I wasn’t sure I could do it.
And I wasn’t sure I wanted to.
I’d grown used to being the curvy girl — the one with the “pretty face.” Even as my dress size climbed through my teens and twenties, I refused to give in to self-doubt. I didn’t want to focus on my weight — even though, in reality, I already was.
When I needed larger jeans, I bought them.
When I wanted to have a second cupcake, I did.
I’d gotten listless, cranky, easily tired or sick. But I wasn’t a woman accustomed to depriving herself or scaling back. I was afraid to address the issue of my climbing weight because I “didn’t want to obsess about it,” as I told my fiancé. The idea of a weight loss program where I’d have to track points — and be held accountable for everything that passed through my lips — intimidated the heck out of me. I played it off as an annoyance, but the truth?
The truth was that I was scared.
The idea of joining Weight Watchers* had entered my mind years before, mostly as a method of control, but I shunned it because I was afraid my “last-ditch effort” to get healthy with the program wouldn’t work . . . and where would I be then?
I’d tried the gym, sweating miserably on a treadmill and bored out of my skull. I’d briefly embraced Zumba classes, trekking out on weeknights to dance with coworkers until an injury sidelined a friend . . . and I used her absence as an excuse to bail.
I went through a phase where I upped my veggie intake, tried to scale back on eating out, stepped away from my favorite hobby — baking — so we wouldn’t have so many goodies hanging around.
Nothing worked. After a while, I always slipped back into my old routines.
I just didn’t have the right tools.
Though I’m probably going to come across as a Weight Watchers disciple, I really feel passionate about the program — because it changed my life. WW became my new home-away-from-home in mid-January 2013, the day after a minor car crash rocked my world. No one was hurt, thankfully, but it was my first real accident — and it shook me to my core. Plagued by sudden “what ifs?” and anxiety, I suddenly knew it was time to get serious . . . about my life.
I’d been engaged for less than a month, heavier than I’d ever been, and suddenly dealing with two weddings to plan — mine and my sister’s. As I talked with insurance companies about my car accident and tried not to imagine what would have happened if the truck that hit me had been going just a little faster on a dark night, I began to process my impending move from my parents’ house while my fiancé and I simultaneously discussed guest lists and wedding venues.
I was overwhelmed. When Spencer started talking about weight loss, I felt emotionally exhausted — and not ready to even try. I almost let those little fires, those anxieties, keep me from ever stepping foot into Weight Watchers. But when my fiancé suggested going to a meeting “just to try it out,” something told me to go.
It took guts for me to walk into that first meeting — to finally admit I wanted to change. I was so afraid of losing confidence, of “admitting defeat” about my physical self, that I resisted the idea of needing to get healthy.
But I’d seen family members and friends felled by illness. I had my own health scare a month earlier — at a time when I should have been celebrating my engagement. At 28, I knew my body wasn’t going to simply “bounce back” from poor decisions.
It was time.
To everyone’s shock — especially my own — I embraced Weight Watchers with a vigor typically reserved for religion. From the moment I was handed the tools to make better decisions about my food and my life, I gained a sense of confidence. Instead of deprived, I felt empowered.
Tracking my food came naturally, lending a sense of control to an area of my life that had felt haphazard for so long. I rediscovered my love for fruit and vegetables, especially apples, and learned new ways to prepare them. I started (healthy) snacking.
I’d been worried I’d become “obsessed” with what I was eating, tracking everything to a T . . . and I did.
But it’s been awesome.
Where once I’d eat a sleeve of cookies and feel guilty all night, I learned to have two, track them and move on with my day. I hadn’t realized all the negative self-talk I’d been foisting upon myself, making less-healthy decisions and then berating myself for them.
Portion control became my best friend. I educated myself on smarter choices, on the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables, on all the little choices I thought were good for me that were actually a form of self-sabotage. In short, I’d been eating way too much — and out of emotion. Food was love, and food was comfort. I ate until I felt full to bursting because . . . that was just what I did.
I had to retrain myself. Retrain my body, retrain my brain.
It hasn’t been easy. It took patience, dedication, discipline. Food had been my drug—my crutch—for so long, and there were times it took a Herculean effort (and literally sitting on my hands) to resist reaching for the bread basket.
But I kept with it, never missing a Wednesday weigh-in, because I knew I was working toward the best possible goal: getting healthy for myself, my family and my soon-to-be husband.
When I took a step back (and I did), I learned to be gentle with myself. To be patient.
When I gained some weeks, I chose to remember I was in this for a lifetime — and that rises and falls were inevitable.
That’s the beauty of Weight Watchers — and why it worked for me: I’m not on a diet. I didn’t start the program with a stopping point in mind, figuring at some mystical point I’d be “done.” Being healthy means you’re never “done” . . . but I didn’t realize that the tiny changes I was making were adding up to a complete reboot of my relationship with food.
Some folks assumed I was losing weight for the wedding, a natural thought in our “Say Yes to the Dress” culture. It was easier to let them think I was another image-conscious bride than to explain the truth: that my engagement was merely the wake-up call I needed to realize the rest of my life was waiting, and I didn’t need to bring all those extra pounds into it. It was about so much more than a white gown.
I dropped 4 lbs. in the first month, amazed to see the number on the scale sliding down. I’d grown so used to cringing at the doctor’s office, the only time I ever weighed myself, that wanting to peer at those digits was a new feeling.
I tried on and bought a wedding dress in March, already 10 pounds lighter than when I’d started — but I’d have to leave it for alterations in August after losing three dress sizes.
On Dec. 11, almost exactly 11 months since I started the program, I officially hit my goal weight: a number that placed me below the overweight zone for the first time in my adult life. I’ve lost 34 lbs. since Jan. 16, which makes my fingers tingle as I type.
But that’s really just a number.
What have I really lost? My guilt. My awkwardness. My fear of having my photo taken and pasted on Facebook for all the world to see, wondering how much old friends and acquaintances are judging my appearance. Never one obsessed with looks, it pains me to admit how much I worried about what others thought of my body . . . but I did.
And what did I gain? Confidence. Swagger. Comfort. Peace. A sense of control that was so lacking in my everyday life—the idea that I’m not ruled by food, though I can still enjoy it (and do). If anything, I enjoy food more now — because I’m making better choices, ones that make me happy. Because I don’t eat pumpkin pie twice a week, my rare indulgence tastes sweeter than the sweetest thing in the world.
I feared weight loss would be all about deprivation. That I’d have to starve myself, get angry with myself, berate myself. That I’d feel so much worse before I’d feel better.
But I feel awesome. I’ve felt motivated and empowered from the beginning. For finally doing something instead of just talking, talking, and for committing to my health.
For committing to myself.
Standing here at the “finish line,” I know my journey is really just beginning — and I feel far more than 34 lbs. lighter. A weight has been lifted from my shoulders, literally and metaphorically, and if I’d known I could feel this good? Well, I would have done this years ago.
It started with a single step: acknowledging that I wanted to change. And with the encouragement and support of my husband, family and friends, I just kept taking tiny steps toward one happy Megan.
But it was a solitary journey, too: one I began for myself.
And I am proud. Very proud.
If you’re thinking about tackling a challenge and getting gutsy in 2014, remember that the time is now. Every cliché you’ve ever heard about committing to yourself and being worth it is absolutely true. You are worth it, and you can do it. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.
Be your own biggest fan . . .
. . . and if you’re looking for a sign, as they say?
Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals. This is my entry in Jessica Lawlor’s #GetGutsy Essay Contest.
To get involved and share your own gutsy story,
check out this post for contest details.
*This post was not sponsored by Weight Watchers — I’m just very passionate about the program. All opinions are my own. Though I was not asked to nor compensated for sharing my thoughts, clicking on a Weight Watchers link and signing up for the program may grant me a referral credit.