Two months ago, I once again decided to start a journey to better health. I have been down this road so many times in my life. I always start out strong and make great strides in my health goals, but the success does not last. This is largely due to my all-or-nothing mentality. When I want to become healthier, I tend to run with it at full speed to an overly restrictive, unhealthy extreme. It always ends of falling flat because I can’t maintain those eating and exercise habits for too long before my body is completely worn out and starving for nutrition.
A couple of months ago, I felt that urge to go back down that path, and on a whim I joined Weight Watchers even though I knew that wasn’t the best idea given my history of restriction. I was just feeling incredibly frustrated with myself. My life was (and is) going well in so many ways. I have a well-paying job which is providing me opportunities to grow in my career. I have just upgraded my living situation and moved into a gorgeous one bedroom apartment with a fantastic kitchen. With the move, I am now close enough to walk to work. I have an active social life, and I have fun going out in DC with my friends. Yet, I found myself feeling really down because I was in a bad place with my health.
My amazing new kitchen
Over the past year or so, I experienced a steep decline in my physical and mental health. I was depressed and experiencing severe anxiety. Food has always been a huge coping mechanism for stress and other difficult emotions that I want to push aside. I have never been very good at allowing myself to feel my vulnerable emotions. I still struggle with using avoidant behaviors, but nothing has ever been as severe and unhealthy as my use of food to avoid my emotions. As my anxiety was increasing last year, I just kept putting more and more food into my mouth, and it got out of control. I was binging pretty much daily, sometimes multiple times again.
I ignored the growing issues with my health. I pushed those thoughts aside because I felt I needed excessive amounts of food to get through the day. I finally hit a breaking point though when I hit the highest weight of my life (a number I am incredibly ashamed of). I was so heavy and out of shape that I could barely walk a couple blocks without feeling tired and out of breath. If I had to walk any further, it would feel somewhere between incredibly labored and downright painful. I knew something had to change.
When I turned 26, I decided, ‘this is it. I am too old to not take care of myself anymore.’ I desperately wanted to turn my health around. However, I wanted to do things differently this time. I wanted it to stick. So, I finally took the giant step that I knew for years needed to happen. I needed to address my untreated mental health issues., which was not an easy thing to do for someone who hates vulnerability.
I spent years trying to correct my unhealthy eating habits, but I never tried to get at the core of the factors that drove those behaviors. Back in the fall, however, I sought treatment for my depression and anxiety. The goal with this was to work on my mental health and normalize my eating habits before I tried too hard to lose weight.
I ended up losing a bit of weight at first simply due to not shoving endless amounts of food in my mouth all the time. For the first time in my life, I actually learned how to eat an appropriate amount of food to sustain myself during the day instead of either dramatically overeating or starving myself. It was such a great feeling to learn how to honor my hunger and fullness cues.
The bad news was that after all this progress I made, I experienced a few significant life stressors at once. After a few months of healing and recovery, I had a bit of a relapse. I reverted to using binging to get through this difficult time. I ended up gaining back all the weight I had lost since starting recovery.
The good news is that this was short-lived. After I moved, I was able to better deal with these stressors and I made a push to get back on the path to better health. That is when I joined Weight Watchers. It was a spur of the moment decision driven by my anxiety over my physical health and self image. However, I knew with my past patterns of going between binging and restricting that joining a weight loss program could be dangerous for me.
After exploring through the Weight Watchers freestyle program, I realized this program could actually be really good for me. There is a long list of foods that are zero points in this program, including fresh fruits and vegetables, boneless chicken breast, seafood, and even beans and eggs! These are foods that I can pack into my day and keep myself full without using up all my points.
The target points for this program also help keep me in check. The “healthy eating zone” is when I stay between ten points under and five points over my daily point allowance. This means not only that I have an idea of what would be considered overeating but what would be considered under-eating. My goal since starting this program has been to eat enough to at least hit the healthy eating zone everyday.
Over the past two months on Weight Watchers, I have seen my health turn around. I have lost 32 pounds so far. In the beginning, I started by just focusing on tracking my eating. I was already getting in some activity because I walk to work (15 minute walk each way) so I wanted to get my eating back on track first. Once I was satisfied with how my eating habits were progressing, I started to increase my activity. In addition to walking to work five days a week, I have started doing Zumba several times a week. I just finished my first month on a Zumba schedule, and I feel amazing. Zumba is not only great exercise, but it is good for my mental health. Music and dancing bring me so much joy, so it is a workout that truly makes me happy and doesn’t make me feel like I am forcing myself to do something.
I know I still have a long way to go with my physical and mental health, and maintaining progress will always be a struggle for me. However, I see so much potential to really turn my lifestyle around. I feel happier, and I have more energy. I feel better about my body, and my clothes fit better. I am cooking more and enjoying eating again. I am doing what is right for me and my health, and I can’t think of anything better to do for myself.
This journey is for me and not for anyone else. I thought about just keeping all this to myself, but I also thought that if I could encourage others who have been in similar situations and are struggling to believe they can make steps to turn things around, then that would make me so happy. That is why I will be documenting my health journey, and I hope you follow along!
These two pictures were taken two months apart with a 30 pound difference.