Saturday, February 27, 2010

Step one to weighing 338 pounds, growing up fat (0-21 years old)...

I grew up in an upper middle class family in the Hudson Valley of New York State. Growing up I had 1 brother and 1 sister (my wording on that will make sense in tomorrow's post) and two very dysfunctional parents. Actually I think most of the people who grew up with me would say it was a dysfunctional town. It was the kind of place, in smal town America, where everyone smiled and kept up great appearances for the outside world, but almost all the families were melting down behind closed doors. Where moms and dads took their kids to little league and swimming lessons at the same time as abusing them in every way imaginable. Being it was such a small town I went to school with the same 25 or so kids from the time we started pre-school until we graduated high school. Everyone knew everyone and more importantly, everyone judged everyone.

I have never had a healthy relationship with weight or food. I don't know whether I blame my parents, or just inherited their bad habits. Both of my parents were what would now be termed "morbidly obese". Looking back I remember my mom trying to exercise once or twice. I don't ever remember my father doing anything very physical and mostly remember him mocking any time I tried to exercise. My brother had amazing metabolism and could eat anything in the world. My sister was heavy and then incredibly thin and battled anorexia through her teen years and beyond.

As for me, I started out life a thin child, until the age of 5. It took me nearly 20 years to realize that the first turning point in my battle with health came that young. Between the age of 4 and 5 I had tonsillitis every other week, and was treated with antibiotics every other week. I wouldn't know it until I turned 21 but this ended up being a defining decision in the rest of my life. At age 5 I had my tonsils removed and my battle with weight began. I still to this day remember coming out of that surgery and eating nothing but ice cream for the next week and the next 34 years!

From that point forward my weight just continued to increase. By age 13 I weighed 185 pounds and by the time I graduated in 1988 I was over 200 lbs.

Even growing up I knew that I wasn't fat because I ate too much. Eating too much has never been my problem and to this day is still not my problem. I do not eat in excess, I do not eat all the time. My problem was that I would not eat breakfast, lunch would often be very light and then I would eat my heaviest meal at night. And when I did eat it would be the wrong things and in the wrong portion size. Or the other reaction of mine which is not to eat at all, it has never been anything for me to go 18 or more hours easily and not eat a thing. This pattern of not eating throughout the day evenly has haunted me my whole life and is something I am still challenged by.

Growing up fat in a small town was miserable. There is no other way to put it. I was teased and bullied for as long as I can remember and never felt I fit in - at school or at home. I now know I am lucky I was incredibly blessed with a great intellect, but as a child and a teen those aren't the qualities you want or value. You want to be pretty, you want to be popular, you want to feel you belong and I had none of those. And if I am honest I have never found them and search to this day.

In some ways, on the inside, I am still that fat little girl hiding in the back of the room trying not to be seen. That is definitely the part of me that has struggled with working out in public to this day. Joining a gym and having others look at me is a continuing challenge for me on this journey, and one I have struggled with my trainer over. From the moment I made the decision and set up an appt to join Lifetime Fitness (in Eagan MN) I have fought that notion that everyone is laughing at me for even trying to exercise.

My goal was to be as invisible at the gym as possible (which is not easy to do at 311 pounds, my starting weight when I joined in November 2009). As much as I knew I joined because I needed the help of the professionals there, their attention has really weirded me out, to the point I found myself snapping at my trainer if he was talking too loud during our sessions because I knew others were looking at me (and did I mention I have a trainer who likes to bounce around and scream so we were having that conversation constantly). As other staff members (nutritionists, metabolic testers, trainers) were starting to become involved in my program and were talking about me more, I found it harder and harder to get myself to the gym. Even though on a logical level I knew they were all trying to be supportive and helpful, my emotional side had images of them sitting around in their meetings laughing at how little I could do, how ridiculous I look in shorts, or how fat I was.

The ultimate mortification for me was the day I was standing in the locker room and a trainer I had never met walked up to me and said "I just have to tell you what a great job I think you are doing". While a normal person would have taken that as a great compliment, my immediate reaction was to rip my trainer apart for her knowing anything about me. He of course laughed at me (that's a good thing with him) but also seemed to understand that at that moment I just couldn't internalize that this wasn’t Germantown NY, and that I wasn’t the fat little girl being set up by people as the butt of their jokes anymore.

I am not sure I am ever going to find joy in being looked at while working out, but I am happy to say I think I am finally turning a corner on this though, and it is only in the last week to 2 weeks that I am becoming more comfortable with it. I am slowly coming to value that I have found the right people and am working out in a safe environment where both the staff and the members truly do want to support each other and are in it together and where I am not being judged.

Tomorrow will be my real test of that, as I am considering for the first time attempting a group fitness activity at the club. A thought which would have terrified me a month ago. Anyone want to come join us at 9am????

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