I love a good story. I’ve always been a fan of movies, books, and interior design shows. I love the transformation but more importantly, I love the journey. For the most part, there’s a happy ending. It’s safe to assume the main character isn’t going to be killed off in the 3rd chapter of a 4 books series. The best friend, played by an A-list actor probably won’t be going anywhere until the end of the movie. Typically, the gutted house that seems to have a mountain of expensive structural issues isn’t going to fall down or blow up. It all works out in the end, but the real fun is seeing how people deal with what’s thrown at them in the process of moving toward a place of closure. I am (hopefully) nowhere near being done with my own journey, but I have gotten to a point where I can looking back and see where I’ve come from. I can begin to tell my story. This part of my story is about me taking care of me. How and why I’ve failed and succeeded in the past, and who that makes me today. Ready to dig in? Here we go…
When I was a baby I was adopted by a fantastic married couple that couldn’t get pregnant. They were warm and welcoming, positive people with good jobs, a nice house in the suburbs. They were solid Christians, committed to raising a family, and they were naturally skinny. Growing up, I behaved like them. I did what they did and ate what they ate. However, I didn’t look like them. Or any of the other blonde haired, blue eyed Dutch kids in our neighborhood and in my Christian school. I was tall, chubby, freckled, had frizzy auburn hair and wore glasses. Add in the fact that I had undiagnosed ADD, and I might as well have worn a target on my chest. I was teased frequently and because I was aware that I was different, I believed what those bratty kids said about me and who I was. I tried to change to be more like them, but it was no use. After having a sleepover or two with a “cool” kid, they would see I was really a dork and tell everyone the next day at school how dumb hanging out with me was.
I wasn’t really a dork. I happened to be mildly disabled, had incredibly low self esteem and self worth, and was more interested in building forts, healing sick stuffed animals, writing plays and puppet shows, and riding bikes outside than I was into sports, clothes, popular music, and whatever else kids in the 90’s thought was cool. I couldn’t see myself that way though, and to comfort myself, I would watch TV in our basement family room by myself while watching reruns of Saved by the Bell or Doug. I knew I ate too much and that’s why I was fat, so I would hide food so not even my family would judge me. This was my life until high school.
In high school I was involved in Colorguard (you know, flags for marching band?) and I was pretty darn good. I was captain for 3 of my 4 years there and later returned to my high school as a paid coach! I was pretty active during marching season and by the time I was 15 I had a part time job. I didn’t have time to eat and I was always on my feet. Health class taught me a little bit too about eating better and what was healthy and what wasn’t. I didn’t know that Cheetos, Oreos, and Kraft Mac and Cheese was that bad for me. I never really liked vegetables and only liked a few fruits. Around this time was the rise of the low-fat diet trend. Toward the end of my junior year in high school, I managed to lose about 15 pounds by eating mostly rice cakes, yogurt, cheese, and crackers. I clearly didn’t know what I was doing, but I felt better and being at a public high school away from the Dutchies that made fun of me for the previous 10 years of my life, I felt better about myself.
In college, I gained that mysterious freshman 15. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was eating in the cafeteria with friends who had been raised on fruits and veggies, lean meats and whole grains. Some of them had very educated parents and some grew up on farms. So even though I was still eating junk, I saw the healthy options others chose and it didn’t look so bad. My sophomore year, I was cast in the spring play. I was bound and determined to lose a little weight. I can’t remember exactly how much I weighed but my best memory/guess tells me I was about 175. I ate lots of cereal, yogurt, fruit, salads, and smaller dinner and dessert portions. I worked out 6 days a week and enrolled in an adult dance class for the fun of it. By the end of that summer I was wearing a junior’s size 12 and weighed 143 pounds. I looked good, but I still wasn’t feeding my body right and had little muscle tone.
After college I entered the real adult work world. I worked full time and lived at home so I had a lot of money to blow. I worked out occasionally still, but long days at work wore me out and it was easier to go out for dinner with friends after work than it was to go to the gym. Beyond that, I ate pretty healthy and I learned how to cook. In fact, I was the one that made dinner when I was home. Usually from Cooking Light magazine. I bought my own home and moved out after saving money for a couple years and then decided to take the summer off from working all together. I drank way too much, never worked out, ate whatever was convenient, and slept all the time. It was a fun summer, but I wasn’t taking care of myself in the least. Fortunately things were about to get better.
Kidding. They got much, much worse. The following fall, I suddenly lost my job and didn’t even qualify for unemployment. I was done teaching. I had worked at 4 different schools in 3 and a half years and I felt like a failure. I spent my winter applying for jobs I would never be qualified for, and thanking my parents for the extra cash they gave me to stay living in my house. I drank daily and was drunk half those nights. I was depressed and anxious and believed that it was all God’s fault. I eventually got a job working about 30 hours a week for minimum wage at a grocery store. The best thing was that I learned I qualified for food stamps and energy assistance. The worst part was that I looked at food all day, had very little money – even with food stamps – to buy good food, and was too exhausted from being on my feet all day to doing anything other than veg out when I got home. This was my big down fall.
By the following fall, my weight was up to over 200 pounds, I was fully depressed, and I had fallen into more than a few self destructive behaviors. Unemployed for the second time, I began watching the only decent show that came through my TV antenna – The Biggest Loser. I asked for the Biggest Loser Family Cookbook for Christmas and probably tried each recipe at least once within the next month or two. I made a budget and put aside some money for a gym membership. If those 300 pound people could do it, why couldn’t I? I posted my resume on Craigslist and found a full time job that paid pretty well. I took on a roommate so I could stop relying on my parents for financial support. I started counting calories, and realized I was drinking way too much to stay within my daily allotted calories. In the end I had lost 30 pounds and gone from a size 18 to a size 12 in 3 months, but more importantly, I found that I was worth taking care of. I was worth loving.
In the past few years since, I’ve struggled to get the last 20 pounds of weight off, but I’ve continued to take good care of myself about 90% of the time. I’ve ran 2 half marathons and a few 5k’s too. I’m the smallest I’ve ever been as an adult. I’m also the strongest I’ve ever been too. At least physically and mentally – I’ll always be chasing that spiritual strength. (But in my weakness He is strong. Amiright?) My goals have shifted from weight loss, to wholeness and from learning self worth, to encouraging others to love themselves. I’m always going to be learning, failing, growing, and pushing forward. I’m still a work in progress!
(Adorable chubby, little Megan pictures soon to come…)
(Okay, some of those awkward teen pics too.)