Food, Commitment and Me

I have always been a big kid, literally. Since day 1. I essentially came walking out of my mother fully grown. My dad infamously tells the story of how the day after I was born, laying down I reached from the crook of his elbow to his finger tips. He carried me around the hospital like a football until warned several times by a nurse that he shouldn’t be holding me that way.

I was just a big child. I was a big child who was brought home to a family where, simply put, food meant love. As the first grandchild, I was and am very well loved.

I was big, but I was never fat. As a person who has had genetics working against her and who values sleep above all else (except food), I was always a fairly active kid. I am a person who hates running but really loves a runners high. While I never really excelled in any one athletic pursuit, almost all of my childhood to early-teen memories involve me, outside, doing something. I played Softball avidly for most of my young life and loved basketball from the time I was seven until seventeen, when real life responsibilities intervened. I dabbled in team sports in college – holding brief stints on both crew and rugby, but my academic and professional obligations took precedent in my schedule and cut my careers short.

The amount of time I spent running around as kid made it OK that my family never ordered for me off of the children’s menu. I liked food, and even though I was a big kid, I was healthy. I remember more than one time where my tears over one thing or another were tempered by a rice ball or a trip to taco bell; a trip to taco bell where I, as a 10 year old, ordered and consumed all of a taco salad and a burrito supreme which combines for 1,180 calories and 55g of fat. This, of course, was combined with an adult sized mountain dew. This doesn’t make my mom a bad mom. She loved me and nutritional awareness was much less of a thing 25 years ago. She was feeding her hungry child her very favorite food – no more than once or twice a month.

It wasn’t until 9th or 10th grade that my growth was finally outpaced by my male peers. I topped out around 5’9″ and about 170lbs. Even my pediatrician was amazed to hear how much I weighed, because I simply didn’t look it. I was on the upper end of healthy weight but he said all of my numbers were perfect and I had no reason to worry as long as I stayed active.

And then college happened. I stopped playing basketball and softball and lived in a dorm where Subway and french fries and all of the caramel lattes were less than 100 yards away at all times, where naps and alcohol were plentiful and traveling cross campus in the rain to the gym seemed equidistant to climbing Kilimanjaro. I gained around 20lbs Freshman year purely by accident. I went from being someone who rarely worried about her weight to someone who obsessed over it. I had been the same size since 7th grade and then suddenly my pants didn’t fit me anymore.

Early in college, I joined the past generations of women in my family who spent their Saturday mornings at Weight Watchers meetings, listening to other women sob about how the simply didn’t have time in their day for the gym that week or they added extra water to their diet by watering down their coffee (that’s a real thing I heard once). I deprived myself and took diet pills that made my anxiety so bad I once literally lost sleep worrying about a New York Rangers regular season game that hadn’t happened yet. I can’t even think about the irreparable damage I’ve done to myself trying to shed a few pounds. Then The Day happened. I sat through a Weight Watchers meeting with my aunt on a day my string-bean-little-cousin was out of school and attended the meeting with her. At only 10 years old, she was wondering if she needed to diet to lose weight. Why was she here?! She doesn’t need this! I was suddenly so scared for her and her tiny, impressionable brain. On this day, I realized this was the same environment I grew up in and I was severely damaged.

My whole life, every female role model I ever had was always trying to lose 15 lbs. And yeah, I lost 15 Lbs on Weight Watchers and then it got boring and tedious and I gained 20. So now what I know is they were simply doing it wrong. They would weigh in at Weight Watchers on Friday and proceed to binge all weekend only to have to start over on Monday. It is a temporary solution for a permanent challenge. My mom, a diabetic and one of my heroes in life, is an amazing person and literally gives everything and every minute to our family. When I look at her schedule, I genuinely understand her when she says she doesn’t have time to exercise. My greatest wish is she would sacrifice some of what she does for us to make time for herself in a meaningful way.  My mom has never eaten *bad* foods. However, she and for that matter, my whole family, has always simply eaten too much and indulged too often. I watched my mom find herself in a place in life where bariatric surgery was her only real option and suddenly, I was on the same path – too busy to make time to take care of myself and just eating too much too often. I was 20. I knew this would only get worse with age. This is what every woman in my family has ever, ever done as far as I can see.

I sat down and evaluated – I have quit softball, quit lacrosse (after 2 weeks), quit basketball, quit dance, quit crew, quit rugby, quit kickboxing, quit my gym membership – all because other things had taken precedent. I spent years crying because I was always too big for bikinis or I need to buy “plus sized” Halloween costumes. I hated not being able to shop with my friends because stores didn’t carry my size. I hated feeling “big”. I hated the fact that I’d grown to a 200lb 21 year old. I needed to commit to something and I needed to learn to love my body enough to take care of it.

I then tapped in to some insane part of my brain and found CrossFit and my Jetty family. I loved it and I was more committed to anything I’d ever done before. I wasn’t excelling but it was challenging and the people around me inspired me to do more…until I was almost a year in and was seeing no real results. I was more confident and happier in my skin, but I wasn’t losing the weight my peers were losing and I couldn’t figure out why.

I went to my coach to complain and he looked at me and said “Maybe stop fucking eating tacos and drinking beer.”

And he was right. It hurt a lot, but he was right.

I was working my ass off and every night I was ruining my results by indulging constantly. Because in my life and my family, food means love and my parents love me and my boyfriend loves me and I was eating shit non-stop. I was working out harder than I ever had in my life and I was still gaining weight. In summer of 2015, I reached my heaviest ever weight.

So then I realized I needed to make another commitment, break my cycle of quitting again and this time, it was going to be much harder than exercising, a thing I’d always liked to do. I needed to change my almost 25 year long relationship with food and the things I was putting in my body.

So now, I have a fractured thumb so I’m benched from the gym for an undetermined amount of time but I’m preparing to start on a journey to learn how to take care of my body with what’s on my plate. My hopes are that Whole30 teaches me what bad foods and sugar cravings are doing to my body and my mind. I hope it eases my chronic heart burn and anxiety. I hope it will give me the self-efficacy to help me to commit to things for me and my health rather than prioritizing the feelings of others, always.

I hope I can count on the support of my family and friends but I’m ready to take this on mostly alone because it is a change I need and one I deserve.

Start Date: Oct 26, 2015

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3 thoughts on “Food, Commitment and Me

  1. I wish you the best of luck on your journey. Also, I just wanted to let you know I enjoy reading your posts, they’re inspiring. You have a great voice.

  2. Hi Jesse – I read your post and my heart goes out to you, and I understand your struggle . Keep active and positive . When I need to drop pounds, the South Beach Diet has worked for me. Good luck, and keep me posted !

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