Health comes first

It has been a lifelong struggle to get my weight under control. When I was a child, I was always taller than my peers. This led to being heavier and needing larger clothes (naturally), but also a lot of bullying because I was ‘fat’. I believed that I was too heavy, especially because my younger sister has always been stick thin naturally.

When I look back to my childhood pictures, I now know that I wasn’t fat. I just had a different build than my sister and was tall, which warped my perception of myself. Unfortunately, my low self image encouraged bad behaviors. I wasn’t physically capable of being petite, I was told nobody would ever find me attractive and I believed it to the point where I just ate whatever. Why bother watching what I eat when my ‘dream self’ is unattainable?

Combine this with a less than ideal natural metabolism and tall genes, and by early 2012 I was at my highest weight. I’m not sure how heavy I was, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was 300lbs or more. When my depression maxed out in that same year, I stopped eating and lost weight due to starvation. When I did eat, my weight fluctuated dramatically upwards. I was a mess, emotionally and physically!

Now it’s mid-2015 and I feel better than I have in a very long time. Doubt is still deeply ingrained in my self-image, but there is an upwards trend in my positive self-image too. I feel more comfortable dressing in shorter skirts. I feel more comfortable with more revealing clothing. Heck, I’ve been catcalled for the first time in my life only recently!

I’m sure that my minimum 30lbs (suspected 40lbs) weight loss has contributed, but I can’t deny that my attitude has improved for the best too. Confidence is sexy, and I feel pretty darn confident a lot of the time now! My boyfriend’s unconditional acceptance of my body – skinny or fat makes no difference to him – has been more encouraging even than people liking me for being big.

I’ve made lifestyle changes that fit me. I stopped listening to what people told me I ‘should do’. I shouldn’t do anything that doesn’t work for me, and it’s really hard to forge your own path when you’re bombarded with ‘But this worked for me! IT’S THE ONLY THING THAT WORKS!’ from twenty different directions.

What worked for me is the following:

  • Testing my blood sugar frequently. In an effort to eat right, you need to know how food affects your body. As a diabetic this is doubly important, but food can be deceptive. Seeing a visual in numbers how my body takes to different foods is the best guideline for adapting my lifestyle.
  • Exercising on a stationary bike. Due to my physical limitations, a lot of exercise is off limits or discouraged. Bikes however are low impact if adjusted right and there’s nothing more satisfying than doing 45 minutes on the bike after a meal and seeing your bloodsugar go down to compensate for what you ate.
  • Realizing not all sugars are equal. Honey tends to be a better choice than table sugar, if only for the fructose/glucose balance and the smaller amounts necessary to obtain the same level of sweetness. Agave can be really bad for you if your body is low on insulin production, because it’s mainly fructose which decreases insulin production. On the other hand, it can help lower the insulin output of an overactive pancreas if that’s your problem. Nobody is the same, so what is good for some folks is bad for others.
  • Fats and fibers affect the digestion process and glucose absorption, so I make sure to include both in my diet. Brown rice makes you feel fuller and aids your bowel movements, so you eat less and digest better. (Good) fats have been linked to being satiated quicker and longer, which leads to reduced eating even if the product packs more calories than fat free. (And fat free tends to be stuffed with sugar to compensate!) Both also aid in avoiding a blood sugar spike. This is why using regular milk, or nut milk with added sugars, isn’t so awful when you use it to make your morning oatmeal, and why homemade ice cream with a high heavy cream content can be a diabetic friendly snack despite its sweetness.
  • Making better choices is half the work. If I want a big breakfast, I can easily choose a salad for lunch. If I want to eat fast food, I can as long as I promise myself to do a 45 minute bike ride afterwards. It’s totally fine to eat something unhealthy, as long as I limit my serving size. Want a burger? Have a big salad before the burger and get a small burger. I never have to feel guilty for eating food I enjoy again, and it’s liberating as shit. Not putting restrictions on myself by flat out denying all sorts of foods is the best way for me to stick to a healthy program. If the choice is taken from me, it makes me want what’s bad so much more. Now it’s easy to say “I can have this meat as long as I pick the one that’s not breaded” or “I can have this potato serving as long as I eat the same serving size in vegetables with it” instead of “No meat like that ever” or “You have to remove all potatoes from your diet”.

Although my weight isn’t dropping much at all (though it is slowly and steadily), I can tell that my body is changing in terms of inches and proportions. My abs are developing, so while my gut may not be disappearing as I’d like it to, the muscle definition beneath the fat changes how it looks. That reduces the inches. My legs are becoming stronger and more defined. My overall health is improving because my blood sugar is within the normal ranges now.

I’m no longer doing it for the weight to be honest. Maybe that’s the biggest change and driving factor for my success. Weight is a useless number because it’s just a number, not a representation for health. Skinny people can be unhealthy. Someone as heavy as I am can live healthily without being skinny. What matters is how I treat my body, and I’d like to think I’m treating it just right. Why else would 270lbs look like this?

 

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