human, being

Roller coaster

This is the story of my journey with weight and body image. It is long. It is unfinished. It’s a topic I’ll continue to write about until I can let it go. I’m not ready to let it go yet.

My mother tells me that I have always struggled with my weight. I don’t remember it that way. I was active and had a normal body as a kid and a teenager. In high school, I weighed a healthy 145 pounds and was muscular from two hours of pom pon practice five days a week. I never thought about losing weight. I never thought I was fat, because I wasn’t.

In my early 20s–the Miss Colorado years–I was this side of anorexic trying to be in competition shape. I remember being a size 4, weighing 124 pounds (at 5-9) and having a modeling agent tell me that I was pretty enough to work as a model, but I’d need to lose another 10 pounds. Anorexia was in in the early 1990s. Still, I had to walk the stage in a swimsuit and heels, and I needed to be in excellent shape to be competitive. I worked hard to be that fit, and it paid off when I won nearly $10,000 in scholarships over four years.

The week after Miss Colorado, 1993, I got the shot of Depo-Provera. I had always been bad about remembering to take my bc pill. Luckily, I never got pregnant due to my bad habit. So the idea of not having to remember anymore was appealing to me. The Depo, however, immediately put 20 pounds on me. I have pictures of me on the beach in Mexico, two weeks after my final Miss Colorado competition. I have no boobs. You can almost see my ribs. I don’t have a six-pack, but a six-pack wasn’t the fashion then. Fast forward to a trip to Louisiana with my dad four months later, and I was overflowing a size 10. I was miserable and beat myself up for being lazy, undisciplined, bad. Sure, I had slacked off of my twice-daily 90-minute workouts and extreme low-carb bodybuilding diet. I was still going to the gym at least five days a week, and I was eating normally. The following March, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It was the hallucinations and suicidal thoughts that took me to see her. I started on Synthroid and the depression faded. But by that time I was in a size 12 and weighed almost 170 pounds. Looking back, I know that it was the progestin in the Depo that killed my thyroid and started me on a roller coaster of weight gain and weight loss, that addicted me to poor body image.

I got married in 1995, and I was happy that I lost enough weight to get into a size 10 wedding dress (a size 6-8 in normal clothes). But I remember being mortified at our wedding pictures, particularly one of us dancing. My arms looked horribly flabby! I was so fat! On our honeymoon, I didn’t dare wear anything but a one-piece on the Jamaica beaches. I wasn’t skinny enough.

My ex-husband is a jealous control freak. Whenever I went out with my girlfriends, he’d accuse me of cheating on him. I couldn’t change my face and make men not be attracted to me. So I started to deliberately put on weight to make myself invisible. And it worked. Did you know that fat people are invisible? The fatter I got, the less I was seen by most people–store clerks, people waiting in line, bartenders. It was good and bad to be invisible. It was good, because guys stopped hitting on me, which meant no more accusations of infidelity. It was bad, because being invisible crushed my spirit. For most of my marriage I wore a size 14-18. If I got sick of being fat and tired and joined a gym, he would make it very difficult for me to go. I let him beat me up. I allowed him to tell me how to feel about myself. In 1997, for my 10th reunion, I told him to go screw himself and worked out enough to lose 20 pounds. I got back into a size 12, but still felt miserable. In 2000, my high school girlfriends and I went to Chicago for a weekend, and I stood out among them as the big lump. I was a size 16, 190 pounds, and the pictures really show it. Worst of all, I hated myself, what I’d let myself become internally and externally. I had no self-esteem to speak of. Gone was the self-confident, sexy, flirtatious girl I’d been. I had learned to comfort myself with food, addicting myself to eating and eating to fill up the void that was inside me.

Then, I got pregnant after a year of trying. And since I knew I’d only ever have one child, I stopped working out completely. I told myself to enjoy this one time of my life I would be allowed to not worry about how much I weighed. I was supposed to gain weight! I ate ice cream, and Mexican food, and drank whole milk. I got rounder and rounder. By the time Lauren was born, I weighed 230 pounds. Six weeks later, I still weighed 205. I got my first Mirena IUD, and my weight loss stalled at 195 pounds .

My marriage lasted another 30 months. During that time, I did the Atkins diet and took off 10 pounds in four months. (He lost 25 in 2 months–so not fair.) Then he left me and my world crumbled. By this time in my life, I didn’t believe I was pretty, or interesting, or lovable, or even a decent mother. Then, I had a wake-up call and realized that I am the only one who can fill that void inside me. I can fill it with food, or with sex, or with TV, or with spending money. I can fill it with love, and with health, and with activities that bring me joy, and with believing in myself. I began working out again and eating healthy foods. On the day my divorce was final, Aug. 4, 2004, I weighed 164 pounds and wore a size 10/12. I’d lost 16 pounds and felt like a new woman. But I looked in the mirror and still thought, “you are gross and fat.”

I lost another 8 pounds in the subsequent year. The closer my body got to 155 pounds, the slower the weight came off. I was healthier, but I still saw the obese woman I’d been whenever I looked in the mirror. Anytime stress came into my life, I reverted back to coping with comfort food, especially sugary food. I got very sick in 2005 and was hospitalized for 10 days with an e-coli infection of the blood. My gall bladder ruptured and I had surgery. Once I was released, all food except for white bread, white potatoes and applesauce made me double over with cramps. So I stopped eating and I lost another 15 pounds. When I look back at pictures from those months in late 2005, I love the way my body looked. I was thin again. I celebrated by buying clothes in size 6. Then, I started eating real food and within 8 weeks I was back up at 155. I realized then that 155 is a set-point for me. 155 is a size 8/10, perfectly acceptable by most standards, but in some of the worlds I play in anything above a size 2 is fat. I’d look in the mirror and put myself down, call myself lazy and fat–same old story, same old tape.

Then I met Steve, and he is the complete opposite of my ex. He makes me feel like I am the most beautiful, desirable woman on earth. And since he is totally hot, his desire for me is even better. I eased up a bit on myself, but the second I stopped working out five days a week, the pounds came back on. Soon, I was pushing 170 again. And beating myself up again.

There is nothing quite like the torture you can do to yourself. I am smart, successful, beautiful. I am a good mother and a good friend. I have talents that people envy. Yet whenever my dress size gets into the double-digits, I think I’m a loser. Ridiculous. It’s truly an illness.

In 2007, I rode the Courage Classic, a 157-mile bike tour benefiting The Children’s Hospital. To train for it, I rode my bike almost 1,500 miles in four months. I also joined a salsa dance performance troupe, which rehearsed two to four hours a week, and made sure to get to the clubs at least four more hours a week. My weight stayed steady at 165 pounds, which was frustrating. How could I not be losing any weight when I was burning nearly 10,000 calories a week on my bike and dancing 10 hours a week? Some of it was muscle gain. But some of it, I’m sure now, is the damage I’ve done to my metabolism by starving and binging, by gaining and losing. My hypothyroidism didn’t help, and neither did the fact that my doctor was happy with me keeping that hormone level at the edge of normal, which made my metabolism very slow. It is incredibly frustrating to work hard at something and see no results. So I gave up. I stopped exercising. I stopped riding. I stopped dancing. I said screw the dieting for about four months.

At the same time, I decided to replace my Mirena IUD with another, as they’re effective for about seven years. All hell broke loose. Within two weeks, I was up five pounds. Within two months I was up another 15 pounds. By January 2008 I weighed 187 pounds, and I felt like an utter failure. How could I have put on all the weight I had lost just three years before? I tried low-carb diets. I spent hours every weekend calculating menus by macronutrients. I counted calories. I tried eating 1800, 1400, 1200 calories a day. I hired a personal trainer and went to the gym five days a week, two hours at a time. He was baffled by the fact that during those 4 months, I put on two pounds and went up 2% in body fat (and gained some, but not much, muscle). I gave him my food logs to show how diligent I was being. If I ate 30 M&Ms, I marked them down. I gave him up and tried working out six days a week for an hour with Steve, getting up at 545 am to do the P90X program. After 12 weeks of that, I could do 90 pushups over the course of an hour, but I still weighed 187 pounds and was in a size 14. Then I started doing research about progestin and weight gain. And low Vitamin D levels and weight gain. I yanked the Mirena. I started taking 114,000 IU of Vitamin D a week. And I joined a gym again in December, a nice gym with a steam room and carpeted locker rooms and fabulous facilities. It is worth every single penny of my membership fee, compared to the $35 a month I’ve paid for crappy gyms. I look forward to going to the gym and working out.

I turn 40 in June. I feel like, for the past 20 years of my life, much of my focus has been on what my body looks like, how my body is broken, how my body feels. I am sick of it. I am sick of holding on to these stupid beliefs that I am not good enough unless I am a size 4, or 6, or even an 8. I am sick of sabotaging myself. I am sick of dealing with this. I am sick of working out and starving myself and being conscious of what I eat and obsessing about food and feeling so entirely fucking guilty–like I am a loser because I crave sweets, and I have a hard time resisting them. I am sick of doing all of this, and having my body hold on to this body fat, this weight, for dear life. I am sick of hating my body, because my body is part of me, and if I hate it, I hate me too.

This morning, I got on the scale and I weigh 178 pounds. The last time I weighed myself, about two weeks ago, I was holding steady at 183 pounds, despite the intense, five-day-a-week workouts I’ve been doing for the past 7 weeks. Despite the fact that the Wellbutrin kills my appetite, and I’m eating about 1300 calories a day. Seeing the needle in the 170 range gave me a burst of joy. Maybe, just maybe, getting rid of the Mirena was the trick. Maybe having my Vitamin D levels in the normal range and my TSH near 1.0 is helping too. The Wellbutrin, that has to be part of it. So does all the hard work I’ve been doing. But I’ve worked hard before, and got nowhere. I’m hopeful and skeptical. Maybe the five pound weight loss is a fluke. Or maybe it’s the start of something.

I am working on changing my attitude at the same time. When I look in the mirror, I am working on correcting the things I say to myself about my body. Instead of seeing the cellulite on my ass, I’m turning sideways so I can admire how all the lunges I’m doing are lifting my ass up. I’m making muscles in the mirror, watching my biceps pop out from the pushups and curls and all the arm work that happens in yoga, Zumba and Nia class. I am at that point where my workouts feel good, where I get that high. Last night, I did intervals on the treadmill, pushing my heart rate to 170, then letting it slow to 125, up to 170, down to 125, and even though I wanted to die when it was at 170, I kept pushing because it felt good. When I was done, dripping sweat and exhausted, I felt like I accomplished something. I know how to work my body.

I want to learn how to change my mindset so I celebrate my body how it is. That’s the next step.


1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

Hi there,
Nice blog, I just came across it and I’m already a subscriber
I hope it’s not impolite but I have just begun blogging
my own weight loss(I lost 30 pounds in a month, so pretty good
, and I was curious if you could write about
my diet for your readers.
My latest blog post is
weight loss exercise
If you want to do a link trade
that would be great because I want to discuss my weight loss success
with as many people as possible. If I can lose weight then
anyone else can too. Whatever you do, don’t give up and you WILL
reach all your weight loss goals!
with kind regards,

Comment by Joans Weight Loss Story

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