Two years ago I was extremely overweight and very unhappy for many, many reasons.
I've been overweight my whole life. Of all the genetic gifts I have received from my family, "naturally thin" is not one of them. I quit playing sports of any kind after middle school. And I like chocolate. A lot. Add that to mild depression and you've got a recipe for disaster.
The picture to the left is of me in Havana, Cuba in June 2007.
Oddly enough, even seeing pictures like this one wasn't enough for me to do something about it.
Months later, in the sticks-to-your-skin kind of heat of August in D.C., I put on the only pair of workout type pants I owned, which were reserved for use on laundry day, and some beat up sneakers and went for a "run". Running sounded like something thin people do. I don't know where the motivation came from to actually do it, but I do know that the running part lasted no longer than 30 seconds. I was totally out of breath and thought I might pass out. I spent the next 20 minutes meandering around the neighborhood while gasping for air before admitting defeat.
I was sweating. And embarrassed. And frustrated. And tired. Oh-so-very tired.
But the next day I bought a workout DVD and did it in the privacy of my apartment. I only made it half-way through a 45 minute DVD but it was a start.
The following week I started going with my roommate to the gym in the morning and did the Couch-to-5k program.I knew if I made a commitment to get up and go with her, I would do it. I thought my lungs might explode every. single. morning. But I did it anyway. I treated it like an early morning job. I put it in my planner. I had to be there or else.
A week after that I decided I couldn't do the food part by myself, so I went to Weight Watchers. With a friend. Just to make sure I really, really wasn't alone. I liked them because I could eat whatever I wanted if I portioned it right. I realized that I needed to be around other people who were struggling and living to tell the tale.
The courage I had built from those two things led to me signing up for a "Newbie Yoga" class series at Tranquil Space. I was probably double the size of the biggest person in the room (a guy, no less). I was sweating to death and I could not hold Down Dog for more than two breaths. In nearly every pose, my whole body shook. But it didn't matter. I felt like a new person after I left each of those classes. Energized and healthy and happy. The mindfulness I was learning on the mat was helping me to be more mindful off of the mat. The teacher talked about how she hadn't always been thin and that yoga was for every body type, which I appreciated. She offered many ways to modify the poses and mentioned that she offered a "Voluptuous Vinyasa Flow" class once a week. I honestly believe that class, which I took for several months before transitioning to Yoga 1, saved me from myself.
I also read anything and everything I could get my hands on about weight loss, nutrition, holistic health, strength training, running, body image, yoga, self-esteem, cooking, etc. I'm pretty sure I single-handedly kept the "health and weight loss" sections of Amazon.com in business for about a year there. I also did web searches ("What is agave nectar?", "Do I need padded butt shorts for spinning?") and read lots and lots of blogs and wrote fairly regularly in a journal.
Then came slightly more advanced yoga classes. And belly dance classes. And, most recently, spinning classes.
This is me so far:
Since August 2007, I have lost about 70 pounds. I try to eat mostly whole grains, lots of veggies and cook for myself. But I still love chocolate. And bread. And cupcakes. Just in moderation. I feel like I've been relearning how to take care of myself with food.
I put back on a few pounds within the past couple of months (that's what working full-time while going to graduate school part-time will do to a person). But it's a marathon, not a sprint. And I will lose the last 30 like I did the first 70. Pound by pound, day by day, meal by meal, thought by thought. I will battle this for the rest of my life but unlike before, I now know how to battle it.
This journey has become more about finding myself, getting inspired, and getting healthy, and not necessarily just about getting skinny. I'm a size 12 and if I never get any smaller than that, so be it. It's been about doing things I never, ever thought I'd do. It's about putting myself out there. It's about trusting myself and the universe.
Mostly, the journey so far has been about getting happy. I feel like I've gotten a second chance at life, as dramatic as that sounds, and I intend to take advantage of every single second of it.