Sorry, Not Sorry

I talk about myself a lot. Specifically, I talk about my weight loss, my fitness and my diet a lot. I think about it a lot, I write about it, I post on Facebook about it; I field questions and respond to comments about it a lot. As a humble wall flower-type person by nature, the phenomenon of simply putting my own needs first feels awkward and strangely egotistical; therefore, the broken-record of dialog makes me extremely self-conscious and, at times, distressed. I worry that I will be written off as vain and self-consumed, or worse, that others will believe I am pushing my lifestyle on them. As a result, I often feel compelled to apologize for these aspects of my life being ever present in conversation and I attempt to marginalize them in my interactions with friends. I can’t help but think everyone is sick to death of hearing about it. But it is time for me to stop making apologies.

My transformation is nearly always in the forefront of my mind, whether I am contemplating my next meal plan, deciding on my next workout or simply visualizing goals. Of course I think about other things – work, relationships, activities and all the normal things we all think about on a daily basis. I don’t always instigate conversations with others regarding my weight loss; although I always respond openly and graciously when people bring it up. This hasn’t always been the case. There have been times over the course of this journey when my focus shifted to other things and, by and large, the results have been detrimental to my progress. Both professional setbacks and relationship catastrophes have sent me down emotional rabbit holes, setting off bouts of yo-yoing between dedication and total apathy regarding my health and wellbeing. When the dust settled and I regained my composure in a lasting way at the end of last year, I discovered I had also regained 33 pounds. This is what happens when I let my foot off the gas – when I don’t make my weight loss, my fitness and my diet a priority.

I am truly passionate about the changes I have made in my life – not because I’m physically smaller, certainly not because I am closer to fitting into some nonsensical societal expectation of my body – but because I am so blissfully happy. It is a joyous experience to do things you’ve always wanted to do but never believed possible. It lifts the spirits to feel truly healthy and alive and to feel that the life stretched out before you is one of infinite possibilities. If I could have felt this way 110 pounds heavier, I would have stayed 110 pounds heavier, but I didn’t. I felt lethargic, weighed down both physically and spiritually, destined for nothing greater than mediocrity. I lived my life in black and white while yearning for a life in Technicolor. I wanted a life of adventure and my body at that size could never have carried me though that kind of life. But I do not share my story because I think anyone else needs to lose weight. It isn’t my aspiration to inspire people to get thin – I merely hope to inspire others to be or do whatever will make them as happy as this has made me. If someone wants to take the telling of my story and twist it, internalize it and make it seem as if it comes from a place of judgment—let’s set the record straight, it doesn’t.

It’s a funny thing how we each perceive the world through our own lens, run all we see, hear and experience through our own filters. My own hang-ups can influence the way I see myself, causing me to become self-conscious about how often I talk about this aspect of my life, allowing me to make assumptions about what others may be thinking or feeling about me. When I step back and look at my intent – my intent I see clearly, my intent comes from my love both for myself and for the people in my life – I realize I don’t need to check myself, to downplay my achievements or quickly change the subject and dodge being the topic of conversation. I needn’t feel ashamed that my success has become a sort of identifier for me. And, above all else, I have absolutely no reason to apologize.

Settle? Or Mettle?

Inevitably, whenever we set out to do something new, hopes and expectations arise. My weight loss journey was no different. Of course, I had lots of silly little superficial teen rom-com type hopes – the ugly ducking turning into a swan, mercilessly rebuffing the men who had rejected me out of hand in the past – the kinds of expectations, as it turns out, whose realities are strictly confined to Rachel Leigh Cook characters and spools of celluloid film. I also formed notions of what my body would and could become, had ideas for the changes I’d like to see – but they were limited, reigned-in. I felt just getting from a size 24 to a size 12 would be good enough. After all, that is a significant change. Having settled most of my life – on jobs that didn’t challenge me and relationships with people who didn’t deserve me – I set myself up years in advance to accept mediocre results. I settled for both literally and figuratively sitting and watching as life passed me by. I convinced myself that observing was the next best thing to participating. I can’t honestly think of a single situation in which settling has improved the quality of my life.

It would be easy to settle on my weight loss goals and expectations. I think it’s common to assume an obese person may lose weight, but they will never be a fit person. The best we can hope for is to be an average-sized, possibly slightly overweight body. Someone who is 15-20 pounds overweight can be expected to lose the weight and have a slim, athletic physique but, for some reason, a person 150-200 pounds overweight is rarely held to the same expectations. I bought into this belief, too. I had written myself off as heavily framed. From the very start of this process until recently, I was content to accept always being a bit chubby. Here I am now, a size 12 and suddenly I am questioning everything.

I was not a large child. In fact, I was quite the opposite. I was a lanky, spindly child with long lean limbs and knobby knees and elbows – the quintessential bean pole. Tall as I may have been for my age, I always had a delicate frame. The women in my family are all slender-framed women. Why, then, had I for so long settled on the idea that I am the family’s big-boned anomaly? Having this epiphany of sorts, I started researching body fat percentages and healthy weight ranges for women of my height and age regardless of weight histories. I pulled high school algebra from the dark, cobwebbed recesses of my brain and made calculations – what would my weight be at the average body fat percentage for women (25-31%)? What would be my weight be at fitness level (21-24%)? Is average good enough?

The author as a string bean.
The author as a string bean.

I find myself now, for the first time, unwilling to settle. As I pulled and sorted all my size 14 and 16 pants for the Goodwill this past weekend, I realized what I wanted. I have worked myself to exhaustion in the gym; I am deeply dedicated to a healthy, wholesome diet. What I truly want is not to be a size 12. What I want is to be the best possible version of myself, the most physically fit, athletic and vibrant version of myself. I want to be what I would have been had I never gained the weight in the first place. And, finally, I am starting to see that isn’t asking for too much. I was willing to fight for the now 107.5 pounds I have already lost. Now I know I have the mettle to fight for body composition of 21% body fat and 38 more pounds lost. While the naysayers may discourage me, tell me if I lose another 40 pounds “there will be nothing left,” I know differently. I know what 5’10” and 21% body fat should look like. I will have the gumption to not be complacent. Good enough may be good enough for others but it simply isn’t good enough for me anymore.