The time has come to address the elephant in the room... which is the fact that my roomly presence is now significantly less elephant-like. I've avoided the topic for the last couple of months with the same superstitions in mind that keep me from discussing videos before they've been made-- I didn't want to jinx anything while the project was still a work-in-progress. But as I stood on a scale this morning, it became even more apparent that the progression is over. In the last three months (almost to the day), I've lost twenty-five freakin' pounds.
The thing is, I've never been fat. At my least healthy, I was still within what the internet considers an average range. However, for three years or so, I was hauling around extra pounds. There's a difference between having a "bigger body type" and just carrying more weight than you should. I didn't look big or abundantly chubby or anything, but I was supposed to be a small girl, and my extra twenty pounds was quite obviously extra. Whether it was technically grave or not, I had a problem, and I needed to change it.
My unparalleled love of food has been part of my personality since birth, and it certainly doesn't seem to be going anywhere, so I really don't think eating is entirely to blame. The obvious enemy in this case was an emotional thing. I don't talk about it much, but I had some pretty big personal issues with depression for a couple of years. I consider the start of that to be eighth grade, I think, and the end to be around spring of my senior year. As much as I'm still... almost embarrassed to address it at all, I really spent a long time being miserable. This didn't manifest itself in my physical appearance at first, because I didn't finish developing fully until I was about fifteen, at which point I was running cross-country and struggling to eat enough to supplement the calories lost with my daily four+ miles. I quit the team in my sophomore year, though, after the physical demands got too much for me. This sudden deficit of exercise-- combined with my poor self-esteem and my intrinsic desire to self-medicate with bread-- eventually caught up with me. From sixteen to eighteen, I slowly and steadily put on about a pound a month.
The funny thing about depression is that it squanders your ability to care about your appearance, it slows you down, and it causes you to lose your will to move. In my case, it created one terrible cycle. I felt out of place and sad at school, so I moved sluggishly through the day, then dreaded the next day all night. I was wretchedly unhappy, so I ate and I sat. Then I was depressed about life because all I did was eat and sit, so I continued to eat and sit because it was the only way I knew how to feel empowered. Then, when eating and sitting resulted in a puffy face and a lethargic physical condition, I ate and sat even more, because moving became harder, and what was the point? People say it jokingly, but in reality, I truly looked unattractive because I ate, and I ate because I looked unattractive.
Well, the emotional struggles are another story for another time, but they eventually shrunk to the point of near invisibility. My waistline, however, continued to bulge, even when my fire for life started to flicker again. Old habits die hard, and for most of my freshman year at college, I was a happy person who still ate like a depressed one. I probably could have continued like that forever, too, had I not decided to do something about it. My new friends at school had never seen me at my ideal weight, so they didn't really realize I was out of shape, and my friends and family at home probably didn't want to rub in my face something I obviously wasn't oblivious to. Plus, I've always had a hard time accomplishing tasks that are expected of me. The only way I get something done is if I decide for myself. And one random afternoon in May, I decided that it was time to stop playing the part of a sad person, and it was time I let my newly-regained happiness show in the physical sense.
To shoot down inevitable speculation, no, this decision had very little to do with my romantic relationship. I had found happiness on my own before I found him, and he never indicated that he wanted me to improve my appearance in the slightest; this was all me. In confidence, I did tell The Situation that I was thinking about losing twenty pounds, and he said something along the lines of, "I think you're beautiful already, and you don't need to change a single thing. But I think getting healthier would boost your self-confidence, and you'd also look really hot, so I think it's a good idea if it's what you want." So, with this reassurance that I only had positive things to gain from the experience of losing, I made the commitment to myself.
With great success, and because I wanted to be Lance Armstrong (no, not really), I used the incredibly helpful (and free!) livestrong.com to chart calories. It has all kinds of easy tools available: once you record your height, weight, activity level, and the amount of weight you'd like to lose, it tells you how many calories you should aim to consume every day, and then helps you record all the food you eat and all the exercise you do. It also shows a pie chart of fat/protein/carbs so you can aim for healthy daily percentages, and monitors things like your sodium and cholesterol intake, to help prevent you from doing stupid stuff like eating nothing but a pint of ice cream in a day and being satisfied with the 1,200 calories. You can also track how much water you drink, and it shows a bar graph of your net calories each week, so if you make a mistake one night, you can account for it the next. The website really helped with my fear of numbers, because it takes care of all that for you. It just became part of my daily internet activity, and it felt more like a game than a diet.
Most importantly, I never allowed myself to go hungry, and I never did any of that crazy drink-chili-powder-and-eat-only-celery crap. If I wanted a brownie with dinner, I ran an extra mile at night to stay below the boundary line on my graph, and I ate the frigging brownie. I started making smarter choices, like eating veggie burgers on a bed of lettuce instead of on white buns, because it fit within my little game. And eventually, it became natural. Now I know not to deny myself the unhealthy foods I love (sour cream, chocolate chip cookies, whatever the hell kind of plastic is in pizza rolls), but to say no to the trash I don't even enjoy (most kinds of french fries, potato chips, candy). I no longer have to work at it-- health has become my habit, and maintaining my size four body is now just as easy as it used to be maintaining my size ten.
So. There you have it. I'm not writing this to brag, or for attention or whatever. I'm incredibly blessed to have never had to worry about obesity or diabetes or even just a genetic apple-shape, and I don't mean to undermine those who have had real problems by talking about my silly quick fix. I just know that a lot of people my age (particularly in America) happen to have struggles with weight at one time or another, whether they're big ordeals or lesser issues, and I thought I'd share my success story, in the event that it helps somebody out there. If you're looking for a solution to the kind of problem that doesn't require a doctor's attention, like mine, I really recommend livestrong.com. It was like completing a guided independent study in health, rather than following a strict plan or being fed advice. The whole experience was free and relatively painless, and it worked for me, so it might work for you.
ANYWAY. That took much longer to type than I'd expected, and it somehow appears to be eleven o'clock. On with the sensing!
Today, I saw: that we had everything bagels, causing me to exclaim excited vulgarities, because I may be skinny now, but I am still a fatass.
Today, I heard: "Hayles? I'm having a computer problem. Can you help me?" To which I responded, "Sure, Mom. What's wrong?" My mom then tilted her head quizzically and said, "I wrote a Word document. How do you change a font?"
Today, I smelled: tall, summery grass at the park.
Today, I touched: frozen blueberries that felt like cold, textured marbles.
Today, I tasted: delicious flaxseed crackers topped with slices of gruyere cheese.
I really appreciated yesterday's comments-- especially the ones from you lovely (psycho) readers who tried valiantly to convince me that I'm set to someday be on par with my hero's writing abilities. You're all crazy, but it does mean a lot to me. I would love to hear your personal experiences with weight struggles, or anything else you have to contribute to today's discussion, if it's not too personal for you to disclose. Also, as always this month, I'm interested to hear what noteworthy things you sensed over the course of your day, if you want. If you choose to leave a comment, I look forward to reading it, and if you don't, that's cool, too! I hope you all have a pleasant Tuesday, and I'll see you tomorrow night.
Chipotle burritos this year: 23
Nail color: "Rogue Vogue," Maybelline (discontinued)