There are times in life when it feels like you fight the same battles over and over. For one reason or another, you keep finding yourself at square one. You start to question the point of starting over, time after time. I could list any number of battles that I have started, lost, and begun again. The most obvious is always my fitness battle.
From as early as I can remember, my mom was always dieting or trying to find the magic bullet for weight loss. She popped pills, bought devices, joined gyms, and convinced herself that smoking to curb her appetite was the lesser of two evils.
I also remember that from an early age, I worried about my weight, and always hated how thick and heavy my legs and thighs looked. I was already starting to feel uncomfortable in shorts as early as sixth grade. In junior high, I dreaded gym class--especially after our fitness evaluation when I was declared 15 pounds over my ideal body weight. At that point, I weighed in at a hefty 115 pounds.
At age 45, I would still give just about anything to weigh 115 pounds--or even 125!
I hung steady with my weight for most of my teen years, but depression and problems at home led me way beyond the freshman fifteen during my first year in college. By the time my lackluster grades were in for the spring semester, I was a good forty pounds heavier.
It was time to take aggressive action. During the year I was forced to sit out of college, I did aerobics with Denise Austin for about two hours a day, and ate just enough to get by. I lost the weight, but I wouldn't say I did it in a healthy way, and I didn't enjoy it.
This time, I kept the weight monster at bay for about three years. I went back to school, and the busy-ness of college life helped me maintain. But once again, a gym class reared its ugly head and defined me as overweight based on a caliper test. At the time, I was running almost everyday, and taking ballet and dance several times a week. I wasn't anything but inactive. And still, I couldn't defeat the weight monster.
About two years after college graduation, I found myself staring at the waistline of a white dress, and a scale that told me I had bounced backwards another 20 or so pounds. Time to do battle again.
I never quite won that time. And there have been plenty of other forays into this battle besides. Looking back, I would say that I have never actually won.
I know I'm not alone. I know I'm not the only person who has looked in the mirror, and felt less because I weigh more. I know that I am not the only one who has pointed my toes while holding my leg up in the air and imagined that my thighs could truly be the size they appear in "aerial view." I know that I am not the only one who grew up being warned about my weight, while being served soda and fried foods.
And I know that I am not the only one who starts battling, then somehow backslides every time. I know I'm not the only one who wonders how it's worth it to keep starting over.
I don't know the answer for everyone. I do, however, believe that as with anything in life, you can never win if you don't keep fighting. There is no goal you can accomplish if you don't fight for it. And that is true of everything in life, not just weight loss and management.
I'm smarter, wiser and stronger than I used to be. I recognize the harm in defining ourselves by the shape of our bodies. I recognize the harm it does to ourselves, and our children. I recognize the powerful message we send to our kids that this failure somehow makes us universal failures.
I would never want my daughter to look at herself and think the things I thought as a young girl. There was never any adult who encouraged me to believe that I could be or do anything. There was never any adult who tried to counter the negative messages I had received about body image and health. I pay for those deficits every day. The idea of body image and weight as a defining trait was so deeply instilled in me, that I have to be very conscious about the way I speak about myself in my home. I have tried to outlaw the word fat when discussing anything but trimming meat. I have tried to redirect comments about my daughter's appearance, and reinforce her strength, her health and her exuberance.
For myself, I keep fighting the fight, because if I don't, I am not just giving up on the battle to lose weight and be healthy, I am giving up on myself, and worse, my family. I know being overweight is unhealthy. I know that it can decrease my lifespan, and also impact my quality of life.
I keep trying, because if I don't, I worry that I am accepting defeat, and I have fought through and survived too many things to accept defeat--even when I feel my lowest.
There is no shame in starting over a dozen times. Or a hundred. Or a thousand. There is no shame in recognizing that some battles are harder than others, and we need help to fight them. Starting over just means not giving up.
It's not about a caliper test or a gym class assessment. It's not about a white dress or a pair of jeans in the closet. It's not about how big or little the effort. It's about valuing your life and who you want to be over winning the first time.
* Written by community member S. Blanchard