Grief can get heavy. At least it did for me. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to weigh you down forever.
I wasn’t “lucky” enough to be one of those people who stops eating when I get stressed or depressed. No. Quite the opposite, I turned to food as comfort. And let’s just say that after a while it got very uncomfortable, carrying all that around…After my mom died and I became parentless in my early 30s, I wore my grief like a badge of honor – a very large, heavy, 60+ pound badge of honor.
Some people memorialize lost loved ones with a new tattoo, or by planting a tree….but not me. I guess I chose obesity!
Throughout my teens and twenties, I was one of those people who had always been relatively slim to average in weight, all the while feeling very fat. Almost always.
It didn’t help my self-image when my mom seemed to enjoy reminding me of how much skinnier I used to be. After college, when I grew into a size 10, she’d smack me on the rear and laugh at the extra wiggle in my walk… (keep in mind, as she said this, she was probably wearing a size 18-20 at the time, or more, but that was beside the point). As a size 10, I might as well have been obese. I certainly didn’t feel good about how I looked. I felt fat more than I felt thin, for whatever reason.
After I got married in 2000, I gained a few extra “fat & happy” marital pounds, so by the time my mom got sick in 2004, I was already around a size 12 (the horror!).
Then after mom died that year, I guess I figured I’d show her “fat”! So began the not-so-good grief grocery grab!
I thought, with Mom gone, I can eat whatever I want to eat. She isn’t here to tell me how fat I look, or am, at size 8 or 10 or 12… she wasn’t there to tell me how fat I am at size 14 or 16… she was no longer there to watch me balloon to 18+. No one can stop me now!
The odd thing is, even after gaining more than 60 pounds in a few years, (a lot for a 5-foot 2-inch frame!) I didn’t feel that much worse about myself or my image. I think it’s because I never felt that great about myself and my appearance before I gained the weight, so being larger really didn’t make me feel any worse. It couldn’t. In my head, I was huge already, before I gained the additional 65 pounds…
Finally, something just clicked, as if an alarm clock went off in my brain. A wake-up call. I couldn’t carry the extra weight around anymore. It was too much. I had spent most of my 30s in an unhealthy, unflattering, un-fun state. As I approach 40 (which, incidentally, is just 12 years younger than my dad was when he died), it hit me that life is really short, and by allowing myself to be this overweight for so long, I could be cutting my life even shorter.
“If you don’t like something, change it; If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it” -Mary Engelbreit
In May of 2010, (not long after I bought the pants in the above photo) and a bit more than 5 years after I became parentless, I was ready to be the old me again, or maybe even better than the “old” me.
I decided to go on a diet and exercise regimen. Nothing fancy, no pills, no surgery, no fad foods. Just a low fat, low carb, high protein, high fiber diet, plus 30-60 minutes of exercise 6 days a week.
Being average never felt so great! –Me
Today, about one year and 65 lbs later, I’m excited to be back at my wedding weight from almost 11 years ago. Yes, I’m back to that same weight at which I used to feel really fat! In fact, when I got married, I was mortified that we had to order a size 10 wedding dress for me to wear (equivalent to about an 8 in regular clothes.) I might as well have been ordering a white tent. Right before I started my diet in Spring of last year, the size-18 me looked at those wedding photos of the size 8 me and wondered what was wrong with my vision, or with my head!
The greatest thing about the weight loss, for me, is not how I look, but how I feel about myself now.
I’m not sure why, but it’s almost as if I had to be really overweight for a while, to appreciate being more healthy. I’m not proud of the weight gain at all. It was unhealthy and bad for me all the way around. I was ashamed, and I’m still embarrassed that I let myself get so out of control for so long. However, now that I’ve lost it, I am grateful that the experience helped me to learn to appreciate myself more. Now, I try not to be so hard on myself and my appearance all the time, like so many women are, thanks to unrealistic standards in society and in the media, an over-abundance of plastic surgeons, trick photography, and airbrushed everythings.
I guess, it’s all about perspective. Everything is relative. Having been a size 5 growing up, size 10 felt hideous and horrible, especially when your own mother is pointing it out and laughing at it. But after being a size 18, I feel like a supermodel as a size 6.
Similarly, grieving a major loss, such as the death of a parent or anyone special, helps you see life more clearly. After you experience a significant loss, your entire perspective on everything in life changes. Once you experience that type of pain, you tend to not sweat the small stuff as much – you’re just happy to be pain-free.
The good times, even just plain okay or average times, (e.g. when no one is dying) are that much sweeter and more enjoyable after you pull out of the darkness and back into the light.
“The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse” –Helen Keller