Note: Every post I write is personal, but this one is especially so. Stream-of-consciousness coming your way…
Every Thursday on Instagram, I see people posting lots of #tbt photos: Throw Back Thursday. Photos from before the days of digital life and selfies.
I don't have a lot of old photos scanned, but I saw these when I was going through my photos to pull one for #tbt. I was 17. I had spend my 3rd consecutive summer at fat camp, where my schedule looked like this:
- 7am: 1 mile jog around the track
- 8am: 350 calorie breakfast
- 9am: 1 hour of step aerobics
- 10:30am: 1 hour of water aerobics
- noon: 400 calorie lunch
- 1:30pm: 1 hour mountain biking
- 3:00pm: 1 hour kickboxing
- 5pm: 400 calorie dinner
- 8pm: 30-50 calorie freezer pop
So a total of 4.5 hours of exercise a day at 1200 calories. I lost an average of 2 pounds per week doing that for 8 weeks. I came home from California and tried to keep it up by getting up at 5am to get to the gym before school, and then would have swim team or tennis team practice after school. I started gaining weight back.
I told myself I was a hideous monster. I was weak. I was lazy. I wasn't worth anything. I couldn't ever get under 215 pounds (I'm 5'10).
This hideous monster perception has continued ever since then in varying degrees. When you attend your first aerobics class at the age of 5 (albeit put in a corner on an exercise mat), are sent to a child psychologist to figure out why you're big before you're 10, then are on Fen-Phen by the age of 14, then to fat camp (even though I still swear fat camp was one of the best experiences of my life – socially) in the summers, I got to college and just broke down. That's how you gain hundreds of pounds in 4 years. Shame spiral.
Post-college I did low calorie diets, ketogenic diets (Atkins super low carb), and even in the past 3 years, two rounds of HCG under medical supervision. At first, they seem to work. But it's super slow progress compared to others. It's infuriating. And I break down. I thought for sure training for a half marathon where I burned over 1200 calories per training session would help me lose weight. Instead, I gained a few pounds.
A friend who has seen me at weights from my lowest to highest sent me a link to this blog post earlier this week: “HCG, Intermittent Fasting, the Unholy Trinity of Metabolic Downregulation.” I won't pretend to know all the science behind these things, but I have been reading more about this metabolic resistance in people who have put themselves through the extreme diet and exercise Olympics like myself.
You want to know where my damaged mind goes when I read these things?
“That's all fine and good, but you're just using it as an excuse not to keep trying.”
Then I buckle down and cut more carbs or more calories. And nothing happens.
“But you're not trying hard enough.”
Then I slide into a deeper depression (clinically – not just sad).
Then I am likely to find a time to binge.
“You're just lazy and won't succeed.”
My body feels good. My mind is exhausted. I'm looking for a mental break. I'm trying to find the switch inside my shattered thoughts that can shut off the voices. My quest has come up empty so far, but I'll keep searching.
For now, I want to say to that #tbt girl and the one typing these words on my laptop: You are enough. You are strong enough, healthy enough, pretty enough, smart enough.
It's great to have friends who can help you find the silver lining. After sending me that article about metabolic downregulation, this conversation happened:
Her: No wonder why your body can survive on famine food
Me: My body totally can survive on famine food. It's insane. If the world ended, I'd be the last to die.
Her: APOCALYPSE SURVIVOR. YOU WIN!
At least it's something 🙂