Posted by: Hil | January 20, 2009

My Weight Loss Story

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This week is something of an anniversary for me.  As most of my readers know, I lost quite a bit of weight last year–somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds depending on which scales I consult.  A year ago, I was extremely frustrated and at a real crossroads in my weight loss process.  My weight had remained stagnant for six months, and I was seriously contemplating whether I should just give up on trying to lose weight.  In the end, I found the strength to commit myself wholeheartedly to the goal of becoming comfortable in my own skin.  At the time, I didn’t know whether my body or my mind needed to change for that to happen.  As it turned out, both happened.  A year later, I can honestly say that I have achieved what I set out to achieve.  I am happy with my body and I am at peace with food, and my weight has been stable for over six months.

I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time, but I’ve always shied away.  It is very, very, important to me that this blog stay a food and body-positive space, and I worried that talking about my own weight loss could jeopardize that.  But blogs were a huge inspiration to me at a time when I desperately needed it, and telling my story is the best way I know to say “thank you” to those who inspired me.  I hope that my story can convince someone that it is possible to find a healthy, happy, equilibrium with food and weight.  I am not perfect and I don’t have all the answers.  But this is my story.

The Back Story:

I have been a healthy eater my whole life, but I was always a plump, unathletic kid.  By the time I was in junior high, I had gone from being a little plump to definitely overweight.  I ate very nutritious food, but I had an insatiable appetite for starchy foods and I didn’t exercise much at all beyond PE and my daily walk to and from school.  At age 13, I started my first diet and started working out with my dad several times a week.  I dropped 20 pounds while growing 2 inches.  I lost the weight gradually and never did anything physically unhealthy to my body, but I was a perfectionist and never thought that my weight loss was good enough.  Without self-acceptance, finding a stable weight was pretty much impossible.  I would lose and lose until I eventually got frustrated, fed up, or hungry and started gaining again.  This cycle repeated itself for the remainder of high school.

When I went to college, I started eating more processed foods than I ever had in my life, and I put on a lot of weight.  I managed to keep my weight gain moderately under control by going on the South Beach diet every summer, but I could never seem to maintain or continue my losses once school started again.  I was back to yo-yoing.  And my college yo-yo range was a good ten pounds higher than my high school yo-yo range.

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Stage I:  The first few pounds

3 July 07

In May of 2007, I decided to try to do something about all of the extra weight I put on in college.  Delighted to have access to fresh, healthy foods again (and anxious to look good at my upcoming wedding) I immediately overhauled my diet.  I started cooking fresh, South Beach-friendly meals from scratch every day with lean protein and lots of seasonal veggies.  I start walking every day and doing yoga a couple times a week.  This combination was quite effective and I lost a few pounds quickly.  The main problem was my head.  When I finally mustered the courage to step on the scale, I proceeded to freak out at the number I saw–not the most productive reaction.  I was under a lot of stress at the time, most of it related to plans for my upcoming wedding, and eventually my body rebelled: I developed terrible back pain, my periods stopped, and my weight loss stopped dead in its tracks.  Rather than accepting my body’s not-so-subtle signals gracefully and holding off on my diet until I was under a bit less stress, I proceeded to feel like a failure for not losing weight as fast as I thought I should.  I bought into the brides-must-be-in-the-best-and-tiniest-shape-of their-lives mentality and I made myself miserable.  I really don’t recommend this!

Stage II:  Newlywed Life

4 December 07 (2)

Then, in a period of less than two weeks, I got married, moved to a new city with my husband, and started law school.  Sounds like a great time to set a big weight loss goal, no?  I at least had the good sense to keep scales far away from my house.  I still wanted to lose weight, but I decided to focus my attention on eating whole, unprocessed foods.  I quit processed foods cold turkey.  I cooked dinner from scratch every night and brought a healthy sack lunch to school every day.  I was, by any reasonable measure, a very healthy eater.  I was a bit more sporadic with exercise, but I made it to the gym periodically.  By the holidays, family members were telling me that I look smaller.  But when I weighed myself at the doctor’s office, the scale showed no movement whatsoever.  I got very frustrated and began to think I would never be able to lose the extra weight.

Stage III:  The Turning Point

After the holidays passed, I spent a lot of time thinking things through.  I didn’t want to get caught up in the awful self-loathing diet-binge cycle again.  But I honestly wasn’t happy with the way I felt in my skin, and I wanted to change.  Since I was already a very healthy eater, I was beginning to wonder whether it was possible for me to lose weight without feeling deprived.  I wondered if my body’s natural equilibrium had just reset over the last five years.  Maybe I just had to learn to accept it.

A huge turning point for me was discovering  Roni’s blog (and, later on, Kath Eats Real Food.)  It was so encouraging to me to see the way their success stories actually operated in real life.  I began to think that maybe losing weight and keeping it off really was possible.  I decided to take a leap of faith.  I chose to believe that if I  consistently did all of the things I knew that I should, my body would end up at a place that felt good to me.  I told myself that it was impossible for me to fail unless I gave up.  I made this a point of unquestionable dogma in my brain and refused to allow any internal debate on the subject.  There would be no frustration-induced self-sabotage anymore.  From there, I suddenly started figuring out a lot of small things that made all the difference.

6 March 08

I started South Beach Phase I one more time to give myself a running start.  I bought a pedometer and started walking 10,000 steps every day.  I started a food log, in which I faithfully recorded my intake (in servings, never in calories) every day.  My food log helped me to see lots of little places where I could improve and motivated me to cook delicious food.  There was nothing more satisfying to me than looking at a day’s food log and being able to say, “I ate delicious, fresh food today.”  I got more creative with my cooking and learned which foods really made me happy and which didn’t.  I learned to listen to my body’s signals of hunger and satiety.  Most importantly, I began the hard task of learning to accept myself as I was.  And the weight started to come off…about 2 or 3 pounds every month.

7 April 08

Stage IV:  Change of Perspective

In May 2008, I saw a picture of myself and thought, “Holy cow!  I have a waist!  When did that happen?”  It was a real wake up call that made me realize just how far I’d come. 

8 May 08

Over the next month or so, I realized that my weight was no longer a cause of distress to me.  I felt good in my skin.  While I would be happy if I continued to lose weight, I didn’t feel a need to pursue weight loss for its own sake anymore.  Most importantly, I realized that for the first time since I could remember, I was not ambivalent toward food.  It was not a source of distress or anxiety to me.  I realized that I wanted that freedom and joy even if it meant that I never lost another pound.  I decided to keep my focus on how I felt rather than what I weighed.

  11 August 08

Over the last several months, I have maintained my weight loss without any real deprivation on my part.  I have made it through holidays, vacations and finals season without any problem.  I have continued to eat healthfully and mindfully.  I have started to eat more desserts when I want them.  I eat whatever I want on vacations and sometimes I don’t exercise as much as I should.  None of this has upset my balance substantially.  My body is smarter than I used to give it credit for, and as long as I listen to it, I seem to be just fine.  When I keep up with my exercise as much as I like to, my weight seems to have a slight downward trend.  That is fine with me.  But I am content in my skin right now.  And I wouldn’t trade anything for the way that feels.

 12 September '08

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Responses

  1. wow way to go!! You look gorgeous!! And your eats are always so healthful and creative. Awesome. Thanks so much for sharing!! 🙂

  2. This is such a wonderful and inspiring story and I’m so glad you shared. 🙂 That was certainly a leap of faith you took and how right you turned out to be! Great job sweetie!

  3. Love your story! You look fantastic and should be so very proud of your accomplishments! 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  4. You’ve come so far!!!! Fabulous!!!

  5. Thanks for sharing your story!!

  6. I am so glad you shared this. It is always good for people to read that losing weight does not require deprivation, but rather good sense. You really look great and I applaud you for doing it during law school, which can be an incredibly stressful time. I think you maintained your integrity here as the post is quite positive.

    – Heather

  7. beautiful story 🙂 congrats on all reaching all of your goals!!!

  8. thank you so much for sharing your story! I know how hard and scary it is to put it all out there for the world to see, but you are very inspiring so I am glad that you did! You have such a great and healthy outlook right now that it is seriously contagious! As soon as I finished reading this I went and stuffed my scale far under my bed because unfortunately I have become a slave to it even though I KNOW that if I eat right, exercise, and listen to my body that I will be healthy. Sometimes I just need another reminder of that, so thank you!

  9. Wow, your story is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing. I understand the cycle of the diet-binge-diet-binge cycle that you had once faced.

    Congratulations on reaching your goals and being happy to the fullest. Keep smiling!

  10. Beautiful story!! Congrats on your weight loss – and glad I could be a part of it 🙂

  11. thank you for sharing your story! inspirational for sure. you are definately glowing now, happy and healthy 🙂

  12. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  13. Love your photo journey and story! You’re beautiful.

    Realizing “I have a waist!” was pretty huge for me too. It’s such a nice surprise. I lost about 20 lbs last year, too- it really does make a big difference.

  14. Very inspiring and beautifully written, Hil. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  15. What an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing!

  16. This post was really lovely 🙂 You seem to have such a wonderful relationship with food now, and you’ve come so far. I think that being happy with yourself is so so important, and you won’t be happy in other areas of life unless you achieve that. I really really liked this post – very inspiring!


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