We Come From Fightin’ Stock

You’ve heard all about my fertility struggles (more on that soon) and I’ve told you a ton about my mom’s battle with cancer, but today I want to talk about another special lady who has been fighting a fight of her own this past year: my sister Dawn.

Three years ago my sister went to the doctor and discovered that she suffered from severe hypertension and type II diabetes. She was tired all the time, she snored so loud she could wake the dead, and walking short distances made her breathless. To put it mildly, her situation was grim. All of these health issues were caused by obesity. My sister had always struggled with her weight, but it had reached a point where it was a matter of life or death.

And my sister chose life. Since that fateful doctors visit she’s lost 149 pounds. 149 pounds! And most of that loss has been in the last year. She joined Weight Watchers and became a vegetarian. She began cooking healthy, whole-food meals for her family. She started exercising like a fiend. In short, she completely changed her life.

Did it happen over night? Oh hell no. She says the key to her success is setting small, specific goals for herself. And she says, most importantly, that it’s imperative to start each day fresh and to forgive the mistakes of yesterday.

So without further ado, here is a set of before and after pictures of my lovely sister. You rock, Dawn! I am so proud of you.

Then
Now!

The Weighting Game

Weight, eesh. This is a rough topic for me. I could probably write an entire book on this subject, but for your sake, I’ll try to be succinct.

I joined Weight Watchers in May 2010. On the whole, Weight Watchers is awesome. The program encourages you to eat healthy, unprocessed foods—lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. It’s based on a point system and you get a certain point allotment each day. On average, whole foods, like meat and vegetables, have a lower points value than something processed, like, say, a 100 Calorie Pack.

I had always thought of myself as a healthy eater, but this program required me to put everything I ate under a microscope. And I realized I was eating a ton of preservatives, chemicals and refined sugar. So overall, Wight Watchers changed my life for the better. But an eating plan, even the healthiest eating plan, can’t control what goes on in my mind. Weight Watchers is not my therapist and can’t possibly address all of the BS about eating and body image that plays on a constant loop in my head.

My goal was to lose a few pounds for my wedding. Here’s a picture of me wedding dress shopping in September 2009, nine months before I joined.

It’s not like I was a total whale. I mean, I looked fine. But regardless, I wanted to feel extra-special-beautiful on my wedding day. I didn’t want to look at a single picture and think, well that would be a better picture if my arm wasn’t so chunks.

Because I’m a control freak, I discovered I was really, alarmingly good at Weight Watchers. I followed the program to the letter and I lost weight every week. I was feeling great, and I soon saw the scale drop to the lowest I’ve ever seen it in my adult life, even lower than my high school weight. Slowly but surely, I passed the 10 pound mark, and then 15. And I thought, why stop now? I eventually had to pause temporarily after my last wedding dress fitting because if I lost anymore, my dress would be hanging off of me. All told, I lost a little over twenty pounds before my wedding.

Mission accomplished. I felt amazing on my wedding day.

So now that it was over, I could go back to my regular weight, or at least ease up a little. Right?

Wrong. I became convinced that if I gained a single pound, people would start whispering about how I let myself go. Plus, I really liked the way I looked now. For the first time in my life, I felt completely happy with the way my clothes fit on me. I had an excuse to buy all new pants! It was exhilarating. So I continued to lose.

At my lightest, I weighed 118 pounds. Which, really, is not that small for some people. But on me, it didn’t look right. Friends who had previously said I looked good started saying I looked too skinny. When I took off my shirt I could see all of my ribs, clearly defined. And you know what? I liked it. From then on, my measure on whether I was “skinny enough” was how clearly I could see my ribs.

Kind of effed, no?

Fortunately or unfortunately for me, 118 lbs was not sustainable, unless I said goodbye to my social life. Those of you who know me know I enjoy imbibing a healthy share of adult beverages (and alcohol costs a lot of Weight Watchers points). So after a month or two, I went back up to 125-ish and stayed that way until my recent vacation. But that was hard to sustain, too, especially if I wanted to keep boozing it up every weekend. I put myself on a modified Weight Watchers plan. Basically, I ate less than my daily points allotment during the week so I could drink mass amounts of wine and, inevitably, binge eat on the weekends. Even though I was still eating healthy, whole foods, I cut out anything extra. Instead of olive oil, I cooked with Pam, and so on. This went on for months, even though, logically, I knew it couldn’t be very healthy. And it didn’t help that every time I went to a doctor they assured me that I was a normal weight for my height.

How, at 33 years old, could I have let myself get into such an unhealthy cycle? Isn’t this the kind of crap that college-age kids pull? How did I get so addicted to smaller jeans and hearing people say I looked good that I would endanger my own health? The answer is, I don’t know.

It wasn’t until a few weeks before my recent vacation that something clicked in my brain. All of a sudden I was like, oh, maybe my eating habits have something to do with my missing-in-action period. After that, I began eating a little more and, most importantly, I cut back on the alcohol. Seeing the doctor last week just confirmed what the little voice in my head was already telling me.

The doctor tells me to eat more fat. I’m doing this, with gusto. But this probably means I’ll gain some weight. Which is fine, especially if it means I’ll be healthier and able to sustain a pregnancy. I’d pretty much do anything for that. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t struggling with it. For more than a year a large portion of my energy has been focused on tightly controlling what I eat. And I have to let some of that control go now. And it’s scary.

But so worth it.