I was no more than 8 years old, when I heard someone say to me for the first time, "You're fat." I was just a 3rd grader coming home from school, with a bright colored backpack and white socks with ruffles on the end. My pale yellow blouse was untidily tucked into my once, freshly iron-pressed pleated, khaki skirt always happily singing at the top of my lungs. I didn't realize then, those two words would sit at the back of my mind for the next 20 something years.
However, I didn't have to wait 20 years to hear those words again, I heard it over and over, though, not in those exact words, but from the family friend who called me, "Big for my age." or at the doctor's office telling me, at 5 feet 5 inches, 140 lbs, "Don't you go gaining anymore weight or you're going to be overweight." What he didn't know was, I was already fat. Or at least that's what I thought, so "as the mind thinketh" I gained 30 more pounds in the next 2 years. I'm pretty sure my fatness was solidified, when I was walking down the hallway in High School and a boy, yelled over the crowd, of what seemed like a billion students, "That's why you're fat!" Filled with overwhelming shame, I turned away as I felt my eyes start to water. Recalling that moment, I realize how deep and fragile every young girl can be in those maturing years.
As the Universe would have it, at 13 years old, almost all my friends thought they were fat, even the ones, I thought were skinny. For the next few years through my early-mid 20's, I began a yo-yo diet of starvation, to deprivation, to binge eating, back to malnutrition, all the while not realizing I was never addressing the root cause of my relationship with food. One year I'd be 160 lbs, the next 140 lbs, and then back up to 180 lbs, it seemed dauntingly cyclical.
Yoga was one of my first breadths of fresh air as I remember being in a yoga class going through one of the hardest times of my life, and my teacher said something along the lines of, accepting yourself as you are is the first step to healing. In that moment, I did. I accepted every inch of me. The second most monumental moment to my health was a day at work where my director said, you have to act as though you already are in the position. Of course, he was definitely not referring to my body image, but I took those words and applied it. Though magical words, I did not instantly become skinny, in fact, I became frustrated, angry even. I was infuriated constantly as I was reminded that I couldn't live like the people I saw eating burgers and wings and fries and most were 20-40 pounds smaller than me. Despite the constant reminder, I made small adjustments in my daily diet and ensured I was active between yoga, sand volleyball, and going to the gym. I even became vegetarian again knowing I felt better without meat, but physical activity was not my issue. In my mind, at 155 pounds I was still that young girl walking through the hall waiting for someone to call me out. It wasn't until I was standing in the mirror at the hospital at almost 225 lbs after giving birth to my twins, did I realize that the body I saw in front me was all I had left. I had no other body to choose. Binge watching Netflix documentaries during nursing sessions, I came upon a documentary about sugar. Honestly, I've watched so many documentaries on sugar, I can't even tell you which one was the tipping point.
All I can say is, July 1, 2015, I started and completed my first 30 Day Sugar-Free Challenge. I lost 20 lbs, I gained mental clarity, had less mood swings, and my skin cleared up dramatically. 9 Months, 5 Sugar-Free Challenges, and almost 90 pounds loss later I broke the cycle. Spiraling up on this high of health, on May 31, 2016, I switched to a vegan diet, and 3 months later, I was and still am at my smallest since, ELEMENTARY SCHOOL at 137 pounds. Now, of course, I left out the tears, the frustration, the hurt, the pain, & the sacrifice. I argued with myself more times in my head about my addictions to food than I can count. What I realized I did differently this time, and continue to differently is to love myself more than what I want to put in my mouth. I know that sounds harsh or even brass, but it was as simple as that for me. There I would be in the parking lot of some God-forsaken convenience store with a Snicker bar in my hand, wrapper glistening in the sunlight beneath my trembling fingers asking myself, "Do you love yourself more than this Snicker?" I just happened to say, yes, a lot more times than I said, no. The second thing I did differently, is I didn't love the person I imagined myself becoming; instead, I loved the person I saw right in front me.
Fortunately, being vegan I no longer have lonesome conversations with Snicker bars, but every day is not easy, because I still have days where I sit in the car and have conversations about loving myself. I'm grateful, I still say, "Yes", a lot more than I say, "No".