Living a Yo-Yo Lifestyle

yoyo3

I have an awesome life! There have been ups and downs, but all in all I have no regrets, because I couldn’t be where I am today without living through the life I’ve lived…..

yoyo11

….Except for this one part of my existence that has haunted me for over 30 years – my body image, eating habits and overall health and fitness.  I have lived a yo-yo lifestyle since I was a teenager.  I can’t say I’m addicted to food, because by definition an addiction is a “compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance”, and food isn’t habit forming, it is necessary.  Yet food is my drug of choice.  I’m not addicted to the food itself, but the way the food makes me feel when I consume it.

My distorted body image and relationship with food have been the single most detrimental relationship in my entire life, leaving me feeling worthless, humiliated and like a total and complete failure.

yoyo9

This is uncomfortable!  If I could brush this topic under the rug and avoid writing about it, I would.  But I can’t!  It’s too big, too all-consuming, too powerful….and I know I am not the only one that has or continues to struggle with this internal conflict.  Maybe you self medicate in a different way, maybe you battle a different addiction, maybe you experience the yo-yo syndrome with a different “drug of choice” other than food.  Whether you bury your pain and sorrow in food, alcohol, shopping, social media, drugs, gambling or exercise….you are not alone.

It’s with apprehension that I bare my soul and tell my story.  But I’m doing this with the hope that you can see yourself in my journey, that you can find comfort in knowing you are not alone.  And that together, as we are all Discovering Our Awesomeness, we can overcome our demons and create peace in our lives.

Looking back, I always felt like the BIG girl.  In my black leotard, pink tights and pointe shoes – I felt big.  In a bathing suit – I felt big.  Even in jeans and a sweater – I felt big.  The surprising fact is when I see photographs of my teenage years, I was NOT big.  I wasn’t chubby and I wasn’t overweight.  I was just short and muscular, very “Mary Lou Retton” like.   The complete opposite of what society seemed to value in women – tall and lean.  My negative body image was instilled in me during my teenage years, by comparing myself to other people, both my peers and those that graced the covers of magazines, and allowing my internal dialogue to become my truth.

IMG_2358

1982: age 16 – Junior Prom – size 8

During the fall of my senior year in high school I had a falling out with one of my best friends.  Sadly, it took 6 months before we were able to reunite.  The break in that friendship had a ripple effect that left me feeling empty, sad and alone.  So I found comfort and company in food.  Barbeque potato chips, Hostess Devil Dogs, Butterfingers and Reeses Peanut Butter cups became my new circle of friends – and we met on a very regular basis.

IMG_2386

1983: age 17 – Senior Prom – size 14

When I ate, I felt filled up instead of empty.

When I ate, I found temporary comfort from the pain.

When I ate, I shoved my sadness deep down inside.

In those 6 months of self medicating with food, I gained over 30 pounds.  It was validating, because now I really was the big girl I always felt like!

I arrived at college for my freshman year, all five feet three inches of me, sporting a size 14 in clothes, but a zero on the self confidence scale!  It didn’t help that I was assigned to the only all girls dorm, and it wasn’t even located on the university campus.  Oh yeah, and I really was the biggest girl there!

What sometimes appears to be the worst case scenario, turns out to be exactly what we need!  Had I not been placed in that particular dorm, I would never have met my life long friends – Ronni, Stacey & Sue!  It didn’t matter to them that I was the big girl, they embraced me with all my rolls of fat, and slowly, their friendship began to restore my belief in myself.

I wanted to look on the outside like I was beginning to feel on the inside, so I began my first diet.  I was not informed or educated in proper nutrition or how to effectively lose weight.  I just knew if food was the enemy, the thing that made me look the way I did, then I should avoid food as much as possible.  A friend introduced me to speed, an amphetamine that was commonly available on college campuses to help pull the often needed all-nighter in preparation for an exam, or to complete a research paper.  When I took speed I lost my appetite, and the weight melted off in a few short months.  I was once again happily living in a size 8, and had successfully completed my first round of the yo-yo lifestyle.

IMG_2383

1984: Age 18 – Sophomore at college – Size 8

The next 7  years were filled with a constant fluctuation of gaining 10 pounds – losing 10 pounds.  The weight gain during this time of my life was a result of social eating – eating to celebrate, eating with friends, eating for pleasure.  There was no portion control, no calorie counting – just pure indulgence.  I learned that I could eat what I wanted, and if I just cut way back (stopped eating) for a week or two, I could drop the 10 pounds almost instantly.  Thus reinforcing my yo-yo lifestyle, over and over again.

IMG_2380

1991: age 24 – Work trip to Colorado – size 10

Then one day my guy got on his knee and proposed to me.  After 24 hours of celebration, my mind turned to the details of planning a wedding.  Top of the list was my dress, my dress size, the number on the scale and the fact that this would all be documented by a professional photographer.  I typically fluctuated between a size 8 and size 10, which was respectable.  But I took the yo-yo to a new level and found myself in a brand new number – a size 6 on a my wedding day.

IMG_2388

1992: age 26 – Wedding day – size 6

IMG_2390

1992: age 26 – Honeymoon – the ONLY time in my life that I wore a bikini – size 6

Life was good….and crazy!  We were newlyweds, newly relocated to an area where we didn’t know anyone, and new business owners working 7 days a week in hopes of building a successful restaurant delivery business.  This time I used food to combat all the stressors in my life, but the extra 20 pounds really only added to the stress.  Being close to my thirties now, I was startled to find that the weight didn’t melt off as quickly as it had in my early twenties.

Already 20 pounds overweight, I became pregnant with baby number one, which I believed granted me permission to eat anything and everything I wanted.  Pregnant women are supposed to be fat, right?  I gained 30 pounds during the pregnancy and hit a new personal weight record.  After giving birth, some of that excess weight came off, but 2 1/2 years later I found myself pregnant again, this time with a higher starting weight.

IMG_2375

1995 – age 30 – Only 6 months pregnant, but I look like I’m ready to deliver – size unknown

The first 10 years of motherhood encompassed my thirties.  There were ups and downs in parenting, in my marriage, in my extended family, in my friendships, in life.  With the ups – I would celebrate by eating.  With the downs – I would medicate by eating.  The repetition of the yo-yo cycle became second nature.  There was much in life that brought me happiness, and yet I was never filled with joy.  I would find happiness as the number on the scale decreased, but I had conditioned myself to believe it wouldn’t last, because it never did.  Life was a struggle – I was either struggling to lose weight or struggling to not gain weight.

1996

IMG_2376

1996: age 30 – Brand new mom – size unknown, but 14’s were too small

1999

IMG_2378

1999: age 33 – Maid of Honor in cousin’s wedding – size 10

2001

IMG_2373

2001: age 36 – Summer vacation in the Outer Banks – size 14

2003

IMG_2360

2003: age 38 – Ski trip in Colorado – size 10

I hit ROCK bottom in September, 2005, when I arrived at my surprise 40th birthday celebration, surrounded by 75 people – family and friends from near and far, who loved and accepted me exactly as I was.  But I was drowning in 40 extra pounds that made me feel like a failure, embarrassed, and worthless.  No matter how much unconditional love was being showered on me, I couldn’t accept it or return it, because I certainly didn’t love myself.

IMG_2393

2005: age 40 – Surprise 40th birthday party – yes that’s sweat, it was a hot night in September and we were dancing! – size 14

I could have masked that pain with more eating, but the humiliation, anger and disappointment at myself was so strong, that they became the motivating factor to make drastic changes in my life.  I had previously tried the South Beach diet, Body for Life, Weight Watchers and a multitude of other unsuccessful programs.  In search of something new, I joined Jenny Craig.  And for the first time ever, I committed to an exercise program with a personal trainer.  Exactly one year later, when I turned 41 years old, I was in the best shape of my life!  Not only was I a size 6 again, but I was fit, toned and strong.  I felt great about my accomplishments, I felt great about how I looked and most importantly, I just FELT great!  I knew this would be the very last time I would ever yo-yo again!

IMG_2392

2006: age 41 – Summer barbeque – size 6

BUT IT WASN’T……

I don’t have the answer!  But I’m living this journey as I write, so I invite you to join me again on Wednesday as I share the next chapter and how I am finally discovering what it feels like to be hopeful and to believe in myself.

with Joy & Gratitude,

Choosing Self Acceptance

Crossfit Koolaid

I began my CrossFit journey on Saturday, October 13th, 2012.  YES – I actually know the date, partly because it was one of the scariest days of my life, but mostly because it has changed me (on the inside and the outside) forever.  For me and my family, CrossFit is not a fad or a trend – it is a way of life!

Now don’t worry, I won’t be turning this into a CrossFit blog, but the life lessons I’m learning through CrossFit are too rich and valuable to not share!  They include (but aren’t limited to) concepts such as fear, patience, mental strength and humor.  When I write from a CrossFit perspective my hope is that I can relay the experience or life lesson with clarity while also sharing the benefits of exercise.

IMG_1067

Acceptancethe action or process of being received as adequate or suitable

Self Acceptance – affirmation or acceptance of ones self in spite of weaknesses or deficiencies

On October 13th there was so much I had to accept about myself.  I was 30+ pounds overweight, I hadn’t consistently exercised in over 5 years, my schedule was overbooked as a business owner and mother of 2 teenage boys, and I was closer to 50 than I was to 40  years old!  I could have used any (or all) of those truths about myself as an excuse to prevent me from stepping foot into the ‘box’ (CrossFit lingo for gym).

The struggle to resist the reality of who we are is precisely what keeps us where we are.  Only by accepting myself exactly as I was, with all my flaws and imperfections, was I able to even show up in a room full of strong, healthy, fit athletes.  There were NO surprises that day.  Although I wasn’t the only woman nor was I the oldest, I was absolutely the most overweight and out of shape person attempting to complete the same skills the other CrossFitters were maneuvering through with ease.

At the end of the hour (after countless squats, push ups and abs), I was grateful that I had not only survived, but was actually able to exit the building on my own two feet.  During my drive home I burst into tears at the realization that I wasn’t shunned to the ‘wanna-be’ athlete’s corner of the room, there was no finger pointing, nor was there laughter at my expense.  Quite the contrary, I found the CrossFitting community to be accepting of me, exactly as I was!

talking

Accepting yourself is about embracing the truth of who you are.  It certainly doesn’t mean you have to be happy with it, but it does mean you are not fighting against reality or worse yet living in denial.  I spent 5 years denying I was gaining weight and resisting the possibility that I could actually choose to make time in my ‘busy’ schedule to take care of myself  – to put ME first on the ‘to do’ list!

Self acceptance has to start with listening to what you say about yourself – to yourself!  From the moment we wake up in the morning until we drift off to sleep each night (and maybe even in our dreams) that little voice in our head is whispering to us.  Sometimes it’s so quiet we don’t even hear it, but that doesn’t mean the words lose their power.  That little voice is YOU, commentating moment by moment, your interpretation of you.  You can choose to change the dialogue you are having with yourself, but first you must quiet down and listen to what you are really saying to yourself!

IMG_0873

One of my favorite authors,  Jon Gordon,  is quoted as saying ‘talk to yourself instead of listen to yourself’.  What this means is you get to choose the words you say to yourself.  Be intentional about it instead of listening to the untruths that little voice says about you.  Now, when I talk to myself (instead of listen to my little voice) I say things like:

  • I am SO worth an hour of my time!
  • My birth certificate says I’m 47 – but I feel 29!
  • The number on the scale doesn’t change the depth of my character or the difference I can make in this world!
  • I deserve to tune the world out for 60 minutes and get lost in the moment of me!
  • I’m a work in progress – where I am right now is perfect!

Whatever you choose to say to yourself, make sure you are whispering sweet nothings instead of insults!

with Joy & Gratitude,