My Dieting History

23Jun08

Youth
I was a tiny baby, although not a frail one. My nickname was “Spider” because, as it was described to me, I was nothing but arms and legs.

I grew up out in the country with my older brother, and spent pretty much my entire youth running wild through cow fields and forests.

Growing up, my average meals consisted of sugary cereals for breakfast, a hot lunch from school, and then home for whatever we found for dinner. I remember a lot of lasagna and macaroni and cheese. On Sundays we’d have pancakes or french toast for breakfast. We only ate at fast food places when we were on a car trip, and although we didn’t have a lot of fruits and vegetables lying around, neither did we have a ton of candy bars and sodas.

Snacks were usually sandwiches or toast, and we drank tons of kool-aid.

All in all, a pretty standard, middle-of-the-road youth. Not super-healthy perhaps, but neither was it the awful start given to most of the people I’ve talked to. Remind me to thank my mother for not getting me addicted to sodas. I’d be in much worse shape today if I considered them my primary source of drink.

I was thin as a rail all the way to college.

Appearance Matters
I never really understood all the hype about appearance and weight.

I mean, obviously, if you were fat it was because you ate too much, right? And if you were ugly, that was okay as long as you bathed. What’s the big deal?

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I started to notice that yes, appearance does matter. It matters to boys, for one thing. But it matters to your friends, as well. And when you’re the least-cool friend in your circle of companions, you’re often the one that gets left out of a lot of activities.

I got a new wardrobe, and suddenly I was the most popular kid in my class. It was like someone flipped a switch. Not everyone gets to learn that lesson quite as sharply as I did – to go from the girl that was kinda nice but not really cool to be seen hanging around with to coming back from summer vacation with a few babydoll t-shirts and some bell-bottoms and all the sudden getting invited to a lot of parties.

Appearance matters, regardless of what any well-meaning loved one or motivational speaker may say. It does. Even if you don’t have to let it ruin your life, you have to realize that people do judge you based on your appearance and even people who have known you for years will treat you differently based on very small changes.

College
So, as many weight-gain stories do, my life turned around once I hit college.

My first year of college, I did not weigh enough to give blood.

I weighed 105 pounds and wore a size 4, and I want to stress that at that point, I wasn’t trying. I was eating whatever I wanted, and as much as I wanted.

But the trick was that I didn’t want very much. My eating habits weren’t healthy, but they were frugal. You wouldn’t catch me even glancing at a salad, but I’d take a sandwich or a small bowl of mac’n’cheese over fries and fried chicken.

I had a very limited diet going into college. Never having eaten out very much, i didn’t enjoy the taste of those kinds of foods. But neither did I enjoy the taste of other foods as well. It wasn’t until late high school that I started adding salt and pepper to my eggs. Food wasn’t a pleasure for me, it was sustenance. Something you ate because it was time to eat.

In college, I didn’t have a kitchen anymore. I had a single little hot pot that I could, with some effort, manage to cook mac’n’cheese on, or ramen noodles, but that was it. My friends began to treat me to unhealthy fast food, and it was much easier and quicker than cooking myself.

I developed a taste for bad foods, without even coming close to liking good foods. Onions? Tomatoes? Pfft. Don’t fool yourself.

My vegetable intake went way down, and my fried and fatty foods went way up.

But still, I wasn’t eating a lot – so I didn’t gain very fast. And I knew I had plenty of room I needed to gain – I was underweight and I knew it, but I wasn’t worried about it because I hadn’t been dieting. Can’t be unhealthy unless you’re deliberately starving yourself, right?

Apartment Life
Then I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment with my husband.

We were living very frugally – we ate tons and tons of rice-a-roni, wrapped in tortillas with sour cream and corn.

I started to eat larger portions, but since it was still reasonably decent food and I was constantly running around campus and stressed out from classes, I didn’t gain very much.

Instead of gaining weight, I gained bad dietary habits.

College ended, I got a well-paying job, and all the sudden we had money and lived in an apartment in a semi-shady neighborhood in a giant city with a big crime rate.

When I left college, I was a size 6, and I saw no problem with anything regarding my health or my weight.

My diet shifted. I could afford all those cakes and cookies I so coveted, and so I bought them. It wasn’t safe to go for walks around the block, so my exercise levels dropped off sharply. I worked in an office in front of a computer and came home to sit in front of a computer and play video games with my husband for our at-home time.

I grew.

By the time we left that city, I had grown to a size 12. That’s double what I had been only a year and a half ago, when I left college. But although I was a little concerned at just how much I grew, 12 is still hardly gigantic. In fact, it was a lot healthier than the size 4 I’d been when I started college, right?

Recently
But I’ve continued to grow.

When I hit size 14, I asked my doctor whether there was something wrong with me. She said that all women gain weight around the age I was – that the ballooning affect was expected for those in the 23-32 age bracket, and that it was completely normal. What did the older women in my family look like, she asked? I had to admit that the average weight of all women older than 35 in my family was far above normal, though I’d never noticed it before. I guess that was just my lot in life, right?

I didn’t like it though.

For the first time, I started looking at diet books with a serious eye. Started contemplating exercising. Read up on carbs and fats and eggs and mayonnaise.

A Diet That Worked?
No matter what I’ve tried, I have only lost weight one time in my life.

I went on the South Beach Diet for a few weeks (and subsequently fell off because my husband had quit earlier and it was too hard to keep it up on my own). During that time, I was on a treadmill every weekday, I was limiting the size of my portions very strictly, and I was water fasting one day every week.

I’ll discuss some more details of why it failed in a later post, since there’s more to it than just that.

Where I Stand
I’m currently a size 14, pushing a little bit too close to comfort to a size 16.

I am 5’3 and I weight 172 pounds.

It’s time I do something about this, before it becomes a problem I can’t control, or that I don’t feel motivated enough to control.

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