Thursday, October 22, 2009

A History Lesson (the abridged version)

I came into this world like every other baby, healthy & happy. Somehow between birth and 9 years old I developed a “weight problem.” I could write a book on the reasons why I think I developed this “problem” but we will shelf that for now. I know I was nine because that was when I was first encouraged to lose weight. My principal, the nurse, a cafeteria worker, the guidance counselor and my mom each paid me 50 cents or a dollar for each pound I lost. I can’t remember how much I lost, but I remember I made 50 bucks (that’s a lot of money for a nine year old!) I spent it on cassette tapes (I remember Nirvana & Vanilla Ice) at Kmart and subsequently stopped with the weight loss quest.

I spend the years of elementary school and middle school as the token fat girl. Everyday, all day kids made fun of me. I attempted diets through those years but can’t remember much about them, except that they were not healthy physically or emotionally. I do remember being in the “extra gym” class, shopping in the women’s clothing department and my mother’s attempts to motivate me with fear. I know that it was in 7th grade when I went over 300lbs. I know this because I remember the day in the doctors office that the scale could no longer weigh me (I had previously committed to killing myself when I went over 300lbs, I guess you know I didn’t). I went back years later and checked my records to find the exact date. I also remember joining the field hockey team with all my girlfriends in 7th grade. I suffered through the first practice and then quit when I found out I would have had to sew two skirts together to have a uniform.

Through all of this struggle I remained a liked, energetic, outgoing young lady. I did not let my weight get in the way of me participating in life. However sometimes, I couldn’t help but let it get in the way. Like when I couldn’t get on roller coasters with my friends, because the belts didn’t fit, when I failed swimming (I found ever excuse not to change for class), when I broke a chair at someone’s house or the many movies I suffered through when the armrests did not go up.

From the time I could think abstract, I thought a lot about spirituality and by high school I realized the connection between spirituality and self growth. I began reading books and was lucky enough to have a mentor in my life (met him when he was my HS counselor) that noticed and told me about the good qualities and wisdom he saw in me. It was through this association that I went on a experiential weekend called “Woman Within.” I could say that this weekend was the first hard look for me at how I had gotten to where I was. After the weekend I gained a support system of my e-circle (a group of women who had done the same weekend, which I still enjoy the support of). Eventually my inner work and my support system helped get on my first successful health kick when I was a senior in high school. I set a goal weight (175lbs) of half my current weight (350lbs). And it seemed as if in an instant I was on track, I ate 3 mindful meals a day and walked regularly. I continued on to lose 60lbs through my freshman first semester in college. Funny thing was, I felt so good yet sometimes at night I cried myself to sleep. Also during this time I put my self in situations that were very destructive and clearly a product of low self-esteem. And eventually I started to do what made me feel better, or maybe just numb the pain…I ate.

Flash forward to April 2004 and 420lbs and me checking into Albert Einstein Medical Center for Gastric Bypass Surgery. From my previous experience losing weight I knew that the surgery causing me to lose weight, would not take away the necessity for me to work on the emotional issues around it. However I was committed to address whatever came up. In the back of my mind, I thought…this is it…I was finally going to be thin!! I ate healthier (and had a teeny tiny stomach that only hold a few ounces) and I exercised by going to Curves (cardio/strength training circuit). I had the surgery without complication and steadily over the next year and a half dropped 160lbs. Unfortunately, I experienced once again the joy of being smaller coupled with the sadness and self-destructive behavior. And I still felt I was fat. It was at that time I found out I was pregnant. Since I was only a year and a half post op, I stopped any efforts to restrict my food intake in order to feed the baby (although I still tried to make healthier choices). I stopped exercising when I was 6 months pregnant. After I had my daughter, I was happy to see the scale read 260lbs, the weight I was before I got pregnant! But over the course of the next 3 years, with a stomach that could eat a little more now, I started to gain weight. Before I would eat a half of sandwich and then save it for the next meal, now it’d sit on my desk and it was my mid-afternoon snack. Before if I ordered fast food I’d get a burger not the fries, now I’d order both and drink with my meal (so I could eat more) and polish off the fries too. By this July my weight had climbed 62.5 lbs to 322.5 lbs.

I felt intense shame for gaining the weight back…especially after having a body altering surgery to lose it. I was embarrassed to tell anyone that didn’t already know that I had the surgery. I started to be self-destructive in my behaviors and felt completely depressed. I started life coaching so that I could begin to address these issues. Concurrently I read Ekhart Tolles, A New Earth. The Life Coaching and that booked sparked a flame in me. I made a huge commitment when I decided that main purpose in my life from now on was to be in the present moment. I truly believe it is through the present moment that we can be happy and fulfill our outer life’s purpose. The more I practiced being in the present moment the more I started to realize that my “weight issues” and “food addictions” were directly inhibiting my ability to be present. As I faced making life changes around my health and the fear of “starting again” I had some realizations.

I learned that in many areas of my life the positive and negative of things were just two sides of the same coin. For instance, for me the gremlin who haunted me when I was out of control of eating, was the same gremlin who was there cheering me on as a lost weight. The gremlins aim was the same no matter what I was doing. This gremlin needed me to believe that I was not good enough until I was skinny, that my weight kept me from being my truest self. The gremlin kept my happiness at bay, having me believe it lived at some future destination. I realized that the first step to starting again would be accepting myself, my body and my addiction to food. Somehow, that is just what I did. This time I decided to be HAPPY from the beginning. My happiness was not dependant on what would happen a month, 6 months or a year down the road after choosing to be healthy. I decided I would be enjoying the intrinsic value in the present moment when I used my body in a physical way and when I ate. Being in the present moment with food and my body allowed me to easily move on if I made a bad choice and start fresh in the very next moment.

It is a very strange thing when the ball gets rolling, things just kind of magically fall in place. I started first just observing practices associated with gastric bypass surgery (i.e. not drinking when I eat, filling up on meats and veggies before carbs, no crazing) I reread a great book for Gastric bypass patients, Successful Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients. Somehow from there I made the jump to cutting out refined sugars and simple carbs from my diet and adding lots of fruits and vegetables (which were missing my entire life!) I made a huge decision to not weight myself. I wasn’t changing my life for the number on my scale, so therefore it wasn’t a necessary measuring tool. I think this was the very best decision I made to keep me present. Today I know I am smaller than when I started, but have no idea what the number would be on a scale! I went back to my membership at Curves and quickly discovered that the workouts there were very unsatisfying. I heard CrossFit mentioned first by an old friend Jen, and then I heard it from someone else. I felt a pull to this place, without much thought, I just intuitively signed up. Today I have been working out (like I have never have before) at CrossFit in King of Prussia for a month and I feel as if I am in the throws of a new found love affair. Believe me there will be many posts to come about CrossFit. Funny thing is CrossFitters have an affinity to eating styles similar to the style I had been adopting even before starting. I now have read a book called the Primal Blueprint, which has helped me build on the lifestyle I found my way into.

It seems as if the puzzle pieces are all just fitting into place and I feel the best I have ever have in my whole entire life. My relationship with food is the best it has ever been. I am an extremely passionate person (if you know me you can vouch for that!). I want to stand up on a roof top and scream to the world about the new lifestyle I am forming. Instead I just usually talk incessantly about it to everyone around me!! I decided to start this blog as a venue to put out some of that passion into the world. I think it will be a great tool for me in my process and who knows maybe it will help some other people find new ways to love themselves.


Megs said...

Amazing story, Steph. I am sure the best is yet to come!

Dan Karney said...

Stephanie -- Bless your heart! My best wishes.

Nicole D. Johns said...

You are awesome. I completely agree with you and have had a similar journey of the mind/spirit. I think physical exercise is so transformative when you find the activity that connects with you. Crossfit does sound really cool. I wish there was one closer to me. I would love to try it.

Good for you for sharing your story and your journey. Writing is magic.

Nikki said...

Steph - Thanks for sharing your story! I'm so thankful to have you as part of the CrossFit KOP family. Your positive energy and attitude is contagious, and you really add alot to our box! Keep up the good work and keep the posts coming :)

Anonymous said...

Stephanie-----thank you for sharing your story! I can relate to many ----many of the things you so eloquently write about. It feels good on one level to know that someone else had some of the same stuggles---

I look forward to getting to know you better !

You are a wonderful person and show great
resilience-----Don't--cha think! ?

Lisa Jochum

Dorothy said...

Great post. I am so glad to know you and look forward to getting to know you better. Hopefully you can help me to cut out sugar also(the thought makes me want to run to the snack machine for a chocolate bar). It is so great to be going down this journey of life with such amazing women.

Cindy Handler said...

Wonderful blog Steph and I am very proud of you for the steps you are taking to reclaim your body and your health. I am so glad you've joined us at CrossFit KoP and I will do everything I can to help and support you through your journey. You are an inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone...I look forward to sharing with you all. Thanks for making Radical Hateloss so well recieved! :-)

Ray said...

You rock Steph! Motivation and confidence are the keys to success....a wise Marine Corps Drill Instructor taught me this lesson a long time ago,along with:

"You are the asshole in charge of your own destiny"!

So true, and I remember those words 30+ years later.

YOU pack the gear to serve in my beloved Corps. Hang tough girl!

Margarita said...

Stephanie, thanks for linking to your story on Weightless. I loved reading it! I second that - you truly are an inspiration. Thank you for your honesty. I know this blog will help many, many people. I look forward to reading more posts!