I was always thin. When I was 19 I proudly wore a pair of size zero jeans. I kind of had this blissful naivety that I would just always be this way. I never thought twice about how much I relied on my waistline for self confidence. It never occurred to me that my appearance mattered more to me then my other qualities and talents. Those fell second to what I obliviously nurtured as my greatest attribute, my body.
While pregnant with my first child I gained 60 lbs. At the time, I assumed the weight would fall right off as soon as I had my baby. I had never struggled with weight before so I had no clue how hard one has to work to lose those extra pounds. But low and behold I had my baby and yet my stomach stayed the same size, as if the baby was still inside me. I was mortified.
I joined weight watchers and lost the weight, but my stomach still pooched out to what I felt was not proportionate to my body. Suddenly I was unable to eat as freely as before, my weight fluctuated, I was obsessed with trying to stay thin. But my hormones changed with pregnancy, my metabolism slowed and my previous belief that I would never struggle with weight turned into the realization that I was not immune.
Slowly but surely the weight came back, and I was diagnosed with PCOS this explains the weight gaining predominately in my stomach as it can be a side effect of this hormonal disorder. I felt disfigured. I felt like everywhere I went people assumed I was pregnant. And my assumption was not wholly off the mark. At one point it seemed like everywhere I went someone was asking me how far along I was, or when’s the baby due. I even argued with a woman while out shopping who kept insisting that I was with child, once while holding a jäger bomb in my hand at a bar someone asked me how far along I was! The first few times, people asked if I was with child I laughed it off and felt more embarrassed for them then for me, because they had obviously made a faux pas. But the more it happened the less and less I was emotionally able to handle it. I started having anxiety before leaving the house, anticipating who was going to question me next. No! I don’t have a baby in my stomach, I’m just fat!
PCOS also has the unfortunate side effect of making weight gain easier then for someone who does not have it, and the worst part is that it actually makes losing weight 2-3 times more difficult. After 3 months of exercising for an hour a day, eating a 1200 calorie diet and only losing 10 pounds, I felt overwhelmed and defeated. I was not getting the results I had expected and lost motivation. So I went to my doctor for help. He put me on Phentermine. It was like a magic pill and within 6 months I was down to my goal weight.
What I did not think about or plan, because another side effect of PCOS is infertility, is that when I lost that weight the PCOS got better, it was still there, but the side effects lesson with weight loss. Well, I became pregnant with my second child, which despite being unexpected was not unwelcome, but definitely a surprise. Again, I gained 60 lbs during pregnancy, maybe more. But I had this assumption that I could just go back on that magic pill and lose the weight again. Oh was I wrong.
Apparently sometimes some pills work well in your system the first time you take them, but if you stop taking them there is a chance they will have no effect on you the second round. This happened in my case. And with the pregnancy weight gain all of my PCOS side effects came back with a vengeance.
I had no idea how much importance I was putting into my looks, body image, being thin, until I got fat. Listen, I am a loving, caring, intelligent, funny, creative, artistic, talented, brave individual. I am a survivor, a fighter, a forgiver, a good mother and friend. But none of that mattered to me when I became overweight, obese. When I thought of myself as a person, or looked in the mirror all I could see was fat, and that overrode all of the good things inside me. I became depressed and ashamed, I started having grandiose ideas: if only I could be thin again life would be perfect. It didn’t matter how much one would compliment me on my other positive attributes, because being fat, in my mind cancelled it all out.
What’s strange is that I have many friends who were overweight, but it was never an issue with me. I have always loved my friends, no matter their size. How come I was able to see all of the goodness and beauty in them, but not in myself?
Finally in my never ending quest to be thin again I went to a hypnotist who specialized in weight loss. She put me on The Glycemic Index Diet which is ideal for someone with PCOS, and I did manage to lose 30 lbs. But more importantly she recognized this totally illogical thought process I had going on in my mind, equating my body image with my self worth. So along with my new diet routine she started having me write a positive thoughts journal, cheesy as it sounds. I was supposed to write a full page of things I liked about myself *even if I didn’t believe them. At first writing a full page of good things about myself felt impossible, I was taking forever to come up with positive things about myself, but within a few weeks I was quickly jotting down things on that page and even using the back side filling it up with new things I had thought of. I wrote in that journal for about six months. Unfortunately because of finances I had to stop seeing her, but it was the best thing, I think, I could have done for myself at the time.
I’m not perfect, and my fiancé happens to be a cook who I believe could be a contender on Master chef. Holidays came around, and birthdays, and then it was just us back into eating good food all the time. We slipped out of doing the glycemic index diet and thoughtlessly started eating like the old days. I’ve since gained 20 of the 30 lbs back that I lost.
But here’s the thing. I’m FAT! My body is fat. But I’m awesome! I know that now. Some months ago I was planning to go out on the town and was deciding between wearing two different shirts, one fit me in a way that kind of hid my round belly, and the other I just liked because it was cute and fun, but it did nothing to hide my stomach. I would have always gone with the shirt that masked my body shape in the past, but after some thought I chose the fun shirt. I put it on and looked in the mirror and thought heck yes! This is me. It was liberating. I felt like I’d made this huge step in becoming self acceptant. I know that seems like a small insignificant thing, but for me, I was finally able to look in the mirror and see myself, fat included and think “This is me, and if you can’t get past my body, you don’t deserve to.”