the drop of the hat. Maybe it’s a reflection in a store window, a TV commercial, an accidental gaze down at your own body — whatever it is, it has the power to turn you from feeling pretty and put together to depressed and despondent.

But despite all this, the denial is still strong. You can put it out of your mind. You can ignore it. “I’m still fit,” you tell yourself, even though your heart rate shoots up from merely carrying a load of laundry upstairs. “I can still do things,” you argue, as if surviving a day at Disneyworld or being able to stand through a 3-hour event is an accomplishment. As if you’ll be 28-years-old forever.

Deep down, you know that things aren’t good. That you don’t think you look good, but that’s really not the biggest part of it. It’s that you don’t feel good. In your body or about your body. You know other people can tell. And the only reason your family isn’t saying anything is because they’ve already been down this path with you before. To their credit, it’s probably the smart thing to do. You don’t react well to criticism. You never have. You always had to do things your way.

Then, one day, after weeks and months and years of denial and disinterest and clever angles, the moment finally comes. You really have had enough. You know what this moment feels like, you’ve felt it before. You’re really ready to make a change, get back on the horse, start focusing on yourself again. You take a deep breath, and finally face what you’ve been avoiding for so very, very long: the scale.

You step on, you force yourself to open your eyes, and you look at the number on the floor in front of you.

Your shoulders fall. Your heart drops. You’ve failed.

This is me. This has been me, for longer than I like to admit. I pretty much stopped blogging about weight loss, claiming I’d moved on, that I was happy with myself as-is, no changes needed. Which, you know, I do believe in as a concept, but it never actually rang true for me. Because despite my declarations, I never really stopped thinking about my weight. I never stopped wondering, wishing, wanting. And every time I finally got my stuff together enough to actually do something about it, for some reason or another, I failed.

At first I talked about it. I talked about starting my weight loss all over again. I talked about how much harder it was and how much longer it was taking and how something just wasn’t clicking this time. I talked about wanting to lose weight for myself, and then to lose weight for my wedding, and… then I stopped talking about it. Because really, I was just saying the same things over and over again. And eventually, not talking about it meant I could pretend not to think about it. Which led me right back to the beginning.

So the next time I tried, things were worse. The number was higher. The stakes were higher.  And I was all the more ashamed. “I’ll just start on my own,” I’d think. “I’ll get back to where I was and then I’ll start blogging about it again, so they don’t know.” As if they didn’t already know.

Except I never got to that point. Because the shame led me to silence and the silence meant I wasn’t reaching out for the support that I required to succeed. That was the cycle.

I should have known better, of course. I should have known that it’s better for me to talk openly about my failings, to share my experience, and to have your support, than to keep it all to myself. I should have known that people will talk and speculate anyway, and that, I mean, hello, folks aren’t blind. I have a visible job and live my life out loud. People aren’t stupid. Hiding photos is one thing, but you can’t prevent people from being able to see you in real life.

But none of it was ever really enough to push me back into the light. Whether it was just because of my supreme laziness or the shame I felt in admitting what was going on to myself — let alone to other people, I just let things continue to worsen. And worsen they did, until I found myself at the exact point where I am now: where I only wear a fraction of my closet because the rest of it either doesn’t fit or doesn’t flatter anymore. Where I delete more pictures than not because I’m so embarrassed by the way that I look. Where I just avoid looking.

And where, when I finally did take that step onto the scale, I found myself looking at a number I’ve never seen before: 254 pounds.

Yep, almost 10 pounds higher than my previous “highest” weight.

The shame hit me pretty hard then, as you can imagine. Enough to make me want to clam up and crawl back into a hole. But I know that’s not the way to move past this. I can’t be silent anymore, and I don’t want to do this alone anymore. There’s nothing I can do about it now except move forward. I can’t turn back time. I can’t take it back. And, as I’ve learned the hard way, I can’t do this in secret. I can’t hide myself away until I’ve lost enough weight that I deem it “okay” to start sharing again. I tried. I failed. It got worse.

So here I am, singing that same old song about being ready to start again. All I can say is that it really does feel different. Or rather, it feels the same — i t feels like the first time, when everything came together in just the right way and just the right time to make me actually want to make a real change.

I admit, I’ve actually started already. Still ashamed by the number I saw, I waited until I could say I’ve already accomplished at least something before I was even brave enough to post this. I know that makes pretty much everything I just said pretty hypocritical, but hey, I’m only human. I’m down 7 pounds since that initial weigh-in, which still means that, at 247 pounds, I’ve still got a long ways to go.

But I’m doing it. No more hiding from the light. No more silence. I know many of you have been down this road with me so many times before that you probably can’t help but roll your eyes. I don’t blame you. Because I know that me saying, “It feels different this time! But also kind of the same!” is probably not as reassuring to you as it is to me. But, rest assured, I am reassured. I want this, I want health, I want to feel good, I want to look good. I want to play longer with my nieces and walk longer with my dogs and I just want to do more. Be more. Live more.

And I have nowhere to go but on.


And now, on a completely unrelated, and much less serious note, since, you know, I can only take so much austerity at a time…

Happy 12th birthday, Harry! <3

17 Comments

  1. Happy Birthday Harry!!! And love to you my dear, I’m at a number I had no idea I would be at…in September I was doing so well, and I’m still working out, and I don’t eat all the delicious things I think about eating, but I haven’t found that right mix of eating/exercising for my body yet. We will get there.

  2. Melissasays:

    Don’t be too hard on yourself! This is life. Our weights go up and down. Just take it one day at a time.

  3. Reesesays:

    I was in a similar boat as you not long ago. I’m a Weight Watchers leader. And in 2010, my weight hit a whopping 185 (I’m 5’4″ on a good day). Everyone said they never thought of me as heavy. That I wore my weight well and was “solid.” But I knew I didn’t look good. So I joined Weight Watchers on a whim for the 3rd time (the first two were attempts before I hit 185…but obviously those didn’t work). The third time stuck. I lost 45 lb. to hit 140. And then lost a few more to hit 135. It was my ideal weight. And I was there up until last September….

    I’ve gotten divorced. It was final in June. I dated on and off for two years while I was separated. But last September I met someone who is amazing. And my weight crept up. I told myself that 5 lb. wasn’t anything. That it would come off easy. Then I hit 10 lb up. I started to worry. And I kept self-sabotaging myself. With fancy charity dinners, or conferences in downtown Denver… and I hit 15 lb. up. My clothes FIT. as in, I can squeeze my body into them. But all my summer shorts, dresses, and tanks? They wouldn’t fit come summer.

    I’ve recommitted THREE TIMES and kept self-sabotaging. I joined a city-wide health initiative called Step Up Cheyenne. Designed to get you 10,000 steps a day. Well… I’m not getting the steps in, but I’m getting the nutrition back. As a Weight Watchers Leader I’m a role model of success for my Thursday night group, as well as friends/family. And I couldn’t get my sh#[email protected] together.

    I’m 5.7 lb. down in two weeks. I need another month to hit goal. And I can make that happen. For me. For how happy I’ll be when I can fit back into those summer shorts.

    The committing part is the HARDEST. There’s always an excuse. And you’ll occasionally have to tell someone NO (and often that someone is yourself).

    Stick to it. And find some amazing inspiration (here’s some of my favs):
    Down with Dani: http://www.downwithdani.com
    Transformation Tuesday with Heidi Powell: heidipowell.net/10894/
    Weilos.com (Download the app!)
    Tiny Buddha: tinybuddha.com
    Daily Cup of Yoga: http://www.dailycupofyoga.com
    Wellness Mama Blog: wellnessmama.com/blog/
    The Happiness Project: http://www.happinessprojecttoolbox.com
    Before You Were Hot (hilarious!): http://www.beforeyouwerehot.com
    This is Why You’re Thin: thisiswhyyourethin.blogspot.com
    Yum Yucky: http://www.yumyucky.com
    Diary of a Fat Woman: diaryoffatwoman.blogspot.com
    StickK: http://www.stickk.com
    YogaDork: yogadork.com

    Get inspired. There’s amazing people out there! And I’m happy to follow you along for the ride. Do you fitbit? I’m ([email protected]) on there and love challenges!

    • Andiesays:

      My fitbit has been SO motivating, too! (kind of hate that it took an extrinsic motivator to get me off the couch, but whatevs!)

  4. I feel like every time you post about this, we’re the same person. Because this is exactly where I am. Except I broke up with my scale because I was becoming mentally destructive with the number in front of me, and that’s bad.

    P.S. OMG I WILL BE IN DC IN LIKE 2.5 WEEKS YAAAAAY.

  5. I love your honesty. I have been right where you are. I am currently working on the same things. I am excited to follow along with you again and have an online accountability partner. You inspired me the first time and I know we can do it this time. Happy birthday Harry!

  6. Amysays:

    I’ve been following your blog for a while, but this post — and my familiarity with the sense of shame — compelled me to comment for the first time. I’m in a similar place to you. I’m still figuring out the eating and exercising that works for me. But for the first time in a long time, I’ve been able to move through the shame and do something to get healthier…and the reason is Strong Coffey. (Give her a Google.) Her “Pleasure Principles” course is kind of like cognitive behavioral therapy, and has definitely been helpful in getting a grip on my various self-sabotaging behavior patterns. If it sounds helpful, check it out. (I don’t get kickbacks, I’m not a shill, and maybe it won’t be for you, but your post struck a chord, and I thought I should share.)

  7. Moniquesays:

    So there with you, Gretchen, right now… at the same place. at the same high point. struggling but really wanting change. And you will do it and glad to have you expressing yourself again. You have inspired me for a while now and continue to do so. Looking forward to hearing more and going on more adventures with you.

  8. Lisasays:

    No eye rolling here!! no way!! This just seems sooo familiar to my own shame. Thanks for the inspiration! We can do this! Not a diet, just a new healthy lifestyle. Choose health. Ugh easy to say :-X

  9. Victoriasays:

    Long time lurker here, like LONGG time haha. I feel you on the never ending journey of health and fitness, and I’m sure whoever takes time to read your blog does it to cheer you along , not roll eyes. I keep reading because you are a great writer and I’m excited to see the next phase of your healthy life 🙂

  10. I’m in a very similar boat. I am currently about 255 lbs, I have been hovering around the same weight for a year or so (maybe between 245 and 255 lbs).
    I just haven’t been able to find the mind set I need to lose weight and keep it off. I started a new job two weeks ago and it’s been exhausting, literally all I’ve done in the evenings is eat dinner, watch TV and snack. But of course that doesn’t contribute to my having more energy. My husband feels the same way. So yesterday and today we have made an effort to go for walks after work. But I think I need something to take charge of my diet and I think I’ll start WW again for the accountability and just to keep me on track.

  11. Andiesays:

    I’ve been reading your blog for years but this is my first comment. Thank you for your honesty and bravery in this post. I’ve been there, and I think SO many others have, too. Weight loss is such a long, hard slog – a never-ending long, hard slog, ugh. For me, it’ll be a lifelong challenge. Good luck – I’ll be cheering for you!

  12. Clairesays:

    I just want to give you a big hug! And also tell you how very brave you are for posting this. You are worthy of great things!

  13. Samanthasays:

    I feel ya (I am restarting WW for like the fourth time..). What worked for me (at least getting fit, haven’t lost a ton of weight, but my clothes fit now) was finding a trainer that is good at the their job (i.e. hard workouts) but I also like to talk to. I look at as an hour of therapy.

    It is also a hole-in-a-wall gym and they have classes. I like the small community and it keeps me coming back to the classes on my own.

  14. Lauren Bsays:

    Thank you for posting this and for writing so beautifully what has been rolling around in my head. I’ll be following along and hopefully doing it with you.

  15. Ibethsays:

    Thanks for your honesty, it makes me r www alone,on not alone,we will get through this!

  16. Lorisays:

    Hey, you do what you need to do. But do know this, every time I see a picture of you I see how radiantly beautiful you are. Like not even the “everyone is beautiful in their own way” kind of thing that’s nice and happy. Like, you are downright gorgeous. I swear I’m not a creeper, I’m a happy newlywed, too. 🙂

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