I gained 40 lbs, and here's what else I gained

I’ve gained 40 pounds in the last two years. I went up two pants sizes, one dress size, and have had to replace majority of my wardrobe. I’ve also received dozens of well intended comments from people who are honestly just trying to be nice. “Oh, but you still look great!” “But you look so strong!” Or my personal favorite. “Really? You can’t even tell!” Don’t get me wrong, have no ill feelings towards anyone for these comments. I totally understand! We have been programmed in our society to see weight gain as “bad” and something to be ashamed of. But here’s the thing - I’m not ashamed of my weight gain. Why not? Because those forty pounds are the result of two years of hard work recovering from my eating disorder. Because they are also the result of supporting a close family member through her own battle with anorexia. Because I’m healthier both mentally and physically than I have been in years. And, because I’ve gained so much more than just weight.

I gained a realization that I am so much more than how much I weigh. I spent half a lifetime basing all of my self worth on the number on the scale. Now, I don’t even own a scale. Instead of spending hours of my time counting calories, tracking my workouts, and researching the latest diet craze, I’m able to focus more on other priorities in life. Like being a kind and caring friend. Like being a supportive partner for my husband. Like being a great mom. Like giving back and volunteering my time helping others. These are the qualities I now take pride in and that make me feel self-fulfilled.

IMG_0257.JPG

I gained two weeks of guilt-free vacation memories with my family. We were fortunate enough to spend two weeks in Hawaii for a family vacation this past July. It was the first vacation since childhood that I didn’t worry about the weight I gained on vacation. Even though I was in a bathing suit every single day, I ate ALL the food, and didn’t obsess about exercising to burn it off. Yes, I hiked, snorkeled, and paddle-boarded, but not to earn my dinner. I did it because it was FUN! And some days I opted to just lay on the beach and read my book. At the end of the vacation, instead of beating myself up because my shorts felt tight, I threw on my stretchy yoga pants and wished we could stay another week.

I gained more empathy for people in larger bodies. Weight does not equal health, yet most people assume they can judge someone’s health simply based on how much space they take up in this world. Larger people are regularly fat shamed by their doctors, co-workers, friends, family, and society as a whole. It is nothing more than shameless bullying, and it needs to stop.

I gained the confirmation that my husband truly loves me at any size. Not that I ever really doubted it. I’ve known from the start that he loves me unconditionally - it’s one of the reasons why I married him. But it’s nice to know that he finds me just as sexy with my new body - and maybe even more so!!!

Speaking of sexy - I gained CURVES! I mean, I’m no Kardashian, but it’s nice to have some boobs and booty for the first time in many years! ;-)

And most importantly, I gained a more realistic body size to model for my daughters. Our girls are inundated with ridiculous and often unattainable beauty standards in every direction they turn. The size of the average model is still a size 0-2, while 68% of American women wear a size 14 or above. And still, magazine covers are photoshopped to increase bust size, reduce waist and hip size, and remove any and all blemishes. Even pictures of “real” people on social media are often taken from the “ideal” slimming angle and use filters that erase all flaws and imperfections. I now take pride in the fact that when my girls look at me they see an example of a real women, complete with belly rolls, cellulite, and thick thighs. AND they see me still wearing a bikini and ROCKING it.

Let it go!

“Wow – they’ve really let themselves go!”

How many times have you heard that phrase, or even said it to yourself in your head?  It’s not always meant to be cruel, although many times it is.  Sometimes we say it out of concern.  Maybe it’s someone who never leaves the house without a full face of make-up, or always has the perfect hair, but now is seen more often with a bare face and a messy bun.  Maybe it’s a friend, who usually looks totally put together, but is suddenly wearing only sweatpants and ripped t-shirts. Maybe it’s someone who we notice has gained weight.

Often times our first assumption is that these are “bad” changes.  That there is something wrong.  That they must be struggling with something.  That they may have been sick.  That maybe someone in his or her family has been sick.  Something causing them to “let themselves go.”  And sometimes our assumptions are correct.

But maybe, just maybe, this time these changes are actually a GOOD thing.  Maybe instead of letting themselves go, they are letting “IT” go. 

Maybe she has let go of being self conscious of all the minor imperfections in her face, and instead of spending time concealing them, spends extra time at the breakfast table with her high school senior who will soon be off to college.

Maybe he has let go of that high stress job that forced him to dress up every day, and instead is doing something that he loves.

Maybe she’s decided to let go of some of the money she spends at the hair salon every month, and instead is putting that money towards a family vacation that will create lasting memories.

Maybe he or she has let go of constant calorie counting and punishing workouts.  Maybe she has decided to enjoy eating ice cream with her kids again.  Maybe he has chosen to spend more time with his family over going to the gym 6 days a week. Maybe she’s discovered that a casual bike ride with a friend is just as good for her health and even better for her soul.  Maybe she has decided to accept and love her body at the size it naturally wants to be and stop forcing it to be something that it’s not.

Maybe he or she has been letting go of the societal belief that your appearance defines you, and has decided to focus on other priorities in life.

Maybe they have decided to let “IT” go, and are actually much happier because of it.


Learn more about letting it go, quieting that inner critical voice, and cultivating your own self-love at one of our
Be Body Positive Workshops!

I chose this...

Like most people in my generation, I grew up in a family fully immersed in diet culture.  My parents were always trying the latest fad diet.  Skipping meals was a celebration of willpower.  To be thin was to be happy and healthy.  It was a tough place to be for a chubby kid who became an even chubbier teenager and young adult.  I felt like no one was happy with the way I looked – especially not myself.

Much like the rest of my family, I am also a perfectionist, so it’s no surprise that in my 20s when I decided to lose the weight and I went ALL IN.  I obsessively counted every calorie.  I started exercising to burn more calories.  I joyfully celebrated every pound I lost.  Friends and family praised my progress.  And when my cravings for “bad” foods got too great, I had the perfect solution.   I simply binged and purged.

My eating disorder continued into my 30s and 40s, even through marriage and two beautiful children.  As a stay at home mom wanting a second, part-time career, I joined the fitness industry.  It was perfect - I could get paid to feed my obsession with being thin!  I was teaching 8-10 fitness classes a week, eating no more than 1200 calories on a “good” day, and purging on my bad days.  Every morning the scale determined my happiness for the day.  I thrived on the admiration from others.  Outwardly I was the picture of health, but inside I was the least healthy both physically and mentally than I had ever been in my life.  It was my dirty little secret, and I was a total fraud.

Then someone very close to me was diagnosed with an eating disorder, and my world came crashing down around me.  How could I support this person in their recovery when I was unwilling to face my own demons?  How could I celebrate their strength and yet not admit my own weaknesses?  How could I set a good example if I continued to live the life of a hypocrite?  The choice was clear.

Young2018-75.jpg

Recovery is not a linear journey.  It is a winding road of ups and downs.  I am learning to love this new body I am in, and take joy in teaching others to love themselves as well.  And when I am feeling particularly down on myself, or feeling judged by a society that still believes you have to be thin to be healthy, I remind myself that I chose this.  I chose health over sickness.  I chose a nourished body over an “ideal” body.  I chose to have ice cream with my kids.  I chose happiness over obsessiveness. I chose recovery.  

And it was the best choice I ever made.